Having chosen the name of my blog to illustrate the two sides of my culinary personality — my love of fresh, seasonal produce but also my appreciation for desserts — I couldn’t justify not having a Chocolate & Zucchini cake in my baking repertoire.
I am not a gardener myself, but I am told that in vegetable patches around the world, zucchini plants 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 explained to 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.
I came up with my own 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.
When I started cutting slices, I could tell immediately that the texture was just right, fluffy and moist, with a slightly crisp outer crust.
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 good.
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 moisture, 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.
- 115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 1/2 cup olive oil, plus a pat butter or teaspoon oil for the pan
- 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, packed) light brown sugar (I use unrefined cane sugar)
- 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 (5 2/3 oz) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 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.
You can watch a video of me (in French) making this recipe for the Fooding website.