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Zucchini and chocolate go together

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Updated: August 19, 2012 6:07AM



When it comes to eating up some of that bumper crop of zucchini from your garden, a little creativity has to come into play.

The Sunday potluck-style casseroles might be your go-to recipes, but they tend to be banal and overdone. Instead of sticking with your gut feeling when trying to rid your counter space or your freezer of pounds of zucchini, be a little bit more adventurous.

Chocolate zucchini cake is the blue-blooded brethren of classic zucchini bread.

At one time a diner staple that flourished beneath the glass dome on the counter, zucchini cake has been resurrected for a fresh, polished audience — a quite appealing characteristic for any setting. With a versatility that combines both humility and high-brow bravado, this cake can be customized to fit an afternoon snack washed down with a glass of milk or to follow a candlelit dinner with a glass of port.

But in this revival, the flavors don’t go far. The cake is still moist and fudgy with a a slight hint of flavor from an unidentifiable ingredient — much like any well-made confection. Like flourless chocolate cake and olive oil pastries, there’s a certain delicious something in this cake that makes the flavor cryptic, yet enticing.

Rich with buttermilk and the depth of dark cocoa powder, the flavor itself is bold and urbane.

The grated zucchini is really only there give it that moist and smooth texture — that bite that is so coveted in any quickbread.

The nostalgia comes in with its topping. A smattering of chocolate chips, pecans and coconut baked right into the top of the cake gives it a sweet crunch and eliminates the need for frosting. However, true gourmands will gussy this up with a drizzle of ganache when serving it after a four-course meal.

While the versatility of this cake is certainly something to preen over, it’s not necessarily its best asset. The best is, perhaps, the bragging rights you inherit when baking something this delicious with a vegetable straight out of your garden.

CHOCOLATE
ZUCCHINI CAKE

21/4 cups sifted white flour

1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1 tablespoon instant espresso or coffee granules

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

13/4 cups sugar

1/4 stick unsalted butter, at room
temperature

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 cups (about 21/2 medium) zucchini, unpeeled and grated

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour 13-by-9 baking pan or bundt pan.

Sift together flour, cocoa, coffee granules, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, applesauce and vegetable oil. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in zucchini and pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips, pecans and coconut over the top and bake for about 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan before serving.

Adapted from Chocolate Zucchini Cake in “More Retro Diner” by Randy Garbin & Teri Dunn, Collectors Press Inc., 2005



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