Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Zucchini Cake

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I did not plan on blogging this recipe.  

For one thing, I’d never made it before.  And, anyway, I would hate to give the impression that we are sitting around eating dessert all day.  (I swear, nutrition police, we’re eating our vegetables…usually, without mixing them into a cake!)  But plans change.  And this cake, heaven help us, is the tastiest thing I made all week.  And not because it didn’t have some stiff competition. 

I wasn’t planning to blog about this recipe, so I didn’t take any process photos.  You’ll have to use your imagination.  You won’t mind, though.  You’ve seen cake batter in a mixer bowl before, right?  And you’ve seen the kind of zucchini that inspired me to bake this cake: the kind that sneakily, while your back is turned, transform themselves from pinky-sized baby zucchinis into fruits the size of a toddler’s baseball bat.  The kind whose guts have turned unappealingly spongy, like eggplants, so that you can’t really treat them like vegetables anymore.  Frankly, they leave you no choice: they require that you bake them into some kind of tasty treat…or that you trash them.

I wrenched two mammoths from my zucchini plants on Friday afternoon.  If it hadn’t been Friday, I might have chucked them straight into the compost bin.  If it hadn’t been late August, when my zucchini plants are, one by one, succumbing to annihilation by squash borers, I almost certainly would have considered them waste.  But, happily, it was a Friday afternoon in the waning days of August, and I knew that soon, I’d have a houseful of happy, hungry kids (and one happy, hungry husband) and that before too long, I’d be nostalgic for the kind of summertime excess embodied by those giants.  So, I decided a zucchini cake was called for.

I’d never made a zucchini cake, but I have a great carrot cake recipe (a Cook’s Illustrated recipe), and what’s the difference between shredded carrots and shredded zucchini…except that zucchini are waterier, and I was pretty sure I could solve that problem?  I had almost everything else I needed, except that I was a little short on cream cheese, a fact which turned out to be the mother of invention (or at least of fortuitous adaptation).  

It’s so good.  If I accidentally allow a few more zucchini to grow into unwieldy monsters this summer, then it’s possible I’ll have to make another before the growing season is over.  And, honestly, it’s so hot right now that I can hardly be bothered to go outdoors to check on the garden, so matters are out of my hands.

If your late-summer zucchini outgrow their more healthful applications while you aren’t looking, please: Bake this cake!  


Do you see that layer of frosting?

Zucchini Cake with Extra-Sour Cream Cheese Frosting

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated‘s Simple Carrot Cake)

4 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (about 2 BIG guys)

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9 X 13 cake pan. 

2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugars and the eggs until they look well emulsified.  With the mixer running at medium speed, stream in the oil.  Continue mixing until fluffy and light in color.

3. Place half of your shredded zucchini into a clean tea towel.  Over the sink, twist the towel to wring as much water as possible from your zucchini.  Don’t be gentle!  Use some muscle.  Dump the dried shreds into the batter, and repeat the wringing out process with the second half of the shreds.  Very briefly mix the shreds into the batter.  (They will be incorporated more fully with the dry ingredients.)

4. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then add them all at once to the wet ingredients.  Mix just until incorporated.  Don’t over-do it.  Mix only until combined.

5. Pour your batter into the prepared pan and bake just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.

Extra-Sour Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/4 cup thick sour cream (not reduced fat–get the good stuff!)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Mix together everything except the sugar with an electric mixer.  Get it fluffy and super-smooth.  Then mix in your powdered sugar.  

Smooth over the surface of the cooled cake.  (You should have plenty for a nice, thick layer.)  Refrigerate your cake. 


This is what was left on Sunday evening. And, no, we didn’t let that little jigsawed corner stick around. We tidied up the shape before putting it back in the fridge.




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