I’m a neglectful mother, at least to the fruits and vegetables in my garden of late. My poor zucchini were abandoned for a month in a tangle of tomato plants and grew into something better suited to hitting baseballs than being cooked into a tender saute. Just last week, I harvested three of them, determined to coax their firm flesh and seedy interiors into something worth eating.
My first experiment was at the suggestion of a neighbor who told me that overgrown zucchini can be cooked down with brown sugar and cinnamon and then mashed into a sweet compote, akin to applesauce. I dutifully cubed and cooked up 10 whole cups, excited that I was onto something BIG. Once finished, the kids and I eagerly dug in, but stopped short after one bite. “Squashsauce” was a total bust and found it’s way pretty quickly into the compost.
Luckily, my next attempt more than made up for that first failure, resulting in these Double Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes. Moist, chocolatey, just sweet enough, the kids loved them. If you take a bite with your eyes closed, you’d never suspect vegetables were part of the equation (as an aside, eating chocolate with your eyes closed is highly underrated).
The treats are decadent enough to qualify as a birthday cupcake, but wholesome enough for an afternoon snack along with a glass of milk (the mini size are good for littler appetites). A full cup and a half of zucchini goes into the batter, along with whole wheat flour, yogurt, and just enough chocolate chips for good measure. Shower the finished cakes with confectioners’ sugar to pretty them up or spread with frosting if you’re looking for a dressier affair.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to call these cupcakes or muffins; I suppose they could qualify as either. Whatever they are, they’re bound to be an improvement over store bought, particularly on the nutrition front. These weigh in at about 200 calories each (80 for the mini size), which isn’t bad, especially when you consider that a chocolate muffin from Starbucks is nearly 500 calories, the ones from Dunkin’ Donuts and Costco, top 600.
With late-season zucchini abundant in markets, now is a good time to get baking. A couple of medium zucchini will more than suffice for the recipe. And don’t worry, you needn’t scare up a neglected, overgrown one to make it, but if you’d like, I’ve got plenty to go around. Come over.
Note: You might also like this Sneaky Chocolate Bundt Cake made with beets and zucchini.
Double Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
If little ribbons of green zucchini in these cupcakes will be a turnoff to your kids, feel free to peel the squash before grating it. If you want to get a little more decadent, frost them with a classic buttercream. You can find a good one at Savory Sweet Life , but be sure to cut the recipe in half. That should still yield plenty of frosting. Leftover frosting is excellent spread between whole grain graham crackers.
• 2 eggs
• 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
• 1/3 cup canola oil
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
• 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
• 1/2 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
• Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 1 dozen regular-size muffin tins or 36 mini muffin tins with paper liners or generously grease with oil or butter.
Put the grated zucchini in a colander set over the sink and use your hands to squeeze out some of the liquid. Leave in the sink until ready to use.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high until foamy and light yellow, a minute or so. Add the yogurt, canola oil, sugar, and vanilla and beat again on medium until one even color and consistency, another minute. Set aside. You can also do this with a whisk and a little elbow grease.
In a medium bowl, combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir well with a fork to blend all the ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat on medium just until evenly mixed together, scraping down the sides as needed.
Add the zucchini and chocolate chips to the batter. Mix until just combined.
For full-size cupcakes, fill each tin with a scant ¼ cup of batter. For mini cupcakes, figure about 1 ½ tablespoons of batter each (although this can vary depending on the size of your muffin tins).
Put into the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes for full-size cupcakes, closer to 20 minutes for minis.
Remove from oven and leave on the counter until completely cool. Finish with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar or your favorite chocolate frosting.
Will keep up to 4 days in the fridge or wrapped well, will freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes 12 regular and 30 mini cupcakes.