Chocolate cake is something that should be bitter, decadent and, above all, moist. One of the best ways to achieve this, short of incorporating a multitude of sins, is to introduce a somewhat unexpected ingredient to the mix; courgette (zucchini).
As with carrot cake, vegetables – or fruit in this case – serve to hydrate and hold together a cake, developing a moist, dense structure. Of course, the inclusion of oil and black treacle (molasses) both help to soften proceedings a little, but it is the courgette that really lays the foundations of this smashing number.
The addition of nuts – hazelnuts or otherwise – only serve to provide this chocolate courgette cake with even more interest. The crunch provides a sweet and delicate contrast to the otherwise bitter hunk of decadence. Remember, even something as delightful as chocolate cake needs a surprise or two to make it truly exceptional.
Many chocolate courgette cake recipes plump for a ganache made with double cream. However, sour cream or even crème fraîche seem more appropriate choices given the bitterness of the sponge. A great deal of icing doesn’t always do it for me, but in this case the extra chocolate caps off a truly exquisite creation rather nicely.
Of course, chocolate cakes come in all shapes and sizes, and my recipe for Apricot Chocolate Fudge Cake is a decadent little number that’s also worth a bake.
Chocolate Courgette Cake
Makes 1 20cm cake
• 250g self-raising flour
• 3 small courgettes (around 325g), finely grated
• 60g cocoa powder
• 320g golden caster sugar
• 1 tbsp black treacle (molasses)
• 150ml vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 100g hazelnuts, skin on
• 200g dark chocolate
• 100ml sour cream
1. Preheat your oven to 160C (fan)/ 180C. Lightly toast your hazelnuts before roughly chopping them. Combine the flour, cocoa powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl, before mixing in the oil, treacle, eggs and hazelnuts. Finally, stir in the courgettes and pour into a lined baking tin.
2. Bake the cake for around 50 minutes – until a knife comes out clean when inserted. Leave to cool for ten minutes until turning out onto a wire rack.
3. To make the ganache, melt your chocolate gently in a bain marie. Set to one side for a minute or two before whisking in your sour cream. Spread the ganache over the cooled cake.
Cost: Though decadent in quality, this simple and understated chocolate courgette cake is relatively cost effective at around £4.