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Mom’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

On Saturday, one of my good friends had a BBQ, so I offered to bring dessert. Now, this is one of the most pulled together, awesome people I know, so it had to be something amazing. I also wanted something casual enough for a kid-friendly BBQ and easy to transport, since there was a good chance we were going to bike there. I also really really wanted it to be something that fit in my migraine diet, but eventually gave up on that one, and realized that I had to make my mom’s chocolate zucchini cake. It’s always a hit and travels really well, since it’s more of a snack cake than a fancy layer cake. Another bonus is that it’s ready to go right out of the oven, served out of the pan. I never seem to have enough time to cool and frost a cake without being late to the party. That’ll have to be a goal for 2013, I guess. Since I couldn’t eat it, I obscenely sniffed its spiced chocolaty goodness every chance I got. Sorry for behaving like a weirdo!

The recipe calls for “sour milk”. When my mom makes it, she sours the milk by adding about 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to the measuring cup, then topping it off with enough milk to make 1/2 cup. After sitting for a few minutes, it’s “sour”. I had creme fraiche to use up this time, so I used that instead, with great success. I think any sour or cultured dairy product will work, since what the recipe needs is something acidic to react with the baking soda. So use whatever you have on hand – “soured” milk, yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, or cultured buttermilk should all work.

Another no-photo post. :( I hadn’t planned on putting this one up, but then remembered how awesome it is.

Mom’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Makes one 9-by-13-inch cake

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it (USM = Somerville’s Union Square Market)
1/2 cup Butter 1 stick; at room temperature
1 3/4 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Vegetable oil Stolor Organics
2 Eggs Red Fire Farm CSA
1 tsp Vanilla Homemade by our friends Therese and Alex
2 1/2 cups Flour We used whole wheat. Wild Hive Farm
1/4 cup Cocoa powder
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Ground cloves
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Sour milk or cultured dairy See notes in post above Homemade creme fraiche from Shaw Farm milk
2 cups Grated zucchini We used summer squash instead. Red Fire Farm CSA
1/2 cup Chocolate chips
1/4 cup Nuts Roughly chopped; I usually use walnuts or pecans.
1/4 cup Brown sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch “brownie” pan.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar: Basically, just smash the butter and sugar together until they’re well combined and a bit lighter in color, which is much easier to do with room-temperature butter. This adds some air to the mixture, which will help the other ingredients mix with the butter later. These air pockets are also what eventually makes the cake rise evenly without sinking in the middle, according to Alton Brown.
  3. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla to the creamed mixture and beat well.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, and cinnamon. I don’t have a real sifter, so I dump the ingredients into a mesh strainer and tap it with the heel of my hand until it all passes through. If you have neither, just give it a good whisking to mix it together and break up any big lumps.
  5. Add the dry mixture and dairy to the wet mixture in alternating batches – dry, dairy, dry, dairy, dry.
  6. Fold the grated zucchini into the batter.
  7. Prepare the topping: Combine the chocolate chips, nuts, and brown sugar in a small bowl.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle it evenly with the topping, and pop it into the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Try not to open the oven door for the first 50 minutes (another Alton Brown rule). The cake is done when the edges are pulling away from the pan a bit and the top springs back when you touch it (no finger prints).

It’s great on it’s own, but absolutely heavenly with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

1 comment to Mom’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

  • Andrea

    I wish I could post a picture of the leftovers – but I’ve been eating chocolate zucchini cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sadly, you’d see a few crumbs at the bottom of a tupperware container.

    Super moist, chocolate-y deliciousness. My 18 month old daughter cannot get ENOUGH!

    Nice work Lindsay :)