Or how to say thank you for a huge bag of summer squash and mean it.
Why people grow so much zucchini is a perfectly legitimate question. As a species we just never catch on that just three zucchini seeds will feed the whole neighborhood. How do we possibly forget year after year? The jokes about the overabundance of zucchini and the lengths people go to get rid of it are only funny because they expose this human flaw.
Neighbors drop off squashes the size of baseball bats to your front porch, ring the bell and run so you can’t refuse it. Little old ladies give away brown paper grocery bags of zucchini at every church function. And if you grow a garden, you’re rolling in it by mid-summer.
Even using the grate-and-hide technique of sneaking zucchini into everything– meatloaf, chili, soups and stews, and baked goods, there is only so much one can be expected to eat.
I worked out this brightly-flavored zucchini cake as a way to draw down an enourmous supply I was gifted from a generous neighbor. It completely suits my hankering for unassuming cakes, and its sunny lemon-ginger burst is a good excuse for turning on the oven in the middle of August.
Now I get a little happy when I’m gifted a huge bag of summer squash, and my thanks are sincere.
Why is this Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake Special?
In this cake, I swap the typical butter for olive oil. Olive oil adds phenomonal rich flavor that sings with the lemon. The technique remains similar to that of a butter cake, but here the olive oil is added to the whipped eggs and sugar, turning it into a creamy fluff you just know will be good.
I used to make this cake with all-purpose flour only, but have recently added finely-ground almond flour to add a soft airiness to cakes, and it works really well here.
The copius amount of ginger in this cake comes in two forms– freshly grated and ground– to amp the gingery quality. Lemon and ginger are a match made in heaven, so I use a lot of lemon zest zing along with the double-dose of ginger. This large cake can hold all this flavor. It is a flavor bomb, not a flavor whisper.
The crunchy glaze– think glazed donut and you’ve got the idea– is due to the addition of granulated sugar to the typical powdered sugar. Just make sure and paint it on while the cake is still somewhat warm for this magic to happen.
Tips for Success
In this cake and all others, start with room temperature eggs.
A stand or handheld mixer is best for the eggs/sugar/olive oil steps. It is also good for gently beginning to incorporate the flour mixture, but stop there and pick up your spatula. Folding in the zucchini, ginger, and lemon zest by hand will automatically involve the streaky bits of flour without toughening the glutens in the all-purpose flour. Your tender result will make you glad you did.
All kinds of summer squash work. I’ve even made this with peeled young spaghetti squash to great success. If you’re using an older/larger zucchini, take out the watery seeds, and gently squeeze the grated squash over the sink to remove some of the moisture to avoid a heavy wet cake.
This turns out a large cake– 2″ tall and 9″ across, making 12-15 generous slices. If you want to take it easy on cake, or are like me in a small household, this recipe fits neatly into three 6″ round cakepans, with six slices each. This way we can have a little splurge, and stash two cakes in the freezer for on-the-fly entertaining or when the mood strikes again.
Use this method for releasing the cake from the pan without it breaking or crumbling.
Zippy Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake
Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake
- 3 cups zucchini or other summer squash, finely grated if large, remove seeds before grating and gently squeezed some of its water off over the sink
- 4 lemons, zested grated reserve juice for glaze
- 3 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 1¼ cups almond flour, finely ground
- 2½ cups all-purpose four
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar
- 1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter a 9" springform pan, 9" x 2" round pan, or three 6" round pans. Dust the pan/s with flour and tap out any excess.
- Grate the zucchini, lemon zest, and ginger and set aside.
- Combine the flour baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer with paddle attachement or with a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs until creamy and slightly fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Again turn the mixer to medium speed and add the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue mixing in the olive oil until fully incorporated and quite fluffy, another 3 minutes. Again scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer at low speed, quickly add the flour mixture one cup at a time, not waiting for it to fully incorporate. Turn the mixer off and remove the mixing bowl.
- Add the grated zucchini, lemon zest, and ginger to the bowl, and gently stir with a rubber or silicone spatula, folding up from the bottom, until the grated ingredients are evenly mixed through the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cakepan/s and smooth the top and bake. For the 9" pans, bake for 50-60 minutes until the top springs bake when gently pushed and the edges are just beginning to pull away from the pan, and a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. for the 6" pans, bake 35-45 minutes. It is easy to underbake this cake, especially the larger pans, so take extra care to make sure they are done in the center.
- Allow the cake to cool 15 minutes before inverting on a cooling rack. While the cake is cooling, make the glaze.
For the glaze:
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk the granulated and powdered sugars to break up the powerded sugar clumps. Whisk in the lemon juice until smooth and no tiny bits of powdered sugar remain. Invert the cake onto the cooling rack and place a peice of parchment, wax paper, or a large plate directly under it to catch the glaze drips and make cleanup easier. While the cake is still warm, generously paint on the glaze with a pastry brush. Allow the cake to completely cool before slicing.