Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze

Greetings! I know it may seem like I've been neglecting my baking duties (which I take very seriously!) because I haven't posted for a couple of weeks, but I have been busily baking away. I was on this cornbread kick trying to fulfill a special request from a work colleague. And, of course, I was hoping to post about my fabulous cornbread results.

Alas, not such good results. Even using a recipe from the grand Dame of Southern food, Edna Lewis. Her recipe produced a bread with incredible texture, but really, severely, lacking in taste. This was so bad it went directly into the trash. My next attempt was with a recipe from Dean Fearing (formerly of the Mansion on Turtle Creek, now at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas). Again, nice texture, not so good on flavor. My husband re-purposed this as a stuffing mixture for delicious pork chops he made the next night. At least not a total waste.

So while I'm not giving up on finding a great cornbread recipe, I needed a little deviation this week. I went to one of my favorite bakers, Gina DePalma, for inspiration. Her "Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze" proved to be the ticket (from her wonderful book, Dolce Italiano - see Amazon link under "Books I Love"). The trio of spices in the recipe (cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg) provide that all-important autumnal aroma, and the cake has a wonderful moist, light crumb. But let me tell you about the taste. It's got this unusual sweetness to it, not your typical harvest-y type flavor, but almost like a healthy, good for you, type sweetness. Probably from the zucchini, or at least that's what I'm attributing it to. Either way, this is one terrific cake. The lemon glaze is not too sweet either, in case you were worried about that. Although it feels like an autumn cake to me, obviously you could leverage this recipe when your zucchini harvest is at full throttle in the summer and you don't know what to do with your zucchini overload. Seems like a perfect excuse to me to bake a cake! But don't wait until next summer to try this -- it's too good. Mangia bene!

Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze

Makes one 10" cake, approximately 12 servings

Cake

1 C walnut pieces
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1-3/4 C granulated sugar
1 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 t pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 C grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
Confectioners' su
gar, for dusting (optional)

Glaze

1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 C granulated sugar
1 C confectioners' sugar

To make the cake: preheat oven to 350 F and position rack in center. Grease a 10 cup Bundt pan using nonstick cooking spray or butter, then dust with flour to coat completely, tapping out excess flour.

Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are golden brown and aromatic, 12-14 minutes. Cool walnuts completely, then finely chop them in food processor and set aside (CT note: I opted for not-so-fine a chop as I really like the texture and crunch of walnuts).

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in medium bowl and set aside. In electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in vanilla extract. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch mixer to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Beat in the zucchini and walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top with spatula. Bake cake for 45-50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from sides of pan.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze: in medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners' sugar until the glaze is completely smooth.

Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert onto a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; it will adhere to the cake and set as the cake cools. Allow cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry completely.

Transfer cake to a stand or serving plate and, if desired, lightly dust it with confectioners' sugar. Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and served the following day.

See photo below - I wouldn't normally post a photo like this, but I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful texture and the flecks of zucchini throughout the cake.

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