Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Honey Fig Italian Meringue Buttercream

  Why yes, this is another chocolate cake to add to my {growing} collection.  One can never have too many chocolate cake recipes, can they?  This one is special as it includes shredded garden fresh zucchini, which gives the cake a tender and moist crumb.  Also, a pinch of cinnamon because zucchini, chocolate, and cinnamon seem like close-knit friends, they go so well together! 

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 I tried my hand at Italian meringue buttercream for the first time and I must say, it’s so good!  While researching, I came across various people saying it can be somewhat difficult to make if you’re not familiar with making meringue.   Being myself, I took on the challenge.  It was the first time I’ve ever made meringue, and using my own quantities at that.  The first try was okay, but not quite what I wanted as it was a bit too sweet.  So I tried one more time by changing the quantities of a few ingredients.  The second try was a charm!  Then came adding the butter, a step I didn’t get to on the first try.  At first, I thought it wasn’t looking too promising.  After letting it whip for a little while longer, it suddenly turned into a luxurious buttercream.  Smooth and glossy, with the most amazing texture.  I then added the honey fig jam I had just made, along with a wee bit of vanilla.  The camera didn’t really pick it up, but it has a slight pink tint to it.

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 I spent at least two hours photographing this cake.  The light was just not on my side!  My home has an insane amount of windows, so I usually have a pretty good amount of light anywhere in the house.  It’s also surrounded by greenery, so finding the right type of light can be difficult.  It usually depends on how bright the sun is shining during the time of day I’m shooting.  I was shooting in mid-afternoon light and the sun was giving out harsh, bright light, causing everything outside to reflect their colors through the windows.  So, almost all the light coming into the house was green, and green is my biggest pet peeve when photographing food.  Long story short, I was in Lightroom for quite some time trying to tone down all the colors coming in from outside.  I’m quite pleased with how they turned out, despite spending so much time photographing and then editing them.

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chocolate zucchini cake + honey fig italian meringue buttercream

for the cake:

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp.

500 g granulated sugar 

4 large eggs, room temp.

250 g all-purpose flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )

100 g cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

312 g almond milk, room temp. ( 1 3/4 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 cup shredded zucchini

 for the honey fig jam:

1 pound ripe figs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

for the  frosting:

5 egg whites, room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 fig jam, room temp.

lemon wedge


method:
cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 170°C.  Prepare three, 8-inch cake pans by greasing, laying down parchment paper, then lightly greasing again.
  2.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder; combine the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk well and set aside.
  3. In an electric standing mixer / hand mixer with whisk(s) attached, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy- about eight minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom on the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition(scraping down the bowl after adding each one).  Add the vanilla and beat till just combined.  Add one-third of the flour and one-third of the almond milk; beat on medium speed until just combined.  Add the remaining two-thirds of flour and almond milk and beat on high for 15 seconds.  With a spatula, fold in the shredded zucchini until it’s evenly distributed.
  4. Pour batter evenly amongst the three prepared cake pans and using an offset spatula, evenly spread around in the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Check for doneness using a toothpick, if it comes out clean- it’s done; if not, bake three more minutes.  Remove from oven and let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
honey fig jam:
  1. Wash, cut stems off, and then slice figs into halves.  Add to a medium sized saucepan and gently mash them until they are well broken up.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and honey to the figs and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then let the mixture simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the figs are soft and the mixture is somewhat thick when it runs off the spoon.  About 15-20 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a sieve over a cool bowl and gently press with a spoon to squeeze the good stuff off from the pulp.  Discard the pulp.  Bring the jam to complete room temperature before using it the frosting.  It’s best to make it the day before, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the countertop overnight.
honey fig italian meringue buttercream:
  1. Wipe down the bowl of an electric mixer with the lemon wedge and squeeze about 1/4 teaspoon of it into the bottom of the bowl.  Add the egg whites.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Stir over high heat until the sugar is dissolved and begins to boil.  Once boiling, cease stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan.  Bring the sugar to 240°F, once it reaches that temperature, turn off the heat.  Begin beating the egg whites on medium-high speed until they’re frothy and pale in color.  Then, very slowly and carefully ( it’s hot!) begin to pour a very thin stream of the hot sugar into the beating whites.  Increase the speed to high and continue beating until medium peaks form.  Before adding any butter, make sure the meringue is completely cool to the touch, without a hint of warmth to it.   
  3.  Add the butter and beat on medium-high speed till it all comes together and forms a nice, whipped buttercream.  Turn the mixer off and add the vanilla and the fig jam.  Beat on low until just combined.   
assemble and frost the cake:
  1. Place the first layer on your cake stand, plate, or cake board.  Add about 3/4 cups of frosting and evenly spread around.  Place the second layer, bottom facing up, on top of the frosted layer and add another 3/4 cups of frosting.  Spread around and add the third and final layer, bottom facing up.  Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and around the sides of the cake.  Cut and serve.
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4 thoughts on “Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Honey Fig Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. Nicola King Reply

    Hi Emily! I came to this post from your beautiful photograph in Instagram and your other images are just as stunning — you wouldn’t guess it was such a challenge photographing in your house. I always have too much sunshine in my kitchen which makes photographing everything tricky too! A beautiful recipe and it looks delicious ~ Nicola xoxo

  2. Tori//Gringalicious Reply

    What a fabulously lovely cake! I adore you’re styling and decor!

  3. Denitsa Reply

    Hey Emily! What a beautiful cake you have there! Looks absolutely amazing! And your pictures are so inspiring. Thank you.

    1. Emily Reply

      Thank you so much for the kind words!💕

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