Yield: Serves 12-15
There comes a certain point every summer when the amount of zucchini you seem to constantly have on hand far outweighs you desire for zucchini. You’ve grilled it, you’ve shaved it into a raw summer salad, you’ve sautéed it, folded it into pasta, stuffed it, and zoodled it—at this point, when it feels like you’ve exhausted all appetizing zucchini options, it’s high time you enter dessert territory and make a zucchini cake. Luckily, we’ve crafted the perfect, no-fuss recipe for a classic, vanilla zucchini cake for just that purpose. Though flecked with specks of pale green, you’d never guess vegetables were hiding in this incredibly tender sheet cake. The recipe calls for 3 cups of the grated green veggie, which is roughly one large or two smaller zucchini—no need to peel them, just be sure to wash the zucchini thoroughly before grating. Because zucchini is serving as the primary source of moisture for this cake (as you’ll notice, you do not add milk, buttermilk, sour cream, etc. to the batter), there’s no need to squeeze the liquid from the grated zucchini, as some recipes for zucchini baked goods may advise. A small amount of corn starch paired with the all-purpose flour makes the cake’s crumb exceptionally soft and airy. Topped with a decadent brown butter-pecan frosting, this veggie-loaded cake feels special enough to serve as the centerpiece dessert for any occasion.
- 1 1/2 cups(2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 4large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 cups grated zucchini
Brown Butter-Pecan Frosting
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1(16-ounce) box powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans
- Candied pecans, for garnish (optional)
How to Make It
To prepare the cake, preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with baking spray; set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 4-6 minutes. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until well incorporated and fluffy, another 4-5 minutes. With mixer running on medium-low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating just until the yellow yolk of each egg disappears into the batter. Add the vanilla extract with the final egg.
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom in a medium mixing bowl. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to batter, mixing until just combined. Fold the zucchini into the batter using a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into prepared pan, smoothing top into an even layer with a rubber spatula. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
To prepare the frosting, melt the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat; cook, stirring often, until the milk solids turn golden brown and the butter smells nutty. Pour the butter into a large mixing bowl and transfer to the fridge; chill until the butter solidifies, but is still soft, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add the softened cream cheese to the bowl with the butter; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and salt; beat at low speed until combined. Fold the chopped pecans into the frosting. Spread the frosting over the completely cooled cake and sprinkle with candied pecans if desired.
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