My family’s health is of utmost importance to me, especially my kids’ health. I’m always looking for creative ways to incorporate healthy ingredients into my cooking and baking. This cake is no exception and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about it! I felt like was taking a stab in the dark with this highly experimental creation. I really didn’t know how it would turn out. While it was baking I’d occasionally come in the kitchen to turn on the oven light, peer inside, and then pace around the kitchen, and then peer in again, a little nervous about what would greet me when I opened the oven.
This cake is definitely one of my crowning healthy creations thus far and I am in love with it! 100% spelt flour, honey, buttermilk, ground almonds, a whole cup of cooked quinoa, and olive oil! I felt a little nervous as I kept adding one healthy ingredient after the other, challenging myself to see what lengths I would go to make a super healthy cake for my family. And I especially held my breath as I poured the olive oil into the mixture…The outcome?
Simply amazing! If you’re nervous like I initially was about the olive oil and quinoa, set your fears aside. 1) You won’t even taste the olive oil, and 2) You won’t even know the quinoa is in it – nor will your kids! If you question how points 1 and 2 are possible, don’t take my word for it – just try it and see for yourself!
I use extra virgin olive oil every single day. Have done for years. It’s my primary cooking oil. I even slip it into my kids’ food. I make their scrambled eggs and omelets with it and add some to their pasta. And believe it or not, I add it to my 3 year old’s daily breakfast smoothie and have done so ever since he was 18 months old and was able to drink smoothies. I pack some of the most unbelievable ingredients into his smoothies – I’m convinced he’s the healthiest kid in town. And because I started him out on these things at such an early age, he’s used to them and willing to eat them…but only in smoothie form. So thank goodness for smoothies! I figure, if he eats nothing else in his super picky eating stage, at least he’s getting in those smoothies! In the next couple of months I’ll be introducing my daughter to these same smoothies, the lucky baby girl! So yes, our lives kind of revolve around olive oil to some extent and it’s an important part of our daily nutrition.
But up until this point I had never made sweet baked goods with it before. Oh, had I been missing out! I was very surprised to find that I wasn’t even able to taste the olive oil in the cake. I was worried it would be overpowering, but it wasn’t. If anything, it simply added just a faint hint of pepperiness which fit in perfectly with the other flavors. I chose Colavita’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, specifically their 100% Argentinian Extra Virgin Oil which is described as having an intense fruity aroma and taste and paired beautifully with all the ingredients in this cake.
This cake is amazing. And I don’t mean just from the standpoint of, “considering what’s in it, it’s really good.” No, I mean it’s fantastic in its own right. The use of spelt flour, which is more delicate than whole wheat, and the inclusion of the olive oil and buttermilk make this cake tender and moist. I’ve already made it twice and I’m making it again tomorrow! We love it that much. My husband enjoys taking it to work with him for a late morning or late afternoon snack. And I can’t tell you how conscience-relieving it is to be able to eat something this good without having to feel guilty or fret about what I’m indulging in!
Let’s take a closer look at what’s in this cake and what makes it so special.
Olive Oil: It’s no surprise to anyone that good quality extra virgin olive oil is an incredible source of nutrition and packs in numerous health benefits. Olive oil contains a potent phytonutrient that reduces inflammation in the body which decreases the risk of cancer and its recurrence, including breast cancer. It’s also high in cancer-preventing antioxidants. If you’re worried about fat, of all other oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, which is the healthy/good kind of fat. It’s also very low in polyunsaturated fat, which is the bad kind of fat. Other benefits of regular olive oil consumption: It fights bad cholesterol which helps prevent heart disease, it lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, it’s been demonstrated to help lower blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity, and although high in calories olive oil has been shown to reduce levels of obesity. Studies have also shown that a diet high in olive oil can prevent rheumatoid arthritis. A regular diet of olive oil improves bone mineralization and calcification as well as assists in calcium absorption, all important to the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. A recent study in France has also shown olive oil to be effective in preventing strokes. Finally, regularly consuming olive oil has been shown to prevent cognitive decline associated with aging, such as verbal fluency and visual memory.
Spelt Flour. Spelt was grown by early farmers at least as far back as 5000 BC. It’s one of the oldest cultivated grains, preceded only by two others (Emmer and Elkhorn). While it’s been popular in Europe, particularly in Italy and Germany, for ages, it’s not as known here in the U.S., though it is increasing in popularity. Spelt is actually an ancient form of wheat, but it’s much better for you. It has a milder, nutty taste. It’s naturally high in fiber and is higher in protein, B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates than is whole wheat. While wheat today is hardly recognizable from ancient wheat because of all the changes it has gone through to increase commercial production, spelt retains many of its original traits. And unlike other grains, spelt has a particularly tough husk that protects it insects and pollutants which enables growers to avoid using pesticides.
Some 800 years ago, Hildegard Von Bingen, a famous German botanical medicine expert, said of spelt: “The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grains. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful. If someone is ill boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment.”
Almonds: According to a study at the Loma Linda School of Public Health, those who consume nuts five times a week have about a 50 percent reduction in risk of heart attack. Other health benefits of almonds: They lower bad cholesterol, protect artery walls from damage, help strengthen bones and teeth, provide healthy fats and aid in weight loss, they lower blood sugar after meals, nourish the nervous system, and assist in healthy brain function.
Buttermilk: Buttermilk is relatively low in fat and calories but high in potassium, vitamin C, B12, riboflavin, and phosphorous. It’s also a good source of probiotics, which helps balance the bacteria in the intestines, aiding in digestion and improving immune function.
Raw Honey: Dr. Oz refers to it as “liquid gold.” Unlike the process used in conventional honey that destroys beneficial nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants, raw honey isn’t filtered, strained, or heated above natural hive temperatures. Raw honey is nature’s multivitamin, containing high amounts of vitamins and minerals. It also contains immune-boosting anti-viral properties. Applied topically, it has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, assisting in wound healing. Taken internally, it assists in the treatment of ulcers, bronchitis, and gastrointestinal issues. Raw honey can be purchased in any health food store or, if you’re lucky like me, you can get it fresh from a local beekeeper.
Quinoa: The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Why has quinoa been singled out for this honor? Because it is a uniquely healthy grain and is regarded as a “superfood.” It has also been called the “mother grain” and “the gold of the Incas.” Quinoa is very high in protein. It’s also known as a “complete protein,” containing all 9 amino acids essential for life. It contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains and is thus helpful in lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar and also assists in weight loss. Quinoa is rich in iron, lysine and magnesium, which promote good blood oxygen, tissue growth and repair, and energy metabolism, to name a few. Quinoa is also rich in riboflavin and manganese, which assist in brain function and cancer prevention. Lastly, quinoa is a low-allergy food and is has high digestibility, which makes it especially ideal for children and toddlers and individuals with food sensitivities.
Now, combine generous amounts of each of these ingredients and you’ll have a tender, moist, sticky, protein and nutrient-packed, healthy, and positively delicious Spelt Honey Olive Quinoa Cake!
Don’t think twice about it. Just make it. You’ll love it. I promise.
A week ago we enjoyed a sunny, productive, and fun family Saturday. We worked around the yard, washed the cars, and had lots of play time all throughout. Our 3 year old had a blast channeling his energy into helping mow the lawn and wash the cars. I wanted to make a sweet treat that offered substance – something to fuel his little body that was burning calories at record speed – and something that tasted really good while also being super healthy and nutritious for all of us. That was the context for the creation of this cake.
Our 3 year old son, Liam, wanted to help mow the lawn so we let him use the non-gas powered mower – he did an amazing job! Up and down, up and down our backyard, the little guy put his all into it!
Liam then wanted to help daddy wash the cars – great way to cool off and some wonderful bonding time.
After all that work he was more than ready to enjoy a snack, and I had the perfect treat waiting! Everyone loved the cake, clear down to our one year old baby girl!
It was a perfect day. Family time playing and working together, a super duper healthy cake that turned out so wonderfully and, the crowning touch, our little ones playing and cuddling together, something every parent loves to see!
My heart just melts with joy any time I see this kind of thing – so happy I grabbed my camera just in time to capture this tender moment:
They’re just naturally great little kids, but I’d like to think that all those ultra-healthy ingredients in their tummies helped bring out the best in them that afternoon :)
Okay, now let’s make that cake!!
To cook the quinoa, thoroughly rinse about 1/3 cup of quinoa in a fine mesh sieve (this removes the saponin, a natural coating on quinoa’s outer layer that is bitter and soapy tasting). Place the quinoa in a small saucepan with double the amount of water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit another 5 minutes, still covered. Fluff with a fork.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Add the olive oil and the honey.
Add the buttermilk, eggs vanilla and almond extract.
Beat with an electric mixer just until combined. Do not over-mix.
Grind about 1/4 cup of raw almonds to yield about 1/2 cup ground.
Fold in the ground almonds with a rubber spatula.
Stir in the quinoa.
Stir in the raisins or dried fruit of your choice.
The second time I made the cake I used a combination of golden and regular raisins and some dried apricots. I think I prefer just the raisins in this particular cake, but feel free to use other dried fruits, including prunes, figs, dates, etc.
Grease a 8×8 inch square baking pan. I use the hand-forged aluminum pans by Magic Line, made in the USA. Love them!
Pour the cake batter into the baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean but moist.
Use a toothpick to poke holes throughout the cake.
The small holes will enable the syrup to penetrate the cake.
To make the syrup, bring the honey and almond extract to a gentle boil, then remove from the heat. While the cake is still warm, slowly pour the syrup over the cake, starting at the center, using the back of a spoon or a knife to help guide the syrup and prevent it from rushing to the sides of the pan.
Lovely sticky, moist cake.
Cut the cake into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Interested in more delicious baked goods from the Mega Healthy Series? Try these irresistible Mega Healthy Peanut Butter Cookies!
- 1½ cups spelt flour (use whole wheat if you don't have spelt)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (see note)
- ½ cup raw honey (see note)
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- ½ cup ground almonds (about ¼ cup whole almonds)
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- For the Syrup:
- ¼ cup raw honey
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- To cook the quinoa, thoroughly rinse about ⅓ cup of quinoa in a fine mesh sieve (this removes the saponin, a natural coating on quinoa's outer layer that is bitter and soapy tasting). Place the quinoa in a small saucepan with double the amount of water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit another 5 minutes, still covered. Fluff with a fork.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8x8 inch square baking pan (I use Magic Line).
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the olive oil, honey, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and almond extract and use an electric mixer to blend just until combined. Do not over-mix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the ground almonds, stir in the quinoa, and then stir in the raisins.
- Pour the cake batter into the greased baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean but moist.
- For the syrup: Bring the honey and almond extract to a gentle boil in a small saucepan then remove from heat.
- Use a toothpick to poke holes throughout the cake. While the cake is still warm, slowly pour the syrup over the cake, using the back of a spoon or a knife to guide the syrup to prevent it all from rushing to the edges. Let the cake sit a few minutes before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
* Raw honey can be purchased at any health food store. If you prefer, you can also use agave syrup.
* You can substitute the raisins for other dried fruit of your choice (e.g., dried apricots, prunes, etc)