When we bought our house this spring, one of my first thoughts was, “Yes! A backyard! I’m growing melons and peppers and poppies and carrots and beets and sunflowers, etc. this summer!” If you’ve been through the home buying and renovation process (or watched any HGTV ever) you’ve probably already predicted what happened next: about a hundred huge setbacks that go with the territory of remodeling a century old house in disrepair. Oh, and I got pregnant, leaving tiling, floor sanding and painting to Ponny alone. In the end we didn’t move in until August, much too late to start any produce in the backyard. Maybe next year, but I’m guessing we’ll be awfully busy with a new baby!
Fortunately, we live close to many well-stocked farmers markets and grocery stores, so there’s no shortage of fresh, seasonal produce in our house this fall. It turns out that when you make really tasty fruit and vegetable dishes, they’re no less satisfying because someone else did all the tilling and watering to grow the produce. Especially these days, when mustering the energy the cook at all feels like a huge victory. For me, pregnancy fatigue makes college finals fatigue look like a walk in the park. But it’d been months since I’d baked a cake and I couldn’t let the first weekend of fall slip by without whipping one up!
I adapted a family recipe for zucchini bread, taking away a good deal of sugar, adding spiced apple cider and baking layers instead of loaves. Oh, and adding cocoa powder to make it a chocolate cake! I finished it off by frosting the layers with some fluffy whipped mascarpone cream. The cake is dense and super moist, not too sweet and full of seasonal spice thanks to a hefty sprinkling of cinnamon and the aforementioned cider. My mom came over for a slice and commented that it’s not as heavy as the birthday cakes I usually make, and that’s the whole idea. This zucchini cake is a humble, everyday kind of cake in that it’s easy to make and enjoyable to eat without being too over the top indulgent. It’s the kind of cake you can make just because, the kind of cake it’s nice to have on hand if a friend stops by for tea.
If you’re not much of a vegetable eater, don’t be scared off by the zucchini! I promise you won’t taste it at all. I also promise it makes for one exceptionally moist cake, and I love that it makes the most of the season’s bounty. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as Ponny and I did. Next on my fall baking checklist: apple pie!
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 1/2 cups zucchini, finely grated
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup spice, unfiltered apple cider
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup organic vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 oz. mascarpone
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350º F and grease two 8" cake pans.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Mix all the wet ingredients but the zucchini in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the zucchini. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a little at a time until combined.
- Split batter between the cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Stir the vanilla into the cream and sift in the sugar. Beat on high until the cream thickens but stop before peaks form.
- Stir in the mascarpone and continue beating until stiff peaks form and the frosting is fluffy.
- Frost the cakes as desired and be sure to refrigerate leftovers.