|I am not an animal! I am a vehicle for excess squash! Also, a really good piece of cake.|
I remember this from Augusts past--this desultory fog that starts to creep in over the children. They argue in the back of the car, something to do with What's your name Mary Jane? "No, no" they are laughing and irritated both. "No, no. You have to say cucumber immediately. You have to--hup" I look back into the sudden silence, and they are both staring straight ahead, holding their breath. They resume their good-natured bickering as soon as we're past the cemetery.
Later, reading in bed, I hear them brushing their teeth, giggling and arguing in whispers. "Fine," Birdy says audibly, crisply. "Then I'll call you Scrotum McClitoris."
And so, when I ask the kids for help with this cake, Ben grates the zucchini like he's on kitchen duty at a tuberculosis sanitorium, leaning down from a high stool, his face on his fist, dragging the squash limply across the grater. "It's not really grating," he says, as a green slush gathers up at the edges of the grater. I show him that it takes force--real pressure--explain that he's going to have to actually stand up. Birdy comes to assist him, and when I look over, she's punching a measuring cup full of grated zucchini, her fist balled, green shreds flying. "Um, honey? Why are you hitting that poor squash?" She laughs. "Ben said to pack it tight, so I'm punching it." They are so pleasantly ineffective that it's hard to be irritated with them. Hard, but not impossible. "Go," I tell them. You guys are the best--I'm so grateful for your willingness to help. I am. But go. Leave me!" They walk out of the kitchen arm in arm, and I hear them laughing gently at themselves: "I was punching the zucchini!" It could be worse, I know. Especially since two minutes later I have to yell, "I know I just kicked you out, but can someone please grate the nutmeg for me?" and they both run back in cheerfully.
The thing is, I actually love baking--and it's partly because I have systematically hurdled the obstacles standing between me and this love. For one thing, Pam baking spray--the kind that manages to grease and flour at the same time? (With real flour!) It saved me. I used to think, "Maybe I'll make a bundt cake!" and then the thought of greasing all those awful ridges would totally deflate me. No more! Similarly, the Beater Blade on my Kitchen Aid spares me the irritation of stopping the mixer to scrape down the bowl (aka Batter Knuckles), and this seemingly minor improvement is huge for me. Plus, you can cream butter without letting it soften first, and everything mixes so beautifully. I cannot recommend it enough.
|My boyfriend, the Beater Blade.|
Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze
This recipe is from Dolce Italiano, by Gina DePalma, but I got it from lottie and doof, which is one of my favorite food blogs. Even though he's forever posting outrageously glamorous recipes for, like, elderflower fritters and mulberrytinis, because he and his partner are young and unencumbered by the fact of actual meals and, thus, get all the nutrients they need from elegant desserts and fancy alcohol drinks. Sigh.
I've made many changes, however. One is that I'm using half whole-wheat flour because I just can hardly bear to bake with only white flour these days. Another is adding lemon zest to the glaze, which totally MAKES this cake--it's simply the best glaze I've ever made. And you know I'm not a frosting person (by the hundredth frosting recipe I post, you'll be like, "Um, Cath?"). If I made this again, I'd use half vegetable oil because the strong olive-oil flavor actually makes this cake almost too savory. I'm wondering, though: What would this be like with grated chocolate in it? Grated chocolate and rosemary--keeping the vanilla, but skipping the spices? That's how I'm trying it next.
For the cake:
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted 4-5 minutes, and finely chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or half olive oil, half vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium-small zucchini)
For the glaze:
The grated zest and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed juice from one lemon
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Or use the evil, wonderful Pam baking spray.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl and set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (aka my boyfriend), beat the eggs, sugar and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed (ha ha, but you won't need to!). Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the zucchini and walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Bake a little longer than you might be inclined: it's a heavy cake with a lot of moisture that needs to bake off.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the zest and confectioners’ sugar until the glaze is completely smooth.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; first it will all pour off, but it will start sticking as the cake cools, and you can scoop up the puddled glaze with a spoon and pour it back over (I forgot to use a pastry brush! I just spooned it and made a mess.). Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry--which it will, beautifully.
|Don't be fooled by the smile. She is up to no good.|
|Don't be fooled by the huge pile of squash. I grated that myself.|
|Okay, go. Go, you guys.|
|I love olive-oil cakes, but maybe the combo of zuke and oil conspired to make this one just a tiny, tiny bit too vegetal. As I mentioned, swapping in half regular oil would solve this, I'm almost sure.|
|Ready to bake.|
|Meanwhile. . .|
|I absolutely love how this looks for some reason.|