Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts

Zucchini Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

3 Comments 22 September 2010

Zucchini are a great summer vegetable. Good thing summer’s hanging on around here like a desperate vagabond relative with nowhere else to go, while Fall approaches, dubiously wondering what that hot relative is still hanging around for. The unusual part of this week’s recipe is that I used that summer bright veggie to bake with. In this heat. Because….? It seemed like a good idea at the time?

And before we go any further, us Full Forkers aren’t cake decorators, m’kay? But I’ve learned a lesson from this experience. Respect the frosting. Get that, folks? Respect. Your. Frosting. We really needed to let the frosting rest in the fridge for a bit so it would go from whipped fluff to a more firm frosting, one that wouldn’t, oh, sag on the cake, but spread like a calm, soothing ocean. So, lesson learned! But you still get to see the messy results. Because we Full Forkers are on a deadline, people! Go go go! Bake! Decorate! Snap picture. Snap again. Again! When you’re done with all that, snap a few more pictures. This takes a while. But we loves it, oh yes.

Good thing messy can still taste good. Messy in this case also happens to taste even better the next day.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

The prize nut of the Southern U.S, the mighty pecan. Bow before its undeniable glory!

Zucchini Pecan Cake

The zucchini. Such a beautiful green veggie, but it looks like somebody beat these up just for being pretty. Poor babies. That’s why we shredded them and put them in a cake. They’ll be purty in people’s bellies.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

Doesn’t that whisk attachment look positively diabolical?

Zucchini Pecan Cake

Proof that the whip attachment is indeed diabolical.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

Now let go of those diabolical tendencies, fellow Forkers, and gently fold in the flour and other dry ingredients.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

Then you fold in that oppressed zucchini, then some glorious pecans.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

After you’ve baked it all in a parchment-lined cake pan, this humble-looking round is what you get. Do not be fooled! It’s not as humble as you think. And it’s laughing at you because it thinks it has you fooled. Let it enjoy itself for a little while longer. It has no idea what you’ve got in store fore it.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

Things like cinnamon-laced cream cheese frosting. Oh yeah! Who’s laughing now, cake? Huh?!

Zucchini Pecan Cake

I swear at this point, it looked so easy. Remember, you gotta respect the frosting. This was just a little too soft. But we made it work in the end.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

I mean, it got done, people! Yes, it looks a little…disheveled, but I confess it tasted pretty darn good, especially when eaten the next day.

Zucchini Pecan Cake

It all starts with a tiny bite…that turns into a bigger one. And another, and…

Hope you enjoy this one!

Zucchini Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

From Bon Appétite, August 2010

Prep Time: 50 minutes   Cook Time: 45 minutes   Level: Moderate   Serves: 10-15

For the cake:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 8 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 8-ounce package cream cheese (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free), room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Line a 9-inch-diameter cake pan with at least 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper (you can find this at most grocery stores in a roll, with the wax paper and aluminum foil). Spray parchment paper with a nonstick spray. We also decided to spray the sides of the pan lightly. Maybe this was good…maybe not? I thought it might make the sides tough after I already sprayed, but it actually turned out fine. Probably much easier to get out of the pan too as opposed to only spraying the bottom.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, coarse salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Whisk oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl to blend well (we did this in a stand mixer); fold in flour mixture, then grated zucchini and pecans. Pour cake batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack for about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper.

Using electric or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in medium bowl until blended. Beat in sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Spread frosting generously over top of cake.


Do Ahead: According to the original recipe at Bon Appétit, you can make the frosting up to a day ahead, keeping it covered in the refrigerator until ready for use. You might still need to let it come closer to room temperature though in order to get it back to a more spreadable consistency. Just not as just-made soft as we had ours. *sigh*

On baking time: Since those pesky ovens do vary so much temperature-wise, be sure to check your cake a good ten or so minutes before the buzzer sounds. I found ours was ready to take out eight minutes ahead of schedule. It would’ve been too done had I waited to check it any later.

On the olive oil: I’d never baked with olive oil, and for this I just picked up a small bottle of “pure olive oil”, one of the brand names I believe. No “extra” or “virgin” on the label. It was a little bit lighter in color than extra virgin oil.

On the frosting: If you want to, double the frosting recipe. We did double it, but didn’t use all of it. I’m a frosting person and thought it could use more than we put on it. If you’re not huge on frosting, just don’t double it, use it as is in the ingredients list. You may not have enough to frost the sides, though, if you don’t double. But you don’t have to frost the sides either.

Next time I’d also probably make the frosting first so that it would set up a little while the cake was baking/cooling.

I ended up bringing this in to my coworkers the next day, and even with keeping it in the fridge, it tasted great, maybe even better. It kind of makes sense that it would. It’s not unlike a banana bread, really, in its consistency, or better yet, my mom’s zucchini bread, which I never appreciated as a kid. Those kinds of things always taste better the next day!

Opinions vary on whether or not a cream cheese-frosted cake can be left on the counter until all eaten up, but if there are leftovers, I personally do not think it’s a good idea to leave them out. It is, of course, ultimately up to you. Some good advice I’ve seen is to allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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3 Comments so far

  1. Kati says:

    Mmkay, this looks delicious. I have a variety of questions:

    1- Why line the cake tin w/parchment paper? What’s the value? I have non-stick pans, do I really need the parchment?

    2- Could this be served like a breakfast bread? W/o frosting I mean?

    3-Baking w/olive oil? Interesting!

  2. KMont says:

    Hi, Kati! Good questions. 🙂 Let’s see if I have any insight.

    1. I’m guessing this is an extra precaution against the cake sticking to the bottom, plus parchment paper will help keep the bottom of the cake from getting too brown.

    I started using it to line my cookie sheets when I do cookies, too, and it has helped those from browning too much on the bottom as well. I learned that lesson when I baked some snickerdoodles without parchment. Burnt cinnamon and sugar, not good.

    Parchment paper in general also helps keep your pans from getting too many stains and such that are hard to wash off (plus those nonstick sprays will actually ruin a good pan or cookie sheet over time, making it almost impossible to remove their baked on stains and such).

    It’s not always a requirement, but in this case maybe it’s a better safe than sorry thing? I’m guessing that getting a hot cake out of a pan, even a nonstick one, would risk some tearing without the parchment. Baked goods just naturally do not stick to the paper. Ours came right out, so easy.

    2. Sure! That sounds like a good idea. But heck, I’d still rather have the frosting too even if it was for breakfast, lol! What can I say, sometimes I’m a wee bit indulgent.

    3. I thought so too! I think it was at the Bon Appetit blog where they talked about this cake, saying that using the olive oil was healthier. I dunno if this is true or if they were jokingly justifying, but I do think this cake turned out lighter in texture than, say, that banana bread I mentioned above, which usually uses a vegetable oil. In fact, I might try using plain olive oil next time in banana bread or pumpkin bread and see how it turns out.


  1. Pecan Pie Muffins | Full Fork Ahead - October 6, 2010

    […] Pie Muffins. Now this sounded interesting. Mostly because I still had pecans left over from the zucchini cake and because I’m actually not a fan of pecan pie. I know, I know – a Southern gal who […]

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