Lemon adds late-season zest to zucchini cake

The chill in the air and downright brisk mornings are foreshadowing the garden’s demise.

But you wouldn’t know it from the number of zucchini we picked this past week. There was enough for my mother-in-law to keep a couple on hand and for my mom visiting from the coast to take home a pair.

Still, I was left with squash large enough that the only purpose for which I could muster any enthusiasm this late in the season was zucchini bread. The recipe, a Becky Crocker classic, fit in perfectly with my plans to bake and freeze easy but somewhat wholesome breakfast items for my kids. While they eagerly mixed up oats for granola and gave the breakfast bars a thumbs-up, the zucchini bread fell flat.

Chock full of golden raisins and pecans, the bread shouldn’t have been a tough sell. Maybe it was the whole-wheat flour, or the flaxseed meal I substituted for what I consider an unconscionable quantity of oil by the recipe developers. Or maybe the boys were just expecting a bite of something sweeter, although the amount of sugar verges on too much for my palate.

If I really wanted to earn their approval, I’d revisit the concept with this zucchini cake, enhanced with zesty lemon flavor, of which they are both fans. And anything with frosting is bound to beckon the little buggers.

This recipe, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, uses almond milk, making it dairy-free, if not vegan. It should work well for anyone with a dairy sensitivity. If you don’t have cake flour, substitute 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour.

Tribune News Service photo

Lemon-Zucchini Cake

2 cups cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed dry

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on either side of pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and olive and oil; whisk to combine. Add the eggs and almond milk, whisking together. Add the vanilla or almond extract and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice; stir to combine.

Add flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Fold in the shredded zucchini and lemon zest.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Top of cake should look dry.

Place loaf on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Use parchment paper to carefully lift cake from pan. Let cool completely on rack.

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Whisk until smooth, adding up to another tablespoon lemon juice to reach a thin consistency. Drizzle glaze over cake. Slice and serve.

Makes 10 servings.

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