Seasons’ Eatings: Vegan Zucchini Cake
by Kara Rota
Evanston, Illinois – When my niece PK was born, I promised to make the trip to visit her in Evanston and make her birthday cake each year for as long as she likes, accompanied by the recipe written in her birthday card. By the time she’s stove-height, she’ll have a solid arsenal of recipe cards to practice with. Since her parents are raising her vegan, that means at least once a year I get to take on one of my favorite baking challenges: no butter, milk, or eggs; one delicious cake everyone at her party will gobble up. PK’s first birthday was celebrated with four-layer chocolate-on-chocolate, with strawberry compote filling (perfect for highchair face painting). Year 2 was carrot cake with vegan “cream cheese” frosting: a hit with the adults, not so much with little PK. But I was determined to push the veggies again, and Amri’s Zucchini Pizza presented perfect Relay inspiration.
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When I went vegan in high school, I mastered pretty much every recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen website, and a moist zucchini cake with a tender crumb was a bit hit. I went back to that recipe for this year’s birthday cake, eschewing the chocolate chips for a chocolate frosting between the layers. The zucchini is the star in this recipe, and the sweet, fresh specimens at the farmers’ market now mean you certainly won’t miss the eggs. My mom and I headed to the Evanston farmers’ market and picked up some zucchini from family-owned Smits’ Farms in Chicago Heights. For the bananas, we compromised going local and purchased them from the Marketplace on Oakton in Skokie, which provides an incredible array of fresh produce for truly affordable prices (my mom and I shopped for a barbecue for 15 people and spent under $75). You’re likely to have the rest of the baking ingredients in your pantry.
Your favorite frosting, icing or filling will work with this layer cake – cream cheese, vanilla, buttercream or something else. I whipped up a food-processor vegan chocolate frosting with unsweetened cocoa powder, powdered sugar, a little bittersweet dark chocolate, and Earth Balance unbutter. PK declared it a winner, and the empty platter at the end of the night agreed.
Vegan Zucchini Cake
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35-45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 8-10 slices
- 3 medium zucchini
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 cup canola oil
- 3 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease three 9-inch cake pans.
- Peel the zucchini and chop it into chunks. Puree them into a food processor and measure out 2 1/2 cups (quicker and easier than grating, and makes for a consistent texture throughout). Reserve any remaining amount for another use.
- Peel the bananas and puree them in the food processor.
- Mix pureed zucchini, bananas, vanilla, and canola oil. Whisk well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients.
- Slowly whisk dry ingredients into wet.
- Fold in the walnuts.
- Distribute the batter among the pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pans for ten minutes, then invert onto plates to cool completely.
- Spread your favorite vegan frosting between the layers, and serve!
Kara is a professional food enthusiast at Cookstr, a freelance food writer, and a sporadic livetweeter @karalearota. She lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her boyfriend and their cats, Gwildor & Mel.