Today was a very wholesome Sunday. I felt like a farm wife from the 1950’s. This morning I made bread (which I will be making again and again, and you will too once I tell you about how the resulting loaf far outweighs the amount of effort you have to put in- but that’s a story for another day), I made granola- because hey, the oven is already on!, I began my week of easter baking with a batch of Swedish (ish) cardamom- orange rolls (I’m not joking when I say the thing I get most excited about on themed holidays is the ample opportunity to bake). And I cleaned the house. I cleaned the house. From top to bottom, I even cleaned the oven, some windows, the bath-tub. I mopped! And we don’t even own a mop… I used two ENJO sponge things taped to the end of a broom, I put on my face of grim determination and ploughed on with this less than favourable situation. Also we have a small house, with an even smaller section of moppable floor so it wasn’t so bad.
And I learnt a little something about the best sort of food to cook when you have spent several hours performing the afore-mentioned superclean. And those foods are most definitely NOT crusty bread, granola and dough that needs a flour dusted bench to be happy. So there’s just a little something I picked up for you, to tuck away in your back pocket for when you go on a cleaning rampage and then need to erase the triviality with some time in the kitchen.
As good as the no-knead (to stress- haha) bread, the maple-coconut-almond granola and the orange buns are, they are not what I am going to share with you today. Today I am all about the zucchini.
I’m sure nobody who has a vegie garden and at any point in their lives has planted zucchini needs to be told this, but for everyone else: zucchini never gives up. It continues, long after it should have withered and melted back into the ground. Those zucchinis march one by one, two by two, one, two, three hundred by a thousand from the garden to the fridge until this dark green army of stealth has taken over your kitchen. They quietly make their way into everything you cook, silently, without fanfare, you kind of stop noticing but they are just always there. Last week I thought we had seen the last of them- the bushes looked wilted, there hardly any to be seen. ‘Oh well, that’s the end of them.’, we told each other with a mixture of dismay and relief (ahem, mostly relief). Now there are five more growing! And a few days ago we picked a zuke about as thick as my calf- we’ve made three meals from it and still have some left over. Zucchini never gives up. So to celebrate it’s tenacity, I made it into a cake.
I thought this cake was the perfect thing to share right now (not least because of the rampant zucchini population). Because I think it is a nice little bridging cake, bringing together the last few warm days of summer and the cooler weather to come. It’s not too heavy and it has a sharp citrussy icing but it is a comforting cake- something you can bake to warm up your house (and yourself) on cooler autumn afternoons. It’s not dramatic or challenging but it is a really good cake and an excellent way to use up a lingering zucchini.
SPICED ZUCCHINI CAKE (from David Lebovitz)
(The first time I made this cake I made the lemon glaze which featured in the original recipe but it is quite sweet and not that beautiful- very good though- so all the other times I have made a lemon cream cheese icing. To make the lemon glaze just combine 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice with 1/3 cup raw sugar and 1 cup of icing sugar and pour it over the warm cake).
for the cake
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
3 large eggs (at room temp)
1 3/4 cups castor sugar (for a slightly more “healthy” cake you could go down to as little as 1 cup of sugar)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup nuts (any one of: almonds, pecans, walnuts, even pistachios)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
for the icing
200g cream cheese
1/2 to 1 cup sifted icing sugar (depending on your taste)
grated zest of 1 lemon or lime
juice from about half a lemon (again depending on your taste)
Preheat your oven to 180c and prepare a 10 cup capacity cake tine by greasing with butter and dusting with flour.
Lightly toast your nuts in a dry frypan until they become aromatic, then finely chop them and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices.
In another bowl beat the eggs, sugar and olive oil with an electric mixer on medium til smooth and creamy (about 3 minutes). Add the vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl and combine.
Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine, then beat for a further 30 seconds.
Add the zucchini, nuts and lemon zest and stir to incorporate evenly.
Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
If you want to make the lemon glaze (which is delicious, it just doesn’t look that amazing), do so in the last 10-15 minutes of baking so you can drizzle it over the cake ten minutes after it comes out of the oven.
To make the cream cheese icing, warm the cream cheese slightly in the microwave (unless you are better at planning than me and have had it out of the fridge for an hour os so to soften) and then beat all the ingredients together until smooth and tasty.
Ice the cold cake and decorate however it pleases you.
Bathe in the glow of satisfaction that you have managed to use up a whole two and a half cups of zucchini and you have a wicked good cake to eat.