Friday, December 23, 2011

101 alternative flours | gluten free ragi walnut cake | a rich brown cake with spicy flavors

gluten free ragi walnut spiced cake

A ragi cake recipe with natural sweeteners. Ragi is called finger millet, vernacular names are nachni or mandua or madua in different Indian languages. It's flour is a bit sandy in texture and looks difficult to handle once made into a dough or batter, but it makes great breads, flat breads (roti) and cakes.

A cake that is gluten free, low fat and low sugar. That too a natural brown sugar.

Does that sound like a dampener to the cake spirits? In fact with all the healthy ingredients the cake still tastes rich. Ragi millet flour is used instead of cake flour and the fruits are replaced by grated carrots and grated sweet potatoes. At a time when heavily decorated fruit cakes are raining left, right and center, in the blog world and in the markets all around, this cake might look like a tad boring but you would know when you have taken a bite. You would keep on munching on this cake and yet not worry about the muffin top your waist is going to get during the festive season.

A filling breakfast daily with these slices and milk will keep you away from hunger pangs in the mid morning and the rich taste would make it sure you don't grab the next muffin or piece of fruit cake you see around. A lot of cakes and muffins are doing the rounds in offices and homes alike. Don't be cake deprived if you are gluten intolerant or just wanting to have some healthy options.

Ragi millet or Finger millet is a tough grain and the flour is quite grainy too. It gets quite dry after cooking and results in a brittle and crumbly texture if you do not take care to moisten it in some or the other way..

I used a lot of grated carrots and sweet potatoes to make it moist and to bring down the amount of sugar being used. It resulted into a nice rich texture and the sweetness is very very delicate, almost like laced with molasses and spices, just right for the season. My mom and grandmother used to make Ragi laddoo with almost the same ingredients and I turned them into a cake so everybody likes to eat them. 

As kids those Ragi laddoos were forced on us. The cake would make a much favored daily fix of calcium, iron and omega 3s.

And sometimes I replace the sweet potatoes with grated apples. The apple version of this ragi cake is more moist and takes a little more time to bake well. 

I took all the measurements and weights for my blog readers so the recipe would not sound tough to handle. Otherwise I bake with approximate measurements using any of the spoons and cups around. Usually i make a loaf of this cake, this time I baked it in a tray so the browned crust is more for each piece, the crust is tastier so i planned to get more crust per piece...the recipe makes 42 squares of cake,35-40 gm each.

(fills up a 10X12 inch baking tray)

Ragi flour (can be substituted with flours of other millets too) 2 Cup or 280 gm
brown natural sugar(shakkar or boora or grated jaggery) 1 cup or 130 gm
grated carrots (I used red winter carrots) 2 cups packed or 160 gm
grated sweet potatoes (I used Indian white flesh variety) 2 cups packed or 190 gm, or same amount of peeled grated apples
walnuts 1 cup or 120 gm or you can use more (chopped in small bits)
fine grated ginger 2 tbsp
baking powder 1.5 tsp
baking soda 1 tsp
dry ginger powder 2 tsp
cinnamon powder 1 tsp
clove powder 1/2 tsp
nutmeg grated 1/2 tsp
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp (optional)
grated orange zest 2 tbsp
ghee (clarified butter) 3/4 cup
yogurt 100 gm (I used a packet of Amul masti dahi)
eggs 5


Mix the ragi flour, baking powder, baking soda, walnuts, dry ginger powder and other spice powders in a dry bowl.

In another large bowl mix the eggs, yogurt, melted ghee, and brown sugar. Whisk together till well blended. There is no need to make it all fluffy and airy. The cake results quite spongy without any hard work here.

Now add the dry mixed ingredients in to the egg-yogurt mix and fold in nicely. It's a gooey mixture of very very dark color. Night time pictures make the situation worse :-)

Now is the time to fold in the grated carrots and sweet potatoes, take care to fluff this up while adding to the batter to prevent them sticking in lumps together.

gluten free ragi walnut spiced cake

The mixture turns heavier to fold and the consistency remains like a muffin batter. Add some more yogurt or milk if you feel the batter is dry.

Pour on a greased baking tray (size 10X12 inches), spread evenly with the help of a spatula as the batter is quite thick.

Bake in preheated oven for an hour at 190 C. Do the skewer test before taking the cake out. Cool the cake inside the baking tray and then cut pieces of desirable size.

gluten free ragi walnut spiced cake

This cake keeps well in the fridge and can be served warm or straight out of the fridge. I like it warm with a huge mug of hot milk.

I cut a strip of this cake right in the midnight when it was ready and this is the picture of the warm temptation.

Eating the cake straight out of the baking pan when the aroma of the baked cake is still in the air is a treat actually. Something really greedy and wicked. The warmth of spices alive and kicking in the air. Late night snacking is never more tempting than this. I usually bake my cakes and breads in the night as that is the time when there are no phone calls, no visitors and no disturbances.

There is something very crucial with cakes baked using Ragi flour. As i said, the flour results in a very dry texture when baked or cooked and there is a grainy bite to it that many people find repulsive.

Even I used to hate those Ragi ladoos in my childhood just because of this reason.

Adding the sweet potatoes along with carrots solves this problem in a way that it's almost unbelievable. The two ingredients are not visible in the baked cake and become melded with the hearty flour in such a manner that the very character of the flour is modified. The texture is provided just by the walnuts, a pleasant nutty taste and you can add more walnuts or other nuts if you like.

The use of ghee is also a personal choice and you can always use butter, just take care to increase the amount by a tablespoon , or may be more if you wish. it will definitely make the cake more moist. I prefer the sweet potato and yogurt trick to make this Ragi cake moist and soft.

The cake is quite hearty if you are having it for breakfast. Two to three of those slices and a hot mugful of milk is enough to keep you full till lunch. I usually eat a fruit in the mid morning and just 2 small pieces are good enough for me. Just warmed in the microwave, both the cake and the milk and the breakfast is an easy task to accomplish. Festival season or otherwise.

gluten free ragi walnut spiced cake

You can use other millet flours and the cake turns out great every time. I have used whole wheat and Jowar (Sorghum) flour and a mixture of flours that i often use for my chapatis. Just take care to add the required amount of grated carrots and sweet potatoes for softer cakes every time. This cake is mildly sweet as the natural brown sugar i used has lesser sweetness, you can add a little more sugar if you wish.

Bake muffins with the same batter if you are feeling fancy or a loaf if a loaf pan is handy. It will be the same yummy hearty cake every time. Satisfying to the hilt.

What flour are you using for this cake ??


  1. I am bookmarking this one for trying out!!!

  2. I've been having issues with my old oven, and this recipe is so good, I've just decided to dump the old oven and get a new one. Cnat wait to try out this wonderful cake ! Thank you ....

  3. Hi Sangeeta :) I love the simple way you explain, so much so that a simpleton at baking, like me, is able to grasp it. Would love to try this, but instead of ragi flour can one use only whole wheat? Would that change any sort of balance? In terms of quantities in ingredients? Just checking :)
    You've got a beautiful blog, and you have immense patience,not to mention enormous talent too! Thank you for sharing all of this with us :) Will be back!

  4. healthy, no doubt delicious and gluten-free. Awesome.


  5. Thanks Everyone...

    @ Usha Pisharody, Yes this cake would be great with whole wheat too with some added bran. This recipe was devised for the millets which are a bit dry when baked so when you do not add some bran to the whole wheat flour, the cake would become a bit too moist I guess owing to the enormous amount of sweet potatoes and carrots going in.Let me know if you try that way.

  6. Looks wonderful.Innovative and healthy way of using ragi for the cake.

  7. I use more fat : more ghee or coconut oil - it keeps well and tastes great - and mix jowar and bajri flour too - no yoghurt -yes orange zest and orange juice.

  8. Wow, these look so wonderful! I love all the alternative ingredients. Merry Christmas!

  9. Wow, what a great-looking cake. It sounds delicious and very healthy. And chili powder, such an original ingredient in a cake!

  10. this looks like an interesting recipe....i will book mark it and when i do make it..will let you know how it turned out...will be using exact ingredients as you have written not one to experiment with ingredients when it comes to baking!!!

    season's greetings

  11. interesting recipe...i will book mark this one..and follow your recipe ingredients to the T....and will let you know how it turned out!!

    season's greetings

  12. This is such an unusual recipe...Yoghurt and chillies in a cake? WOW.

    I have to have this (please note that I refrained from using the word TRY)

  13. Sangeetha!
    I am totally hooked on to your blog now. Came here from Hitchy's blog, and have heard a lot from IHM too, and was pleasantly surprised to see the wonderful variety of utterly healthy looking dishes. I think your blog will be helping me change my lifestyle this year! So here's to YOU :-)

  14. Thanks Writerzblock and welcome to my blog...I hope my posts help you. Will stay in touch :-)

  15. hi sangeeta,
    this is aban about dhiren's detox diet. and was quite impressed with this unusual but healthy recipes
    ...i am parsi and as u know we are purely non-veg...WE DO EAT VEG... but ragi, millets and all these are very unusual with us.
    but would love to try it out....
    would also like a detox diet.....

  16. Thank Zinggy mum, I would love to plan it for you. There are many non veg recipe on this blog too and i do not restrict non veg food in general. Will get in touch.

  17. sounds like a great idea... u get to eat chocolate brownie without all the guilty calories! im gonna try adding carrots, raagi & spices next time

  18. great recipe and fantastic detailed instructions just the way each one can understand the recipe :)

  19. Hi Sangeeta!
    Hope you are doing well :-) Wanted to try baking this Ragi cake sometime soon. Is there anyway the qtys can be customized (rather reduced) Am still new to baking. Have made a few whole wheat flour as well as millet flour cakes so far :-) But yet not sure how to go about reducing the qtys in the recipes to suit my reqmt. This batter might be too much for me at a time. Could you please guide me or else I will just have to bake 2 pans at a time and store them. Thanks and sorry for the trouble.
    ~ Kalyani

    1. Hi Kalyani, you can always halve the recipe (all ingredients) and follow all the steps as suggested. Or you can even use 1/4th amount of each ingredients to make a quarter size cake. Hope it helps and no it's not a trouble for me. Please let me know how you liked this ragi cake :-)

    2. Thanks for the super prompt reply, Sangeeta! I had love to bake it this weekend. So if I halve the quantities, it applies to the portions of even the baking powder/soda/ghee/curd/eggs? Sorry, this might be a very basic and silly question. But I better ask before baking cos I have been told that baking is a science and you need to stick to the recipes to the T. Will update you once I make it :-))

    3. Yes, each ingredients gets halved :-)

  20. Hi! I want to try this cake, but need a clarification before I do - did you boil the sweet potatoes before you grated them? Will they cook if they're used raw? Will you please clarify. Thanks!

    1. I have used raw sweet potatoes in this recipe. If you boil the sweet potatoes it will make the ragi cake sticky from inside as ragi also get a little sticky when baked.

  21. Hi, I would like to try this cake, but in a smaller quantity (say, 1/4th). While I understand that the ingredients can be proportionately reduced, I would expect that the baking time would also be reduced to suit a smaller size cake (although perhaps not directly proportional to the reduction in quantities). Please can you confirm - my only concern is whether the sweet potatoes would be sufficiently cooked if the oven time is reduced.

    1. Yes the baking time will be lesser in that case. Sweet potato will take very little time to cook and they cook simultaneously with the flour. So don't worry about that.

  22. Hi, I did try out a smaller quantity and made muffins instead of a large cake - turned out great, in half the time, and the vegetables were cooked perfectly! Lovely recipe, turns out a mildly sweet teacake - just the way we love it! Thank you !!!