Grandma’s Zucchini Cake

Rummaging through my mother’s old recipe file recently, I stumbled upon a photocopy of a handwritten recipe for zucchini cake. The recipe is in my grandmother’s hand, my dad’s mom. She was the baker in the family (a title now passed on to my father). She moved from St. Paul to live with us in Los Angeles when I was four. Mom, being rather busy with all the kids (6 kids in 8 years!) and working as a head start teacher, didn’t have much time for crafts or baking. It was grandma who taught me to sew, to knit and crochet, and to bake. She made cherry pies, angel food cakes, apricot jam, and the best oatmeal raisin cookies. We fought for the rights to lick the batter bowl of whatever cake she happened to be making. When we moved to Sacramento, she would send my mother recipe clippings and notes. I think that’s how we must have ended up with this recipe for zucchini cake. It’s a lot like zucchini bread, moist and somewhat crumbly, but in sheet cake form, with more egg and sugar, and with a cream cheese frosting. Great for summer potlucks.

grandmas-zucchini-cake-b.jpg

Grandma’s Zucchini Cake Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 20 pieces.

The frosting amount assumes that you are going to keep the cake in the pan and only frost the top. If you plan on removing the cake from the pan and frosting the sides, you'll want to up the frosting amounts.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (can sub 1 teaspoon with other spices such as allspice and nutmeg, go easy on the cloves though)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white, granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional, my addition)
  • 2 cups (from about 3-4 regular sized zucchini) grated un-peeled zucchini (place grated zucchini in a sieve and press out some of the excess moisture before measuring)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (my grandmother recommends black walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

Frosting:

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature (Philadelphia cream cheese recommended)
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of powdered sugar

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x12 or 9x13 baking pan (I used a pyrex pan).

2 In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

3 In a mixer, beat the 3 eggs on high speed until frothy. Lower the speed and beat in the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla, and lemon zest (if using). Stir in the flour mixture, a third at a time. Stir in the zucchini and chopped nuts and/or raisins.

4 Pour mixture into a 9x12 or 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. (My grandmother's notes say you can also bake in an angel food pan for 1 hour.) Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting. (While the cake is cooling, let the frosting's cream cheese and butter sit at room temperature to soften.)

5 To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Frost the cake and serve. Store covered with aluminum foil.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Follow on Pinterest

Links:

Zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze from David Lebovitz
Spiced zucchini cake from My Baking Addiction

grandmas-zucchini-cake-c.jpg

It's so eerie to look at my grandmother's notes. She mentions that "black walnuts are good". Black walnuts are pretty hard to find, but there was a black walnut tree on our block that she and I would pass on the way to the grocery store. If there were any nuts on the ground, she would gather them and we would crack them open with a hammer when we got home. Her hand got shakier as she got older. By her 90s she had the symptoms of Parkinson's. There's a more recent note to my sister advising her to drain the zucchini, where her handwriting is noticeably more wobbly.

60 Comments

  1. Emily

    Treasures from the past. I’ve got a recipe from my dad’s mother for Thanksgiving stuffing that’s gives me the same feeling.

    And what a great way to use up summer zucchini! Cream cheese frosting… Mmm…

  2. Jenny

    This looks like the perfect base for some cream cheese frosting I have leftover. Yum!

  3. Jenny R

    Your timing is perfect with this recipe–a few more days and the first zucchini of the season will be ready for picking! I’ve already plucked some of their blossoms to stuff and fry. I love recipes from generations past; my Mammaw’s (dad’s grandmother) banana bread is still one of my favorite things to bake and makes me feel like I’m a little girl again standing in her kitchen. Thanks so much for sharing this heirloom :)

  4. Heather @ sweet sins

    I have a ton of zuchini to use! This is getting made this weekend

  5. Katrina

    Anything with the name “Grandma” in it has to be good! Love old recipes like this!

  6. Heather @opgastronomia

    I use my grandma’s recipe for zucchini bread as well. Every summer, never fails, and freezes like a dream. No cream cheese frosting though, seems your grandmother knew the secret to my heart.

  7. donutty

    Elise, this post is such a great example of the reason I enjoy your blog so much. Real recipes from a real family. Thanks.

    You are very welcome. :-) ~Elise

  8. Sasha @ The Procrastobaker

    Lovely post and I think the inclusion of the hand written recipe is so special, nothing like family hand-me down recipes is there. Hopefully I will try this one out very soon, I have always wanted to make a Zucchini cake as it seems so popular but ive never actually tried it, i was wondering if you could describe the taste/texture that the zucchini gives it if its possible?
    Thank you :)

    Hi Sasha, the zucchini in the cake doesn’t taste like zucchini. It just adds texture and body. A lot like a carrot cake. ~Elise

  9. Sarah @ pão e queijo

    This is so sweet! I love recipes that get passed down through generations, maybe because my family has very little. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful baker, and her recipes will help you to always remember her. The cake looks delicious, and great for a crowd!

  10. Kristin

    Mmmm… Looks awesome! It’s very similar to a recipe from my mother in law for Bannana Cake – same cream cheese frosting, but has bananas and buttermilk in the cake instead of zucchini.

  11. georgia

    I’m wondering how this recipe would do if I made cup cakes instead of a whole cake. Since it’s just my husband and me I don’t very often make a whole cake unless there is company. I make the regular cake recipes and bake it in cup cake pans and freeze unfrosted and we take out one or two as we want them.

    I think they would work fine as cupcakes. You would just need to cook them for a much shorter time, maybe 20 to 30 minutes. ~Elise

  12. Candy C.

    Love that you have a copy of the handwritten recipe, how cool!

  13. homegrown countrygirl

    This recipe is such a treasure… thank you so much for sharing it!

  14. Christina

    What about using yellow squash? Do you think it would change the recipe too much? I really need to use up my yellow squash!

    Good question. They should be interchangeable since they are both summer squash. That said, our yellow patty pan squash are a bit firmer than our zucchini, not as much moisture. So if I were to make the cake with our yellow squash I may actually add some water or milk to the batter. How much, hard to say. ~Elise

  15. Sasha @ The Procrastobaker

    Thank you very much indeed for the quick reply to a bit of a silly question! I hope i get to make this soon, i love carrot cake so im sure this would be a hit! if i do i will let you know how it goes :) thanks again

  16. Mike

    For recipes similar to this do you have a preference on the specific type or even brand of oil?

    Thanks for sharing a nice story. My grandmother made an awesome blueberry cobbler. No matter what though the ones I make just never are the same.

    I think I used grapeseed oil for this cake, because I didn’t have any light olive oil around. Grapeseed oil doesn’t have a strong taste so worked well. ~Elise

  17. Rebecca Harrach

    Thank you so much–I love seeing your grandmother’s handwriting. It is so special to make something that members of your family have made for many years. I am going to make this today and I’ll be thinking of your grandma! :)

  18. m

    Ah, great timing! I just got a HUGE zucchini from our CSA this week. They’re never as tasty as the smaller ones for eating, but I think it will work perfectly for this recipe. :)

  19. S Lee

    I love this zucchini cake. I cut down the sugar to 1 and a half cups of sugar and it is perfect for us. I love that you added the cream cheese frosting and will try that the next time. Love this!

  20. teawithhazel

    love your grandmothers hand written recipe..my recipe book is full of handwritten recipes from different people (some of whom i have lost touch with) but my favourites are my mothers and my grandmothers..i like the idea of recipes being handed down the generations because it links us to our past and in cooking these recipes it creates moments of reflection..a good zucchini cake recipe is gold especially in summer when a monster zucchini is found lurking under the leaves :)

  21. Ruth

    Thanks, Elise, for sharing this personal family treasure. It is so touching to see this recipe written in your grandmother’s own handwriting and to witness the legacy that was passed on to you from her. My zucchini plants are really cranking now back here on the East Coast. I want you to know that some of them will be made into your grandmother’s cake. I can hardly wait. Thanks, Elise! This is very special.

  22. Stephanie - Wasabimon

    Oh! I haven’t made zucchini cake in ages. I’ve always wanted to give it a try with a different summer squash variety – like crooked neck or pattypan, both of which are plentiful at the farmers market this season.

  23. deb

    Elise, this is SO close to the “spicy pineapple zucchini cake” that MY grandma taught me to make. My mom HATED to cook…I could write a book, but no one would believe it! I often say that my love of cooking is purely in self defense!
    To your recipe, try adding 1/2 to 3/4 cup of crushed pineapple(drained), and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Maybe a bit of nutmeg if you have it, but not necessary. You could also toss in a half cup of sour cream….just sayin’!!
    Oh, My, Goodness.So very delicious!

    Deb

  24. Rebecca Luke

    Funny, I made a cake VERY similar to this for Father’s day. It’s pretty much the only cake that can tempt my husband. My recipe has chocolate chips instead of raisins, and no zest. Oh, and more butter in the frosting… basically mine is much more fattening! It’s SO GOOD though. (oh, I also bake mine in a jelly roll pan.) Great tip about draining the zucchini though. Sometimes it seems like my batter is a bit too runny, but for some reason I never thought to squeeze some of the water out of the zucchini. I’ll have to try that next time. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Carole

    Elise- do you think I could make mini-muffins with this recipe? If so, any ideas on the baking time. I will be have the ladies over for a salad luncheon and thought little muffins would be a nice dessert and almost a finger food. I love zucchini anything.

    I’m guessing these would make excellent mini-muffins. No idea on the bake time. But if you experiment and come up with something that works, please let us know. ~Elise

  26. michelle in wellington, nz

    Mmmmm to this cake recipe. Your dear Dad’s method to remove excess liquid from potatoes (use a potato ricer to squish the moisture out of the raw, grated potato) works really well on grated zucchini, and grated cucumber too.

    Such a super quick, time saving and incredibly effective method – please pass my sincere thanks on to your dear Father for this ever so useful cooking tip!!!

    Great idea, thanks for the reminder! I had completely forgotten about that one. ~Elise

  27. Stephanie H

    This sounds amazing! I will certainly try this. My family and I planted a small garden this year and will use our own zucchini to make this. My kids will love it. Thanks for posting.

  28. Sues

    Awww I love this! I wish I had more handwritten recipes from my grandparents. And the cake looks delicious :)

  29. Chris

    This type of cake recipe is unheard of in the UK but is something me and Andy are going to try! Thanks – Chris.

  30. miri leigh

    This looks like such a great recipe. I love that this is a family recipe. That makes it so much more special. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Madhuram @ Eggless Cooking

    Hi Elise, like many others have noted family recipes are very special and I can’t wait to try this one because I bake a lot using zucchini. It gives so much moisture and softness to the baked goods. I wonder if I could use 1/2 cup of cocoa instead of all purpose flour for a chocolate zucchini cake.

  32. Barbara

    Thanks for sharing your grandmom’s recipe. I found it very touching and personal that you included the original.

    It reminds me of my own grandmom and mother (she will turn 87 next week), like your family we have a collection of handwritten recipes which are handed down from one generation to the another. My turn next …

    Have a lovely day, Barbara

  33. Linda

    Having made quite a few of your grandmother’s recipes myself, I know this one will be outstanding. I am off to market this morning and will get some zucchini. I, too, loved the addition of the handwritten note. It was such a loving tribute by you, one that was appreciated. The poster just before me asked about adding cocoa powder to the recipe for chocolate zucchini cake. Please know that in one of my zucchini cake recipes, the proportion of the ingredients is almost the same ie 2 cups of flour, and it includes the 1/2 cup of cocoa flour. It is an excellent cake with that amount. I wouldn’t add anymore to it or reduce the flour amount. Thanks, as always, for the sharing of your precious memories as well as your excellent recipes.

  34. Madhuram @ Eggless Cooking

    Thank you very much Linda.

  35. Susan

    Oh my!!! Looks delicious!!

  36. Broomhilda

    Answering the cupcake/muffin question re: baking time:

    We baked 12 muffins today for 17 min, filling the tins 3/4 full. We had enough batter left over for a small cake baked in a bread pan – baked for 20 min.

    We also cut the sugar from 2 cups down to 1, and still thought it was sweet!

    Thanks for the inspiration with the recipe! This is my go-to spot for recipes.

  37. Liz

    My sister-in-law has planted a veggie garden this summer so I am sure that we will have more zucchini than we can stuff, so this will be great to have on hand. I love family recipes, they are the best! At my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary party one of my cousins made a bunch of cookies and my grandma’s sister was so impressed with them that she made little cookbooks for my cousin and myself (the only girls out of 9 grandkids) filled with family recipes. Since this was 20+ years ago, she wrote them all by hand – by far, it is my favorite go-to cookbook for tried and true baked good recipes. Thank you for sharing yours too!

  38. Lisa

    Your post for this was so timely as I picked an 18″ zucchini from my garden on Saturday. I made this last night, and it’s wonderful! My coworkers are currently licking their plates, begging I bring the rest of it in tomorrow. Delicious!

  39. Carol

    Hi Elise, it’s been a while since I remarked on a recipe but it shocked me to see your grandmother’s recipe because I too have a very old handwritten one which I have used many times (and it’s delicious!). The only suggestion I might make would be to add a tsp. of vanilla to the cream cheese topping.
    When searching my old recipes, I also came across an easy one for “Herb Patio Bread”:
    1 c. warm water 30 grams yeast
    1 Tbls. soft butter 1 Tbls. sugar
    1 tsp. salt 2 Tbls. dried oregano
    2 1/4 c. flour
    Blend yeast with water in large bowl. Add sugar, salt, butter, oregano and 1 3/4 c. flour. Beat until blended and gradually add rest of flour. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes. Preheat oven and grease casserole or loaf pan. Stir down batter 25 strokes. Turn into pan, bake 55 to 60 minutes. (It’s the best fragrance in a home and tastes deliecious but is a bit crumbly-not like a regular bread.)

  40. Ally

    This is baking in my oven right now. It smells delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  41. Jenny

    Hi Elise! Great recipe. Very easy to make. I halved the recipe and used 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of honey, 1/4 cup of oil, and 1/4 cup of applesauce. I baked the cake in an 8X8 pan for ~30 minutes and it was definitely done, a little too brown for my taste for 25-30 minutes is probably a good range if anyone else is halving the recipe.

    Question: When you say the beat the eggs until “frothy” should I be using the wire whisk or the beater blade on my stand mixer?

    Thanks!!

    I just used the beater blade on high, but you could use a wire whisk if you wanted to. ~Elise

  42. Kristi

    So this may seem like a silly question. But can you substitute yellow squash for zucchini? I have a bumper crop of yellow squash and am looking at new ways to use it.
    thanks

    Hi Kristi, usually you can substitute yellow squash for zucchini. It should work in this recipe, though sometimes zucchini has more moisture in it than yellow squash. So if you make it and it turns out on the dry side, I would try adding a little water to the batter the next time. ~Elise

  43. Sally

    So pleased I visited your blog – I have plenty of zucchini growing at the moment and this great recipe might just be the way to entice my children to try a little!

  44. Judy

    Thanks so much for the recipe! I made it today to enjoy throughout the 4th of July weekend. Delicious!

  45. Sandra Reed

    I love cooking but am not much of a baker. However, thanks to lots of sun in our part of the UK recently, our courgette plants are now in full swing. Having come across your grandma’s recipe, I thought I would dust off the hand mixer and cake tin and give it a try. It is very easy to put together and I am very impressed with the cake. It is much nicer than any of my previous attempts at baking cakes; a friend I tested it on asked for a second slice -she dislikes courgettes and was flabbergasted to find something she likes with courgettes as a main ingredient. It’s moist and crumbly, and really is delicious, even without the topping (trying to cut down on calories). So thanks to your sharing your grandma’s recipe, now I’m feeling confident enough to perhaps try some more baking! Many thanks!

  46. Dawn

    I have a vegetable garden with zucchini growing like a weed. So I searched for a zucchini muffin recipe and decided to try this one instead. I was pleasantly surprised how tasty this cake is (it reminds me of a spice cake). I’m making it again, minus the nuts. I’m looking forward to giving it out to my neighbors.

  47. Jamie

    I didn’t check my garden for two days, so I had the most obscene zucchini on hand. It was too big to consider sauteing, so this recipe was perfect for it. Delicious. My 9×13 was spoken for, so I made a two layer cake with double the frosting. The cake dresses up quite nicely. I did reduce the sugar in the frosting by half, only because I love super cream cheese-y frosting. I think the cake would be great without frosting too. Thank you for sharing!

  48. Jeanne

    This is just a wonderful cake. I made it with my 2 1/2 year old who turned up his nose to the zucchini while we were making it (as did my husband!). But, both gobbled it up when cooked. Really yummy and a great way to get the veggies in to those who don’t usually like them.

  49. Tammy

    Elise,
    Simply delicious is all I can say. I had to convince my husband it was zucchini:) Thank you for sharing.

  50. Dawn

    This summer my garden produce lots of zucchini. So I tried this recipe and loved the cake. It reminds me of a spice cake. I made it three times so far. My boyfriend and neighbors enjoyed the cake as well. Thanks for sharing your family recipe.

  51. Liz

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! My family, friends and co-workers can’t get enough of it. Absolutely delicious! So moist. My grandchildren ages 1 and 3 totally love it also. I make it in cupcake version.

  52. Emily

    Thank you for sharing this recipe! I love your website, and have used it for many delicious meals and desserts! I made this cake for guests a few weeks ago, and it was a huge hit. My husband even told me this was his favorite thing I’ve ever made for him – better than from scratch lasagna, and everything-homemade-pumpkin pie! I substituted cinnamon chips for the raisins and nuts and made 2 x 9 inch rounds. I doubled the frosting, and it was the perfect amount. I also took some cake in to work, and all of my colleagues asked for the recipe! We have a neighborhood potluck/recipe contest coming up, and I want to make this cake using the substitutions I mentioned. Is it OK with you if I do that and credit you and this website?

    Sure, be my guest! Let me know how it goes, okay? ~Elise

  53. marilin

    Thanks for the recipe, this cake was a great summer night treat, perfect with green tea. I also posted the recipe on my blog :)

    Great! So glad you liked it. ~Elise

  54. Maria Betânia Ferreira

    I have tried the recipe and my husband and I fell in love with this zucchini cake. The outcome was quite a surprise, and we actually need to keep an eye on one another, because it is HARD to stop eating it! Thank you so much. It is already entered in my BEST OF ALL recipe notebook. Love the photo of your grandma’s notes.
    Best regards from France.
    Some of my best recipes come from you, which is such an “exploit” here…

  55. Lauren

    I tried this recipe this evening, and it turned out fantastic! I subbed out 75% of the oil for applesauce and it was moist, lovely, perfectly spiced, just delightful! I would highly recommend this recipe – even without icing it is just perfect.

  56. kate C.

    My kids helped me make this today and it was great – easy for them to help me and a very tasty result! Thanks for the recipe!

  57. Dani

    So delicious! That’s a great recipe. Thanks.

  58. Marilyn Lisenbee

    Just took this cake out of the oven and couldn’t wait for it to cool down. It was awesome. I am making another one for a Church Supper this weekend. Thanks for sharing your Grandmother’s recipes. It is a keeper – for sure.

  59. Victoria

    On my second round with this recipe. The first lasted only a day! This time I am adding lemon zest to the batter, using pecans instead of walnuts, and yellow instead of green squash. I use spelt flour in all my baking and it turns out wonderfully. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. Our wise women of yore sure knew their stuff and am glad it is being passed on.

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong