Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cupcake War: Zucchini vs. ...Zucchini?

One of my new favorite shows on the Food Network is Cupcake Wars.  On the show, cupcake bakeries battle each other for the honor to show off their cupcakes at a prestigious event.  Well, my event is that my husband asked me to prepare a "treat" for a meeting he has tomorrow and since zucchinis are abundant this time of year, I thought I'd show two different recipes using them in cupcakes.  One is a Chocolate/Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcake with a Chocolate Ganache and the other is a Spice Zucchini Cupcake with a Lemon-scented/Cardamon Cream Cheese Icing; different as night as day.

What I love about cupcakes is the memory of my mother making them for me to bring in to elementary school for my birthday or holiday party.  All I had to do is ask and she would bake them because she knew how much I appreciated them...that's what mom's do.  I did the same thing for my girls; a lot of times even when I was given notice the night before!  It's baking with love that makes everything taste so good.

So, here's the challenge: Are you a Chocoholic or are you Spicy kind of Cupcake Lover?

Spiced Zucchine Cupcakes 
with Lemon-scented/Cardamon Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 T honey
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. Lemon Extract
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium)

Preheat oven 350F-degrees.  Grate the zucchini into a colander. Leaving the stem on gives you a "handle" to hold on to the zucchini when it gets near the end.
In the KitchenAid, using the whisk attachment, cream the butter, sugars, and honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after one.  Add the lemon and beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Change to the paddle attachment.  Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Add the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream, ending with the flour mixture.  Beat well to combine.  Fold in the zucchini.  Use a scoop to fill the cupcake liners, just slightly below the top. Recipe makes 18 cupcakes in this manner.  Bake 20-22 minutes until lightly brown and spring back when touched.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Lemon-Scented/Cardamon Cream Cheese Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese
5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3-4 T whole milk or cream
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
Ginger chips  (optional)

In the KitchenAid, with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, adding a tablespoon of milk, as needed.  Add the cardamon and lemon extract and beat to combine.  Pipe icing "swirl" on top of the cooled cupcakes. 
Top with a few mini ginger chips.
    Now, the competitor:

 Chocolate~Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes
with Chocolate Ganache

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup double dutch dark cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven 350F-degrees.  Grate zucchini (see method above) and set aside.
In a KitchenAid, using the whisk attachment, beat the butter, sugar and oil until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the double-dutch cocoa and the vanilla.  Beat well.  In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Change to the paddle attachment and add the flour mixture, alternatively with the buttermilk, ending with the flour.  Add the chocolate chips and beat well.  Fold in the zucchini.  Scoop batter into paper lined cupcake pans; filling to the top.  
Bake for 20-22 minutes, testing to see if the tops spring back when touched.
Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate easy way.  Melt an 8-ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate (62%) in a double boiler.  Use an off-set spatula to spread onto wax paper.
Top with another sheet of wax paper, pressing lighting
Then, roll up into a tube and use a rubber band to hold together.  Place in the refrigerator for an hour to set.
Now, make the Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounce bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Use a serrated knife to finely chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream on top of the stove, just until bubbles form around the edges.  Pour over the chocolate and let set 1 minute.  Use a spatula to stir to a smooth, chocolaty consistency.  Set aside until the bowl is cool to touch.  Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into the ganache.
Let the ganache drip off before turning right side up.  After dipping all the cupcakes, take out the rolled chocolate.
When the chocolate is unrolled, it creates these really neat shavings, the easy way.  Break off some pieces and top the ganache.
Whether you prefer spice or chocolate, these zucchini cupcakes are sure to impress your family and friends.  Moreover, here's two more recipes you can use that garden-full of zucchini on.  Enjoy!


  1. oh...the joys of summer are heightened that much more with the presence of zucchini:) I love mother is also an avid baker....she has always been my inspiration. recently, she moved out west to attend a natural cooking school....just her style. upon moving back to the east coast, it has been hard for her to find employment-- a place that will fully embrace her baking/cooking "philosophies" (i.e- organic, natural, thoughtful, etc.) I feel for her. she has so much to offer, but it is hard to make a living in the industry. she is currently saving money to open her own bake shop or cafe. I know she will one day be successful and content. until then, she enjoys cooking for our family...and we sure love it, too:)

  2. I know, all too well, how hard it is to find good, organic, vegetarian food back east. I think it's slowly becoming acceptable and I try to concentrate on flavor to entice the palette of those who are steadfast in believing in the old philosophies!

    And, even though I make a lot of my mother's recipes, I've changed some of the ingredients or techniques to make them my own. It doesn't change the tradition, just makes a new legacy.
    Love, Susan xoxo

  3. Susan! These look absolutely delicious! I am very excited to try both recipes! I love the addition of zucchini, the ganache, cream cheese, lemon ginger... ok so I love all of it! lol Your presentation is lovely. xoxo

  4. wow what a treat for the eyes, they look wonderful.
    have left alittle surprise over on my blog for you xx

  5. Denise~Thank you for the award; I am truly humbled by the acknowledgment and so happy to be included among the beautifully talented women you've mentioned, including yourself. Love you, Susan xoxo

  6. I vote for the chocolate! Although the lemon sounds good. I know someone near and dear has extra zucchini so maybe I'll get to sample both! She even offered me some to make my own zucchini bread, I declined so I'm sure she has enough for both these recipes!

  7. I heard you were a chocoholic and wish I lived close enough to take advantage of the zucchini harvest!

  8. Great timing Susan! I just pulled some zucchini from the garden -- yay! I'll make the chocolate first (my family's favorite), and then the lemon (my favorite for dessert). I've made zucchini bread for years but never thought to make cupcakes -- such a fun idea!

  9. Ann~both these cakes are so moist and especially the chocolate, which melts in your mouth. It's a great way to use up that abundance of zucchini that comes from the garden, in a good way. Love, Susan

  10. oh my gosh. you are so so smart. i'm following you now, cause i'm in awe...

  11. I'm voting for both!! I've been on a mission to find a good bakery in the area that has killer cupcakes. Still no luck!

    A few years ago I went to the Bronx Zoo with a friend and what I remember most (other than the Gorilla habitat) was the cupcakes (raspberry jam filled yellow cake with vanilla butter cream.) YUM! Then there was a small English restaurant in Rhinebeck called "A Spot of Tea." They served Fairy Cakes that were similar. Sadly, they went out of business and the zoo stopped serving cupcakes. :(

    The hunt continues!


  12. Maybe I'll just have to give you your wish and do a raspberry filled yellow cake with vanilla butter cream...very soon!

  13. I love how zucchini makes a nice moist bread/cupcake. We will soon have zucchini growing out of our ears, and this would be a great way to get some extra into my kids...zucchini bread too.

    I love that you eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. I've heard of that before and when you mentioned really made me want to eat one. So when I crack open that first jar of pickles, I will so eat a pb and pickle sandwich for you!


  14. Lisa~I wish I was there to share it; your pickles look amazing! You'll be surprised how good peanut butter & pickle sandwiches are. Can't wait to hear your "review." :)Susan