Making a layer cake using zucchini may sound weird, but the end result is really a kindred spirit to carrot cake. The batter is mixed by hand with cinnamon and nutmeg, then grated zucchini is folded in; cake flour gives it a light texture and fine crumb. The frosting is a riff on cream cheese frosting but uses a buttercream base with some yogurt mixed in for tang. Then, the whole cake is coated with toasted pecans for a stunning and unique spice cake that’ll help you use up zucchini from the garden.
What to buy: For this recipe, use bleached cake flour such as Softasilk, for a tender cake that will rise high and evenly. Do not use unbleached cake flour, which yields denser results.
Game plan: If you have a food processor, use it to chop the pecans. It’ll be faster and you’ll have more uniform pieces.
This recipe was featured as part of our summer ingredients recipe slideshow.
- 1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Cut out 2 (8-inch) rounds of parchment paper; set aside. Coat 2 (8-inch) cake pans with butter, place the rounds in the pans, and coat the parchment with more butter. Coat the pans and parchment with flour and tap out any excess; set aside.
- 2Place the measured flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
- 3Combine the eggs, sugars, oil, and vanilla in a second large bowl and whisk until the eggs are broken up and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the zucchini until evenly mixed.
- 4Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake side by side on the middle rack, rotating from one side to the other halfway through the cooking time, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes.
- 5Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each and turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.
- 6Using a serrated knife, trim a very thin layer from the top of each cake, just enough to even out the surface; set aside.
For the buttercream frosting and nut filling:
- 1Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- 2Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is light in color, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
- 3Return the mixer to medium-high speed and add the vanilla and salt. Add the yogurt 1/3 cup at a time until all of it has been added, then continue mixing until the frosting is evenly combined and light in texture, about 3 minutes. (It’s very important that the yogurt is at room temperature, or the frosting will seize and form clumps.)
- 4For the filling, transfer 1 1/4 cups of the frosting to a medium bowl and mix in 2/3 cup of the pecans; set aside.
- 5To frost the cake, place a layer on an upside-down cake pan. Evenly spread all of the nut filling over the top of the layer, then place the second cake layer on top, cut-side down. (This way you have a really smooth, even surface to frost.) Using an offset spatula or long, thin knife, spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
- 6Using your hands, gently press the remaining 1 1/3 cups pecans into the frosting around the sides of the cake. (It’s helpful to do this over a baking sheet to catch any falling pecans.) Carefully slide 2 long, flat spatulas under the cake from opposite directions, lift the cake off the cake pan, and transfer it to a serving plate.
- 7If you don’t plan to eat the cake within 4 hours, tent it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. To serve, let the cake sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to take the chill off before slicing.