I know there are many of you who like me, have a glut of zucchini in the garden. And let’s face it, you can only eat so much peperonata. Mamma gave me a whole heap of them (flowers included) as she said “son stufa de magnar zucchini” (in dialect, meaning “I am sick of eating zucchini”). That is when you start thinking of cake, specifically zucchini and chocolate cake. It is such a reliable way to use up several zucchini, particularly the large ones that you hadn’t noticed hidden under leaves that have grown to giant proportions. I decided to make a gluten free version of the cake in case my daughter (who cannot eat gluten) came to visit, and it is always a good idea to have more gluten free cakes up your sleeve. A google search came up with this recipe by My Darling Lemon Thyme, which looked great, though I made a few changes based on what I had in the pantry.
I was terrified it wouldn’t work initially as I misread the recipe and added 2 teaspoons of baking powder rather than the required baking soda. I hardly use baking soda and didn’t really understand the difference until I read it here. Clearly I needn’t have worried as it seems that baking soda needs an acid (like sour cream) to activate it and otherwise is just like baking powder. Lesson learnt! When the cake cooled down completely (the next day), I made chocolate icing for it. As I had the zucchini flowers for decoration, I felt that some fancy icing would look good on it. Now I am not a girl who ices cakes – I cannot think of the last time I did – so it was a bit of a (fun) experiment. And I had never made butter cream icing – I actually thought it was made with “buttermilk” rather than butter… (I told you I had no idea about icing)
The cake was amazing! I had mixed small pieces of chocolate in with the batter (which I love doing as when the cake cools, you get harder pieces of chocolate every now and then) and it was super moist. The icing and flowers made it so festive. You can easily omit the icing part – the simple cake is chocolatey and perfect with a cup of coffee for afternoon tea. I can’t wait to take a slice to mamma – the cake is so moist and delicious. I might not even tell her it contains zucchini from her garden.
Gluten free zucchini and chocolate cake
125g (4 oz) butter, softened
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
3 medium sized eggs
75g (3/4 cup) almond meal
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
120g (1/2 cup) sour cream
150g (1 and 1/4 cups) gluten free plain flour, sifted
75g (1/2 cup) potato starch (also called potato flour)
40g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
375 g (3 cups) grated zucchini (keep the skin on)
100g (3.5 oz) 70% cocoa chocolate, chopped into small pieces
Prepare all your ingredients before starting
Butter cream icing:
1/3 cup dutch cocoa, whisked to remove lumps
125g (4 oz) butter, softened
1 and 2/3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla essence
zucchini flowers for decoration
Preheat the over to 170C/340F and line a round cake tin 22cm/9inch diameter. Cream the butter and sugar until thick and creamy (several minutes), then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the almond meal, vanilla and sour cream and beat well. Add the dry ingredients and fold them through, then add the zucchini. Once the mix looks homogeneous, fold in the chopped chocolate. Pour into the prepared cake tin (it will be very thick) and pat down to smooth it off. Bake for 50 minutes (mine took 60 minutes, and I dropped the temperature slightly for the last 10 minutes) until the centre of the cake is dry on top and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes then turn out.
To make the butter cream icing, place the cocoa and the chopped butter in the bowl of a mixer stand and beat until well combined. Add about 1/2 cup of icing sugar and a tablespoon of milk and beat on high speed for a minute. Repeat, beating for a minute after each addition until you have used up all the milk and icing sugar and then beat in the vanilla essence as well. If the consistency is too thick, add a splash more milk; if it is too runny, add a tablespoon of icing sugar. Beat another minute and check the consistency again. It should be easily spreadable but quite stiff. Ice the cake and decorate with zucchini flowers.