Kitra: There are two dishes that define summer to me: ratatouille and this cake. What they have in common is that, like in most rural areas, where we grew up zucchini is both a gift and a curse. In trying to use it up as fast as it grows (impossible), people get crafty. Since this cake came into our lives, I’ve looked forward to zucchini season. And then “forgetting to clean up bits of grated zucchini and trying to scrape it off the counter weeks later” season.
I only have a hazy memory of where this cake came from. It’s on a printed ¼ sheet of computer paper, and in my head it came from someone at the school where our mom used to work.
Jordan: I had no idea, so we texted our mom to ask and she said “Somewhere in the back of my head I think someone at Riverside gave me the recipe, but I could be wrong.” At which point Kitra enthusiastically gave herself a high-five, then gave me a high-five.
Self-fiving didn’t work well enough, so I had to high-five the doubters.
Wherever it came from originally, it’s a great cake. It actually doesn’t use a ton of zucchini, but it has the benefit of being a great use for the infant-sized zucchinis we always had around, the ones that aren’t particularly nice to eat on their own.
You know, the ones that are better as weapons than as food.
In this case, the zucchini isn’t really noticeable but helps keep the cake nice and moist. This is a lightly chocolatey cake—light enough that even I, the person who doesn’t like chocolate cake and thinks chocolate chip cookies would be better without chocolate chips, enjoy it.
It’s a cake’s cake. Like a man’s man, but… a cake’s cake.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
The recipe calls for half a cup of chocolate chips, but you can use as much as you like. (Though we wouldn’t recommend omitting them.) Kitra doesn’t bother measuring and just adds handfuls until she finds it aesthetically pleasing. You want to shoot for at least one chocolate chip per bite, but not so many that they overwhelm the cake.
This cake keeps well at room temperature, so go ahead and eat it for breakfast. It’s got vegetables.
½ c milk
1 ½ tsp white vinegar (or lemon juice)
½ c (1 stick) butter, softened
½ c vegetable oil
1 ¾ c (350g) sugar
2 ½ c (300g) flour
¼ c (20g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
2c grated zucchini (about 240g or 8.5oz, from a 9-inch zucchini
½ c (110g) chocolate chips, or more as desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan.
Combine milk and vinegar in a bowl or liquid measuring cup and set aside to sour while you do the next step.
Cream butter, sugar, and oil together in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat until the mixture is fluffy. Add sour milk and beat until creamy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and baking powder. If your cocoa is especially lumpy, you may want to run it through a sifter.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir gently until mostly combined; it’s alright if there’s still some white streaks at this stage. Fold in the zucchini until the batter is completely combined.
Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter chocolate chips evenly across the top; feel free to add more chocolate chips if you like.
Bake 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Let cool slightly before serving; eat warm or at room temperature.