Marlene’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Like many great recipes, this one has a history. To learn who Marlene was and how Denise got the recipe, just skip to the NOTES. If you also want to learn how to make a delicious chocolate cake, just keep reading.

It all started a few weeks ago when I refused to buy a large zucchini at the Farmers Market in New Richmond.  Denise, the daughter of some friends who sell regularly at the market Saturday mornings, was filling in for her father who was recovering from surgery. She tried to talk me into buying one of the large green squashes displayed on the table.

“Our son and daughter-in-law gave us a couple of nice small zucchini from their CSA box,” I explained.

“But this is a nice big one picked this morning,” she replied.

“What would I do with it?” I asked.

“Make zucchini cake,” she answered.

“No thanks,” I said, “I really don’t like vegetable cakes. Except carrot cake, of course,” I explained.

“You could make zucchini bread,” she offered hopefully.

“I’ve done that. Dale and Pegi gave me Grandma Emma’s Zucchini Bread recipe, and it’s good, but I made one this summer already. Thanks anyway,” I said as I tried to make room for other customers.

Denise was persistent. “Why don’t you like zucchini cake or bread?” she asked.

I was honest. “I really don’t appreciate those green bits in them.”

“Ah ha, my chocolate zucchini cake doesn’t have any green bits,” she crowed. “I’ll make you one to prove it. When I serve it, people are amazed that what makes it so moist and tender is zucchini.”

She was as good as her word. She gave me a cake. It was delicious, and I couldn’t find any green bits in it. You won’t either.


2 cups puréed zucchini
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour plus a little to flour the pan
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus a little to flour the pan
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Start by washing a large zucchini, removing the stem and flower ends and chopping it into a half-inch dice. Put the pieces into a food processor or blender and process until you have a smooth green purée, something that you could feed to a grandchild starting on solid foods. Put two generous cups of the purée into a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and flour a nine by thirteen-inch pan with a teaspoon of flour blended with a quarter teaspoon of cocoa.

Add the butter, oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla to the purée and blend with an electric mixer.

Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl or sifter and combine them with the liquids by thirds, beating well between additions. Continue beating with the mixer until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the baking pan.

Bake for forty-five minutes or a little longer. Test for doneness with a toothpick inserted near the center. If the toothpick has only melted chocolate on it, the cake is done. If it comes out with batter stuck to it, bake the cake for another two or three minutes.

Cool the cake completely and serve it plain or with a dollop of whipped cream.

NOTES: Here is what Denise says about this cake. 
“I like the recipe as it is really easy as you don’t have to worry about dry ingredients and then blending with the wet ingredients, etc.  I just put it all in a bowl and mix with a mixer and then add the choc chips.  I have tried many substitutions and they all have come out really well.  Many times I will substitute one of the cups of flour with whole wheat flour.  I also will substitute either the oil or butter with applesauce and it turns out great each time.
“I purée the zucchini and freeze it in two cup increments so that I can make the cake all throughout the year.  Great way to use up the zucchini when it is coming in so quick and it doesn’t go to waste.  I also don’t have to pay $6 for zucchini like I did once in the winter. 
“I got the recipe from my sister and she got it from Marlene Johnson, her mother-in-law from Amery.  Here is what Marlene said about it.
” ‘I got the recipe from one of my daycare people along with a few other zucchini recipes. I also have a copy from a newspaper.  I didn’t think I would like it with cinnamon but it makes it special–important ingredient.  I like having one of these cakes in my freezer ready for company. Right now I have two of them.’”

Vegetarian Quesadillas

When our niece Gina served us her version of quesadillas made with leftover steak and vegetables, I was so impressed that I asked for the recipe. The recipe turned out to be a set of instructions which you can find here. It is easy to follow and produces delicious appetizers or light lunches in almost no time.

Gina’s instructions call for using various leftover ingredients from your refrigerator, but for once there weren’t many leftovers in our fridge. The most obvious one was a resealable package of some corn tortillas that remained after Jerri had made Layered Enchilada Pie . I also found half an onion and a chunk of Cheddar cheese.

A quick visit to the supermarket solved the problem of vegetables for my quesadillas. I chose things that I like, and you should do the same. You might, however, want to avoid broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots, beets and other vegetables usually associated with the north country. The ones listed below create a tasty quesadilla and offer a good starting point.


2 small to medium jalapeño peppers
1/2 medium red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped zucchini squash
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 tsp. Mexican seasoning
Dash of salt
2 T olive oil
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 or 2 T butter
8 corn tortillas


Wash and cut the stem ends off the jalapeño peppers and slice them into quarters. Remove and discard the white membrane and seeds. Chop the peppers into an eighth to quarter-inch dice. Clean and chop the rest of the vegetables into a third to half-inch dice. Shred the cheese.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over moderate heat, add the vegetables, Mexican seasoning and salt. Cook the vegetables three or four minutes, stirring them often, until they are tender but still crisp. They will continue cooking when you fry the quesadillas.

Set the vegetables aside in a bowl and wipe the frying pan with a paper towel. Butter a tortilla very very lightly and put it butter side down in the frying pan over moderate heat. Sprinkle the tortilla with some shredded cheese and spoon on an even layer of vegetables, then top with more cheese. Butter very lightly a second tortilla and put it butter side up on the cheese.

Cover the pan and cook the quesadilla for three minutes. Press the top tortilla down on the filling and turn the quesadilla. Cook for a minute covered and a second minute uncovered. Turn the quesadilla over to make sure that it is lightly browned on both sides. Fry it an extra minute or two if necessary. Place the quesadilla on a warmed plate and repeat until you have made four of these tasty morsels.

To serve, cut in halves or quarters with a pizza cutter. If you wish, pass the salsa.

NOTES: Feel free to experiment with other vegetables, more spice, different cheese, etc. If you are averse to any spiciness, you can substitute a green bell pepper for the jalapeños and make up your own seasoning with salt, garlic powder and whatever. Chopped very fine, however, the jalapeños simply offset the blandness of the other vegetables and do not taste very hot. You really should try it, perhaps starting with only one jalapeño.

MEXICAN SEASONING: You can find Mexican seasoning in the spice section of most supermarkets, or you can make enough to spice up a lot of dishes in a few minutes.


1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1?2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1?2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. paprika
1 1?2 tsp. ground cumin
1?2 tsp. sea salt
1?2 tsp. black pepper
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves


Grind the pepper flakes and oregano in a mortar. Add the salt and black pepper and grind more to mix well. Add the other ingredients and grind briefly to mix everything together. Store in a tight container in a cool place out of direct sunlight.