Having harvested a bunch of zucchini from my garden two days ago, I had to figure out what to do with all of them. Zucchini bread was the obvious use in the sweet department. I remembered the zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze by my former boss, the late pastry chef Gina DePalma. It appears in her 2007 book Dolce Italiano and is available here on David Lebovitz’s site. The cake is full of flavor, with warm spices balanced by tart lemon and a strong undertone of olive oil. My attempts at adapting it yielded a result that was better than I had hoped for. I actually had a kind of breakthrough with this recipe, realizing that in some cases (including this one), it’s better to chop dried fruit and coat/mix it with a gluten-free flour (gluten-free because that way you don’t have to worry about developing the gluten while mixing with the fruit over a long period) than to puree the dried fruit and attempt to work it into a batter. Here is the resulting recipe that produced a DELICIOUS cake:
Spiced Olive Oil Zucchini Bread (Adapted from Gina DePalma’s Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze, Dolce Italiano)
Makes two 6″ round pans.
180 g All-purpose flour (or your preferred gluten-free flour blend)
2 tspn Cinnamon
1 tspn Ginger
1/2 tspn Nutmeg
1 tspn Salt
1 tspn Baking powder
1/2 tspn Baking soda
3 Eggs, room temperature
250 ml Olive oil
2 tspn Vanilla extract
Zest of half a lemon
300 g Zucchini, grated & squeezed to eliminate liquid
135 g Walnuts, toasted and chopped
385 g Medjool dates, chopped
110 g Teff flour
To toast the walnuts, place the whole, raw walnuts on a parchment-lined sheet tray and bake at 350°F for 5-8 minutes or until fragrant (once finished, lower the temperature to 325°F for the zucchini bread). Once cooled, finely chop in the food processor. To chop the dates, pulse them in a food processor until they are chopped and just starting to clump (the goal is to chop them as fine as possible without pureeing them into a paste). Toss them into a stand mixer bowl along with the teff flour, and mix with the paddle attachment until the chopped dates are well coated with teff (See below). Set aside.
Make sure the oven is at 325°F (convection, if you have that option).
Place the first seven ingredients together in a bowl and mix with a whisk until well-combined. Using the stand mixer, beat the eggs on medium-high with the paddle attachment while SLOWLY adding the olive oil in a THIN stream from a measuring cup. After several minutes, the color should be lighter and the mixture should be the consistency of hollandaise sauce (Think runny mayonnaise). Add the vanilla and lemon zest.
Add the flour-and-spice mixture to the egg mixture, and beat at medium-high speed for 30 seconds to develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the zucchini, walnuts, and date/teff and beat on medium-high speed until well combined (but don’t over-mix). Scrape down the sides and give it a little mix with a rubber spatula, making sure that the batter looks homogeneous.
Evenly distribute the batter between two 6″ round pans and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester (knife, skewer) inserted in the center comes out clean.