Monday, August 29, 2011

A Bumper Crop of Zucchini Makes Mean Cake

I have news of an accomplishment. Delicious news. Zucchini news. 
        I love zucchini (that isn't the news). However, the strange word doesn't always bring pleasant thoughts. That's because I don't immediately associate zucchini with food and eating; I instead get the familiar image in my mind of my grandparents shoving bags at me stuffed full of the fresh vegetables they grew in their gardens. Sounds great, right? Sort of. Let me get one thing straight--my grandparents' garden-grown vegetables taste fantastic and better than any from the grocery store. For that reason, I love the veggies and am delighted to take a few bags off their hands. One problem, though. When the veggies are in-season... the bags pile up until our fridge is overflowing. We end up with vegetables coming out the wazoo: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, and the most popular of them all… zucchini. 
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cocoa Meringue
        We all love zucchini in my family but can never think of enough ways to use them. Even when we resolve to have zucchini at every meal (which is often the case during zucchini season) we still can't keep up with the bags accumulating in our fridge and on our counters. This issue had been especially bad lately, and someone needed to do something about it. As it turned out, that person was me. So here's the real news: after staring at the zucchini mountain in my fridge, I put my baking brain to work and made some scrumptious cupcakes. Of the zucchini sort.
        My aunt, Nadia, has this amazing recipe for chocolate zucchini cake. The moment I first tasted it I, like many other people I've witnessed, asked her for the recipe. It's her preferred method for using up the abundant zucchini-- see, I'm not the only one whose refrigerator has been taken over by the stuff. My aunt told me recently that she often makes several of the cakes at once and freezes the extras for later. I will definitely try that next time. As I mentioned before, this time, rather than baking one large cake I baked several individual cakes. Cupcakes!
        The recipe proved to work just as amazingly when made into cupcakes. Each and every one was positively dee-lish. The zucchini worked wonders for the batter; it resulted in the most amazingly moist little cakes. With fantastic flavor on their own, you don't even need to frost them… but since I was in the mood for frosting on my cupcakes, I decided to go that extra mile. I whipped up some cocoa meringue--inspired by the meringue cookies I baked alongside my chocolate crackles the other day--to top the cupcakes with and it made for the perfect combination.
        My brother, Robert, wolfed down three of these babies in under 25 seconds. 
        Needless to say, they earned his seal of approval.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cocoa Meringue
(Yield: Approximately 28 cupcakes)

For the Cake:
(Adapted from Epicurious)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup regular milk + 1/2 tbsp. vinegar)
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)

For the Meringue Topping:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1 large pinch of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

To Make Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease muffin tins or line with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, and oil until well-blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
  3. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each. Mix in grated zucchini.
  4. Pour batter into prepared tins. Bake until a knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To Make Meringue Topping:
  1. Put egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.
  2. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add vanilla and cocoa powder; mix until combined. Use immediately to frost cupcakes.
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  1. They're so cute. I love zucchini anything. :)

  2. It is a wonderful vegetable. :)

  3. Mmm zucchini cake is so good! These look beautiful, not to mention moist & delicious.

  4. What pretty little cakes these are! I also love using zucchini for baking because it makes everything so moist and delicious!

  5. Thanks! It really does lend such lovely moisture when used in baked goods.

  6. MMM!!! I'm loving the frosting on top of those guys!! Zucchini is one of my favorites, I can't get enough. Love these cakes!

  7. A great way to use up some zuchs! Bet they taste amazing.

  8. yum YUM yum!! Those look amazing! BUZZ!

  9. Those cupcakes looks so yuuummmm... vegetables in a cupcakes, interesting!... definitely I'll try it

  10. What gorgeous cakes! Just came across your blog--love it. :)

  11. Those look so moist and delicious! Great pictures too!

  12. Wow these look amazing. I love how versatile people get with zucchini, so many ideas. I can't wait to see what else you have coming down the road :)
    Laura @ A Healthy Jalapeño

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