Mom's Chocolate Zucchini Cake
This chocolatey goodness has been a family favorite since 1982, when my Mom got this delicious recipe from a friend in Colorado. A truly good cake, and one which, as Mom says, is good for you (since it has a vegetable in it). I've modified the recipe slightly to be an all-butter cake: the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup margarine and 1/2 cup oil. I remember it turning out fluffier when Mom made it, which could be because I've used whole wheat flour here, and used 3 cups of zucchini instead of the original 2 cups. This has the same general taste and texture as a really dense, cakey-brownie, topped with walnuts and gooey chocolate chips.
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour (I always recommend baking with Bob's Red Mill)
4 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, mostly-melted (1/2 pound, or two regular bars)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk, warmed a little in the microwave so it doesn't curdle the melted butter when you add it
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups zucchini, washed (but not peeled) and grated (about 2 medium zucchini)
For the topping (more as desired):
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup walnut pieces, broken into bits (check for any shell pieces)
Measure flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda into a large sifter (sitting on a plate) and set aside. Melt butter for 30 seconds at a time in a glass dish (covered with a napkin) in the microwave until nice and soft (but not totally liquid), and then cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula, and then mix in the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla on low speed (so you don't over-beat the eggs) until creamy. Sift dry ingredients in, about 1/3 at a time, stirring gently by hand after each addition. Then use the mixer attachment and blend on low until smooth. Wash and grate zucchini and add to cake mixture, beating gently until fully incorporated into the batter. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, since the stand mixer doesn't always get everything mixed in.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass baking pan with butter, then spread the cake batter evenly into the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the walnuts and chocolate chips evenly on the top of the batter, and then lightly press into the batter so they don't burn. Bake at 325°F for 40 minutes, then check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it doesn't come out clean (not gooey: a couple crumbs are okay), return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Good to know: if you stick the toothpick into a sticky, melted chocolate chip, it won't help you figure out if the cake is done, so try to avoid those.
Let cool a little, cut into squares, and enjoy! Refrigerate any leftovers, if there are any...a real crowd-pleaser.
*Good to know: a reader from Ohio wrote in recently about how to bake this cake so it's safe for those with corn allergies...I had no idea baking powder even had cornstarch in it! According to this resource I found, the corn-free way to substitute for baking powder is to use 1 tsp. baking soda plus 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar for each teaspoon of baking powder.