Friday, August 28, 2009


My friends Lea and Chives celebrated their birthdays recently and I was in charge of cake. Chives requested his old favorite, chocolate cake with white frosting, while Lea requested zucchini cake -a faithful standby I make a lot that she had yet to taste.
While many may be daunted by the idea of baking two separate cakes in the middle of July, I awoke Friday morning thoroughly pleased by the fact that I would be able to spend the whole morning baking away in the kitchen. As I creamed butter, sugar, and eggs I rotated between listening to A Stranger podcast and some old Patty Griffin. A strange combination, I know, but it worked for me.
I ended up using Ruth Reichl’s Devil‘s food cake recipe and Seven-minute frosting, which you can find in her first book Tender at the Bone. I recommend anyone interested in writing and food read it, because it is wonderful and has lots of good recipes. Historically I have stayed far away from “boiled” type frostings, fearful of the science-y attention they seem to require (candy thermometer? I don’t have the patience nor the time for you…) Lea assured me however that the frosting was amazing and easy to make, although be prepared for a serious workout if you don’t have an electric beater. The frosting is really more of a billowy marshmallow meringue than a heavy, buttery frosting, which is a wonderful contrast to the lightly sweetened chocolate cake.
The zucchini cake I have been making for years and the original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. It’s a sturdy, simple recipe, and the only time I have not had this cake turn out well is when I failed to use self-rising cake flour. Be ye warned. To make this cake even more of a cinch I don’t make the lemon curd myself, but opt to buy it at the grocery store. It’s just as delicious, I promise. This is a wonderful cake to make in the spring and summer, since zucchini is in season and the spongy cakes and zesty lemon flavor goes seems to go down really easy in warmer weather. But I have been known to make this cake in the dead of winter too- when we New Englanders need a little lift in our step and break from the cold and dark.

Devil’s food cake
1 cup milk
¾ cup cocoa
⅓ cup white sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
¼cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
Seven-minute frosting
4 egg whites
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup water
1 tsp. cream of tartar
⅛ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
Heat the milk in a small pan until bubbles begin to appear around the edges. Remove from the heat.
Mix the cocoa and white sugar together in a small bowl and slowly beat in the warm milk. Let cool.
Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the cocoa mixture.
Mix the remaining dry ingredients together and gently blend into the butter mixture. Do not overbeat.
Turn the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pans and springs back when touched gently in the center. Cool on a rack for a few minutes, then turn out of the pans onto the rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting:
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar, water, cream of tartar, and salt in the top pan of a double boiler. Set the pan over simmering water and beat with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until soft peaks form.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Keep beating until frosting is stiff enough to spread. Use immediately and all of it.

Zucchini Cake
2 medium sized zucchini
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup plus 1 tbs. sugar
1 ½ cups self-rising cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
Jar of lemon curd
1 package of cream cheese
½ cups (and a bit more) confectioner’s sugar
Juice of one lemon
For the Cake:
Grate zucchini’s and let drain in the sink. To expedite this process I tend to scoop the zucchini up in balls and squeeze them to get the moisture out.
Put the eggs, oil, and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the flour, baking soda and powder, and continue to mix until well combined.
Stir in zucchini and pour into two 8x2 inch cake pans greased and lined with wax paper.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until light brown and firm.
Let the cakes cool for a few minutes before turning them out of the pans.
For the frosting:
Cream the cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth.
To assemble the cake, place one cake on a plate and spread the top with lemon curd. Place the second cake on top and spread the top only with the frosting. Enjoy!
The birthday party was down at the beach and I had fanciful plans of taking lots of pictures of beautiful sun burned party goers eating big slices of cake. But it got dark by the time we brought the cakes out, and I was too drunk to think about taking pictures anyway- so those images will just have to be left up to your own imaginings.


  1. I love the flowers on the cakes---so very SALLy of you Soph. Man- Im your first-and most loyal-blog reader!!!

  2. Hey, you've got a blog! I like the pics. I'm going to add you to my favorites.

  3. Ha Yay! I just read this for the first time! Great! love the pictures. and i am flattered to make an appearance here!
    xo, lea