The best part about this gluten free zucchini cake is the tenderness of its crumb, because of all that shredded zucchini. You can’t taste the vegetable, but you’ll know it’s there in every bite.
What makes this gluten free zucchini cake special?
Shredded zucchini adds a particular type of moisture to baked goods that is much more of a blank canvas than, say, mashed banana. I think of zucchini like the tofu of the fruit and vegetable world: it adopts whatever flavor profile you choose.
Often, I add chocolate to zucchini baking recipes. In fact, I have a recipe for gluten free chocolate zucchini cake that is dense, rich, and fudgy. In our gluten free zucchini bread, chocolate chips add texture and flavor.
This recipe is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. And the mixture of brown sugar and granulated sugar adds some depth of flavor.
Rather than adding chocolate chips to the batter, I prefer to let the incredibly tender crumb of the cake shine. That’s part of why I love a super soft cream cheese frosting on top.
How to prepare fresh zucchini for baking
If you’ve ever baked with zucchini, you know how much moisture they contain. But you may not have realized how much the amount of moisture can vary from one zucchini to another.
When you’re cooking with zucchini, whether your particular vegetable zucchini has more moisture or less doesn’t matter quite that much. You’re probably cooking it on a stovetop, allowing some of that moisture to evaporate anyway.
But during baking, there must be a precise moisture balance every time you make a recipe. So there’s one way to level that moisture playing field with your zucchini: shred it, and drain it of as much of the moisture as possible.
The weight of shredded zucchini in this recipe is as drained. That way, if you started off with a paler zucchini that took on a lot of water, and my zucchini is smaller and greener, you may need more zucchini overall.
The easiest way to remove the moisture from zucchini is, while holding on to the stem, grate it on a standard-size box grater. You’ll need to begin with nearly double the weight of undrained zucchini than what you’ll need drained.
Then, handful by handful, place the zucchini in a mesh nut milk bag or in a flat-weave tea towel, and enclose the shredded vegetable. Then, squeeze as hard as you can over a large bowl or over the kitchen sink.
The cream cheese frosting
I like to serve this lightly sweet, relatively plain, amazingly textured gluten free zucchini cake with super soft, fluffy cream cheese frosting. You’ll need to begin with room temperature cream cheese and butter.
When you’re planning to make the cake, take the cream cheese and butter for the frosting out of the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter. Unwrap the block of cream cheese, and chop the butter into chunks to help them warm up a bit.
The more confectioners’ sugar you add to the frosting, the stiffer it will be. I think that a thick buttercream-style frosting detracts from the perfect texture of the cake, so I like to keep it quite soft.
If you’d rather not use frosting, you can try making a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze. Just place confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl and add water by the drop, mixing until you have a very thick paste. Add more water and mix until the glaze is very thickly pourable.
Ingredients and substitutions
The dairy in the cake part of this recipe should be relatively easy to replace. The frosting is another story.
For the melted butter in the cake, the best substitute is vegan butter (Melt or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand), but I think even Earth Balance buttery sticks would work. For the milk, you can use your favorite unsweetened nondairy milk.
For the cream cheese in the frosting, if you’ve found a nondairy cream cheese you like, try that. For butter, I’d suggest vegan butter (not Earth Balance). But I have never found a nondairy cream cheese that tastes like the magic that is Philadelphia cream cheese. *chef’s kiss*
There are two eggs in this recipe. You may be able to replace each of them with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).