How many of us are guilty of choosing to divulge only certain details about specific things, whether it be in regards to how we spent our afternoon (no, really, I only spent ten minutes watching old Clash concert videos on You Tube), or what exactly goes into our children’s food (there is only fruit juice in that smoothie, I swear, not wheatgrass or beets or kale)? I think it can safely be said that most of us have, at one time or another, and for a plethora of reasons, chosen to leave out certain particulars, and that, when we chose to do so, there was most certainly a good excuse. With that in mind, when you make this cake—and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so—might I suggest that you refrain from telling people that it not only contains a vegetable, but that it also happens to be vegan?
There is a reason for this. This cake, so utterly moist and flavorful, so rich and dark and chocolaty, needs absolutely no explanation. It is devoid of eggs, milk, or butter, but that does not brand it worthy of suspicion. With its additions of both coffee and Dutch-processed cocoa powder, you’d never guess that a cake this intensely flavored was also missing what are widely regarded as being the key elements to a great cake. The zucchini, which melts completely into the cake as it bakes, rendering itself completely undetectable, adds a fabulous moistness to the cake, as well as an oomph in texture that I can only describe as being toothsome, yet not at all heavy.
So, yes, this cake is made with a vegetable. And, yes, it is also vegan. But, lest you pepper people’s thoughts and impressions with expectations of inferiority, I say leave out those little tidbits of information until after the cake has been devoured. Serve this cake with great aplomb, watch it disappear, and only then reveal its secrets. If you choose to at all, that is. I am all for containing whatever details only I need to know, so long as it does not harm anyone else involved. Which is why I should go back to cleaning up the kitchen, and certainly not watching that video of Joe Strummer performing London Calling with the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988 (P.S. You should totally go watch that right now).
Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake
There are a surprisingly large number of vegan chocolate cake recipes available throughout the world of cookbooks and cooking websites. This basic cake recipe, an old favorite of mine that seems to date back several decades (and was most likely developed in the interest of making a cake with nonperishable pantry ingredients, rather than in the interest of a vegan diet), is a great one, as it does not require the baker to have any special ingredients on hand (no need for soft tofu, butter substitute, or soy milk). I have changed the recipe here and there over the years (using cold coffee in place of water, using Dutch-processed cocoa, and, of course, one day deciding to add zucchini just to see what would happen), but I feel I should credit the very heart of the recipe to Joy of Cooking.
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup shredded zucchini, squeezed through cheesecloth or a dishtowel to remove excess moisture
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Cinnamon Sugar Dust
I tablespoon powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thoroughly grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar. In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, cold coffee, vanilla, and zucchini. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, then whisk together until just smooth. Add the vinegar and stir quickly until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. You will see bubbles rising up in the batter as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
When cake has cooled, combine powdered sugar and cinnamon. Sift the cinnamon sugar dust over the entire cake, or over each individual slice. I like to use a single serving tea strainer for this, as it makes for an extremely tidy and controlled distribution of powdered sugar.
|About the contributor:|
|Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.|