Grandma’s Zucchini Cake

DessertBakingCakeZucchini

My grandmother's recipe for a gently spicy sheet cake, made with freshly grated zucchini.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

Grandma's Zucchini Cake

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!

Grandma's Zucchini Cake

Grandma’s Zucchini Cake Recipe

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  • 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.

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Links:

Zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze from David Lebovitz

Spiced zucchini cake from My Baking Addiction

Grandma's Zucchini Cake

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.

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

93 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Karen

    This cake was super moist and so delicious! It was a hit at the Hannukah party tonight and with my husband who doesn’t like zucchini!
    I used 1.5 cups cane sugar and omitted the walnuts and lemon zest. I will definitely make this again!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • jeff belli slack

    I have made this cake every week for the last 6 weeks……..by popular demand.

    Zucchinis (courgette) are ridiculously priced at retail in NZ.
    The weed of vegetables is how we see them in Australia…..

    My partner works in food wholesale…………hence a glut of green in my scullery.

    This is THEE perfect recipe with THEE most perfect icing.

    I use a wholemeal flour, that way I don’t worry about the H2O produced by these demons.
    I use orange zest if there are no lemons.
    I heap the bicarb of soda and baking powder to make up for the ‘stoge’ of wholemeal flour.

    The only bad thing about this recipe is that you find yourself in a scene from Groundhog Day.

    4 in the oven right now………….only 2 last week.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Dee Norick

    I can tell that it is a great recipe to make to give to friends at Christmas. It would b helpful if anyone could tell me if temp would b the same for two loaf cakes instead of one lag cake. Thanks so much. Can hardly wait to make it.

  • Cassie

    This was an easy recipe to follow and it tasted great. I made the recipe as written and it turned out well. I had so much zucchini that I made cupcakes (minus the nuts) and turned out great , also.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Gail J Morris

    This is great! So moist. It reminds me a little of spice cake although I only used the cinnamon. My husband loves it so that in itself is high praise. Thank you

    xxxxxyyyyy

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