Fall is here. The pool in our complex was drained and covered this week. There is a slightly familiar chill in the air most mornings now, though still nice and warm in the afternoons. Today I read a weather prediction that we will be subjected to several Nor’easters in the coming months. This time of year is bittersweet for me. From the Spring awakening of April into November I simply relish in the harvest of the Northeast. Week after week my farm share and farmers market bounty is beyond words. In just a few months the land around me will go into hibernation as will my contact with my wonderful farmer friends. The thought of it gives my heart a little tug. For now, I’m shaking that off and sharing a wonderful recipe for the end of season zucchini, with you. Zucchini can still be found at the farmers markets this week, but its almost at an end.
This past Friday night I taught a couples cooking class at Hilltop Hanover Farm. When I do cooking classes, be it at the farm, or in a home, I like to build the class around a meal. We do an appetizer, soup, main course and dessert. Admittedly dessert is not my bailiwick. I’m fond of saying to the participants I do dessert under duress. (Not really, but you get my drift.) I would much rather be cooking savory things. Be that as it may, I still have to make them, so super delicious, and easy, are at the top of the list.
Noodling around the web for an idea to use something that was harvested from the farm, I can across a zucchini cake recipe made originally by Gina DePalma, and adapted by David Lebovitz. Gina De Palma is a James Beard winner and former pastry chef from Babbo, in NYC. I had the pleasure of meeting her once before Tarry Lodge opened, and taught many of her dessert recipes to the cooks making them, after. I’m sure she doesn’t remember me, but I certainly remember her. The recipe I found was perfect for the class, and everyone loved it.
A few nights later I decided to make it again, but changed up a few ingredients to give it my own twist. First, the citrus went from lemon to orange. The flavor is subtle, but perfect. I also changed the oil – using a combination of blood orange olive oil with a little avocado oil mixed in. The blood orange olive oil I had in the cabinet from a grocery store in Pittsburgh, when I visited my parents. You can find in easily on Amazon or at Whole Foods.
The other significant flavor change was in the glaze on top. Several months ago I found this interesting sugar at Costco. Coconut sugar has a similar flavor profile to brown sugar with a hint of caramel. Mixed with the orange juice and zest gave this cake a distinctive taste. This new recipe is definitely a keeper. You can make it either in a bundt pan, as Gina suggested originally, or loaf pan.
The recipe as written below is doubled from the one I found. From this batter I got three very nice loaf pans. If you are going to go to all the trouble to make this, you might as well make a few for another time, right? They freeze beautifully, but do it before putting the glaze on. Be careful.
This is a totally addictive cake. It’s hard to eat just one piece!
Orange-Pecan Zucchini Cake
Makes 3 loaf pans
For the cake:
2 cups pecans, toasted and cooled
5 cups grated zucchini
4 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 large eggs
2 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cup orange-infused extra-virgin olive oil (see note)
½ cup canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
For the orange glaze:
½ cup orange juice
2/3 cup coconut sugar (see note)
2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon dry orange zest (see note)
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease three loaf pans with non-stick spray or butter, dust with flour, then tap out any excess.
2. In a food processor pulse the pecans 4-6 times until broken up and finely chopped. Take care to not over process them to a paste.
3. Change the blade in your processor to the grating disc and grate the zucchini.
4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and set aside.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs for 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat another 3-4 minuted, or until it looks pale yellow and silky. Slowly add the oil in a stream and until light and fluffy. Stop and scrape down the sides of the mixer, then add the vanilla.
6. Mix in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the mixer bowl to make sure everything is mixed in well, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.
7. Stir in the chopped nuts and zucchini.
8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top, then bake the cake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.
9. During the last few minutes of the cake baking, make the glaze by whisking together the orange juice, sugar, powdered sugar and zest.
10. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Brush the glaze over the cake with a pastry brush and let the cake cool completely.
The cake can be wrapped (or put under a cake dome) and will keep for a few days. If you do wrap it beware, the glaze with get a little sticky. You can freeze the unglazed cake (s) for another time. To apply the glaze, defrost the cake then warm it just a little so the glaze will adhere.
Cook’s note: Sicilian orange olive oil or blood orange olive oil and coconut sugar can be found at Whole Foods or on line. The orange zest I used is from Penzeys. Also purchased on line. If using fresh zest double the amount.
Recipe adapted from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma via David Lebovitz.