Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

I’ve discussed my CSA-related anxiety in detail here so I won't ramble on about it. Other than to say it struck again recently, but with a slightly different manifestation. This time it presented as, "Holy zucchini! What on earth am I going to do with these huge honkers?"

I'm not just being dramatic, although I have a tendency to do so. These babies were a couple of pounds apiece.
My anxiety over using up approximately 6 pounds of zucchini was exacerbated by the fact that I consider zucchini to be a slightly lackluster vegetable. It certainly doesn't inspire me to great culinary heights. Thanks goodness for Epicurious- I love that you can search by ingredient and find all manner of recipes in which to use it.

A search for zucchini turned up a few pages of possiblities with this chocolate and zucchini cake recipe at the top of the list. A little creepy, huh, the intuition of those search algorithms? It's like that search engine knew I was a baker and that I couldn't pass up a zucchini cake recipe.

It was exactly right, of course. Uncanny.
Chocolate and Zucchini Cake
adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier via Epicurious

If you’re familiar with Clothilde’s blog, chocolateandzucchini.com, or her same named book, you may have already seen this cake recipe. Now, I know that zucchini is not a typical cake ingredient but don’t let that deter you from making this cake. Really- you won’t even know it’s in there. The zucchini just adds body and a nice, slightly moist texture to the crumb. This cake really doesn’t need any icing- it would be absolutely terrific on its own. That being said, moderation is not my strong suit. As one who never leaves well enough alone, I just had to ice the cake. And since I was going through the trouble of icing it, I thought a little chopped, toasted walnut garnish would be nice, too.

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp + ½ tablespoon to grease pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (I used ½ teaspoon ground espresso)
3 large eggs
2 cups unpeeled, grated zucchini (approximately 1 ½ pounds)
1 cup good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips

ganache icing:
8 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces or use chips

¼ cup chopped and toasted walnuts for a garnish, if desired

1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit with a rack centered in the middle of the oven. Cut parchment paper to fit and line the bottom and sides of an 8- or 10-inch springform pan. Grease the parchment with butter. Use a little butter to adhere the ring of parchment wrapped around the side to the springform pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter with a spatula or wooden spoon until creamy. Add the vanilla, espresso or coffee granules, and eggs. Mix well between each addition.
4. Measure out one cup of the flour mixture and set aside. Add the rest of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Mix until the consistency is that of a thick batter.
5. Put the grated zucchini and chocolate chips in a small bowl and add the remaining cup of flour and toss to coat. Add to the batter and fold in with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined.
6. Scoop the batter into the buttered cake pan. If needed, use a spatula to level the surface of the batter.
7. If using a 10-inch pan, bake for 40 to 50 minutes or, if using an 8-inch pan, bake 60-70 minutes. When the top of the cake looks shiny and set (like a brownie), test with a knife. The knife should be clean but not dry. There may be some melted chocolate from the chocolate chips.
8. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unlatch and remove the sides of the springform pan. Remove the parchment ring wrapped around the side of the cake. Let cool to room temperature before icing.
9. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Pour the cream into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Put the chopped chocolate in a small, heat proof bowl. As soon as the cream reaches a simmer, pour it over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes to melt the chocolate. Then, stir the cream and chocolate until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. The ganache may need to sit for 30 minutes to an hour to set up to a thicker consistency before pouring over the cake but be sure it is still liquid when coating the cake so that it pours easily.
10. Once the cake has cooled remove the bottom of the springform pan and bottom parchment ring and place the cake on a cake round. (You don’t have to use a cake round but I find it easier when transferring the cake. You can make a cake round easily by tracing the bottom of a same sized cake pan on a clean piece of cardboard and then cutting it out with scissors.) Set the cake back on the cooling rack and place the rack over a sheet pan to catch the overflow.
11. Pour the ganache over the cake. I coated this cake twice, using one half of the ganache each time, to ensure a nice, thick icing. Allow the ganache to set up between each coating. After the second coat sprinkle on the toasted walnut pieces and set aside for 1-2 hours to allow the ganache to set up completely. *Do not place the cake in the refrigerator to set the ganache or it will sweat when you serve it and won’t be as attractive.* The cake should keep in a sealed container at room temperature for a few days.


  1. I never had zucchini in chocolate cake...that is a great way to "hide" veggies. The cake looks fabulous specially topped with ganache.
    Hope you are having a great week Shelley :-)

  2. WOW this absolutely DELICIOUS! I can just imagine bringing my fork down onto the slightly hardened ganache outer layer, enrobing fluffy rich chocolate cake all with that little crunch from the walnuts. To DIE for...seriously!

    Do you have any more zucchini left? I actually absolutely love zucchini and have a couple recipes on my blog that might help you use up some. One of my favorites are zucchini cakes that taste remarkably like crab cakes are are quite satisfying.

  3. I grew up eating chocolate zucchini cake, as my mom grew huge honkers too! Your cake looks utterly delicious, I'll be making it for sure with the zucchini from my garden (I don't let them get too gargantuan!)

  4. It's amazing how one plant can produce so much zucchini. :) We can't have enough on hand here for my husband, but I know exactly what you mean because I am always on the look out for different recipes. Your cake looks marvelous! I love the ganache and nuts on top.

  5. This is my weirdness: I keep wishing I would find myself with pounds and pounds of zucchini, but it doesn't seem to happen. My csa seems to actively avoid giving us too much. I have plans for zucchini cookies if I do get some extras next week. So, zucchini cake sounds fantastic, and the ganache and walnuts look great on top!

  6. Oh my goodness this looks so amazing. Like Lisa, I almost never get more than one little zucchini in my CSA, though! By the way, can you please always call zucchini "honkers" in the future?? I snorted my coffee on my desk when I read that! :)

  7. I think this sounds amazing. Thanks for posting and thank goodness for epicurious. Sometimes, I really wish I invented that site! xo

  8. Very LOL on the "honkers"...ha ha! OMGoodness does this cake ever look good!! I have never made a choc-zucc cake, which is weird as I put vegetables (esp zuc) in my daily choc smoothies. They hide extremely well with any chocolate or cacao. Beautifully done!!! I love that you used ganache and chopped nuts...very nice finish!

  9. You sure there is zucchini in that cake? :) That looks like whole lot of chocolate and I like my zucchini like that! :)
    I know how you feel about the amount of food in a CSA box and the same thing comes in a row for several weeks. I froze lots of corn this summer!

  10. Wow, this is a beauty, an absolute show stopper. I want to come over and eat it when you're not looking. Please email me your home address ;)
    *kisses* HH

  11. what a healthy and delicious cake, lovely pics too
    thanks for sharing

  12. I do kjnow Clothilde's blog. She has a wonderful recipe for a quince cake that I tried and then made a few times. Really good!

    This chocolate zucchini cake looks quite rich. Too bad you can't really taste the zucchini, asI adore them. I'm with you in the icing department.

  13. Oh wow, Shelley, this is one hell of a cake! It looks amazing and sounds so yummy. I love the addition of coffee. :-)