A dense and fudgy chocolate zucchini cake that's topped with browned butter cream cheese frosting will be your summer dessert of choice.
If you've ever grown zucchinis before, you'll know just how abundant they can be, and how quickly your garden can be overflowing with zucchinis. You'll also know how quickly they can grow, so that they're to the point of being spongy, seedy giants almost overnight.
If you're growing zucchini now, or even if you're not, this Chocolate Zucchini Cake is here to help. This rich, chocolatey cake uses 1 medium zucchini (or 1 large zucchini if you double the recipe), yet you'd never guess it's in there.
The cake is good without the frosting, but the Browned Butter Cream Cheese frosting really makes it an extra special treat. Don't skip the step of browning the butter, that toasty flavor really compliments the chocolate cake.
How to make Chocolate Zucchini Cake:
Making this chocolate zucchini cake is not unlike making any other cake, but with the added step of prepping the zucchini to add to the batter (see tips below). You will need a stand mixer (or you could use a hand mixer instead if needed) to make both the cake batter and the frosting.
- Zucchini - if the zucchini you're using is very large, be sure to scoop out and discard the seeds
- All-purpose flour
- Whole wheat flour (or you can use more all-purpose flour, if desired)
- unsweetened cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Granulated sugar
- Canola oil - or other neutral-flavored cooking oil
- Vanilla extract
- Semisweet chocolate chips (optional, but I highly recommend adding them)
- Unsalted butter
- Cream cheese or goat cheese or a mixture of the two
- Powdered sugar
Tips for baking with zucchini:
Scoop the seeds
It's ok to bake with those giant garden zucchinis - the ones your neighbor leaves on your front porch when no one's looking. No, they're not the best otherwise, but they can be just fine in your baked goods as long as you prepare them properly. All you need to do is scoop the seeds.
Trim both ends of the zucchini, and cut it in half lengthwise. Then use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds and any stringy bits. Then shred the zucchini on a box grater (or using a food processor with a grater attachment if you have one) to use in your baking.
Remove the extra moisture
If you're not careful, cakes, loaves, or muffins made with zucchini can turn out overly heavy and dense, and cookies can turn out soggy or too cakey. This is because of the high moisture content of zucchini. Because of this, we want to make sure we dry out that zucchini as much as possible before adding it to our batter.
Follow the steps above to remove the seeds and shred the zucchini. Then put it into a colander and sprinkle it with salt (½ teaspoon for a medium zucchini, 1 teaspoon for a large zucchini). The salt helps draw out the water from inside the cells of the zucchini.
Let the salted zucchini drain while you prepare the rest of your recipe. Then put it on a clean towel and SQUEEZE! No need to be gentle here - you really want to squeeze out all the moisture you can, so your zucchini baking recipes will turn out their best.
Want more zucchini recipes?
Chocolate Zucchini Cake Nutrition Notes:
The nutrition information in the recipe includes 1 slice of cake plus frosting (assuming only 1 cup of powdered sugar is used to make the frosting), and does include chocolate chips in the recipe.
Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Icing
- 1 medium zucchini, see note
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour optional, can replace with an additional ¾ cup of all purpose flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 ounces cream cheese or goat cheese or a mixture
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1-2 cups powdered sugar (see note)
- Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x9" baking pan and sprinkle flour in, discarding any excess.
- Whisk all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes until smooth and pale. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the shredded zucchini to a clean dish towel and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Add the zucchini to the batter and beat for another 2 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula (if using).
- Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
- Place the butter in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Cook until butter is lightly browned and smells toasted. Transfer to a heat proof bowl and place in the fridge to cool. Once it begins to solidify, remove from the fridge and keep at room temperature until you're ready to make the frosting. You want it to be the consistency of softened butter.
- Place browned butter and cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium high and beat until fluffy. Add vanilla and continue to beat for another minute. Use immediately or store in fridge until ready to use.