Rich Chocolate Quinoa Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

After my race on Saturday, we rushed home so I could make a birthday cake for my dad. One of my infamous dairy-free recipes that wins the hearts of everyone who tastes it. For real.

I had originally planned to make Angela’s no bake version of her Chilled Double Chocolate Torte, but the avocados I bought last Tuesday were still not ripe enough.

So, I decided last minute that I’d whip up a chocolate quinoa cake similar to this one, minus the Valentine’s Day theme.

It may have been a bad idea to embark on a 2 hour cake baking session after running a 10k, but I wanted to make my dad something fantastic! After all, birthdays only come once a year and fathers day is right around the corner. So I felt it was justified.

Rich Chocolate Quinoa Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Gluten free, Dairy free, Sugar free, Yeast free, Corn free

Rich, velvety gluten-free chocolate cake made with cooked red or white quinoa, topped with a sweet, thick frosting. Can be made vegan, too!


  • 3/4 cup coconut butter
  • 1 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight – see note
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup arrowroot


  • 2/3 cup red quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Almond Breeze Almond Milk – Original Unsweetened – or you can use another milk of your choice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut/coconut sugar
  • 1 cup cacao powder or cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan rock salt



  1. Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer or food processor.
  2. note: I used 2 cans of organic coconut milk, chilled overnight. Pierced a hole in the bottom of each can and drained out the coconut water. Allowed the coconut cream to soften on the counter for an hour before I began the recipe.
  3. note2: recipe could be made vegan if agave nectar is used instead of unpasteurized honey.
  4. note3: if the frosting is too soft to spread on the cake, place in the fridge for 20 minutes and retry.


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat [keep covered!] and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Once complete, fluff with fork and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F
  4. Lightly grease two 9 inch round pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper [believe me, it's worth the effort. Just DO it!]. Set aside.
  5. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla in blender. Blend until smooth.
  6. Add 2 1/4 cup of the cooked quinoa, and the coconut oil. Blend until smooth [may be challenging to do, just blend it as best you can]
  7. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut sugar, cacao powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the contents of the blender to the bowl and mix well with a hand mixer.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake on the middle rack of your oven for 40-50 minutes [my cake was perfectly cooked at 48 minutes]. You can test to determine if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the middle.
  9. Allow cakes to cool for a couple of hours before removing from the pans and topping with icing.

Guess how old my dad is turning?


It’s hard to believe, really. It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting on the kitchen floor with a paper banner stretched across the room writing in the biggest letters imaginable “Happy 40th Birthday, Daddy. I love you!” We later pinned the banner over a bridge on the highway so he’d see it on his way home. That was 18 years ago? What. the. hay?!

I used unsweetened dried bing cherries for the numbers. They’re so much healthier than sprinkles, and they actually have taste to them!

The cake in action at my parents house…

Everyone really enjoyed it, especially my dad!

Thankfully, they gave us two pieces to take home so I could take pictures of them for you all to see.

And for me to eat, of course!

I may or may not have had a slice for breakfast before going to the gym on Sunday.

It may look and taste like cake, but underneath it’s just quinoa, cacao, eggs, a little bit of low glycemic sugars, high fiber coconut flour, and honey! Sounds like a good breakfast to me :D

Have you ever made a cake from scratch for someone on their birthday? This was my first time!

What’s your favorite cake flavor? As a kid I loved the vanilla with colored sprinkled! Now, it’s definitely chocolate.

How was your weekend?

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Comments | Leave Your Comment

  1. “Have you ever made a cake from scratch for someone on their birthday? “– actually, no, not on their bday but just randomly I have.

    It was my bday weekend, too! Your dad and I are fellow geminis…but no one made me any cakes that beautiful!

    And I am super impressed with the recipe. And with how SMOOTH you frosted the cake. I need cake decorating and frosting tips. Would sure make getting into TS and FG easier :)

  2. Such a nice cake!!!!
    I love making my own cakes for birthdays (or on any occassion :) I really enjoy it everytime, baking cakes is such a relaxation:) I like to use a lot of fruit and cinnamon and carob or cocoa and experiment a bit :)

  3. That cake is gorgeous! You did such a good job with the frosting. Mine always looks like blobs!

    I have made a cake from scratch — it was a simple yellow cake I believe. Lately I’ve only used box mixes!

  4. I love cake decorating, so last year I made my boyfriend a cake shaped like pancakes, complete with syrup and a dollop of butter (he hates pancakes, I was being cute). This year, his cake was shaped like a frying pan, covered in fondant, with fondant bacon and eggs (he loves bacon and eggs!)

    Your cake looks great, I might make one for MY next birthday since it can be vegan!

    • Wow… you go ALL out?! I’ve never worked with fondant, but it looks so fun!

  5. Happy B-Day to your Dad :) The cake looks delicious. And good call on the cherries…even if I thought they were prunes at first and got a little perplexed :P So true, though…do sprinkles even taste like anything? Never really realized that until you pointed it out :P
    Favorite cake flavor…do you have to ask? CARROT!

    • You’re right, I didn’t have to ask! Is it bad that I totally forgot about carrot cake? Gosh, it was one of my FAVORITES growing up.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever made a from scratch cake at all!? I’m scared of baking. I’ll cook anything you tell me to but if it involves sugar and flour I get skurrrrd! =) haha!

    It looks like it came out amazing! =) ooh and yes this is our first home EVA! I’ve always rented since we move every 6-12 months for the military… but we are staying put for 3 years and bought a house! eeee! fuuuureakingout! =)

    • Gosh, me too. This is the first cake recipe I’ve made that doesn’t suck. Make this, and you’ll gain cakey confidence!

  7. Since my family and I are pie people more than cake people, I can’t say I’ve baked anyone a birthday cake. That one sure sounds interesting though. I never though quinoa would go in a cake, but it looks quite yummy!

  8. Cake for breaky,yes please!!

    My weekend was great thank you!! Although now that I am done school I am on summer vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO it will be my weekend for the entire summer!

  9. This cake looks SO good and doesn’t look like it’d be nutritious at all (in a good way haha). I have never made a cake from scratch, but I would like to try after seeing how good this one turned out!

  10. Happy b-day to your dad! That cake looks delicious. I’m actually feeling rather sour about cakes lately. I want to go all out and make a fantastic cake because we have such a large family get together on Sundays but my mother in law keeps buying nasty store bought cakes :( Yuck!
    I like chocolate too :)

  11. Ooh this cake looks amazing I cant wait to at least try out the buttercream happy bday to your dad!

  12. Oh my YUM!!!!! I am going to make this! I just got done with a bunch of baking the past week but now I want to bake more! Beautiful cake and Happy Birthday to your dad!!! My dad’s bday is tomorrow : )

    • What did you bake? Happy birthday to your Dad too!!

  13. I love making birthday cakes! But I’m so intrigued by the idea of quinoa in a cake, I’m going to have to try that for sure… looks so good!

  14. Your cake looks delish!!! I love to bake although healthy baking is pretty new to me. I was 12 the first time I made a cake from scratch for my grandma’s birthday. Unfortunately, I confused condensed milk (carnation) with sweetened condensed milk (eagle brand) so it looked like a big chocolate pancake =( I have since had some nice successful cakes though =P

    I am definitely trying your recipe sometime soon, maybe for my own birthday later this month. I might decorate it with some candied walnut or pecan halves instead of cherries. Yum!

    • haha I remember giggling at your black bean brownie experiment. My boyfriend didn’t take to that experiment too kindly haha. He’s very wary of the foods I feed him now!

  15. Congrats on the race this weekend! I hope your dad had an incredible weekend! Happy birthday to him! The cake looks amazing! My favorite cake is angel food cake. I’ve come up with a gluten free version for my husband and I swear I eat the whole thing before he gets any.

    • …. gluten free angel food cake? I just swore off that cake when I went gluten free. Do you have the recipe?!

  16. leanne, the cake looks fabulous! love the idea of quinoa + chocolate! i’ve been meaning to ask, you use himalyan rock salt alot. what are the benefits of this type of salt over other types??

  17. Wow. This looks all kinds of awesome! Might be just perfect for Father’s Day! I also have a dinner party tomorrow night… hmm..

  18. Congrats on making your first birthday cake from scratch! I think that cakes made from scratch have more meaning because of the time and care that you put into it…you can just taste the love!!


  19. the b-day cake looks amazing! i promise to come back to your cake recipes in the future….as a busy mom, i don’t have time to make desserts (maybe this is a good thing!)…but this is an inspiration

  20. This looks awesome! I’m on a mission this month to come up with the perfect gluten-free birthday cake. :)

  21. Oh wow, what a beautiful, delicious sounding cake! Looks like my typ of cake, and I love that I can make it vegan by using flax.
    I only make cakes from scratch, and have made many birthdaycakes over the years. My favorit is chocolate, nothing can ever beat anything chocolaty! :)

  22. This looks amazing! Could we use a combination of actual eggs and flax eggs? Thanks!

    • I haven’t tried the combination, but I bet it would work perfectly!

  23. What a beautiful cake to celebrate your dad’s birthday – love how allergy-friendly this cake and frosting are!

  24. I absolutely love making cakes for my boys birthday, I am a little crazy sometimes. My last cake took me 6 hours. It was because of those adorable looking Minions that my 9 year old wanted me to add on his cake. So…I did it.
    I grew up in Brazil having amazing birthdays, when I moved to America and started a family, I wanted my children to experience the same…
    So beautiful you baked a cake for your dad. What a nice expression of love.
    Your photos and recipe look fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  25. This looks delicious! I bake/eat way too many unhealthy desserts and I’m trying to make healthier sweets, so this recipe is perfect.

  26. Hi Leanne, I enjoyed seeing photographs of your family! Your chocolate quinoa cake looks very appealing. I’ll make this for my son’s next birthday. I’m always on the look out for healthy cake recipes for my kids. I, on the other hand, prefer the not-so-healthy versions.

    Funny, I have the same cake stand you have. I bought mine in Mexico. I love that it came with a top.

    • I’m sure you can. I’ve only ever tried it with flax egg, but I don’t see why chia egg wouldn’t work. Let me know if you try it, Chris!

  27. Holy cow, this looks divine and FINALLY, a frosting recipe that sounds just as good as “real” buttercream frostings!

    Do you know if you can use regular quinoa? I haven’t ever used red, so I don’t know if there is much of a taste difference. Sorry if this was previously asked – I scrolled, but didn’t see it.


    • You can totally use regular quinoa, I’ve done it a bunch of times with great success!

  28. Easy recipe to adapt to for a kosher for Passover dessert. Much better than most chocolate cake recipes. With a hint of health?

      • How would you adapt this to a Kosher for Passover dessert? I don’t think I can get Passover coconut milk…any advice?

        • Hi Deborah – sorry, I am not familiar with Kosher outlines. Please feel free to let me know your concerns and I will try to help

  29. OMG! I looooooove this!!!! It has quinoa in it!!!!!! gaaah! Must try!!! LOL Question: I have 1 friend who is allergic to chocolate & cocoa (in her “old” age, can you imagine?) and another friend who after a few tummy problems post quinoa meals discovered he’s not handling it well. (yes, it was very well rinsed & none of us had tummy problems). Now, over to you: 1) what can I replace the cocoa with but it would still have chocolatey taste & 2) what can I replace the quinoa with? For the one, I want to make it, for the other I would send them the recipe cause they’re very far & I can’t make it for them, but would like to make that couple happy & not have only one lick the spoon & the other watch :( LOL
    P.S. I am sorry to have to do substitutions. I find once you’ve made so many the recipe doesn’t resemble itself and it’s no longer the same thing. :/

    • Hi Dina :) 1) you could try making the cake with carob powder, it’s a great cocoa substitute. 2) You could try to make the cake with cooked millet… I’ve never tried it, but I’ve wanted to! PLEASE let me know if it works out!

  30. This sounds and looks amazing. A healthy protein rich cake. Is it a moist cake?

  31. I made the cake for my son’s 51st bday. Everyone loved it and was impressed that it had quinoa in it. We are gluten free and this really was a satisfying cake but didn’t leave that “sugar-craving” feeling. We enjoyed it for 3 days (the 4 adults and two young kids). I wasn’t thrilled with the icing though. It tasted a lot better as it sat in the fridge until the day after I made it. I also had a lot of icing left over.
    All in all, an excellent chocolate cake I will definitely make again. Thanks

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