For the first time I understand why zucchinis are the butt of a gardener’s jokes. When I left town for my brother’s wedding in July, the zucchini plants were a spindly, weak vine with dozens of tender blossoms. Two weeks later I returned home to find it had turned into a savage beast that took over precious real estate in the garden. My neighbor had kindly taken care of my urban farm while I was away and now my kitchen counter was also filled with zucchinis. The excitement of seeing the fruits of my labor laying there ripe and ready to eat, quickly turned to shock and concern. These squash left me wondering what had occupied this patch of land before I moved in. Perhaps a nuclear plant or maybe this fertile land had been the site of an ancient cow pasture. I have never seen a vegetable, organic mind you, which grew to this size. It was larger than my children at birth; actually neither of the boys was this big until they were walking. I opened the refrigerator and she had stuffed more in there. I panicked and did what every zucchini grower does; I tried to give them away. My neighbor explained that she had already taken all that she wanted for herself and I was not welcome near her home with even a single baby squash.
That is when I realized I had to disguise the vegetable and get rid of it in the form of tasty baked goods. This chocolate zucchini cake was inspired by one I ate while in college in Burlington, Vermont. I worked as a photo assistant, after classes at UVM and before my shifts at Ben & Jerry’s. One day we were shooting a spread for a magazine about using up the plethora of zucchinis from your garden. (The foreshadowing is not lost on me today.) A chocolate cake sat on pedestal and became the centerpiece of the shot. After our work was done we ate the spread of food and that cake blew my mind. Not in a million years would you guess there was zucchini in it, and the result was moist, sweet, but not overly so, and intensely chocolate. I was a starving student and the generous baker wrapped the rest of the cake up for me to take back to my dorm, along with the recipe. During one of my several moves that recipe was lost and this is the closest I have come to recreating it from distant memories.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake:
2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, scoop and sweep
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, well packed
¾ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup plain yogurt
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini, tightly packed
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar for the top of the cake
To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350° F
Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt Pan , set aside.
Cut the tops and bottoms of the zucchini off, and then cut into quarters. Remove the seeds if they are large and at all tough. This was only necessary for the child-sized squash, when I picked them early and they were a reasonable size I didn’t have to remove the seeds.
Sift together the flour, soda, salt and cocoa powder, set aside.
In a stand mixer cream together the butter, brown sugar and sugar using the paddle attachment, until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the oil, until it is evenly distributed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with the yogurt in 3 additions each.
Remove from the mixer and stir in the grated zucchini until it is evenly distributed.
Stir in the melted and cooled chocolate.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about one hour or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan until nearly room temperature, you should be able to comfortably handle it.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream. This cake is even better the next day for breakfast.
Thanks Kathy for all the harvesting, you are the best neighbor! xo