18 August 2013

Zucchini Cake with Lemony Cream Cheese Glaze

Apologies are in order for the super sporadic nature of my posts over the past two months.  Between road trips to Chicago, family reunions in Gatlinburg, and last-minute weekends in New Orleans, it's been tricky to find a block of time for typing on a laptop.  The good news is that things have settled back down to our typical level of pleasant hum-drum lunacy, I have a whole smorgasbord of recipes to share.  Today I start with the most recent interruption - my birthday, and it's amazing cake.  If you like carrot cake, zucchini bread or banana muffins, this is the cake is right down your fruit-and-veggie alley.

On a delightful note, I happen to share a birthday with the legendary Julia Child.  Bon appetite!  If being born on the same day lends me any of her sass and culinary prowess, I consider myself a lucky Leo.  And in the true spirit of Julia, this recipe is about trying something new, being fearless and having a whole lot of fun.  Quick, were's the 1970's refrigerator with its door full of beer?!

As I sit and type, we are still eating through the remnants of my delicious birthday cake.  Now for me, a birthday cake is a big deal.  Growing up, it was always birthday pie or birthday ice cream, never cake.  In the heat and humidity of mid-August, a sugary sweet cake piled high with sticky frosting never sounded terribly tempting.  Even at our July wedding, we opted to serve lighter desserts - mini fruit tarts and key lime pies - for guests to munch along with the funfetti wedding cake for the hubs kids.  I'm just a pie girl at heart.  The only cake I have consistently loved is carrot.  It has an incredibly moist and hearty texture that is still light and airy.  The combination of subtle sweetness and light spice is divine, and the little flecks of carrot riddled throughout the cake are beautiful in my opinion.  Just look at those little green bits of zucchini...so lovely.  Plus, it's a great way to sneak more veggies into your family's diet.

As mentioned before, we had a huge garden growing up.  We didn't grow many carrots, but we always had plenty of zucchini.  Ratatouille was served every other night through the fall, and I always had two slices of zucchini bread in my lunch as a snack.  My mom was a zucchini bread machine, baking and gifting enough loaves to make her a legend to my elementary school teachers.  It was her delicious bread that gave me the inspiration for this cake in the first place.  In both carrot cake and zucchini bread the shredded vegetables add extra moisture and flecks of hearty texture, so why not swap the two?

Ok, before I finish talking about this cake I have to make something clear.  Yes, I did make myself a birthday cake.  But this is no tragedy!  My wonderful hubs, knowing full well my opinions about cake, surprised me with a different dessert for my birthday.  Nothing has ever compared to my mom's homemade fudgy brownies hot from the oven, topped mint chocolate chip ice cream.  It's pretty much the best combination in the history of the world, and the perfect finale to my birthday dinner.  The hubs hit a home run by serving up this dessert.  This second dessert is just the icing on the cake...quite an ironic reference, don't you think?

Zucchini cake tastes just like carrot cake, with the same spiced sweetness and vegetable flecks.  Chopped walnuts add an extra little texture and crunch to this hearty cake, but instead of having the heavy consistency of a quick bread, it has a light airiness that is lovely.  The result is a great summer cake that is satisfying and easy to eat.  Leftovers keep for days in the refrigerator and freeze like a dream, making this the perfect cake for our two-person household.  We eat half, freeze half and are happy to pull out cake a few months down the road.

In the past, I've paired this fabulous cake with a gorgeous cream cheese frosting.  I just love tangy cream cheese with this hearty and moist cake.  This year, I went a slightly different route and covered the cake in a lemon cream cheese glaze.  The result was fantastic.  Since there's less fluff, it is a bit less like a birthday cake than some might like.  But the touch of lemon was a fabulous flavor compliment to the cake, and the little flecks of lemon zest gave the glaze a lovely appearance.  The leftovers are a lot easier to eat as we're not suffering from sugar burnout.  I've included recipes for both the glaze and the frosting, so take your pick as to which to use.  Either way, the result will be delicious.

Where's the hubs in these pictures?!  It's I-Spy, dessert edition.

Zucchini Cake (serves 8-10)
Modified from this Carrot Cake Recipe
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c white flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs (or 2 eggs, 2 whites)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 c coconut or canola oil
  • 3 tbs hot water
  • 2 1/2 c zucchini, shredded and well drained
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch cake pans, then place two parchment paper rounds on the bottom of each pan.  Spray the parchment with non-stick or grease with butter.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  In either a medium bowl or your stand mixer, combine the eggs, applesauce and oil.  Mix together until well combined, then add the hot water and stir.  Add the shredded zucchini and walnuts, stirring until the zucchini is evenly distributed.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients in the large bowl or stand mixer and stir until just combined.  

Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is brown on top and the center springs back when lightly pressed.  Remove to a wire rack and let the cakes cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pans to finish cooling completely.  Frost with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze or Cream Cheese Frosting.

Lemony Cream Cheese Glaze
  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temp (anywhere from full to non-fat)
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 c powdered sugar
When the cakes are cool, making your frosting.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until very smooth. Place the bottom cake on a cake stand or plate and pour a generous amount of glaze over the cake, enough to completely coat the top and run down the sides to coat.  Lay the second layer of cake on top of the first and pour additional glaze over the top.  Spread the glaze around the sides of the cake with a spatula to evenly coat.  Cover and let chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz cream cheese (anywhere from full to non-fat)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c powdered sugar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until very smooth.  Place the bottom cake on a cake stand or plate and spread frosting over the top and sides to coat.  Place the second cake round on top of the first and coat top and sides.  Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.  

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