Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

It is that time of year again. I've sauteed zucchini, added it to ratatouille, used it as a pizza topping. So yesterday I folded some grated zucchini into cake batter and baked this majestic chocolate and zucchini bundt cake. My children were at first horrified and then amazed when I revealed the cake's secret ingredient after they had each consumed a large slice. You really can't detect the zucchini at all, but it lends much-needed moisture while contributing to the cake's fine, light texture. When choosing my zucchini for this and other recipes, I go for the smaller vegetables. Yes, the zucchinis that are the size of small watermelons are amusing, but they are also proportionately more watery than normal- to small-size squash, with less flavor. As with any baking project, it's important to measure your zucchini precisely for a good result. I grated two small squash on the large holes of a box grater, to get two cups (9.5 ounces to be exact). Here is the recipe:

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake
Serves 8 to 10

Espresso powder is optional, but gives the cake a deeper flavor. Several years ago I bought a nonstick Gold Touch Bundt pan at Williams-Sonoma and I've never had a problem with sticking since. Still, I always grease the pan with melted butter just in case, and then dust it with cocoa powder, which gives the surface of the cake a beautiful dark sheen.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pan
1 cup pecan halves or walnut pieces
1/2 cup sour cream (not low- or non-fat)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and then dust with unsweetened cocoa powder. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool and then coarsely shop.
2. Whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup. Whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the sour cream mixture. Repeat, alternating flour and sour cream mixtures and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Stir in teh zucchini, chocolate chips, and nuts.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes
out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

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