Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze
Last week my mom filled our refrigerator full of zucchini–you know, the vegetable that always seems to multiply in your fridge despite your best efforts at constantly using it up. Well, I set my mind to making zucchini bread with the leftover numbers. And why not? Zucchini bread is healthy! It tastes yummy and bread-y and somehow the idea of it being slightly less sweet and fattening than a cake with the main star as a vegetable makes it seem much less guilt-worthy (I know this sounds completely overdone and sarcastic, but you know we all rationalize things in our heads this way). I found a recipe that looked fantastic, from Gina DePalma, that included a lemon glaze as a topping.
I proceeded to bake the bread, brush on the topping, and serve it to my family. Within an hour, one of the loaves was gone–and did I mention there were only four of us? Yes, it was that good. And I think that’s when it hit me: how can this be called a bread if it is that moist, sweet and delicious? It didn’t add up. That’s when I realized that this is no bread, it’s a cake! And lo and behold, after re-checking with the recipe, it was indeed called a cake. A zucchini cake with a crunchy lemon glaze, in fact.
After that I immediately started eating less. My thick slices turned into thin slivers. It seems a little funny how just calling it something different changed my attitude towards it entirely. The appropriate approach towards it immediately turned towards that of treating it as a dessert, instead of as one of those snacks that becomes a dinner. No matter that the cake tasted equally delicious and satisfying whether it’s called a cake or bread, I had decided that the name change alone was enough to change the cake itself for some reason.
But the thing is, it doesn’t really matter what you call this–yes, it certainly has enough fat and sugar to qualify it as a cake, despite the fact that zucchini is one of the main ingredients. I suppose, on the other hand, that you could call this a bread if only for the purpose of being able to justify eating more of it. But when it comes down to it, this whatever-you-want-to-call-it is fantastic. The zucchini makes for a moist crumb accented by warm spices and it perfectly contrasts the tart lemon glaze topping with just the perfect amount of crunch. I advise you to make this, because frankly it is fabulous as a dessert, a snack, and maybe even on some days it makes up the perfect dinner, too.
Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano, via Lottie + Doof
Amy’s Notes: The original recipe asks that the cake be poured into a bundt pan. You may go ahead and do that but I liked the idea of the cake in loaf pans, as did the source from where I got this from, so the instructions will follow with that approach.
1 cup walnut pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but you want it all)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 – 3 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease two loaf pans (or a 10-inch bundt) and dust them with flour.
Place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are golden brown and aromatic, 12-14 minutes. Cool completely and then finely chop them.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl and set aside (you know me, I just whisk it together). In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the zucchini and walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cakes comes out clean and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pans.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until the glaze is completely smooth.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully invert them onto a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; it will adhere to the cake and set as the cake cools. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry.