There’s no better way to close out zucchini season.

By Darcy Lenz
Updated August 25, 2020
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Credit: Annie Campbell

Last week, I asked you to join me in a collective act of will (i.e. baking a loaf of Snickerdoodle Bread), geared towards manifesting an ASAP-style fall arrival. And you guys, I think it’s working… because zucchini season is well on its way out the door.

And it’s just about that point in the season when we’re all but zucchini-ed out. We’ve grilled it. We’ve sauteed it. We’ve stuffed it. We’ve fried it. We’ve made chips with it. We’ve eaten it raw in salads. We’ve put it in pasta. And we’ve turned it into pasta. So now, for one last hoorah, what do you say we bake with it?

There’s no shortage of zucchini cake and bread recipes floating around out there, but I’m especially fond of this one here.

Credit: Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell

You see, this is the kind of recipe I can see my hypothetical grandchildren making one day, from a hypothetical note card titled, “Gram’s Zucchini Cake.” It’s relatively safe (no crazy bells and whistles here), but exceptionally good. It’s a reliable cake, one that leaves the baker feeling accomplished when they pull that first slice from the pan. Or at least, that’s been my experience.

In short, it’s everything I want a zucchini cake to be—because I developed it that way. I hope that if you give it a try, you’ll dig it too. Here are a few reasons I love it so much.

The Size

If you’re going to allot the time and the ingredients towards making a zucchini cake, you might as well make a sizable one. After all, you do have to break out a box grater—and if you’re gonna shred vegetables by hand, you want to have something to show/share for the fruits of your labor. And this isn’t some snack cake. It’s not an 8x8; no, you need to pull out the 9x13 to bake this beauty.

That means that if you have a large household, everyone will be jazzed that there’s (really good) cake for a couple of days. If you’re having a couple of people over, there’s going to be enough to send your company home with leftovers. And if you have a small household and no plans for a dinner get-together, you have incredibly lucky neighbors. No matter what, you’re making people happy—with zucchini, no less.

The Moisture

Most cakes that boast noteworthy moistness have to credit sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, or even regular milk. Not this one. This cake is so tender, and anything but dry, and the secret to success here is the zucchini itself; no milk products needed. What I love most about that is the fact that it means you don’t have to wrap your zucchini shreds in paper towels and wring them out over the sink. (Maybe it’s not that big of a deal, but I find the process to be a messy pain that leaves me feeling guilty for leaving 10% of the vegetable stuck to the paper towel.)

The Airy Crumb

I’ve mentioned the tenderness above, but let me mention it again—because too often cakes with vegetables hidden in them veer towards being dense and gummy. And nobody wants that. People want to throw cocoa powder into the mix and call that gummy quality fudginess—but you and I know better.

Here, the right balance of liquid, along with a little cornstarch, keeps the cake fluffy and soft.

The Spice Blend

Sure, you could leave the spices out if you wanted to… but honestly, why would you do that? The spice is what gives a zucchini cake its real character. Cinnamon, ginger, and cardamon is such an outstanding trinity, after all. And when you match that trinity with a healthy dose of vanilla—you have legendary results.

That Frosting

As if the cake on its own wasn’t enough, the Brown Butter-Pecan Frosting seals the deal. It has so much going for it… the brown butter, the cream cheese, the toasted pecans! This frosting is the epitome of nutty, toasty richness and I (a self-proclaimed frosting snob) cannot get enough. In fact, between you and I, I use this frosting (or a similar version) on a variety of baked goods far beyond zucchini cake. Basically, if your goal is to impress, this frosting is a reliable friend. You could slather onto a box cake and turn it into a show-stopper.

With that, I say cheers to the impending conclusion of another fruitful zucchini season, also known as summer. When I look at the many ways I’ve prepared zucchini over the last few months, there’s no doubt about it—this one takes the cake.