Moist Chocolate Cake You’d Swear Has No Zucchini In It


You can call me sneaky. It’s okay, I don’t mind. While I like eating healthy, I don’t necessarily need to know that I am. When you bite into this moist, toothsome cake, the moist fluffy chocoooolatey inside and crisp outer shell fills your mind, not the 120% of the RDA for vitamin C, 24% vitamin A, 8% calcium and 8% iron. Oh, and 1/2 c of zucchini has 3g of fiber, so we’re talking 12g for this entire cake. And no, I didn’t just tell you to eat the entire cake 😉 The guinea pigs, erm, I mean friends and neighbors, that have partaken of this zucchini-filled cake are all surprised when I tell them that it has zucchini in it. Now, I must admit that zucchini, like all summer squash (yup, the USDA lumps them in with yellow squash and patty pan! squash) are chock full of moisture and nutrients and a little anemic on the flavor side which is just fine with me cuz I can sneak them into many a meal without altering the flavor and no one being the wiser. We’ll just forget about the eggs, butter, oil, and sugar cuz it’s nicer when your glass is half full, no?

This recipe is a slight modification of one from Bon Appétit. I’ve cut down the oil um, cuz 1/2 c is too much and besides the extra calories, who wants an oily cake? [shudder.] Seriously though, excess oil makes your baked goods heavy not light and fluffy. It’s also still desserty sweet with a little less sugar. And since I just can’t seem to toss away 1/3 of a perfectly good zucchini, I just use 2 whole medium-sized zucchini–it’s so clandestine you still can’t tell it’s there, even with that little bit more. And why the prejudice against nuts? I love nuts, just not in my food. That crunchy goodness absorbs moisture from the batter and turns chewy and almost gritty. Bleh. I admit it, I have texture issues but I’m currently on step 7 and those of you nutophiles out there can feel free to add chewy gritty nuts to your baked goods 😉

Tip, tippy, tipsy:
1) Because of the moisture from the zucchini squash, this cake takes longer to bake. I find that when baking something with a lot of moisture, 325F works better than 350F because at a higher temp the outside will be golden brown with a raw inside requiring me to cover the cake with foil to keep the outside from darkening further.
2) Is there a quick and dirty conversion for conventional vs convection baking times? Yup. Usually, unless you have a really short, less than 15 minute, cooking time you should reduce the baking time by 25-30% so a 60 minute baking time in a conventional oven would roughly become 45 minutes in a convection oven. I usually decrease my time by 25% and set a timer to check 5 minutes before the decreased time so for the above example I would bust out my cake tester at 40 minutes.
3) Avoid the temptation to overmix as this will expose more of the gluten from the flour allowing it to create a matrix thereby giving the cake a tough, rubbery texture so once you no longer have visible patches of flour you’re good to go. Fine Cooking has a simple and informative look at gluten and baking.
4) While it is tempting, show Herculean restraint and resist simply scooping your measuring cups into the flour, sugar, cocoa powder,…. Why, cuz you don’t want packed down measures which will give you more than you need and can result in too sweet, too dry, too powdery… a batter. The extra step of spooning the ingredients into your measures really does pay off in the end.

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Scant 1/2 c vegetable oil (somewhere between 3/8 and 1/2 c)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c low-fat buttermilk
2 medium-sized zucchini (~2-2 1/2 c), skin on and medium-finely grated–a perfect time to bust out your food processor or sous chef 🙂
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. If not using a silicone 10 inch bundt pan grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan or metal bundt pan.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl and set aside.

With mixer on medium setting beat butter till light and fluffy. Mix in sugar and oil. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla. Add half of flour mixture and mix on low setting till just combined/no lumps or streaks of flour are visible. Mix in half of buttermilk. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to batter.


Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips. You will have a fairly thick batter at this point. Pour into bundt pan and bake till a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean ~45-60 minutes. With a silicone bundt pan and convection it takes me 50 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes then loosen cake from sides of pan using a butter knife before turning out onto a plate.Makes 12-6 chocolatey non-zucchini tasting servings.


About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)


  1. Looks delicious! Have you tried black bean cupcakes? Another way to make dessert healthy. 🙂

  2. Zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes. I love vegetables in baked goods. I couldn’t get behind the black bean movement. I could still taste them, if only barely. The veggies hide much better. Your neighbors must love you and your sharing!

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