Sunflower Cakes

February 26, 2019

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Sunflower Cakes

Dr. Lois Ellen Frank and fellow chefs Walter White Water and Aurora Fernandez of Red Mesa Cuisine hosted a Native American Food Tasting at the Mountain West Seed Summit last week. These sunflower cakes, one of Dr. Frank’s favorite sunflower recipes, were among the foods they served.

For people who prefer savory dishes to sweet, Dr. Frank says to omit the sugar and use chile powder instead. Savory cakes, she notes, make a good breakfast sausage substitute, and the cakes, whether savory or sweet, are great snacks.

The Recipe


  • 3 cups shelled organic sunflower seeds (toasted)
  • 3 cups water
  • 5 Tablespoons finely ground blue cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½- cup organic sunflower oil


  1. Combine the sunflower seeds and water in a saucepan and bring to a toil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, until almost all of the water has evaporated.
  2. Remove from the heat. If there is still a lot of water drain the excess water from the seeds. Place the moistened cooked seeds in a food processor. Add the blue cornmeal and sugar and process again until they are ground, about 1 more minute. The dough will be quite thick.
  3. With your hands, shape the dough into round cakes about the size of silver dollars.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the oil until it is hot but not smoking. Place the cakes in the pan and brown them 2 to 3 minutes on each side, turning once. Remove from the oil and pat dry with paper towels.
  5. Serve warm with Peach Honey and Prickly Pear sauce. (Red Mesa Cuisine purchases their Prickly Pear Syrup made by A & J Family Farms of Socorro, NM.)
  6. Makes an excellent breakfast dish or can be eaten as a snack anytime.


For other dishes inspired by indigenous food traditions, see Lois Ellen Frank’s beautiful book, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, a James Beard Foundation award winner.

This locally inspired recipe is brought to you by Pam Walker. Pam is an avid home cook, writer, and local farm and food activist who is also a board member of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute. Thank you, Pam, for helping inspire us to use locally sourced ingredients!