Last week, my Rabbi and his wife hosted a cookout at their house as a social event for our temple’s governing Board. As I do in any potluck situation, I signed up to bring a dessert. I thought about what to make all week. Southern-style jam cake? It does show off my homemade jam, but remember last time I made it? I didn’t mix the jam in completely and the top of the cake stuck to the pan. So, not that. Maybe something using fresh seasonal fruit, like a cobbler? Or another favorite from my beloved Rustic Fruit Desserts book, lemon-blueberry buckle? (A buckle is a kind of old-fashioned cake.) Those kind of desserts are wonderful at this time of year, but it’s hard to make them ahead of time, and I really needed to be able to make the dessert the day before the cookout. So, I fell back on one of my favorite summer desserts: chocolate zucchini cake.
I learned the recipe for chocolate zucchini cake from an online article by food writer Kim O’ Donnel years ago. (Kim is a great food writer and one of the mad geniuses behind the grass-roots canning movement, Canning Across America. She has a new vegetarian cookbook coming out next month and you can be sure I am going to order a copy.) If you are one of those parents who is always trying to sneak vegetables into your kids’ food, this is a great recipe for you, although you should know that any zucchini your kids ingest will be accompanied by a heck of a lot of chocolate. It’s not exactly health food, if you know what I mean. For those of us who eat zucchini willingly, this is still a great recipe because the zucchini keeps the cake really moist and adds a little unexpected bit of crunchiness to each bite.
J.R. was around while I was making the cake and you know how he loves to bake! He left his beloved trains to come measure and stir and mix with me. Making the chocolate zucchini cake with my favorite assistant pastry chef went surprisingly well and I realized that this recipe is both easy and kid-friendly. (Of course, if you are trying to sneak the zucchini in without your kids knowing about it, you’re going to have to wait until after they go to bed to make it.)
Of course, when I got to the Rabbi’s house, I learned that my friend had also made a chocolate bundt cake – although hers was not a cocoa cinnamon variety, not a zucchini cake – and there were many other showier desserts as well. So my poor little zucchini cake was somewhat overlooked. Lesson learned. It’s not a fancy dessert and it is not going to win any beauty contests. But it is a delicious and moist cake that will impress anyone who tries it. So, to make sure that this cake gets its due, serve it after a nice summer dinner party in your home, not at a potluck for 40 people.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Recipe courtesy of Kim O’Donnel
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups olive or vegetable oil*
3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1 large zucchini, grated
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt or angel food cake pan.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Melt chocolate in a heavy saucepan set over low heat. Set aside. Combine the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream them together using the paddle attachment until light and thick, about 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Gradually add oil. Continue to mix until batter is thick and yellow, about 1-2 minutes. Add melted chocolate and combine. Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Mix in the grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
*Yes, Kim recommends using olive oil in this cake. If you are nervous about it, substitute vegetable oil.