Staff Favorites: A zucchini cake recipe that does right by butter and chocolate


Chocolate Zucchini Cake has been served to generations of Kaplans who never realized it contained a generous dose of squash. (Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post)

An occasional series in which staff members share a recipe that we turn to time and again.

I come from a family of people who think they can make vegetables taste good by hiding them. My grandfather used to stir his children’s spinach into their mashed potatoes in hopes that they’d eat their greens that were covered in buttery starch. (They wouldn’t.) My mother once mixed several cups of grated beets into a chocolate cake and, when my father asked why the cake was pink, tried to convince him that it was red velvet. (He was not fooled.)

The lesson — not that the Kaplans have learned it — is that you can’t exploit delicious things like butter and chocolate when trying to sneak vegetables into a picky eater’s diet. Butter and chocolate deserve better than that.

Instead, consider what qualities vegetables can bring to butter and chocolate: texture, moistness, a satisfying yet hard-to-define earthy flavor.

That’s the secret to this chocolate zucchini cake, which we’ve served at family dinners summer after summer without raising a single eyebrow. Peeled zucchini’s inoffensive pale yellow color is much less suspicious than bright red beet juice, and the high-moisture squash keeps the cake from drying out.

This dessert probably has too much chocolate in it for anyone to pass it off as healthful (not that I haven’t tried). But that’s not the point. The important thing here is that the vegetable elevates the cake, rather than ruining it.

And as long as you keep this recipe hidden, your resident picky eater will be none the wiser.

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