I know what you're thinking: another zucchini recipe; is this girl nuts? Well yes, and no, not really. But I promise, this is the LAST zucchini recipe you'll see for another 10 months. Cross my heart and hope to die. This is it, and hold onto your hats, it's a doozy.
I had tea with my dear friend Tara last week, and she was like "Ren, have you made chocolate zucchini cake yet? You must try the recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, it's unbelievable." Like most of my friends, Tara and I seem to read each others' minds when it comes to food. Maybe it's because we worked side by side in the close, crazy quarters of a kitchen, and you get to know each other really well in such an intense environment. There were some tasty secrets dished in the walk-in refrigerator, let me tell you. Somewhere between making countless appetizers, de-boning turkeys and sneaking brownies from the freezer, Tara and I became really good friends, and when she gives me a heads up on a recipe, I pay attention.
Chocolate and Zucchini was one of the first blogs I starting following. If you haven't been there yet, check it out. The fact that Clotilde named her blog after this odd pairing, meant that her recipe for this cake should be something special. Ever since Shelley, over at Franish Nonspeaker, made this exact same recipe back in July, I knew this would be my zucchini finale for 2011. Tara mentioned how delicious the cake was with just a simple dusting of icing sugar. Like the-whole-family-eating-the-whole-thing-in-one-sitting good. When I told her I was going to spread it with a dark chocolate ganache, her mouth fell open. I took that to be a good sign that I must do it. And I did. And it's pretty unbelievable.
I grew up eating chocolate zucchini cake, so it's never weird for me to add zucchini to sweet things, because you just don't taste it. The zucchini disappears as it bakes and adds moisture and texture, so don't be afraid of any crazy squash taste, because it's not there. The cake isn't overly sweet, and has the perfect texture and weight, with a deep, dark chocolate taste thanks to both cocoa AND chocolate chunks in the batter. I know, it already sounds crazy good, right? So imagine biting through a layer of dark chocolate ganache and into a perfectly moist and tender chocolate cake. I mean, honestly. The ganache part is easy, just heat whipping cream and pour it over chocolate. Let it stand for about an hour or so, then pour over the cake. I thought this initial layer would be satisfactory. I even put the toasted pecans on top and everything, then cut myself a slice. It was good. Real good. Then I saw the other half of the ganache just sitting in the bowl all by its lonesome, and I thought, well, I must not let good ganache go to waste. So I picked off the pecans, and spread the rest of the ganache, which had gotten nice and thick now, allover the cake. Toasted pecans resumed their position in the centre. I mean, really. Who was I kidding that one layer would be enough? This is me we are talking about!
As it stands, I still have two zucchini left, and now that I know how awesome this cake is, I think I might just whip up a few more and freeze them. (I used to grate zucchini and freeze it, but I found it too watery and sad. Better off freezing the actual product, I think.) These frozen beauties could come in handy during the holidays: just defrost and spread with ganache. Box it up with a bow and you're good to go. I mean, who wouldn't want to receive cake for Christmas?
Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Ganache
1/2 cup butter, room temperature, plus 1/2 tbsp for greasing pan (use unsalted butter if you have it, or just reduce the salt amount by 1/4 tsp if using salted butter)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp instant espresso granules, or 2 tsp instant coffee or 2 tbsp cooled, strong coffee
3 large eggs
2 cups grated zucchini, packed
1 cup good quality chocolate chips
8 ounces (1 cup) heavy whipping cream
8 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecan or walnut pieces
Line the bottom of a spring form pan with parchment paper. Spread butter on the parchment and the sides of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Scoop out 1 cup of this mix and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand) cream the 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar until light. Stir in the vanilla and espresso granules. Beat some more. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the large amount of flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Batter will be thick. Scrape sides. To the remaining 1 cup of flour mixture, add the chocolate chips and zucchini, toss to coat. Add the zucchini mixture into the bowl and beat just until combined. Spread the batter into your prepared spring form pan. I used a 10 inch pan, and baked the cake for about 45 minutes, or when tested with a toothpick, it comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, but not wet. The top of the cake should be shiny and set, like a brownie. If using a smaller pan, bake a little longer, like 50-60 minutes. If using a 9x13 pan, bake for about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the sides from the spring form. Let the cake cool completely, then remove from the cake bottom and parchment. Transfer cake to a same sized cake round, or make your own by tracing your pan on clean cardboard and cut accordingly. This will give the cake some foundation while you ice it.
While the cake is cooling, heat the cream to almost boiling. Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl. Pour the hot cream over chocolate and let stand for about 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. It will need to set for about 30 minutes - one hour until it is thick enough to pour. Once it's ready, pour some ganache over the cooled cake. (I left the cake on the cooling rack and placed it inside a parchment lined bake sheet to catch the drips.) Let stand until set, then spread a thicker layer, if you like. Sprinkle with toasted nuts. Let stand again. Once cake is set, cut into slices. Keep covered at room temperature for a few days. Serves 8-10. Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini and Franish Nonspeaker.