Grass-green matcha cream cheese frosting adorns layers of chocolate cake flecked with zucchini and nutty sorghum flour in this gluten-free chocolate layer cake.
Today is pretty much the most exciting day of my life. More than the day I won a poetry contest in 6th grade (which began “a lone bald eagle in a tree / collecting pollen a honey bee”). More than the day I finally passed my driving test (after failing three times). It comes close to the day we brought Catamus home from the SPCA (and he promptly destroyed our favorite houseplant). Today is the day that Alternative Baker is unleashed upon the world in all its buttery, sugary, gluten-free glory. (Plus, The Bojon Gourmet turns 7 this Friday!) Let’s celebrate with cake.
I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped along this journey, and I’m excited to hear how you all like the book. If you bake something from it, please snap a photo for Instagram and tag it #AlternativeBakerBook so I can squeal over it! If you don’t have a copy but are Alternative Baker curious, read all about it and order it here. If you want to hear me ramble on about the cookbook process, tune into The Dinner Special podcast to hear my super fun interview with Gabriel Soh. And you can drool over the Buckwheat Orange Double Chocolate Cookies that Alana just shared from the book!
Are you ready for cake?!
This is a favorite recipe from the book. I usually bake it in a single pan and cut it into squares, but I thought we needed something a bit fancier this time around, so I doubled the recipe, baked it in three layers, and then I put gold on it because how often does one get to eat gold? Slightly more often than one releases a cookbook, I’d wager.
I’m generally not the biggest fan of cake – give me pie, crisp, cobbler, ice cream… pretty much any other dessert any day. Same goes for Jay. But this is one that we can’t keep our hands off of. Like all the recipes in Alternative Baker, it’s full of seasonal produce and whole grain flour, with a flavor twist to keep it tasting (and looking) fresh and vibrant.
First of all, cake usually doesn’t have much in the way of nutritional value. But this cake has a whole pound of zucchini in it, and loads of whole grain sorghum flour, so it’s basically health food. Cake tends to be dry and overly sweet. But this one gets moisture from the aforementioned shredded zucchini along with sunflower oil and brown sugar, with plenty of cocoa powder cutting the sweetness. Plus, I’ll eat just about anything if it’s covered in enough cream cheese frosting, and this version gets a delicious infusion of grassy matcha which, in addition to keeping the sweetness in check, turns the frosting green (see? health food!).
The matcha/chocolate combo was inspired by some über-tasty cupcakes Sarah made for a dessert-themed birthday party over a year ago. They sparked a flavor obsession that’s still going strong, from Matcha Mint Chip Ice Cream, to Matcha Mint Grasshopper Pie, to hot fudge-topped matcha ice cream from my favorite SF ice cream shop, to Sarah’s matcha chocolate chunk rice krispie treats. And this cake, which, even though I tested approximately 1 billion times, I still want to eat. A lot.
Aside from eating too much of this cake, I’m looking forward to a day full of celebration including a relaxing acupuncture treatment, yoga class, and bowls of spicy ginger garlic miso ramen at Shizen (my latest obsession!).
Or perhaps I’ll bake a pie…
- 1 pound (550 g) zucchini
- 2 cups (430 g) packed organic light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup (120 ml) sunflower oil or other neutral vegetable oil
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 2 teaspoons (20 ml) vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (120 g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 ¾ cups (230 g) sorghum flour
- ½ cup (80 g) sweet white rice flour
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (16 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 pound (550 g) cream cheese, softened
- 8 tablespoons (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¾ cups (200 g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (12 g) good-quality culinary-grade matcha, plus a sprinkle for garnish
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- chocolate discs or shavings and edible gold leaf, for decoration
- To make the cake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF (175ºC). Rub three 8-inch round cake pans with softened butter, line each with a round of parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the pans with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.
- Trim the zucchini and grate them on the medium holes of a box grater (the ones that measure 1⁄8 inch [2–3 mm]); you should have 2 cups packed grated zucchini. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla extract, until combined well. In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, baking powder and salt, pushing through any clumps. Stir half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture until smooth, then add the grated zucchini, stirring until smooth, followed by the remaining flour mixture.
- Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth into an even layer. Bake the cakes until the tops spring back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs, 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans, at least 1 hour, then turn out and peel away the parchment. (The cakes can be wrapped and stored for up to 1 day.)
- To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, matcha powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the frosting on low speed, increasing to medium speed until smooth, light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a serving board or platter and use a small, offset spatula or butter knife to spread about one-fourth of the frosting over the top in an even layer. Top with a second cake layer and repeat, then repeat with the remaining cake layer, frosting the top and sides. If you like, decorate the top of the cake with chocolate discs or shavings, a sprinkle of matcha, and a touch of edible gold leaf (if you’re weird like me and happen to have it lying around).
- For the cleanest results, chill the cake to firm up the frosting, at least 1 hour. Cut the cake with a large, sharp chef’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry between cuts. The cake is best within a day or two of baking, stored refrigerated airtight.