The beauty of always trying new recipes (apart from pineapple upside-down cake for my grandmother's birthday every August) is never getting bored. The downside is that if I want to make something for someone else, I have to be creative in how I get to actually taste the recipe. Even though I'm basically fad-averse, and particularly so for the cupcake craze because I generally feel that cupcakes have a sub-optimal ratio of surface area to interior, and similarly so with cake:frosting. The thing I love about them though is that it allows me to make a full recipe and give away samples that appear to be individual gift packages in their own right. Even better than cupcakes are my mini-bundt and mini-springform pans that actually make a generous 2-person serving size, while still allowing me to hold back some cake for home while I share.
That's just what I did for a coworker recently who was celebrating her birthday. We weren't planning any particular celebration at work, so it was perfect to package up a little cream-cheese-frosted cake for her and a glazed bundt for her dairy-free boyfriend. You might be able to tell from my photo below that the nut-topped bundt in the mid-ground already has a taste-test missing...
The birthday girl's favorite course is the egg-course, so dessert isn't at the top of her list. So I choose this spiced zucchini cake because the strong flavor of crystallized ginger gives it a great bite and not too much sweetness. Plus, shopping baskets brimming with garden-fresh zucchini seemed totally appropriate for an August birthday. A lot of zucchini cakes and breads call for walnuts in the batter. I don't like randomly biting into a chunk of nut in my cake, but I do love nuts, so they make a great garnish on the frosting or glaze, and add additional decoration.
adapted from Gourmet magazine, June 2006
1/3 cup crystallized ginger (1 3/4 oz), coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 medium grated zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 ½ cups)
1/2 cup mild olive oil
1/4 cup mild honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Prepare pans with grease and flour (or line cupcake tins with paper or foil liners). I used mini bundt pans (4) and a 4-inch springform pan. Can also be baked as a loaf, bundt, or two 8 or 9-inch rounds. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Pulse crystallized ginger in food processor until finely ground, then add flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, zest, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and pulse until combined.
Whisk together zucchini, oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl, then stir in flour mixture until just combined.
Pour into prepared pans and bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely before glazing or frosting. Glaze with a mixture of powdered sugar and grand marnier or orange juice, or frost with cream cheese frosting. Garnish with chopped toasted walnuts if desired.