Last week I volunteered and was selected for the latest Foodie Fights challenge round. I love the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen and Dan & Nick usually make it quite a challenge thanks to interesting pairings.
I was overjoyed when they selected my ingredient recommendation (zucchini) although I’m sure it was a no-brainer. My suggestion was quite obvious–Farmer’s Markets are filled with this delightful summer squash since it’s in season.
My grandmother had a little garden plot in her backyard that seemed to generate more zucchini than the entire family could eat in any given week. Every time we visited, we’d receive a grocery bag full of that week’s bounty. Normally, we’d eat it sauteed or stewed with tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
Now I’m a little more adventurous with my zucchini. I frequently use it in Thai-style curry dishes (chicken panang loaded with zucchini, peppers and onions is a favorite) or I make a baked zucchini parm by breading it, baking it and topping it with part-skim ricotta, parmesan and fresh tomato sauce.
When I heard that garam masala was the other component in this challenge, I was tempted to make a savory dish (zucchini, carrot and yellow squash “noodles” in a curry sauce was at the top of the list), but my sister reminded me of another family favorite: chocolate zucchini cake. Although my mother’s recipe uses cinnamon, I suspected the cloves, cardamom and nutmeg from the garam masala would really lend a little extra depth and flavor to a cake that’s already amazing.
I definitely remember turning my freckled nose up at it when I first heard she put a vegetable in a cake–what kid wouldn’t?–but I was never one to turn down dessert, especially chocolate, and I soon discovered how much the little green veggie lent to a simple chocolate cake. That response was replayed today when I brought the cake into work and my boss proclaimed, “I don’t eat desserts that have vegetables in them!”
“You won’t notice,” I insisted.
“I noticed carrot cake had carrots in it,” he responded. Point taken. Still he had a piece and although he won’t admit to liking it, several colleagues said they loved it and one requested the recipe.
Thanks to the water content in zucchini, it makes a very moist cake. You don’t need frosting–sometimes my mother just spread a thin layer of melted chocolate chips across the top. I made a quick fudgy frosting and paired the cake with some homemade coconut ice cream. Coconut and chocolate is a no-brainer. The makers of Mounds knew that long ago. But coconut also partners naturally with the spices in the cake, drawing out the flavor and giving a smooth, creamy finish.
Here is the modified version of my mom’s delicious zucchini cake recipe paired with homemade coconut ice cream.
Chocolate Zucchini Spice Cake
- 1/2 c. soft margarine or butter
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1 3/4 c. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 c. sour milk (Mix 1 tsp of lemon juice with 1/2 c. milk and let stand for 5 minutes)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/2 c. flour
- 4 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp garam masala (recipe below)
- 1 c. chocolate chips
- 2 c. finely chopped zucchini
- Cream the margarine, oil and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs, vanilla and sour milk. Beat well.
- Mix together all of the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture. Beat well.
- Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Grease and flour two 8″ round pans. (I highly recommend “flouring” them with the unsweetened cocoa powder.) Pour the batter into the pans and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you want to keep it simple, this cake bakes nicely in a 13×9″ pan but it may need an extra 5 minutes or so in the oven.
I used the recipe I found here. Recipes for garam masala vary quite a bit. I chose one with a flavor profile that would allow me to make a spice cake. The mixture smells wonderful! Almost chai-like. Although the recipe suggests dry roasting each spice individually, I roasted them together in a skillet. I don’t see the need to do them separately since they’re all getting mixed together once they’re ground.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find whole cumin seeds or cardamom pods anywhere, so I simply added this to the coffee grinder after grinding all of the other spices and gave it a quick whirl, so it would be well-blended. The measurements will be a little different, since you’re using ground instead of whole spices. I halved the measurements for the already ground spices.
- 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 stick of butter
- 1/2 c. milk
- 2 c. sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Heat all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until melted. Add the vanilla, take it off the heat and let it cool. Once cool, use your hand mixer to beat it.
This isn’t a frosting that will become voluminous, light and fluffy. It’s more of a smooth, fudgy glaze. Pour it on top of your cake, spreading it over the top and sides. Feel free to spread a little between your cake layers if you did a layered round cake.
Coconut Ice Cream
- 2/3 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. coconut milk
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (seriously… don’t use the imitation stuff!)
- 1/4 c. shredded coconut
Simmer the coconut milk, cream and sugar for 10 minutes, then add the vanilla. Let cool before pouring it into your ice cream maker and following the manufacturers directions. Let the ice cream churn for a little bit so it starts to set before adding in the coconut. This will allow the coconut flakes to more evenly distribute.
This makes about three or four half-cup servings.