Written and developed by Cathy Collins
It’s zucchini season in gardens and at the Farmer’s Markets. In my house, it’s also birthday cake season. In preparation for all the birthdays, I thought to myself, “Huh? Birthday cake and zucchini? I wonder…” I know some of you must be thinking, “This woman must be crazy. Her poor kids, healthy eating and good for you food are fine, but really? Do you have to put vegetables in birthday cake?”
The inspiration for this cake is a carrot cake recipe I’ve made for my family for years, usually in the summer. Since we have four birthdays from the middle of July to the end of August, we have lots of cake. I let my kids choose what kind of cake they want for their birthday. Invariably, one of them asks for carrot cake. This carrot cake recipe is a dense, rich spice cake, full of chunky things…carrots, raisins, crushed pineapple and walnuts and warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The carrot cake recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook 1997 edition*. It is one of my favorite cookbooks. You can tell what recipes I use because when you lay the book on its spine, it opens to the good ones, carrot cake one included!
Naturally, when it comes to carrot cake, the cream cheese frosting goes without saying. I have to be sure to make plenty of extra so the kids can spread it on graham crackers or toast or bagels or anything else that will hold cream cheese frosting… or not, forget the bread products, just eat the frosting with a spoon!
With that said, and the beginning of the zucchini harvest upon us, I thought why not give zucchini cake a try. Yes, my friends and family gave me a sideways, rather skeptical look and shrugged. I promised them cream cheese frosting. Most of them think any excuse for cream cheese frosting is a good excuse so they kept any commentary to themselves.
The next step in creating is to see what I have in the cupboards. I knew I had gotten a bag of flour and a bag of sugar from one of the food pantries recently. While it is rare to get plain flour and sugar, I am always grateful when I do get it. I always have baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar and plenty of herbs and spices on hand and I do try to keep eggs and butter available too. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to bake something yummy and having no eggs or butter! I suppose I could have used the USDA, government issued powdered egg mix in this cake; I had real eggs so I used them. You can also use all cooking oil instead of half butter, half cooking oil.
No carrots, but that was fine, I had plenty of zucchini from The Veggie Drop and had already processed it and put it in the freezer. I was just looking for an excuse to use it.
No raisins, but I still have a bag or two of dried cranberries. The same ones I use in the Super Food Super Salad and the cranberries can be substituted for raisins in almost any recipe. Raisins are perfectly fine too and dried apricots would be lovely if you are lucky enough to find them.
No crushed pineapple but I do have several cans of unsweetened applesauce, another fairly decent substitution.
I also have a very large container of old-fashion rolled oats courtesy of one of our local pantries. Good, I would use some of that too.
I do try to feed my family healthy, wholesome, nutritious food and well balanced meals, but I am not opposed to the occasional treat either. In creating this recipe, the Bill Cosby “Chocolate Cake,” routine came to mind. I thought, “Oh look, cranberries, oatmeal, zucchini! Nutrition!” I’m with Mr. Cosby, I’m more than happy to find a reason to eat cake…lots of fiber in this cake, plenty of vitamins, a sneaky way to get vegetables into those picky eaters and quite frankly, cake for breakfast is no worse for you than a doughnut, cinnamon rolls, some of our favorite sugar laden cereals or a stack of pancakes smothered in butter and syrup. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a piece of cake or a cookie or cupcake once in a while.
Who cares if it’s good for you? It’s cake and cream cheese frosting!
Rationalize and indulge!
* Levine, Ellen, editor. Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook. First ed. New York: A Carroll & Brown Book. 1997.