Chocolate and Chickpeas: A Classic Combo?

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Doesn't that just make you want to bake a cake? [Photos: Liz Gutman]

Yup. You heard right. Now, it doesn't take much convincing for me to heat up the oven and bake something. A little "hey Liz, how about some cookies?" will do just fine, thank you. But every once in a while someone passes me a recipe I just have to try right away.

That's what happened with this Chocolate Chickpea Cake. The someone happened to be my mom, who's always looking for healthier ways to indulge. My baking tends to be pretty traditional: butter, flour, eggs, sugar. You know the drill. But I've had some really tasty alternative baked goods in my day (vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free) and I like the idea of working within constraints when cooking. It forces you to be creative.

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I didn't really know what to expect from this recipe. Would it be at all like a cake? Would we miss the flour and the fat? It'd also require MacGyvering a couple things. I (shockingly) don't have a nine-inch cake pan at home, so I opted for a loaf pan instead. And I certainly don't own a food processor—which is where my handy immersion blender came in. It did a fabulous job puréeing the beans into oblivion. (I imagine a regular blender would do just as well.)

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The batter doesn't look like much. It's vaguely lumpy, drab in color, and almost disconcertingly thick and pudding-like. The taste of the uncooked batter is a bit strange, too: slightly gritty, only vaguely chocolate-tasting, and still kinda, well, beany. Then I panicked when it took half as long to bake as the original recipe said—the surface was all cracked-looking, and the edges looked like they'd overcook while the center finished baking.

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I needn't have worried. Miraculously, the edges didn't overbake at all. And yes, the top is all crackly and funky-looking, and there was a little hole in the center. But you know what? It's pretty darn tasty. The crumb (er...well, you know what I mean) is extremely dense, yet light; and the chocolaty taste is nice and clean (probably because there's not a ton of sugar or fat mucking it up). The grittiness disappears after baking, but the texture's still hard to describe.

It breaks cleanly and is smooth, with a little crust around the outside. Surprisingly moist. It keeps well wrapped airtight in the fridge, and warms up beautifully in a toaster. It's like a Bauhaus cake—streamlined, unfussy, and all business.

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Supposedly this cake is pretty healthy: fibrous and vitamin-rich from the beans, protein from the eggs, yada yada. While I consider that a bonus, I won't make something twice that I don't want to eat. But I'll definitely make this cake again.

Don't think any less of me if I slap some whipped cream on there. To me, that's what turns this from breakfast into dessert.

Verdict? Score one for the health nuts, gluten-avoiders, and curious bakers of the world. This is one tasty cake.

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