Monday, August 18, 2008

Shhhh... Don't tell them it's zucchini!

Some of my dearest friends are, how shall I put this, a bit picky about what they eat. Trying to plan a meal for a group of friends becomes a veritable juggling act - No tomatoes, no mushrooms, no meat, no "fertilized eggs", no gluten, no squash... it can be a bit of a struggle. Now, I genuinely understand certain things - I was a vegan for a hot minute a few lifetimes back, and gluten intolerances are nasty buggers. I won't get on their case about an honest-to-bob allergy, but when people don't like eggplant or squash because, well, just because, I can get sneaky. And sneaky, in this case, can lead to the BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER. No one knew the secret ingredient, except my roommate Weasel, who nervously picked a little fleck of green out of her piece and gave me a suspicious eyebrow raise. Yep, this decadent chocolate layer cake with buttermilk cocoa frosting gets its amazing texture from a super healthy, and incredibly sneaky, garden surplus - 2 cups of grated zucchini to be exact!

This cake wasn't meant to be a sneak-attack of healthy local veggies. I had originally picked the recipe for a casual afternoon of baking, leaving the result for my roommates to pick at, for three reasons:
1. My roommate Dragonfruit had left half a HUGE zucchini in the fridge before she left for a trip, the kind so big that it doesn't really taste like much. Not ideal for a stir-fry, but I needed to use it before it melted into a pool of zucchini-colored goo.
2. I planned to finally break in Julia. It was a crime to keep that beauty of a machine sitting lonely on the counter, staring at me with her big, sad... um... whisk.
3. It's a chocolate cake. Made out of zucchini. Come on, do I need any more reason than that?

As it turned out, after my roommate Greenbriar and I had each polished off a piece, we got a call to attend an impromptu picnic for our friend Dan's birthday, and the cake was bound for bigger and better things. A half hour later, I was walking through the park with 5/6ths of a chocolate cake, with my sneaky face on. My wonderful friends overlooked the missing chunk, and simply noted with gratitude that they were glad to socialize with a girl who bakes cakes "just because it's Monday." I set the cake down, and sat giggling into my hands as the first pieces were sliced. Ha! The picky kids were eating a vegetable cake!

I probably ruined the game with my "just eat a piece of this cake and don't ask questions" routine, but no one spit it out. On the contrary, it was gobbled up even by the most skeptical. Most of my friends actually thought the concept of a zucchini cake was actually pretty exciting, but in one instance I had to shoot around looks of caution when the pickiest of them all picked up a piece with his hands. He never found out the secret ingredient, but he'll probably read this, so the gig is up. Sorry, dude. You know it tasted amazing.

The batter was really simple, aside from the arm workout that was the grating. I thought of bringing out the trusty mandolin, but I'm never satisfied with the grating blade on her, so out came the plain ol' grater. After I had amassed a large pile of zucchini shavings, I turned on the lovely Julia for the first time. Oh, friends, she purrs like a cat. If a cat purred like a perfect, perfect Kitchenaid mixer.

The butter/oil and sugar creamed together perfectly, the eggs mixed in with ease, and rest of the batter came together in seconds. It's a good thing I'm single, because I'd officially be having an affair with my stand mixer. I poured the batter into two twin cake pans, and sent them off to bake while I lovingly cleaned Julia, down to the last detachable piece.

Because the recipe calls for buttermilk, and I have a hard time using a whole pint of buttermilk before it goes bad, I used up some more in a frosting/deliciously gooey glaze (how do you know when buttermilk has really gone bad, anyway? It must take quite a discerning nose to tell between just-spoiled enough and milk that has actually gone bad. I'm not sure about my olfactory prowess, so I stick to the expiration date). I had intended for the frosting to be a bit thicker than it ended up, but the final result was better than I could have desired, because the gooey "frosting" layer seeped into the two cake layers, a serendipitous bit of chocolatey perfection.

(warning: food porn ahead)

The wonderful middle layer.

The original recipe is from King Arthur Flour, which you can find here. I stuck pretty close to the original recipe, but used whole wheat flour, replaced the cloves with more cinnamon, and made a layer cake with two standard cake pans instead of the 9 x 13 recommended, using my own buttermilk cocoa frosting rather than make the suggested chocolate glaze.

Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Frosting

1/2 c. butter
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk
5 cups confectioners sugar

Bring butter, chocolate, and buttermilk to boil. Add confectioners sugar and mix well. Pour on cake while still warm. Decorate with powdered sugar.


  1. You're back!!! YAY!!!!! I missed your daily contribution on my list of blogs to stalk!

    Zucchini cake sounds and looks sooo good!! This cake and the carrot cake are probably what I would consider healthier options. I mean, they ARE made from vegetables, no? And vegetables are good for you, no? So that means that I can have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, right? Didn't the doctor recommend a few servings of vegetables daily?? Oh, now I really have to make them!!

  2. I don't mind zucchini in my cake at all.

    This one looks yummy! You did a great job.

  3. This looks so good! I just made some chocolate zuch bread but it was certainly lacking that chocolate frosting that looks so amazing.

  4. Ohhh! Sneaky! But that does look truly amazing.

  5. I'm SO bookmarking this, always trying to find good zucchini recipes to try make my boyfriend to eat the good ol' veggie. He just doesn't like it, ush!

  6. This recipe is going up against my grandma's that I've been using for years! The challenge is on.

  7. I absolutely love zucchini bread, so it make sense to me that I'll love this. Thanks for the recipe. Regarding buttermilk, I use the powdered stuff so I never have to worry about having buttermilk on hand or having to "use it up".

  8. You'd never have to ask me twice to eat a piece of that cake! As far as I can tell, buttermilk doesn't really go bad, or at least not for a long time after the expiration date stamped on the carton. I routinely use it after that date, and just give it a sniff to make sure it still smells like buttermilk. The alternative, of course, is just to bake a whole bunch of yummy things that call for buttermilk!

  9. I don't see cloves or cinn. in the original recipe but you said you put it in there. Do you remember how much you put in? Thanks!

  10. Wow! What a gorgeous looking cake and can't believe there zucchini in there. Bookmarked. I am making your Zucchini bread too. Will let you know how it turns out. :)

    Sailu @ Indian Recipes