plum and amaranth cake

unbaked plum cakebaked plum cakeIt is rare for something to just actually not taste good at all. Things may be a bit burnt, a bit too sweet or not sweet enough. Textures may be off, a bit too dry or wet or starchy. Flavours may work better apart then they do together.

This was one of those disasters that are just irrefutably disastrous: this cake did not taste good. It was musty, and in fact, nigh mouldy tasting.

I suspect the amaranth flour.

The other possible culprit is the perilla seeds–but I was fairly sure it was not them. They have a pleasant, toasty tea sort of taste, so far from what the cake actually tasted like.

Our more convincing suspect, amaranth flour, is rather new to me. I recently acquired some and decided to give it a try. The smell of the flour didn’t impress: it was quite moist and strange. That being said, I normally don’t expect flour to smell that delicious, so I set those concerns aside and went ahead to use 50% amaranth flour…which, if I wanted to taste it, I figured was a good place to start.

Hmm. Well, I certainly tasted it.

So after trying the cake, I turned to everyone’s dear old friend in times of trouble, Google, master of The Interwebs. Likely succumbing to phenomenon of confirmation bias, I directed my search to carefully look only for sources which confirmed what I had experienced: maybe amaranth doesn’t taste so good.

I found an interesting blog post from someone who had a similar experience. The flour smelled quite musty, and an unfortunate flavour lingered in baked goods. She also did her reading: 15% amaranth content in bread was as high as this paper recommended without taste deficits. I quite admire her idea to turn to the literature (one must use that institutional subscription for something, no?).

Poking around myself though, I found that amaranth could be used quite effectively at 25% in cookies, providing a golden brown colour, crisper texture and slightly superior flavour ratings–described as “malty and sweet”.

Oh my. So what is the consensus?

It seems that amaranths pleasantly earthy character comes out best in lower doses. Though depending on the source, the dosage varies. I’ll be sure to apprehensively give amaranth another try. I did notice the cake had a very tender and soft crumb, credit which probably goes to the amaranth flour.

plum, amaranth and perilla seed cake

Adapted from the 1:1:1:1 ratio of a Victoria sponge cake. 

100 g butter

60 g brown sugar

2 eggs

50 g amaranth flour

50 g all purpose flour

scant 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

pinch baking soda

10 g roasted and ground perilla seed

45 g milk

6 small plums, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8″ square pan and line with a parchment sling.

Cream the butter with the sugar, and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Separately, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and perilla seeds. Mix the flour into the butter, and then beat in the milk. Spread into the prepared pan and top with the plum halves.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until an inserted skewer removes only with a few crumbs clinging.


24 thoughts on “plum and amaranth cake

  1. I love how you never give up, keep trying until you get it right and I also love how you experiment in the kitchen using ingredients that are not widely recognized or used. The cake looks lovely and although I have never tasted amaranth flour before I will take your word for it that it’s best in smaller amounts and mixed with another flour. I am not as adventursome as you but wish I were.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suzanne, you always make my day with your comments 🙂 The disasters are such a learning experience. I run into plenty in all sorts of different places, and the kitchen is absolutely no exception. Having read so much about others really enjoying the taste of amaranth, I’m looking forwards to finding a ratio that works for me!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Julie, trying new ingredients can be quite fun! Be a bit cautious with the amaranth, I found the taste so strong that I really didn’t like the taste of the cake…! I think I just need to find the right amount of amaranth to use in moderation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Amaranth flour is ground from amaranth seeds–another ancient grain I think. I’m not too fond of it from this initial try, but I think it’s a matter of using amaranth in moderation! 🙂


  2. It looks absolutely delightful I ve to say! Sorry it didn’t as taste good it looks…I’m not very familiar with the flour cause I haven’t worked with it before but i ve sure had parathas made from them with daal(lentils). Maybe if u ve some left give it a shot..There are few good Indian recipes using the same…I’m always amused at how you never hesitate to try new ingredients!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lina! Ah, the plums made it a pretty cake, but the amaranth flour really didn’t work for me unfortunately!! Ooh, and thank you for the paratha suggestion! They sound delicious… I will definitely have to give amaranth flour another shot 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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