Story, Recipe, and Photos by Kaitlin Hill

With a season spanning from July to October in Virginia, zucchini is a popular and bountiful crop loved for its delicate flavor and culinary versatility. This summer squash comes from the Cucurbitaceae family with relatives including cucumber, watermelon and winter squashes – like butternut and acorn.

Though there is evidence that its genus, Cucurbita pepo, has been cultivated in the Americas for 10,000 years, the specific green squash found in gardens and grocery stores today is an Italian varietal developed from seeds brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus. In fact, one of the first references to the “zucchini” comes from a preparation out of Milan in 1901. Today, there is no shortage of zucchini recipes, both savory and sweet.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

My zucchini cake with cream cheese is an easy and delicious recipe to make all zucchini season. The cake is lighter than air with a punch of earthiness from freshly grated zucchini, making it great as a late summer party dessert. Moving into fall, the addition of cinnamon and clove add subtle warmth ideal for chilly autumn evenings. You can bake it in three layers for an impressive centerpiece or in a brownie pan as a single layer intended for snacking.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of grated zucchini
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups of vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1, 8-ounce block of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cups of confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and dust the pans with flour. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating each before adding the next.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.
  • Fold in the grated zucchini.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans and transfer to the preheated oven.
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the cakes spring back to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Once the cakes are baked, let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing them and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While the cakes cool, make the cream cheese frosting.
  • In a large bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and mix to combine. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until it is all incorporated. Set aside.
  • To assemble the cake, place the first layer on a cake board or serving platter. Pipe or slather one-third of the frosting on top of the base layer. Top with a second layer and the second third of frosting. Repeat with the final layer. You can spread the remaining third of frosting over the top and sides of the cake, or pile it all on top and leave the layers uncovered for a more natural look.
  • Serve immediately.

Leftover cake will stay good in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. ML

Kaitlin Hill is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef and the creator of the Emotional Eats Blog, where she shares her original recipes and studies in food history. To read more, visit www.emotionaleats.com.

This article first appeared in the September issue of Middleburg Life.