It wasn’t what I was expecting. To celebrate this year’s International Kitchen Garden Day, we toured several neighborhood vegetable gardens, all within easy biking range. With the tour ending at our garden, it seemed an apt occasion to bake a chocolate and zucchini cake. I’d assumed it wouldn’t be so very different than making zucchini bread. Well, yes and no. When it came time to mix the chocolate in with the zucchini, I hesitated. It felt startlingly counterintuitive, not to mention how it looked. However, there were enough online testimonials for me to persevere, and the results made me glad that I did. The cake was tender, moist, and rich but still light in texture, with the zucchini somehow adding an element to each one of those components.
Many thanks to all who generously shared their gardens as well as knowledge. It may be that our guests were simply hungry after bike-touring all afternoon but, judging by the cake’s disappearance, I think I could have sneaked in another zucchini.
Chocolate & Zucchini Cake
- 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour [may substitute 1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour]
- 1/2 cup (40 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 4-ounce stick or 110 grams) butter, softened
- 1 cup (160 grams) light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups zucchini, trimmed, unpeeled and grated (about 280 grams, two medium)
- 1 cup (170 grams) chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup (40 grams) light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 360°F. Grease a 10-inch (3 quart or liter) springform cake pan, and flour it or sprinkle with cocoa powder (this helps the cake unmold easily, especially if you’re not using a non-stick pan).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3. In a food processor, combine the sugar and butter, and mix until fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and coffee powder, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition.
4. Spoon in the flour mixture, reserving the last half-cup of it. Mix thoroughly, the batter will be thick.
5. Add the grated zucchini and the chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture, and toss to coat. Fold in the batter, and blend thoroughly. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and smooth out the surface with a spatula until level.
6. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients, and sprinkle all over the batter. Lightly press nuts into batter for better adhesion when unmolding. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Turn out on a rack to cool for half an hour, then unmold.
Serves 12 generously. Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini.
Notes: There are many differing recipes for chocolate and zucchini cake. I chose this one for it’s simple proportion of eggs and butter. I used espresso powder for the coffee granules but the coffee doesn’t seem necessary if using good quality chocolate. When baking, particularly cakes, I often substitute one of the eggs with a duck egg from Yellow House Farm. The extra fat and protein the duck egg provides added richness and loft. The butter, eggs, zucchini and home-made vanilla extract were all locally-sourced. I hope that someday we will have a local source for hazelnuts, one of the few nuts that may be grown successfully here in New England.