My mom is a tremendous gardener who seems to have the ability to make anything grow. There is nothing she likes better than to spend hours outside digging in the dirt.
She stopped cultivating vegetables years ago, but while I was growing up on our farm in New Hampshire we had an abundant kitchen garden. As the summer stretched through August my brother and I would often brace ourselves at dinner for when Mom would start rattling off which vegetables – and edible flowers in the salad – had come from the backyard. Inevitably there was zucchini, and a lot of it. This is all very en vogue now, to announce where your produce has come from and if you grew it yourself. At the time it just added to our teenage angst and left us wishing for something nice, normal, and store bought. Especially when zucchini started showing up in places where it didn’t belong. Like pancakes. Or gingerbread.
“Just don’t tell us!,” was our cry, which only added to Mom’s delight and challenged her to find new ways to “hide” vegetables in various dishes.
Now, had Mom presented us with a chocolate zucchini cake, I’m sure we would have been a little more silent – in that teenage way of expressing gratitude.
Earlier this summer my farmer friend Joel, who lives off in the distant land of Illinois, e-mailed a few friends photos of his chocolate zucchini cake. “When I stopped by the Macomb community garden yesterday, someone was about to add 4 giant zukes to the compost pile,” he wrote. “I took the smallest (3″ x 18″) home and made a chocolate zucchini cake!”
The photos showed it coming out of the oven, and then a pan that was eventually emptying.
“I ate 4 pieces for breakfast and am tempted to eat at least a couple more for brunch,” he added.
I wrote back asking for the recipe, but that e-mail seems to have been forgotten in the chase after bugs in the tomato row. So I simply searched for a recipe online. The first one I came upon was from King Arthur Flour. I have a special affinity for King Arthur Flour because their headquarters are located across the river from that New Hampshire farm where I grew up. In fact, their son was on my high school track team. One of my fondest memories of the “track family” was the night we all descended upon their house high in the hills over Norwich, Vermont, and made our own pizzas – using King Arthur Flour, of course.
So King Arthur Flour feels a bit like family.
I love the tip their bakers share here for the frosting. Simply pull the cake out 5 minutes early and sprinkle a cup of chocolate chips over the top. Return the pan to the oven so the chips get all nice and melty. When you pull the done cake out of the oven, you just smooth the frosting all out into a decadent sheen.
I brought the pan into the newsroom and challenged everyone to guess the “secret” ingredient.
“Kale” was the first answer most people offered up and it took some coaxing before people came around to zucchini. That poor forgotten vegetable. Despite the trends, it just keeps producing in abundance in the garden waiting in vain for us to fall in love with it and print things like “Eat More Zucchini” on T-shirts and such.
Chocolate. That’s all you needed, my friend.
Chocolate zucchini cake
From King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons espresso powder, or 1 tablespoon instant coffee
3 cups shredded zucchini (about one 10-inch zucchini)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until smooth.
3. Beat in the eggs.
4. Stir in the sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt alternately with the flour.
5. Add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing until smooth.
6. Fold in the zucchini and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
7. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set.
8. To ice the cake: Slide the cake out of the oven, sprinkle it evenly with the 1 cup chocolate chips, and return it to the oven for 5 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
9. Remove the cake from the oven, and use a cake spatula or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate chips into a smooth glaze. Cool on a rack.
This post first appeared on Kitchen Report.