This old-fashioned zucchini cake, made in a Bundt pan with plenty of summer squash, walnuts, and cinnamon, still appeals to a contemporary crowd with its moist crumb and sweet but not-too-sweet glaze inflected with vanilla or lemon.
This old-fashioned zucchini cake is our go-to recipe when we’re inundated with an abundance of late-summer squash. It’s exactly the sort of cake grandma used to make— perfectly sweet and punctuated with the crunch of walnuts and made stunning with a drizzle of glaze. And always enticing, no matter how much soggy steamed zucchini you were forced to choke down as a child.–Angie Zoobkoff
Old-Fashioned Zucchini Cake
For the cake
- Unsalted butter for the pan
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup mild vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (about 10 oz) grated unpeeled zucchini patted dry
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup chopped raw walnuts
For the lemon glaze
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest preferably organic
For the vanilla glaze
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk preferably whole
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Generously butter a 10-inch (25-cm) Bundt pan.
- In a large bowl using a stand or handheld mixer or whisk, beat the eggs until light and foamy, about 1 minute.
- Add the granulated sugar, oil, and vanilla and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute more. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the zucchini and mix well.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and stir until blended. Add the flour mixture to the batter, 1/3 at a time, and mix until incorporated. Stir in the walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 65 minutes. Set the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool for 20 minutes.
Make the glaze
- Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. If making the lemon glaze, add the lemon juice. Reserve the zest for sprinkling. If making the vanilla glaze, add milk until the desired consistency is reached. Then stir in the vanilla.
- Whisk the glaze until completely smooth.
Assemble the cake
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper and place a wire rack on top.
- Invert the cake onto the wire rack and spoon the glaze on top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. If using the lemon glaze, sprinkle it over the glaze.
- Transfer to a cake plate, slice, and devour.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This zucchini-walnut cake was, simply put, AMAZING! The perfect cake to serve during the summertime when zucchini are abundant in the garden.
To be honest, I usually shy away from any cake or quick bread that doesn’t use either sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt in its batter simply because they just never seem to turn out moist enough. But not this cake! With the addition of oil instead of butter, and the addition of grated zucchini, the crumb of this cake was perfectly moist. My cake was baked through perfectly after only 50 minutes of cooking time, so check your cake around this time to be sure you don’t overdo it. After the 20 minutes cooling time, my cake released beautifully from the pan; not a speck of cake left in the Bundt pan!
The only issue I had with the cake overall was the texture of the glaze; I opted for the vanilla glaze because I had a fancy bottle of vanilla dotted with vanilla bean seeds I wanted to try. The taste of the glaze was lovely, but I used 2 tablespoons milk and it was too runny. So maybe cut down on the amount of milk in the glaze? I wouldn’t cut the vanilla measurement down, so maybe just the milk portion.
As for the recipe itself, yes, in Step 2 after 1 minute of mixing the eggs with the trusty hand-held mixer, the eggs were light and foamy. I would say this serves 10 people easily; 12 if your slices aren’t as generous as mine.
This recipe will be made time and time again, I guarantee it! I would be curious to try it with grated yellow squash instead if that is what you have on hand.
And seeing that the cake is sweet on its own, I would be curious to try it without a glaze at all, and maybe serve it with vanilla ice cream or vanilla or lemon-scented whipped cream. This sort of cake usually freezes well, too. Great to freeze I’m sure and pull out for your next brunch gathering or special treat for your next round of weekend guests!
This is a perfect recipe. It’s one of those that you will go back to, knowing that you’ll have a delicious and beautiful cake in the end. The recipe is very clearly written, and the end result is so good.
I’ve never used a glaze on a zucchini cake, so this was a first for me. I chose the vanilla glaze and it was a wonderful complement. There’s a happy medium for the cake cooling time. I let mine cool for a bit longer than the suggested 20 minutes, and my glaze began to seize up before I finished drizzling it. Make sure your cake is still warm enough to aide in creating a beautiful drizzle.
I’m a sucker for a grandma cake—especially one baked in a Bundt. This zucchini cake tastes like the end of summer when the zucchini are bigger than your head (even though you need one that’s medium-size one for this recipe) and when you’re beginning to crave all things cinnamon-y and fall.
I used a mixer to put it together even though you probably don’t need to, although I did stir in the zucchini and the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Because I didn’t want to risk overstirring, I added the walnuts with the last third of the dry ingredients. Be sure you butter the Bundt pan well as part of the cake stuck to the pan, but that’s nothing the glaze couldn’t fix.
Speaking of the glaze, we made the vanilla glaze using whole milk. It was the perfect drizzling consistency and had a nice light vanilla flavor. The glaze didn’t compromise the slightly crunchy edges of the cake, either.
OK, the cake. Super delicious. It has a moist interior and a crunchy exterior, everything a zucchini cake should have. The pre-patted dry weight of the zucchini was 8 ounces. I used kosher salt and I did pick up salt crystals in the cake, so fine sea salt wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Originally published July 27, 2019