Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

~ This Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake is a chocolate lover’s dream! Incredibly moist with a deep, rich chocolate flavor. And surprise … it’s so much healthier, too! All the chocolate cake joy you crave, without all the guilt! ~ 

This Recipe Is:     Freezable    Make Ahead    Vegetarian 

closeup of one bite on a fork, laying on a white plate next to the rest of the piece of cake, along with sliced berries and a bit of ice cream

Got extra zucchini laying around? (It’s August … so I’m betting the answer is a resounding, desperate YES!)

Well, then boy-oh-boy, do I have just the recipe for you! This one’s a real doozy (and not just because it’ll save you from drowning in your heaps of over-abundant zucchini).

This is the cake that will make you want to plant even more zucchini next year … or go chisel a zucchini patch out of your backyard if you don’t already have a garden.

Yes … it’s that good! It’s: 

• Ultra moist and tender. (Thank you, buttermilk!)

• Deeply, richly, darkly chocolate-y. Double chocoalte-y, in fact – with creamy pops of chocolate chips dotted all across the top. If you love our Almond Joy Zucchini Cake, but you just neeeeeed more, more, MORE chocolate, then this is the recipe you’re looking for!

• Not too sweet. Although you don’t really taste the tang of the buttermilk, it does beautifully balance everything out, so this cake is ultra satisfying without being cloyingly sweet. 

• Decadent. Oh-so-decadent. Enough said!

closeup of one piece of zucchini cake on a little serving spatula, with the rest of the cake pan out of focus in the background underneat

But you know what else?

It’s also much healthier than most cakes, and even healthier than the original recipe that inspired it (more on that original version in a moment …)

How This Cake Is Healthier

Less Fat (and Therefore Fewer Calories)

With this Zucchini Chocolate Cake recipe, I’ve once again used one of my standard swaps for making healthier muffins, snack cakes and quick breads – I subbed out most of the fat and replaced it with applesauce. The original recipe for this cake had a whopping 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup oil … which adds up to nearly 1,800 calories. Yikes!

Less Sugar

I also reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup and the chocolate chips by 1/3 cup, slashing about 500 more additional calories, not to mention all that extra (ahem … obviously …) sugar. In taste testing – believe it or not – we found we actually preferred this cake without quite so many chocolate chips. Surprising but true.

Wanna feel even more virtuous? Well, I actually tested one batch of this zucchini cake with even less sugar than what our final recipe card calls for (1 1/4 cups of sugar as opposed to the 1 1/2 cups specified on our recipe card). Although all the taste testers agreed that (when served alone) this cake is a little better with 1 1/2 cups, I jotted a testing note to suggest to you that, if you’re definitely planning on serving this with ice cream (instead of alone), you probably won’t notice any difference whatsoever … and could go a little lower with your sugar (using 1 1/4 cups) if you’d like, with no problem at all.

No Frosting

In addition, since we dot the chocolate chips on top (instead of mixing them into the batter), they’re a really prominent feature of this Zucchini Cake, with a big hit of creamy chocolate crowning each bite. And, since those chocolate chips are truly the perfect topping all by themselves, you don’t need frosting for this cake – which once again slashes the extra fat, sugar, and calories cake often brings along with it.

Of course, cake’s perfect buddy is always a little scoop of ice cream, but this cake’s honestly terrific on its own, too. A great snackin’ cake or afternoon “tea time” indulgence!

closeup of one piece of zucchini cake all by itself on a white plate, served as a snack with a fork alongside

Fruits and Veggies

Oh yeah … and there’s a veggie hanging out in there. Hello, zucchini! (Ok ok – it’s technically, botanically a fruit … but whatever …)

Yup – that zucchini that had been staring at you from the kitchen counter, beseeching you to turn it into something amazing. Well looky there. That zucchini did become something amazing! And it brought its nutrition right along with it!

Not only is zucchini low in fat, sodium and calories, but it’s got a nice hit of potassium, manganese, and vitamins A and C, plus a bit of fiber and (surprised?) even protein. And it’s high in antioxidants, especially carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

So if you’re keeping track, we’ve got both a fruit and a veggie (or two fruits if you’re a botanist) jam-crammed in there, with the zucchini and the applesauce. Feeling pretty healthful right about now aren’t ya?!?

But don’t worry … this Chocolate Zucchini Cake doesn’t taste healthy … it tastes (dare I say it again???) decadent!

That Fateful Day …

I vividly remember meeting this cake, some 20 years ago – back when I was still plugging along as a Communications Director in an office tucked away on the campus of a private high school. On that fateful day, I was sitting at my desk, innocently minding my own business, with no idea that my whole understanding of zucchini (and its possibilities) was about to change. My coworker, Vicki, breezed in, bearing the ultimate prize any office worker can offer … food! A homemade treat!

And wow, was it good! Hey Vicki – can I please have this recipe? (mumbled through a mouthful of chocolate crumbs)

But wait … what?? What did you say this glorious chocolate concoction is??? Zucchini cake? There’s zucchini in there? In a … cake???

Surely she meant zucchini bread. I’d grown up loving zucchini bread. But cake? And chocolate cake, at that. Huh. I’d never imagined such wondrous possibilities!

a whole piece of cake (with no bite out of it) on a white plate, surrounded by strawberries and vanilla ice cream

I realize that zucchini cake isn’t such an earth-shattering concept anymore. But remember … we’re talking 20-odd years ago. As far as I was concerned back then, zucchini cake was an epiphany … a revolution! And Vicki (with her Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake) was the hero renegade leading the charge.

I didn’t just want the recipe – I needed it! This was a life-changing zucchini moment. (Please tell me you have produce-related, life-changing moments, too … right!?? This stuff doesn’t just happen to me, does it?!?)

Luckily, Vicki was just as happy to share her recipe as she was to share that cake.

I’ve kept it in my recipe file all these years, and it’s still just as terrific as it was back then. (Actually, even better if you’re a fan of slashing fat and calories. Which I, for one, definitely am!)

It’s super easy to make, too. Let me show you …

How to Make This Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Step 1 – Gather your ingredients and shred up your zucchini. I use the large-holed side of a box grater for quick shredding. 

collage of two side-by-side photos, one showing ingredients for the zucchini cake, and the other specifically showing the zucchini being grated with a box grater

Oh – and there’s no need to peel the zucchini before shredding. Zucchini skin is so very thin that it’s totally unnoticeable in things like zucchini cake and breads. Plus, it’s a pretty little pop of green!

Steps 2 and 3 – Similar to most muffin and quick bread recipes, this zucchini cake also uses the “muffin method” of mixing (just like in our Cherry Chocolate-Zucchini Bread and our Chocolate Muffins with Fresh Strawberries, for example).

As you can see in the two photos below, the “muffin method” basically means that you mix the dry ingredients in one bowl. (I recommend whisking to make sure they’re very evenly distributed and thoroughly combined.)

And you mix the wet ingredients (which actually includes the sugar, believe it or not) in a separate bowl. 

collage of two photos showing the muffin method, with one bowl for mixing dry ingredients and another bowl for the wet ingredients

Step 4 – Then you combine the dry and wet ingredients, mixing as little as possible (to ensure that you don’t encourage too much gluten development from overmixing the flour – which can toughen your cake). I generally like to make a “well” in the dry ingredients before pouring the wet ingredients in, just to help with folding and stirring it all together.

Remember: the important takeaway here is not to overmix.

Step 5 – Once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, it’s time to add your zucchini to the cake batter. Stir the batter again briefly, just long enough to incorporate the zucchini evenly.

overhead of about half the bowl of cake batter, with a wooden spoon stirring in the shredded zucchini

Step 6 – Pour the whole wonderful mixture into your awaiting baking pan.

BTW … my beloved USA pans (which you see pictured in this post) are wonderfully nonstick, and they don’t need to be prepped with cooking spray or flour. But, if your pans need a little nonstick help in order for the cake to release well after baking, then don’t forget to prep the pan.

And definitely don’t forget to sprinkle those luscious chocolate chips on top! That’s your second punch of chocolate decadence. Mmmmmmm …

overhead of one corner of the baking pan, so you can see the zucchini cake batter evenly dotted with a sprinkling of chocolate chips before baking

Step 7 – Then into the oven it goes. Double-chocolate decadence is just a half hour away!

Pro Tip: Differences in Baking Pans

Our recipe suggests that you bake this zucchini cake for about 30 minutes (for an aluminum pan like the USA pan you see in our photos). But, as with pretty much any other cake recipe, the pan you use can make a difference in your baking time, and even sometimes in the oven temperature you’ll want. 

Basically, the important thing to understand is that glass, dark metal and light metal pans all perform a little differently in terms of how quickly they heat up and how effectively they transfer heat to your cake.

Glass, for example, takes longer to heat up, but stays hot better once it gets hot. This can result in the edges of a cake over-baking by the time the center is finally done. That’s exactly what happened to me the first time I tested this zucchini cake in a glass pan (without adjusting the baking temp and time).

Standard advice is to lower your oven temperature by 25° if you’re using a glass or dark metal pan – which generally means you’ll then also have to increase the baking time by about 10 minutes, compared to the bake time for aluminum.

In addition to using my aluminum pan (like in our photos), I’ve also tested this cake for you a couple of times with a glass pan. I found that if you’re using a glass pan, it’s best to decrease the oven temperature to 325°F … which will probably mean your zucchini cake will likely take about 10 minutes longer (more like 40 minutes) to be perfectly baked.

pan full of the baked zucchini cake, with two slices cut out of one side and stacked on top of each other in the pan

The first time you bake this, just plan to check for doneness early and often until you know how your oven and your pan will work together to bake the cake.

How will you know when it’s done? You want a wooden pick to come out just barely clean, but you don’t want to overbake it and dry out your lovely cake.

Freezing

As if all this chocolate-y decadence just couldn’t get any better … this delicious creation freezes great, too!

  • If you’re very careful in how you remove your zucchini cake from the pan, you could actually freeze an entire cake for serving later (which is a godsend for entertaining!).
  • Another idea is to freeze just a portion of it. Maybe, say, half a cake – like if you know your family won’t be able to finish the whole thing soon enough and you’d like to be able to bring it out for dessert again in a couple weeks. In that case, you can wait to cut it into pieces after it’s thawed.
  • What I most often do, though, is pre-cut and freeze individual portions, so I can pull out the exact amount I need for a treat anytime. (Emergency chocolate … ready when you are!!)

No matter how much of the cake you’re freezing, be sure to cool the cake completely after it comes out of the oven, before you wrap it for freezing. Then, wrap the cake tightly in a couple layers of plastic wrap and slip it in an air-tight, zippered freezer bag.

Serving Ideas

As I mentioned before, this Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake is terrific as a “snackin’ cake.” The kids will love it, and (hey, tired mama) it’s 100% awesome with a cup of steaming coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. (I may or may not be speaking from A LOT of experience here.)

It’s also sensational for dessert. Sinfully dark and rich and satisfying all by itself, for sure. But to dress it up even more (and take it to whole new levels of dessert-time bliss), I highly recommend cozying it up alongside some juicy strawberries and a scoop of low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

My-oh-my.

one slice of chocolate zucchini cake on a white plate that's resting on a wooden charger, with strawberry slices and ice cream, with a forkful bite taken out, and extra strawberries in the background

If you find yourself debating whether it’s ok to sneak a second piece … or a third … you could always distract yourself by drawing up those plans to extend your backyard zucchini patch. Since you’re gonna be wanting extra zucchini next year, aren’t ya?!? 😉

one piece of cake on a white plate with a forkful laying alongside, garnished with a scoop of ice cream and sliced strawberries

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Yield: 24
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Incredibly moist with a deep, rich chocolate flavor! This Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake is a chocolate lover's dream (and healthier, too)!

  Freezable  •  Make Ahead    Vegetarian  

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (fine grain, not flaked kosher salt)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (shake the carton before measuring)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (from about an 8- to 9-ounce zucchini)
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (for an aluminum pan – see note about using glass or dark metal pans).
  2. Prepare an aluminum 9x13 pan with cooking spray and flour if needed (my pan doesn't need this).
  3. In a large bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, whisking to combine thoroughly.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir well to combine thoroughly.
  5. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, stirring just until uniformly moist (do not over-mix).
  6. Add zucchini and stir briefly again, just to distribute evenly. 
  7. Spoon batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes (for an aluminum pan), until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out just barely clean. (See note below for more information on adjusting baking time for various types of pans.) 
  9. Cool completely in pan, on a wire rack, before cutting and serving.

Notes

Adjusting bake time for your pans: As discussed in greater detail in the post above, you may need to slightly adjust the temperature and/or bake time if using a glass or dark metal pan. This ensures an evenly baked, moist cake by preventing the edges from being over-baked and dried out by the time the center is done. For glass or dark metal pans, we recommend decreasing the baking temperature to 325°F. Your bake time, in this case, will probably be closer to 40 minutes, but test for doneness early and often (with a wooden pick inserted near the center), to be sure your zucchini cake comes out perfectly, evenly baked.

Freezing: This zucchini cake recipe freezes well. After cooling completely, remove the cake (or whatever portion of the cake you'd like to freeze) from the pan and wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap. Store in the freezer in a freezer-safe zipper bag. You can also pre-slice the cake and freeze individual portions.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 servings Serving Size: 1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 143Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 124mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 2gSugar: 17gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

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36 thoughts on “Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake”

  1. My kiddos and I made this together! We have been spending a lot more time in the kitchen lately and its so fun. They really enjoyed making this recipe but they enjoyed eating it even more! Thanks for this delish creation, we are adding it to our “make again” list!!

    Reply
    • It makes me really happy to imagine you and your kids making this recipe together, Cindy – thank you for sharing that story! I have spent so, so many treasured hours in the kitchen with my own two kids through the years. Lots of happy memories, plus the satisfaction of seeing them become very skilled cooks as they’ve grown. Priceless. I’m truly delighted you all enjoyed this zucchini cake, and that it even made it onto the “make again” list – that’s a wonderful compliment and I so appreciate that you took a moment to let me know. Have a lovely week! ~Shelley

      Reply
  2. Oh my GOSH! This Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake was seriously so wonderful and moist! I am telling you this has to be one of my favorite new recipes for using up my zucchini. This is a winner and I can see myself making it time and time again, I liked it so much I made 3 batches and froze them.

    Have a nice day
    H

    Reply
    • Oh, Heidy, thank you so much – what a wonderful compliment! I can’t believe you’ve already got three batches tucked away in the freezer – you’re outstripping me on that one lol! I think at most I might’ve had two of these in the freezer at one time! Although it’s great to have an entire cake frozen, ready to be thawed for “emergency” desserts if guests show up unexpectedly, since nobody’s really having many unexpected guests right now, my favorite way to freeze this Chocolate Zucchini Cake is to cut it in individual pieces, wrap them each separately, and then put them in an air-tight freezer bag. That way, we can all pull out just one piece at the time, whenever someone in my family is craving a little dessert-time chocolate fix. Such a treat! Enjoy – and thank you again! 😀 ~Shelley

      Reply
    • Unless someone notices the pretty little green flecks of zucchini, they’d never guess it was a zucchini cake, right?!? It’s just a yummy chocolate cake … unless you look really closely! And then, people are usually so surprised and blown away by the whole “zucchini cake” thing that they end up loving this cake even more once you tell them the secret! 😉 ~Shelley

      Reply

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Published on
Updated on October 7, 2021
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