My zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting is an epic layer cake for birthdays and special meals. Packed with shredded zucchini, toasty walnuts, and a hint of cinnamon, this cake is a crowd pleaser!
zucchini cake is a season spanning dessert
It’s the ultimate summer-into-fall dessert, and you know there’s lots of zucchini just waiting to be baked up! Somehow, all that garden zucchini and crunchy walnuts make this decadent layer cake seems a little more…less decadent. This big bold zucchini layer cake is the stuff late summer dreams are made of ~ (Leo and Virgo babies take note.)
Here’s what our taste testers had to say:
“This is a really, really good cake!”
“It reminds me of my favorite carrot cake, but I think I like this better.”
“I want this for my birthday!!”
zucchini cake ingredients
The cake is mixed up in one bowl. You can use a stand mixer, electric beaters, or even a whisk because there’s no heavy duty creaming to do. We patterned it after our classic carrot cake, so we knew from the get-go it was going to be great.
- shredded zucchini
- I shred my zucchini with the shredding disk of my food processor. You can do it with a box grater, too. Don’t peel your zucchini, and don’t grate it too far ahead of time. I use small-ish zucchini which are firmer, less watery, and have less seeds. No need to peel your zukes, the peel is delicious, healthy, and adds color to your cake. I don’t drain my shreds, either, the recipe takes the extra moisture into account.
- There is a good amount of walnuts in this cake, which gives it a nice crunch. You can reduce, omit, or switch to pecans.
- oil instead of butter is the reason this cake is so soft and moist. It also makes it a breeze to throw together. Use any neutral vegetable oil like canola, safflower, or corn.
- a combination of granulated and brown sugar. Brown sugar gives the layers a deep rich color and butterscotch-y flavor.
- vanilla extract
- cinnamon and nutmeg
- baking soda and salt
8″ cake pans make a nice tall layer cake
I love to use 8″ cake pans for layer cakes because they bake up nice and tall and give the cake a classic ‘layer cake’ look. Just be sure your cake pans have sides at least 2″ high so you don’t risk overflows. (Some old fashioned cake pans are very shallow, so if you’re still using mom’s or grandma’s, give them a measure.)
the perfect cream cheese frosting
The perfect cream cheese frosting is essential for zucchini cake. It needs to be lump free, firm enough but not too stiff, with a definite tangy flavor. Since cream cheese cannot sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, the cake will need to be refrigerated, which happily does wonderful things for the frosting.
- cream cheese
- Use block cream cheese, not kind that comes in a tub. Block cream cheese is firmer, which is better for frosting. Tub cream cheese is softer and will make a softer set frosting. If you use my food processor method (below) you can use cold cream cheese. If you use electric beaters or a stand mixer you’ll need to make sure it’s at room temperature first for a lump free frosting.
- it should be at room temperature.
- powdered sugar
- lemon juice
- vanilla extract
food processor method for lump free cream cheese frosting
I make the frosting right in my food processor. You’ll need a full sized (14 cup) processor. Just process the butter and cold cream cheese together (with the metal blade,) then add the sugar, cup by cup. You’ll have a super creamy and supremely smooth frosting in a matter of a minute or two, total.
Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 8-inch round cake pans
for the cake
for the cream cheese frosting
- finely chopped toasted walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans (with at least 2" depth to the sides) and line bottoms with a round of parchment paper.
- In a large bowl whisk together the oil and eggs, then whisk in the sugars until there are no lumps.
- Whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and baking soda.
- Fold in the flour, and after a few turns, add the walnuts and zucchini and gently fold until everything is well incorporated and evenly distributed, but you don't want to over mix at this point.
- Divide the batter between your 2 prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the tops spring back when lightly touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter on it, moist crumbs are fine.
- Let the layers cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then loosen the sides with a thin offset spatula and invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.
to make the frosting
- Cream the butter and cream cheese together. I do this in my food processor, fitted with the metal blade, but you can do it in a stand mixer or with electric beaters. Blend in the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.
- Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Frost the cooled cake. Top with crushed walnuts.