Zucchini Cake

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A super flavorful and perfectly moist Zucchini Cake complete with a dreamy cream cheese frosting. And no one will be the wiser that this cake is actually made without any flour, refined sugars, or dairy — yes, really!

Try some of our other favorite zucchini treats like these Gluten-Free Zucchini MuffinsLemon Zucchini Bread, or this popular Healthy Zucchini Bread.

Image of the Zucchini Cake on a plate

A Really Great Zucchini Cake Recipe!

I couldn’t be more excited about sharing this recipe today because it is one I’m so proud of. It took a lot of work to get it just right, but I think it’s absolutely perfect.

It’s first and foremost a ridiculously delicious Zucchini Cake, but it also happens to be made with nutritious ingredients. Honestly, though, this recipe tastes as indulgent as a sugar and butter-laden cake. So many people tried this cake and no one would believe me when I said there is no flour, butter, or refined sugar in this cake!

Let’s quickly break down the *magic* of this cake:

  • No flour: We use whole old-fashioned oats instead. (Yes this cake is naturally gluten-free*)
  • No butter: Instead we’re using a nutrient-dense oil: coconut oil
  • No refined sugar: Really, there is none! We’re sweetening this cake with pure maple syrup — a natural sweetener from the sap of trees.
  • A full cup of zucchini — a nutritious vegetable with many benefits.
  • Cashews: They’re the “secret” ingredient in this cake! Cashews are loaded with good-for-you fats, protein, and nutrients among other benefits. In this recipe, the cashews thicken the cake.
  • Protein: Thanks to the nuts and eggs, this recipe is packed with protein!
  • Dairy-Free: Again, no butter. Also no milk or heavy cream.
  • Anti-inflammatory spice: We add ground cinnamon to this recipe, and cinnamon is rich in antioxidants.

*While the ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten free, make sure to check all your ingredient labels to be sure they weren’t processed in a facility with gluten.

Process shots-- images of the cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, and oats being added to the blender and being blended together than the eggs and vanilla being added

Let’s Chat Zucchini

For this recipe, you’ll need about one medium-sized zucchini.

Following the process for preparing the zucchini is very important to the end result of this cake. We want the zucchini to add moisture, but not too much.

Here are the steps:

  • Start by grating the zucchini on the small side of a grater to get fine shreds.
  • Loosely measure to get 1 full cup.
  • Dump the cup of zucchini on a few sheets of paper towel.
  • Press down a paper towel on top and squeeze out the liquid. Repeat.
  • Let zucchini sit on the paper towel until ready to use.

QUICK TIP

You don’t need to peel the zucchini before grating; the peel works just as nicely in this Zucchini Cake!

Process shots of Zucchini Cake-- images of the spices, lemon zest, and grated zucchini being added to the blender and all being blended together

Zucchini Cake Ingredients

Below are a few ingredient-specific notes:

  • Cashews. We love dry-roasted and lightly salted cashews best — more flavor without any extra effort on your part. (Here’s what we use in this cake).
  • Old-fashioned oats. Although it would make sense that any oats would work since they’re getting blended anyways, it’s important to use old-fashioned to ensure you get the right measurement. Both quick and steel-cut oats are smaller, denser, and more compact so measurements would be off and the cake would end up overly dry.
  • Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener (unlike corn syrup or pancake syrup) made from the sap of a maple tree, which is boiled down to a thicker consistency. Maple syrup is just one ingredient and all-natural — the best way to sweeten this cake and add the perfect amount of moisture.
  • Lemon zest. This ingredient adds vibrancy, freshness, and a lovely flavor. I use a microplane to zest citrus.
  • Corn starch. This is an important ingredient since we aren’t using flour and need some additional support and thickness.
  • Baking powder and soda. See if your baking agents are fresh by using this quick test!

Process shots-- images of the batter being filled into the pan and then it all being frosted

How To Make Zucchini Cake From Scratch

This recipe is quick and easy to make. No fancy mixers needed– or even bowls, for that matter.

All we use is a blender!

We blend the entire batter in the blender in different stages. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides frequently (or as needed) to ensure all the ingredients are blending and incorporating. 

Once the batter is fully blended and smooth, transfer it to a baking pan and bake. While it’s baking you can whip together the optional frosting and then frost the completely cooled cake.

QUICK TIP

This recipe is quick and easy to make, but you do need a good, powerful blender (think Blendtec® or Vitamix®) to break down the cashews and oats.

Image of the Zucchini Cake and piece on its side showing the inside

Zucchini Cake FAQs

1How do you shred zucchini for a cake?

  1. Start by washing and completely drying the zucchini.
  2. Cut off both ends.
  3. Rub zucchini against a box grater on the small holes of the grater.

2Should you drain zucchini before baking?

It depends on the recipe, but for this one we do. We need to squeeze out excess water before adding it to the batter so the cake doesn’t end up too wet.

3What does zucchini replace in a cake?

Typically zucchini is taking the place of oil. The two have similar characteristics in baking.

4Do you grate zucchini with skin on?

Yes! The zucchini skin is thin, edible, and has lots of nutrients. There is no need to peel it before grating.

5How do you get moisture out of zucchini without salt?

Letting the shredded zucchini drain on paper towels and pressing out excess moisture using paper towels lets you draw out liquid without adding salt.

6Is courgette and zucchini the same thing?

Yes. Zucchini is the common term used in American English countries while courgette is more commonly used among French and British English speaking people.

7Does zucchini cake need to be refrigerated?

The cake itself doesn’t need to unless you plan to have it around for more than 3 days (then I recommend refrigerating due to the moistness of the cake).

Frosted bars need to be tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge since there is dairy in the frosting. The fridge will turn the bars stale quickly, so they are best consumed soon after being made. (This cake is best eaten within 2-3 days.)

For unfrosted bars, store them in an airtight container at room temperature. Unfrosted bars freeze nicely, but frosted bars don’t freeze as well because of the dairy in the cream cheese frosting.

Frosted cake needs to be tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge since there is dairy in the frosting. The fridge will turn the cake stale quickly, so they are best consumed soon after being made. (This cake is best eaten within 2-3 days.)

 

To freeze*/thaw unfrosted bars:

  1. Cool cake completely before storing. Slice into bars.
  2. To freeze: Wrap individual cake bars in plastic wrap and then place all the wrapped pieces in large freezer bags.
  3. To thaw: Set out at room temperature or thaw frozen cake in the microwave.

Image of a hand holding up the dessert

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Zucchini Cake

5 from 1 vote
A super flavorful and perfectly moist Zucchini Cake complete with a dreamy cream cheese frosting. And no one will be the wiser that this cake is actually made without any flour, refined sugars, or dairy -- yes, really!
Print Recipe

Zucchini Cake

5 from 1 vote
A super flavorful and perfectly moist Zucchini Cake complete with a dreamy cream cheese frosting. And no one will be the wiser that this cake is actually made without any flour, refined sugars, or dairy -- yes, really!
Course Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine American, Healthy, Vegetarian
Keyword Zucchini Cake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 32 minutes
Total Time 47 minutes
Servings 16 bars
Calories 177kcal
Cost $6.83

Equipment

  • High powered blender (Note 1)

Ingredients

Zucchini Cake

  • 1 cup (140g) cashews (Note 2)
  • 1 cup (112g) old-fashioned oats (Note 3)
  • 3/4 cup (238g) pure maple syrup (Note 4)
  • 1/2 cup (106g) melted coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch (Note 5)
  • 1 teaspoon zest of a lemon, optional but recommended
  • 1 cup (150g) finely grated zucchini, excess moisture squeezed out

Optional Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 ounces (56g) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon each: salt, ground cinnamon
  • 1-3/4 cups (210g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened vanilla almond milk or milk of choice
  • Optional: toasted and coarsely chopped pecans

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray. Set aside for now. Grate zucchini on small side of a grater to get fine shreds. Loosely measure to get 1 full cup and then empty the cup of zucchini onto 2 pieces of paper towel. Press down another paper towel on the zucchini to wring out some liquid. Repeat with another paper towel. Let zucchini stand and drain on the paper towel until ready to use.
  • CAKE: Add the cashews, oats, maple syrup, and coconut oil (measure when melted) to a large powerful blender (Blend-tec/Vitamix) and blend until fairly smooth, 60 seconds. Add in the rest of the cake ingredients EXCEPT the zucchini. Blend until smooth and creamy, about 60-90 seconds. Stop and scrape down sides of the blender as needed. Gently stir the prepared zucchini into the batter in the blender and then pour the batter into the prepared pan, using a spatula to scrape every bit into the pan.
  • BAKE: Smooth the top with the spatula and bake for 28-34 minutes or until cake is lightly browned at edges and set in the middle (toothpick when inserted in the center should come out clean). (32 mins is perfect in my oven!)
  • OPTIONAL FROSTING: Meanwhile, place softened cream cheese in a large bowl (give it ample time to set out so your frosting isn't chunky). Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar (beating in between additions) until smooth and creamy and to your desired consistency. Add milk and beat until smooth.
  • DECORATE: Frost the completely cooled cake evenly with the frosting. If desired, top the frosting with chopped pecans.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Blender: You'll need a good, powerful blender (such as Blendtec or Vitamix) to break down the cashews without over-heating the machine.
Note 2: Cashews: We love dry-roasted and lightly salted cashews best — more flavor without any extra effort on your part. (Here's what we use in this cake)
Note 3: Oats: Although it would make sense that any oats would work since they’re getting blended anyways, it’s important to use old-fashioned to ensure you get the right measurement. Both quick and steel-cut oats are smaller, denser, and more compact so measurements would be off and the cake would end up too dry.
Note 4: Pure maple syrup:  a natural sweetener (unlike corn syrup or pancake syrup) made from the sap of a maple tree, which is boiled down to a thicker consistency. I don't recommend any substitutes.
Note 5: Corn starch: This is an important ingredient since we aren't using flour and need some additional support and thickness.
Note 6: Nutrition information does not include the optional cream cheese frosting. With the frosting, one serving of this cake is 236 calories.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 177kcal | Carbohydrates: 16.2g | Protein: 3.1g | Fat: 11.2g | Cholesterol: 23.3mg | Sodium: 11.9mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 9.6g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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