Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fall Preview

My goodness! How unpredictable our weather is of late! On Friday afternoon, it was quite hot and made that much worse by the tail-end winds of Hurricane Hannah whipping up from the south. Sticky humidity is always the worst, but being dehydrated like beef jerky by pummeling winds that blast you with heat is a close second. By the time I got home that day, everything outside was as crispy as I felt, and in desperate need of a good soaking. So yesterday, I got out there and watered and watered until I ran our pump dry, just in time for the late afternoon rains to come...UGH! Friday night, I needed the AC to sleep, but today (Sunday), I woke up and had to resist the urge to run around the house, closing all the windows and finding myself a sweater! Weirdness!

The unseasonably cool temperatures have had strange effects on all of us. The dogs have been crazed, tearing through the house, busting things up and pestering the cats to within an inch of their lives. I, on the other hand, felt less destructive, but equally as frisky and quite inclined to turn on the oven and bake something. I had a few competing ideas, but all involved chocolate. And then, of course, there was the matter of two large zucchini that I harvested yesterday, staring at me on the counter. So that decided it--chocolate zucchini cake it would be! I did an internet search and found two recipes that I couldn't make up my mind between, so I made a combination of the two. I know, I know. You're not supposed to futz around too much with the ingredients when baking, because it's "an exact science," as everyone likes to tell you. But the two recipes were really quite similar, and the only thing that gave me pause was the leavening. One recipe called for a combination of baking powder and soda, and the other called for soda only. I have had the unfortunate experience of exploding chocolate cakes in my past because of improper substitution of leavening, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? And what do you know, it turned out AMAZING! It is dark and lush and incredibly moist--and no one would even know that there's zucchini in it unless you told them. Plus, it's so rich, it doesn't even need frosting. Yum!

However, it ended up making enough for a bundt cake and a loaf on the side, so the math-inclined among you may wish to scale the following back by a third or so. But as far as I'm concerned, you might as well make the whole thing and throw the extra loaf into the freezer to enjoy mid-winter. In fact, you could make three large loaves, eat one and freeze two. Now that's the kind of food preservation everyone can get behind! (Barbara Kingsolver would be proud.) As for me, I shall take my big old bundt to work tomorrow to share because it is huge and more than a bit decadent. And I will freeze the leftover loaf to share with Cyd when she comes home...if she behaves herself. ;-)

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(Source: adapted from
Bon Appetit, November 1995 and a reader who posted a recipe in the comments section of Simply Recipes)

2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably, Hershey's Special Dark)
1 cup vegetable oil (for a lower fat option, swap out some or all of the oil with applesauce)
2 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
3 cups zucchini, grated (I peel mine so that it disappears in the cake)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 cups chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet)

powdered sugar to garnish

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray one 12-cup bundt pan and a large loaf pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the two squares of unsweetened chocolate with the butter (about two minutes total, stopping and stirring once or twice). Mix in the cocoa powder and set aside to cool a bit.

Beat oil and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until well blended. Slowly add in the chocolate and butter mixture and mix. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Mix in dry ingredients in thirds, alternately with yogurt or buttermilk. Mix in grated zucchini, nuts, and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about an hour and five minutes for the bundt, 55 minutes for the loaf. Cool cake for about 15 minutes in pans before turning out to cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving*. This
is such a moist cake that it will keep (covered) for up to a week.

*Like most cakes of its kind, it's even better if you let it age for at least 24 hours before cutting and devouring.


Sara said...

Your cake looks great! I was hoping to have a ton of zucchini this year, but my little plant didn't do as well as I'd hoped.

Lisa said...

Oh wow, I wish I had this recipe when my father gave us several zucchini he grew this past summer! It looks so scrumptious that I just may have to go out and buy some more! Beautiful cake :)

Vicki said...

Four years later... LOVE the cake! and the church-goers most heartily agree.