Today is the third edition of the collaborative food blogging event "Is My Blog Burning?". The first edition, hosted by Alberto, was all about soup. The second edition, hosted by yours truly, had a tartine theme.
Today's event is hosted by the lovely Singaporean foodie Renée, and the theme is Cake Walk. As Renée explains, a cake walk is a sort of lottery organized at local fun fairs, in which the prizes are cakes baked and donated by people from the community. I knew about fund-raising bake sales, but I'd never heard of that concept. It sure sounds great: gambling and cakes, it doesn't get any better than that!
I scratched my head and pondered the possibilities for quite a while: the world of cakes is vast and beautiful, so a lot of room was left for personal inspiration. I had settled on an idea, but at the very last minute, a better idea came knocking on my door: what could be more fitting a contribution than a Chocolate & Zucchini Cake?
As I'm told, in the Midwest, zucchini plants seem to grow with supernatural vigor. When harvest season comes around, people are overloaded with their crop, and have developed all kinds of creative ways to use it up. Someone even told me that nobody ever locked their cars in their small town, except when it's zucchini season, to avoid coming back to find that someone has left a crate of zucchini on the passenger seat.
Among the popular uses of a zucchini glut (apart from abandoning it on the steps of the church) is baking quick breads and cakes, including chocolate and zucchini cakes.
When I chose a name for this blog, I wasn't at all referring to this (see About section for the real explanation), but over time I've had a few emails from readers telling me about this type of cake, or requesting a recipe. And well, I have one now!
I came up with this version by searching the web, examining the recipes I found, selecting the ones that made the most sense, reading the bakers' comments and variation ideas, and blended all this with a family recipe for chocolate cake.
I baked it yesterday, and served it in the evening to my favorite taste-testers, Ludo, Marie-Laure, Stéphan and Patricia, who had come around for dinner (more on that in the coming days). And boy, was it scrumptious. When I started cutting slices, I could tell immediately that the texture was just right, fluffy and moist, with a slightly crisp outer crust. The big advantage of using grated zucchini is that it provides some of this moistness, allowing you to reduce the overall amount of butter. There is no way anyone can taste the zucchini in there, as it melds with the batter and disappears.
In addition to being a deep and beautiful shade of brown, the cake has a voluptuous chocolate flavor. We have the cocoa powder and the chocolate chunks to thank for that, and also the dash of coffee. The latter is a trick that my grandmother taught me, and it's good to keep it in mind when working with chocolate: you can't identify the coffee as such, but it makes the chocolate flavor even more vivid.
Update: you can also watch a video of me making this recipe for the Fooding website (in French).
Chocolate & Zucchini Cake
- 240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 60 grams (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 180 grams (1 scant cup) light brown sugar (I use unrefined cane sugar)
- 115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 1/2 cup virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or 2 tablespoons strong cooled coffee -- this is just to deepen the chocolate flavor, you won't taste it in the finished product
- 3 large eggs
- 350 grams (2 cups) unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
- 160 grams (1 cup) good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
- Confectioner's sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 25-cm (10-inch) round springform pan or a 22-cm (8 1/2-inch) square pan.
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, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or a chocolate glaze if desired.
Chocolate & Zucchini [http://chocolateandzucchini.com]
All writing and photography on Chocolate & Zucchini is Copyright Clotilde Dusoulier © 2003-2012 unless indicated otherwise. All rights reserved.