Before I get to the recipe for the best zucchini cake I've found, we need to learn a little more about zucchini. Sorry. It's the Mom in me; we can't just make a cake, we need to learn what exactly we're using to make the cake. You want to know what you're eating, right?
I've done a bit of research this week and found out something very surprising. Zucchini is a member of the squahs family and it is a fruit, NOT a vegetable. If I had remembered the botany I studied with my younger kids this year, I would have known this already. Those big green clubs growing out in our garden are the seed containers of the zucchini plants and everyone knows seed containers are the fruit of a plant. If we want to get really technical, the zucchini is the "immature ovary" of the plant. (Thanks wikipedia!)
Zucchini or versions of the zucchini we know and love here are grown all over the world and eaten in a variety of ways. In fact, the blossoms on zucchini plants are loved as much as the squash itself. It seems they originated in Mexico and have since migrated around the globe, only arriving in the United States in the early 1900's probably coming with Italian immigrants. If you have a British friend, they'll call a zucchini a courgette. Isn't this all so interesting? Even food has history!
One more thing, I always wondered about the nutrition of a zucchini. They are a vegetable (fruit, whatever) so I knew there were at least a few redeeming qualities to them. But they seemed to be comprised of so much water, I wondered if there could be room for any great nutrients in there? Guess what? They contain lots of good things for us!
In just under 1 cup of fresh zucchini, you get decent amounts of folates, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, Vitamin A. It also contains very helpful amounts of magnesium and Vitamin C. As a bonus, this amount of zucchini only has 17 calories, little fat, no cholesterol and a bit of fiber. I tried to do some research on whether freezing zucchini changes it's nutritional content. It seems a few of the nutrients might take a bit of a hit, but not that much. Hooray!
So, after all this, I say, "Let them eat cake and throw some zucchini in it!" I've tried several cake recipes using zucchini and this one is my favorite. I love the combination of chocolate and spices it has. Enjoy!
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
from "Taste of Home," August/September 1998, "Men Who Run the Range"
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 3/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 c sour milk (1 1/2 t vinegar or lemon juice, plus milk to equal 1/2 c. Let it sit for a few minutes.)
2 c shredded zucchini
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c brown sugar
In mixing bowl, cream butter, oil and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternately with milk. Mix well. Stir in zucchini. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
Only one note about this recipe - I don't mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Doing so would make one more dish and that's just not my style. I just add the cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and spices to the creamed mixture and mix for a bit. Then I add the flour alternately with the milk. It's worked just fine every time. Oh yes, I also add some cinnamon to the topping as well. Guess that is two notes...