Chocolate zucchini fruit rainbow cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Chocolate zucchini cake with fruit rainbowWe interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging about foods of the world to bring you probably the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Because, well… chocolate cake. Need I say more? This one actually contains zucchini (courgette) and is gluten-free and dairy-free. Not that you’d ever know. I topped it with a rainbow of fruit for my five-year-old’s birthday party and it was divine – moist, the perfect balance between dense and fluffy, with a fine crumb. It was sweet enough but not TOO sweet and the juicy fruit perfectly complemented the dark chocolatiness. Heaven!

With the exception of the little girl with the dairy allergy, none of the kids knew it was a gluten-free, dairy-free cake. Nor did any of them know it contained zucchini. I gave all the kids generous slices after a substantial snack of fruit, veg, crackers, and cheese. Yet almost without exception the cake slices were gobbled up practically before the candles were blown out. I can think of no better testimonial from a roomful of five-year-olds.

This recipe is only slightly adapted from Living Without’s Gluten Free & More online magazine. However, their recipe calls for a simple glaze, while my kid (of course) wanted full-on chocolate icing. Also, they call their recipe “subtly sweet” and I had the feeling subtle wasn’t going to quite cut it for kids, so I slightly upped the sweet quotient without adding more refined sugar, by substituting banana for a little of the zucchini. Finally, I slightly modified the recipe to make it low-FODMAP.

One note on the pan: I used a nine-inch square pan rather than the ten-inch tube pan the original recipe called for. I admit part of my motivation was that I simply don’t have a tube pan but looking at the quantities in the recipe, I was pretty sure a tube pan would be too large – and Joy of Baking backed me up. I was a little worried the cake might sink in the middle, since sometimes recipes that call for tube pans tend to do that, but as it turned out, I needn’t have had any such concerns. My cake rose and settled perfectly.

So here is my slightly tweaked cake recipe with my very own dairy-free chocolate frosting recipe and the strong suggestion of topping the cake with fruit. Please excuse the relative lack of pictures but I wasn’t originally planning on putting this on my blog. I changed my mind because it was so good, I simply had to share. You’re welcome.

As for the fruit rainbow, I used the following, all low-FODMAP fruit: raspberries, satsumas, pineapple, green grapes, blueberries, red/purple grapes. I’m sure other fruit would work well too.

Chocolake cake sliceChocolate zucchini cake

  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used Dove’s Farm Plain White Flour)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 135 grams Trex vegetable fat or 170 grams (3/4 cup) other dairy-free butter substitute (or room temperature butter, if you don’t care about dairy-free)*
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 cups coarsely shredded, unpeeled zucchini/courgette, excess water squeezed out
  • 1/2 cup fork-mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium banana)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

* Trex calls for 20 per cent less of its product than butter because Trex contains no water. Check the moisture content of whatever you’re using – you may need to tweak the quantity. If you do use Trex, you can use it straight from the fridge.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C/155 C fan. Grease and lightly flour a nine-inch square pan and set it aside.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients (don’t just whisk – sifting will ensure no lumps and an even rise).
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together your dairy-free butter substitute and sugar using a hand mixer on low speed. Add in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla, maple syrup, and orange juice. You do want to beat it enough that the mixture becomes smooth and light but be careful not to over-beat, as dairy-free fats can sometimes separate if beaten too much.
  4. Switch to a wooden spoon and mix in the zucchini and banana.
  5. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, adding the almond milk as you go.
  6. Bake in centre of oven for 50 minutes or until tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Frost when cake has cooled to room temperature. Avoid putting it in the fridge before serving – it tastes subtly better if it has never been chilled, though having said that, it’s still pretty damn good cold.

Dairy-free chocolate frosting

This chocolate icing is a little less sweet and a little chocolatier than many recipes call for. It should be enough to frost your nine-inch cake with a layer of frosting in the middle. That said, I don’t like my icing super thick, so if you do, you may want to make more. The coconut oil makes for a nicer taste than using vegetable shortening alone but the resulting frosting will only just barely taste coconutty.

  • 50 grams vegetable shortening or dairy-free margarine (I used Trex vegetable fat again), room temperature
  • 50 grams coconut oil, room temperature
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Almond milk as necessary (start with 1 tablespoon)
  1. Beat all the above ingredients together with a hand mixer at low speed until you have achieved a smooth, creamy consistency.
  2. Taste the mixture and adjust as necessary. If you need it firmer, add a little more icing sugar and/or cocoa. If it’s too firm, add more almond milk.

Happy belated birthday to my beautiful daughter!

Girl blowing out candles on chocolate cake

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