Old Fashioned Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A slice of zucchini sheet cake on a piece of parchment paper.

Old Fashioned Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is a classic for a reason ~ this moist zucchini walnut cake is delicious even without the generous layer of fluffy cream cheese buttercream!

A slice of zucchini sheet cake with cream cheese frosting.

zucchini cake is a tried and true favorite

Some people can’t control themselves around ice cream, others have issues with chocolate…for me, it’s old fashioned zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting. If nobody is watching I might will eat the whole pan. It’s one of those one size fits all desserts ~ wherever hungry people are gathered, zucchini cake just works.

grating zucchini for old fashioned zucchini cake

what you’re gonna need

  • zucchini
  • walnuts
  • sugar
  • eggs
  • buttermilk
  • vegetable oil
  • flour
  • baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • vanilla extract
  • cream cheese
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • lemon juice

zucchini is the star of this cake

Who doesn’t like to grate zucchini? Unlike those knuckle busting nuggets of Parm, zucchini  slides across the grater with ease and before you know it, you’ve got a big pile of feathery green shreds. I like to use small zucchini when I bake because the extra peel equals more color and flavor. Large zucchini with their vast white interiors can be bland and watery.

Mixing the batter for old fashioned zucchini cake

this is an easy one bowl recipe

  1. Choose a large mixing bowl and whisk the wet ingredients together. This recipe uses oil so it’s super quick.
  2. Fold in the dry ingredients.
  3. Fold a couple of cups of shredded zucchini into the simple batter, along with a cup of nuts. I think walnuts are key to a great zucchini cake, but you can absolutely leave them out if you like, or substitute pecans.
  4. Turn into a greased pan and bake!
Old fashioned zucchini cake cooling on a rack

can we talk about that cream cheese frosting?

The crowning glory of this zucchini cake is the tangy cream cheese buttercream frosting. It’s made with softened cream cheese, softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Gob. it. on.

Luxurious view of cream cheese frosting on an old fashioned zucchini cake

zucchini cake tips and faqs

Do you peel the zucchini?

No! The peel is nutritious, beautiful, and tasty!

Do I need to squeeze the water out of the shredded zucchini?

No, I use the zucchini as is. I like to grate it shortly before I add it to the batter, though.

Can I use yellow summer squash in this cake?

I have tried this and don’t love the result, but you can use golden zucchini, which works great.

Can I freeze zucchini cake?

The cake itself will freeze perfectly, but I would plan to frost it after thawing.

Do I need to refrigerate this cake?

Moist zucchini cake keeps well, but because of the cream cheese rich frosting, I would refrigerate any leftovers of this cake.

My cream cheese frosting is lumpy!

This is most likely because you didn’t start with soft cream cheese. See my post on how to bring cold ingredients up to temperature quickly for tips.

Sliced zucchini sheet cake with cream cheese frosting.

more zucchini recipes

A pan of old fashioned zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting

Other old fashioned cakes to try ~

My Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cake has been one of the most popular cakes on the blog this summer and I’m not surprised, it disappeared from my kitchen in record time…I think it has something to do with that thick caramel frosting.

A piece of old fashioned peanut butter cake with fork

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake ~ this simple cake can be changed up with different fruits, and has become another reader favorite.

Girl holding a slice of Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake ~ is it fall yet? Because I can’t wait to make this pillowy soft bundt cake again.

apple cider doughnut bundt cake with slice removed
old fashioned zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting in a glass pan with forks
3.38 from 156 votes

Old Fashioned Zucchini Cake

Old Fashioned Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ a classic that’s a classic for a reason, this moist zucchini walnut cake is delicious even without the generous layer of fluffy cream cheese buttercream!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Yield 16 servings
Calories 512kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 9×13 baking pan


  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups lightly packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts


  • 8 ounces cream cheese completely soft
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, soft
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • lemon juice about 1 Tbsp


  • Preheat oven to 350F Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth.
  • Toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and add the bowl. Mix just until completely blended. Fold in the zucchini and the nuts.
  • Turn the batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine.) Some ovens run hot or cool, so check carefully.
  • Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
  • To make the frosting beat the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy. Add the lemon juice and the sugar, one cup at a time, while beating. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add more sugar if the frosting is too thin, and a little more lemon juice or milk if it is too thick.


Calories: 512kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 209mg | Potassium: 180mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 49g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    August 6, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    4 stars
    Nice moist cake. Frosting recipe is good and makes more than enough for a 9×13 cake. Could cut in half or plan to use extra on something else.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    5 stars
    Thank you, Sue! I made this for my friend. She LOVED it! Perfect recipe! Easy to follow your directions for a delicious result!

  • Reply
    June 18, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Looks delicious! One question, the recipe states to put into a pan….if I use a baking dish, do I lower the oven temperature 25 degrees? Thanks

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 19, 2021 at 5:57 am

      I sometimes find that glass dishes benefit from lowering the temp a bit, but I think you’ll be fine in ceramic or glass.

  • Reply
    Lisa Saupp
    August 28, 2020 at 4:27 am

    5 stars
    I saw this recipe earlier this year and wanted to try it. Last night when we ordered take-out (due to COVID) it was on the menu, but sold out by the time we ordered. Now I really wanted to try it! So as my husband went to pick up the order, I “whipped one up!” I only had one small zucchini so I halved the recipe and put it in an 8 X 8 square pan. Delicious and perfect for the two of us (although I could eat the whole thing myself!)!

  • Reply
    August 12, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    5 stars
    Love this so much……Wondering if I can use a sheet cake pan?

    • Reply
      August 12, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      I haven’t tried that Pam, sorry I can’t say for sure whether you’d have enough batter.

      • Reply
        August 12, 2020 at 4:11 pm

        Thank you so much for replying, I think I will continue to use the 9 X 13, hate to ruin a great cake.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2020 at 9:43 am

    I love your recipe but ever time I make it after cooling a few minutes the center falls.
    I tried baking it for 45 minutes. Would you have any idea why this happens?

    • Reply
      July 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Maryjane ~ it sounds like the center isn’t getting quite done, even after 45 minutes. Try cooking it a little longer, and make sure your oven is at the correct temperature, I always use an oven thermometer to be sure. But sometimes different pans and even differences in the zucchini can make a difference in baking time.

  • Reply
    betty mazuch
    July 10, 2020 at 8:05 am

    5 stars
    Just took this out of oven it looks yummy

  • Reply
    May 24, 2020 at 11:05 am

    hi there once again trying one of your recipes and have a question. i’m using the frosting only for a yellow cake mix. can i omit the lemon? if so, should i lower the amount of sugar?

    • Reply
      May 24, 2020 at 11:59 am

      You can simply omit the lemon, but might want to add some vanilla for flavor.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Do you have a diabetic version?

    • Reply
      September 7, 2019 at 11:04 am

      I’m sorry I don’t Del. I wouldn’t want to advise you on how to alter this because I’d be afraid of getting it wrong…you’d be best to search out a zucchini cake specifically made for a diabetic diet.

    • Reply
      March 16, 2020 at 10:03 am

      5 stars
      I just tried this recipe and it came out simply delicious. I just reduced the amount of sugar for the cream cheese frosting as I’m not a fan of very sweet cream cheese…This recipe is something I will definitely save and it will go in my family cookbook as well ! Thanks Sue

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Sue, will this work in a bunt pan? What would the baking time be?

    • Reply
      August 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm

      I would think you could bake this in a bundt, it’s a sturdy cake. Be sure to butter and flour your pan well, and I’d suggest taking a quick peek at it at 40 minutes. but I guess it would take 45-50. That’s a guess though, so watch it.

  • Reply
    Tara Aufderheide
    August 12, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    5 stars
    Omg made this tonight and WOW is it delicious! I tagged you in my photo on Instagram to give you credit. Wow! Thank you for sharing this. Do I need to refrigerate the leftovers? Xo. Tara!

    • Reply
      August 12, 2019 at 6:06 pm

      Hi Tara, and thanks! I would be comfortable leaving it out overnight, but would refrigerate if you need to save it longer than a day or so.

  • Reply
    Brenda Copeland
    August 2, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Is there anything that could be used to take the place of the buttermilk?

    • Reply
      August 2, 2019 at 7:48 am

      Yes, you can use regular milk, or half and half. Even yogurt thinned with a little milk.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2019 at 11:56 am

    I’m laughing at the photos with two forks….as if to say; “I didn’t eat all this by myself, really!” LOL
    Perfect recipe included in the Summer cakes post!

    • Reply
      July 30, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      You caught me 😉

  • Reply
    July 23, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Do you peel your zucchini first before adding to your mixture?

    • Reply
      July 23, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      Nope, I love the peel!

  • Reply
    July 23, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Hi Sue….Could I use this recipe for a layer cake, using 2 circular cake pans?

    • Reply
      July 23, 2019 at 11:10 am

      Sure, that would work.

    • Reply
      September 17, 2019 at 6:27 am

      5 stars
      Congratulations! This cake is so incredibly delicious! It definitely is going in my cook book to keep forever. My whole family just loved it. I was wondering if I could substitute carrot instead of zucchini for a carrot cake? Would it throw off the consistency?

      • Reply
        September 17, 2019 at 7:44 am

        Thanks Jessica, I’m always honored when one of my recipes goes into the family recipe box! I think you could sub in carrots without much of an issue, go for it!

  • Reply
    Judith Barbiaux
    July 19, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Do you drain the zucchini and squeeze the moisture out? Thank you. Sounds delish!

    • Reply
      July 19, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      You can if you like, but I don’t. I think it just adds to a moist cake.

  • Reply
    Carol Melendez
    April 28, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    5 stars
    Made it with Mexican Zucchini because that’s what I had on hand, it was delicious and moist, making it again today to take to my in laws, so yummy!!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    Do you think it would taste okay to substitute golden raisins for the walnuts?

    • Reply
      March 31, 2019 at 5:07 pm

      If you don’t like nuts feel free to leave them out, and I do think golden raisins would be a good addition 🙂

  • Reply
    Linda Costello
    March 28, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Can i use something in place of the buttermilk? I think i saw yrs. ago how u can add something to regular milk to make it like buttermilk…do u know how i could do this? Not a fan of buttermilk, but would love to make this cake. Thanks for help.

    • Reply
      March 28, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      You can add 1 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk to make a quasi buttermilk. Let it sit for 15 minutes before using. But you can use regular milk as well, it won’t be a problem.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    I would love to make this cake, only thing is I am on Weight Watchers and 1 slice would be alot of my points. Too bad you don’t have a less fat and sugar recipe. I would try it then. Do you know the sat fat, sugar, calories and protein in this recipe

  • Reply
    August 29, 2018 at 7:03 am

    I look forward to trying this. Can the oil be split with half unsweetened applesauce and for a different flavor, may unsweetened cocoa be added for a chocolate version? If so, about how much. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      August 29, 2018 at 7:23 am

      I think you can make the applesauce substitution without a problem Elizabeth. And I’m guessing you could substitute cocoa powder for an equal amount of flour. I’d start with maybe 1/3 ~ 1/2 cup cocoa? (maybe even add some chocolate chips.) Sounds like a nice idea!

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    July 30, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Bring on the zucchini cake (and all the swirls of frosting!!).

  • Reply
    Linda Steiger
    July 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Wish I’d known about this recipe years ago when we grew so many zucchini we fed them to the hens! Sent my husband to the farm stand today to buy some just to try this recipe! Sounds delicious!

    • Reply
      July 31, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Oh gosh, this is a much better use for all that zucchini 😉

  • Reply
    July 30, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    this is the BEST cake! only change i made was to brown the butter for the frosting and used toasted nuts in the cake and on top! thanks for the great recipe!!

    • Reply
      July 30, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      You’ve made it even better!

  • Reply
    Laura Bodnar
    July 28, 2018 at 8:56 am

    The old fashioned zucchini cake was wonderful. I threw it together for an impromptu visit from my husband’s Michigan cousins. After tasting it the general consensus was everyone was going home to buy zucchini! I’ll send them home with some from our garden. Thank you – this is a keeper <3

    • Reply
      July 28, 2018 at 9:11 am

      Thanks Laura ~ I love the idea of serving this cake and then sending your guests home with the zucchini to make it, I’m glad it was a hit.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    July 21, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Grabbing my zucchini today at the local farm stand!! Happy weekend Sue!

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    July 21, 2018 at 2:33 am

    I think you and I could fight over this cake, Sue! It looks crazy delicious with that thick, beautiful layer of fabulous icing. But if you invite me over for zucchini cake I promise I will try to behave.

  • Reply
    2 Sisters Recipes
    July 20, 2018 at 10:52 am

    I love this zucchini cake and the cream cheese frosting sounds wonderful!
    I am making this cake this weekend – thanks for the recipe !!

  • Reply
    July 20, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Hi Sue the zucchini cake sounds delicious especially since I’m growing organic zucchini from seed this year and they just flowered. I’m allergic to walnuts. Is there another nut that I can substitute? Thanks

    • Reply
      July 20, 2018 at 10:09 am

      You can definitely use pecans, Darlene, if you aren’t allergic to them, and of course you can leave the nuts out altogether without any problem…enjoy your harvest!!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    July 20, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Fabulous and so perfect for all the zucchini around right now 🙂

  • Reply
    July 20, 2018 at 7:28 am

    I am only getting a few zucchinis from my plant but I don’t mind buying some to make this delicious looking cake. Pinned!

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    July 20, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Perfect for the zucchini season! The cake looks marvelous with that silky smooth frosting.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving Room for Dessert
    July 20, 2018 at 6:10 am

    This makes me want to plant more zucchini just so I can make this wonderful cake. I bet it is so moist and tasty. Have a lovely weekend Sue!

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