Much to the surprise and delight of my family, I was in a dessert-making mood yesterday. I had some grated zucchini in the freezer from last summer that needed to be used. But I was in the mood for something chocolate. When I was a kid, my mom made a chocolate zucchini sheet cake that I remembered was fantastic, really moist. Zucchini, being neutral in taste, is the perfect addition for healthier baking because it imparts moisture, and you can get away with less butter. A quick search on Cooking Light resulted in a recipe that fit the bill, with (of course) a few changes, most notably using part whole wheat pastry flour instead of just all purpose flour.
After more than a few disasters, I have learned to be cautious in recipe tweaking when baking. Never substitute ALL whole wheat flour for all purpose flour unless you enjoy the flavor and texture of sawdust (quoted from Connor). This is where the science part of baking comes into play. Flours differ in the amounts of proteins and glutens (the protein that gives dough elasticity) they contain which change the way liquids are absorbed when baking. Without adjusting the fat and liquid when using exclusively whole wheat flour, your end product will have a heavy, dense texture and a dry, unappetizing, almost bitter wheaty flavored. A 50/50 split of AP and whole wheat flour works well. I typically bake with whole wheat pastry flour that is milled finer, made from soft wheat, is lower in gluten, and results in lighter whole wheat baked goods.
This cake is scrumptious. Voluptuous chocolate flavor and the coffee in the glaze accentuates the chocolate even more vividly and is not too sweet. Its texture is moist and fluffy, with a slightly crisp outer crust. No one would ever guess this melt-in-mouth cake has zucchini in it. Try it. You’ll be sold.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(Original recipe indicates it serves 16 but in our house it’s closer to 8)
Butter to grease the Bundt pan
1 T cocoa powder
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C block-style 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 C vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3/4 C fat-free buttermilk
2 C shredded zucchini - a mandolin or food processor work well to shred the zuc; use your hands to squeeze out the excess liquid and drain on a few layers of paper towels
2/3 C semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 C chopped walnuts
3/4 C powdered sugar
3 T unsweetened cocoa
3 T fat-free milk
2 T semisweet chocolate chips
1 t instant espresso or coffee granules
1/2 t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust pan with cocoa.
Place sugars, cream cheese, and vegetable oil in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and cocoa in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine milk, chocolate chips, coffee, and vanilla extract in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave at medium 45 seconds or until chocolate melts, stirring after 20 seconds. Combine powdered sugar mixture with chocolate mixture, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over cake.