I always buy too much produce at the market every week. I have all of these positive intentions about having a few extra slimming meals during the week, because I had a few too many glasses of wine or pieces of cake, and more often than not, I end up tossing the leftover veggies in the food waste bin on Tuesday mornings, minutes before taking out the weekly trash. You would think I would know better by now, but I suppose we’re creatures of habit, and that includes bad habits as well.
The zucchini staring me in the eye was in good company, amongst a bunch of radishes, a bag of carrots, some celery a bit past its prime, and a whole head of cauliflower. I tackled most of these by making a homemade vegetable soup, and munched down the radishes while still standing by the fridge, trying to figure out what to do with the zucchini, and then decided that cooking too many vegetarian dishes wouldn’t solve the problem. In fact, it would just add to it, and eventually these cooked veggies would end up in the bin with the rest of the veggies that never made it past the storage shelf in my fridge that week.
Why not settle on something sweet instead? So, zucchini cake it is. The next dilemma was finding a recipe. My ever growing collection of cookbooks is making it more challenging to find the right recipe at the right time. I’ve got a great memory, but I’ve added so many new books to the collection this year that I haven’t read these often enough to start committing some of their star recipes to memory. Yet. But, summer vacation is coming, and I’ll be back on track by the start of the next school year. I hope.
In the meantime, I did what any logical, obsessed book lover would do, and headed straight for Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook, from her blog with the same name. Her recipe sounded just right. Two hits of chocolate, with cocoa powder as well as chocolate chips, and a shot of coffee to intensify it all. Yes. Only her version was unadorned. While I love plain chocolate cake, I felt mine needed a little ‘something something’ on top. You know what I’m saying? It’s like pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Or carrot cake with the same. Somehow, the veggie based cake I was ready to make needed a bit of bolstering with a dose of cream cheese. A half cut and drying lemon in the fridge led to making a lemon based cream cheese frosting, and once I put them together, it was indeed a match made in heaven.
Now this one’s a winner. Think moist, tender cake, with no visible green bits of veggies, and a bit of lemon in the cream cheese frosting to cut through the richness of the chocolate. An entirely successful way to empty the fridge’s veggie crisper drawer if you ask me.
An excellent cake with a deep chocolate flavour, thanks to the added chocolate chips and a bit of coffee to add depth without tasting like coffee.
The lemon in the frosting really complements the cocoa notes in the cake, and the zucchini isn't at all visible, which makes it safe to serve to young people!
Recipe adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook.
- For the cake:
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup, packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or 2 tablespoons strong cooled coffee (you won't notice the coffee flavour, it will only help to deepen the chocolate notes in the cake)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
- 6 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips
- For the frosting:
- 4 oz (1/2 package) of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
- grated zest of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2-inch square pan with some butter or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and butter until fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much.
- Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.
- Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the frosting. Mix the cream cheese and butter on low speed with a hand mixer until well combined. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and icing sugar, and continue mixing on low speed until well combined.
- Once the cake has cooled completely, frost it with the cream cheese frosting.
- Serve at room temperature.