summer cakes, part one: z is for zucchini
Posted on July 23, 2011
Zucchini is one of our go-to vegetables here in South Texas. When almost everything at the store seems to be shipped from California– or worse, South America– you can almost always be sure to find a great looking Texas zucchini. Particularly in summer. So it is only right, since we must eat these zucchini, that we turn them into cake. It really was for the best.
I know some folks have begun blogs by cooking their way through their large cookbook collections. But since we are starting tsp. in the era when bloggers not only have blogs but their own apps, I thought I would bake some cakes from some of my favorite blogs. My avatar always feels left out when I crack open a book. Really, I don’t have an enormous cookbook collection, but I do have the library, and the internets, and I am happy to share my findings.
This cake is from one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz, the American living in Paris. I used one of his cakes for the groom’s cake at our wedding. He is a former pastry chef, and a very entertaining writer as well. There’s a nice first edition of one of his out of print and most prized cookbooks in the locked case at Powell’s, if anyone wants to get it for me for my birthday. They have free shipping.
This is not zucchini bread, as we may have eaten at picnics and potlucks. Which means, unless you are feeling a little depraved or very deserving, you shouldn’t make this your breakfast. This is an Italian cake made with olive oil, almonds, and finely grated zucchini. You can make it in a bundt, or loaf pans work too. If you use a glass dish, be careful as it will cook faster.
There really is something to be said for freshly grated nutmeg. It’s like live music instead of the studio recording. Actually, its like a symphony orchestra concert in the grass on a late summer evening, instead of music piped into an elevator. It really is my new precious.
My feeling about this recipe is that the crunchy sugar glaze made with lemon juice is kind of distracting. Or to be precise, the lemon is the distraction. Lemon is too much excitement to be just on the outside, I think. I would replace it next time with perhaps a buttermilk glaze, or perhaps something with a little hint of ginger. Let me know if you come up with something good. The zucchini is close at hand.
1 cup almonds, pecans, or walnuts, toasted
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use a mild one)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups finely grated zucchini (use the small holes on a box grater, you want them stringy, like spaghetti squash, kind of)
For the lemon glaze:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 10 cup bundt with non-stick spray or butter, dust with flour, then tap out any excess. Procedural note: Make sure you dont have any puddles of butter in the curves of your bundt before you flour, and make sure to sprinkle the flour very evenly and very lightly with a sifter. Otherwise, you might end up with clumps of flour in the crevices of the bundt, which will make it kind of ugly.
2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. If you dont have food processor, use a very clean coffee grinder.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
4. Using a whisk, or mixer, beat the eggs, 1 3/4 cup sugar, and olive oil for 3 minutes on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Stop and scrape down the sides of the mixer, then add the vanilla.
5. Mix in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed in well, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.
6. Stir in the chopped nuts and zucchini.
7. Pour the batter, which will be fairly thick, into the cake pan. Bake until golden and a knife comes out clean.
8. While the cake is cooling in the pan, mix the glaze ingredients together with a whisk.
9. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a cooling rack. It might take a few moments to drop out of the bundt pan, just let it sit inverted for a bit until it falls. While it is warm, brush the glaze over the cake with a pastry brush and let the cake cool completely.