Here’s the thing about cake. It can help make or break a celebration.
I say that because earlier this month I threw a bridal shower for my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, and of course I wanted to make the best impression. Special occasions require equally special desserts. But because I was doing all the cooking, I wanted to serve a cake that was relatively easy, and at the same time be as beautiful as the woman who captured my son’s heart.
I found a winner in this luscious two-layer cake developed by Amanda Rettke, author of “Surprise-Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes For Every Occasion with Something Extra Inside” (Morrow, 2014), and the blogger behind iambaker.net.
Studded with sweet blueberries and redolent of vanilla and lemon, it was as gorgeous as it was delicious – both before and after I sliced it. But the best part was the surprise inside that made it the ultimate summer cake: zucchini.
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Bakers often use applesauce to moisten cakes, but summer squash, too, can make a cake taste decadently rich, thanks to its high water content. And it does so without adding a discernible taste or texture (no one will ever guess it’s in there unless you tell), while also adding fiber, potassium and and a blast of Vitamin C.
Rettke recommends eating the cake while it’s still warm, “and the zucchini bits are lounging around the bursting blueberries in a delightful way.” But you can take heart in knowing that it’s just as scrumptious at room temperature as it is cold out of the refrigerator.
Maybe you, too, are planning some sort of get-together to mark the end of summer — a backyard bash, perhaps, or a wheels-up party to celebrate the kids going back to college. This easy cake, the layers of which can be made a day ahead and then frosted the day of, would be a perfect addition to the party table.
Some tips: You'll want to squeeze the shredded zucchini in a dish towel until most of the water comes out before adding it to the batter, and no, you don’t have to peel it first. Also, let the cake cool completely before frosting the layers, or you'll end up with a gloppy mess. Depending on how much you love icing, and whether or not your layers are even, frost the cake just between the layers, or on both the top and sides. An offset spatula works best.
Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream
The recipe calls for using 8-inch pans, but it would work just as well in 9-inch pans. Be sure to let the cake cool completely before frosting. From Amanda Rettke, iambaker.net
2 cups finely shredded and drained zucchini
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 pint fresh blueberries (reserve a few for garnish)
FOR LEMON BUTTERCREAM
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juice and zest of (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans.
Grate a large zucchini (or two small zucchini) and place in a clean dish towel. Squeeze until most of the liquid comes out. You will want to have 2 total cups of shredded zucchini after it has been drained. Set aside.
In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Fold in the zucchini.
Slowly add in flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. (My layers took about 45 minutes.) Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
For lemon buttercream: Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat until well combined. Add lemon juice and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minutes or until creamy. Fold in most of the lemon zest. Frost between layers and on top and sides of cake. Top with reserved blueberries and lemon zest.