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Chocolate Barley Snack Cake

Chocolate Barley Cake

There’s something appealing about a snack cake, isn’t there? The fact that it’s relegated to the every day, rather than elevated on a plate for a Special Occasion – and it reminds me of those snackin’ cake mixes my mom rarely bought when I was a kid. (Thanks to her, I learned to make the One Egg Cake from The Joy of Cooking instead.) Also: I find a 9×13-inch pan liberating.

A conversation about barley flour on Twitter today reminded me of this cake. (Yes, I talk about lesser-known flours – I commiserate with others who can relate to my cupboard full of ziplocks and containers and half-full bags of assorted flours and grains and beans and lentils.) We all tend to default to all-purpose wheat flour, but of the alternatives, barley flour is one of the more usable in my kitchen. It’s locally grown (barley is a significant Alberta crop), easy to find alongside the other flours on most grocery store shelves, high in soluble and insoluble fibre -throughout the entire grain, not just the bran- and although it doesn’t sound it, has a softer texture than whole wheat flour. Its humectant properties keeps baked goods moist, drawing moisture from the air. Which is a good thing when you’re after a slab of chocolate cake or chewy chocolate chip cookies that stay soft.

Chocolate Barley Cake 2

I didn’t manage any step-by-step photos, but the batter looks like cake batter. Just like chocolate cake batter. Stir it! Scrape it! Make it! Bake it!

I haven’t made much that could fall into the dinner category this week; after Thanksgiving there were leftovers, and then I went to Toronto for three days, got back Friday night and was in Banff/Canmore Saturday. We had spaghetti & meatballs when I got home, and I made a lentil soup with lots of garlic and a meaty ham bone I doggie bagged from my sister’s last weekend. It was supposed to be split pea, but I had no split peas. How could I have no split peas amongst all those baggies?

But there is barley flour. (Which, yes, can be used cup for cup in place of all-purpose flour.)

Chocolate Barley Snack Cake

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October 20, 2013

Adapted from Alberta Barley

  • Makes: Serves 12-16.


2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups barley flour

3/4 cup cocoa

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups buttermilk


1Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9x13-inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick spray.

2In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla for 3-4 minutes, until pale and creamy. In another bowl, stir together the barley flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, stirring or beating on low speed just until combined after each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched.

4Cool in the pan on a wire rack; once cool, frost it if you like.


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13 comments on “Chocolate Barley Snack Cake

  1. sue
    October 20, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Thanks, Julie. I use barley flour almost exclusively and love it! From crepes to pancakes to our favorite chocolate cake, it’s our everyday flour.

  2. Lori
    October 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

    So, can barley flour be replaced cup for cup in baking? What kind of recipes work best with barley flour?

  3. Stephanie
    October 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Speaking of flours, what can rye flour be used for other than bread? I would imagine rye and chocolate wouldn’t go well together.

  4. Vivian
    October 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Further to Lori’s question…can gluten-free flour mix be substituted for the barley flour cup-for-cup? I’d really like to make this today. I’ll check your index for a good icing too. Thanks.

    • Julie
      October 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Yes! sorry, I had said you can use it cup for cup in place of regular flour, but somehow it got edited out and not put back in. Will add it now! I imagine a good gluten-free blend could be used in place of the barley flour with good results. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Barbar
    October 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I have never tried barley flour, but I plan to. Thanks for a great recipe. I love snack cakes, too! There is just something so homey about the name.

  6. Jan @ Family Bites
    October 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I have never seen barley flour in the stores here – except at a natural foods shop in the bulk bin aisle. I’m going to find some, though, so I can try this ASAP… looks amazing!

    • Julie
      October 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Jan – I just heard that it’s more difficult to find barley flour in Ontario – but Bulk Barn carries it!

  7. Erin Q.
    October 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    This is in my oven as we speak! What recipe did you use for the frosting?

  8. molly
    October 20, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    barley flour?

    how do i not know barley flour??

    this situation will not last long, clearly…


    (ps: fed sally again tonight — that would be our beloved sourdough starter, compliments of your fine self. she is such a trooper, and so fantastic, and we love her to pieces. thanks a million, again!!)

  9. Denise
    October 22, 2013 at 4:12 am

    My friend just told me about your blog and also “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. (also a blog) I just “Liked” his Facebook page and came to see your site. I love when people share blogs with each other. Denise

  10. caitlan
    May 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    GoBarley.com also has some great recipes to use barley flour! They also have an amazing chocolate cake that is so moist and rich! Love love barley!

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