Grated zucchini makes for a surprisingly rich and dense chocolate cake, and with chocolate ganache over top, this chocolate zucchini cake is fudgy and intensely chocolatey in just the right way.
As tends to be the way when I try to put zucchini in baked goods, this one took a few tries to get right. Luckily, I had a lot of zucchini coming to my door thanks to my friends at Imperfect Produce. This is my second recipe in partnership with them!
You might recall last year when I discussed at length my issues with zucchini weighing down this zucchini cream cheese pound cake. That one took several tries before I could even get to the point where I’d let other people (including Brian) taste it. A lot of cakes were wasted and it was quite tragic, really.
99 problems and zucchini definitely is one
So this time, when I decided I was going to turn a zucchini into a chocolate cake (that’s real 2018 magic) I knew what the problems were going to be:
- Zucchini contains a lot of moisture as a general rule, but because nothing can ever be easy, it’s also variable depending on the size and individual moisture content of each zucchini. So there’s that wildcard.
- I also knew from experience that grating by hand and then squeezing all the moisture out of the grated zucchini would allow me to add it to a cake without adding too much moisture and weighing it down. So, ignoring the advice of most recipes out there on the internets for chocolate zucchini cake, which don’t discuss draining it much at all, I squeezed the heck out of it.
- The amount of grated zucchini to use varies pretty widely depending on the recipe. Generally I like the idea of packing as many veggies into a cake as I can get away with, but didn’t want to make it unappealing.
Round 1: Mediocrity
In the photo above, you can see how my first try at this chocolate zucchini cake came out. I used 2 cups of grated zucchini and squeezed the heck out of it with paper towels before I added it into the batter.
This led to a very sturdy cake batter, but when the cake was baked, it was fairly dry and actually lacking in flavor. My coworker Sarah described it as a “snack cake” consistency, which I think is spot on. It was ok, but it wasn’t the rich fudginess I was hoping for with this cake.
Plus, the zucchini basically disappeared into the cake, which in theory is what we want but actually, I missed the texture and sort of velvety-ness I thought it was supposed to add. Basically, this was a mediocre cake and I was annoyed.
Luckily, there was a Round 2.
Round 2: Success!
After grumbling to myself for a few days, mostly about my own arrogance and why I even bother with finicky old zucchini, the craving for chocolate cake once again became too strong to ignore. This time, I threw caution to the wind and let the zucchini do what it’s supposed to do in a cake like this: add moisture, bulk, and texture.
Here’s what I did differently:
- I used 3 cups of grated zucchini instead of 2;
- I used the grating blade of my food processor instead of hand grating it; AND
- I only lightly drained the zucchini, after it had sat in the food processor bowl for 20 minutes while I made the cake batter. Just poured off the excess water that had accumulated in the bottom. That’s it – no paper towel messiness, no wringing. Just dumped it in the cake.
This was definitely, definitely the lazy person’s way of making this cake. And you know what?
This time, the cake turned out exactly how I’d imagined a chocolate zucchini cake would. It was rich, intensely chocolatey, and had exactly the right density – almost like a fudginess. But it’s not heavy. It’s just delicious.
Chocolate ganache over top doesn’t hurt either.
Don’t run away because I said chocolate ganache – it’s not fancy, I swear. Just heat heavy cream and then pour it over chopped chocolate (even chocolate chips), wait a minute, then stir. That’s it.
So basically, when you eat this chocolate zucchini cake you not only get your veggies in, but you also get to be lazy with the zucchini and make easy chocolate ganache to impress everyone. What’s not to like?
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
For the cake:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (2 sticks)
- 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, brings out chocolate flavor)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
- 3 cups shredded zucchini (approx a 10″ zucchini, see notes)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
For the chocolate ganache:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips)
For the cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 12-cup bundt pan and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together beginning on medium speed, then increasing to medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed each time until combined, followed by the vanilla.
- Gently beat in in the yogurt (or sour cream) alternately with the flour mixture, on the lowest speed of your mixer, until a smooth batter is formed. It will be slightly thick for cake batter.
- Fold in the shredded zucchini and chocolate chips with a spatula until evenly distributed. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes, until cake springs back when touched and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
- Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before running a butter knife or spatula along the outer and inner edges of the cake, and turning it out onto a plate to cool completely.
- While cake is cooling, make the ganache: In a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl, heat the heavy cream until lightly bubbling but not yet boiling, about 30-40 seconds in my microwave. You can also heat it on the stove.
- While the cream is heating, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for about 30 seconds. Whisk the mixture until a smooth and glossy ganache forms. Pour over top of the cake while ganache is still warm; it will set as it cools. Serve!
Thank you to Imperfect Produce for sending me the zucchini I used in this recipe. All other opinions are my own! If you want to sign up for your own Imperfect Produce deliveries, you can get 40% off your first box with code “katiebirdbakes“!