Thursday, April 22, 2010

A New Creation: Praline Zucchini Cake

We hit up so many bakeries in the City over spring break that we decided to freeze much of our sweet bounty right away in the hotel suite, then transfer the items home, and put them right into the big freezer in the garage for future enjoyment. (Sadly, Doughnut Plant doughnuts don't hold well through any preservation method. Boo hiss.) While I was out in the garage, trying to make room in the freezer, I unearthed many packages of last year's zucchini/summer squash harvest (peeled, shredded and bagged in two-cup portions). Thus, I felt compelled to create something to use up some of the frozen squash.

I took my inspiration from a tasty gift that my very kind friend, June, brought me back from her spring break trip to her hometown of New Orleans: PRALINES! Of course, I ate the ones she gave me right away (tee hee), but I wondered if I might compose some kind of light, moist, zucchini-based cake--not the typically heavy, highly-spiced variety--with a decadent praline topping? I trolled the internet until I found a couple of recipes to play with, and my dessert came out beautifully, if I do say so myself.

The only change I might make in the future would be to eliminate the vanilla pudding in the recipe below. I always like the idea of it, as it makes the cake moist and extra-flavorful, but it often creates a slightly gummy texture that I do not prefer. And I'm just not sure that it's necessary anyway. With sour cream and vegetable oil and the squash itself, I'm sure the cake would be plenty moist on its own, and one could always bump up the vanilla flavor by adding some extract. Still, the cake was scrumptious, and pretty easy to throw together, too. I recommend it. Oh, one last thing. When serving the leftovers, make sure to nuke each slice for a bit to melt the praline topping. It's SO much better when it's warm and most things are! ;-)

Praline Zucchini Cake
(Sources: adapted from
Taste of Home's Community Boards and Real Mom Kitchen)

For the cake batter:
1 butter pecan cake mix (Betty Crocker)
4 eggs
3 oz. package instant vanilla pudding mix (I used French Vanilla because that's what I had)
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon maple extract (or vanilla)
2 cups peeled, finely shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything except the nuts for about four minutes in a stand mixer, until very thick and smooth. Mix in the nuts, then pour the batter into a sprayed 9x13 pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a tester comes out with just moist crumbs clinging to it. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, then poke it all over with a skewer.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the topping.

For the praline sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 cups whole pecans*, toasted (I toasted mine on a plate in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until they got hot and started to smell nutty)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, cream, and salt; heat until boils. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and vanilla. Pour warm sauce over cake before serving.

*I LOVE nuts, so I went a little, er, nuts with this cake. But you could certainly cut the nuts in the topping back to one cup and chop them so that they'll cover the whole cake.


Anonymous said...

HELP!!! My husband HATES... HATES... HATES sour cream. I want to make this cake SOO bad.... is there anything you can recommend to use in place of sour cream?

Anonymous said...

I'll be honest - the taste of the sour cream does not hold up through this kind of cooking: you can make the cake as is. However, because it's essentially a fat, if you really feel you need to replace it you can use the equivalent amount of:
creme fraiche -or-
whole fat plain yogurt -or-
mascarpone cheese


Joy Bugaloo said...

Yes, I would swap out yogurt for the sour cream. Plain would be the obvious choice, but vanilla would be yummy. (As a bonus, it would make the cake a wee bit healthier!)

Two Happy Stampers said...

I must try this! It looks wonderful. =)