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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Bride's Frosting and a Family Tradition


Memories sometimes have a way of getting all wrapped up and mixed together. The mere sight of a frosted window pane can bring to mind every Christmas at Grandma's house I ever spent, or the smell of a new book can bring to mind the excitement of the first day of school (back when your school supplies consisted of crayons, a lunch box and Elmer's glue). This is the case with my favorite family cake recipe. This cake was the one that my mother made for pretty much every special occasion, and it brings to mind all sorts of good memories.

It brings to mind my mother's recipe binder, which I always held in fascination when I was a child. It was bursting with handwritten recipes, pages from magazines, and recipes cut from box tops and food labels, which she would Scotch tape to pieces of filler paper. I remember the excited glow I felt whenever I saw my mother pull her recipe book out of the cupboard. If she was going to make something ordinary, like spaghetti and meatballs, I would wander away and let her be, but if it was something wonderful, like her powered sugar cookies or Grandmother's Pound Cake, I would pull up a chair to the counter and stand on it while supervising the entire process. I would lick the beaters, the bowl, and the spatula when she was done with them. And even when she tried to scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl, I could always manage a taste or two from the remnants. If she was making roll out cookies, I was the expert cookie cutter and would help sprinkle them with sugar before they went into the oven (always keeping an eye out for stray scraps of cookie dough to munch on). Sometimes, as her recipe binder can still attest to, I would decorate her recipes with little hearts and drawings of me. Today, Mom's recipe binder is a little bigger, and holds more than just recipes; it holds memories too.


This wonderful cake also brings to mind that special moment during a birthday party when the blowing out of the candles was to occur.  This ritual was always magical for me, no matter whose birthday it was.  As soon as the cake was positioned in front of the birthday boy or girl, my cousins and I would gather close to the cake and wait with hungry eyes and eager hearts.  The grown-ups were always much slower in breaking up their conversations and getting over to the table, so we always had time to map out which piece we wanted.  A corner piece or a piece with a frosting rose on it was a high value piece, but I always wanted a piece with writing on it--maybe an "M" or part of the word "Happy."   Every family birthday party photo we have shows our excited little faces front and center by the cake, ready to watch and possibly help out if needed with the blowing out of the candles. (Grown-ups always seemed to need help with that, and now that I'm a grown-up, I always seem to need to my nieces' help, too.)  Maybe it was the candles glowing or the fact that a wish was soon to be made and possibly granted or maybe it was the simple, sweet fact of cake and ice cream, but my childish heart always beat with anticipation as I gazed on the pristine cake while the candles were lit and everyone started to sing.  I realize now that the birthday cake ritual combines everything I value most: family, song, wishes, and, of course, cake.    
  
All the birthdays, anniversaries, and baby showers where this cake was served run together into one massively happy occasion.  Birthday candles, birthday wishes, Mom's recipe binder, presents, laughter, and good times all wash together into one lovely memory that this cake never fails to bring to mind.   

It is a box cake moistened up to perfection with some shredded zucchini, and topped with our famous Bride's Frosting, which is a family legend all by itself.  Apparently my grandmother passed this recipe down to her three daughters, each one receiving a slightly different version, leaving them wondering, to this day, which recipe is the authentic one.  

My mom made this recipe in a 9x13 pan, and after it was cooled, she always sliced a long, skinny piece of cake from one end for us to taste before she frosted it.  I make the recipe as a double layer cake.  Here is our treasured recipe, and I hope it becomes a part of your family traditions as well. 


Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Bride's Frosting

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Ingredients:
1 package Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup shredded, unpeeled zucchini

Bride's Frosting Ingredients:
(To cover the top of a 9 x 13 cake, make a half recipe)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups confectionary sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use clear imitation vanilla extract)

Directions:

To start the frosting, combine 1/4 cup flour and 1 cup milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring contantly until think.  Put mixture into the fridge to cool.

For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan or two 8- or 9-inch pans.  Pour dry cake mix into a bowl, and add eggs, water and oil.  Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.  Fold in zucchini.  Spread evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until toothpick comes out mostly clean and top springs back when touched.  Don't worry if it takes longer than you would think.  The zucchini makes it very moist.  Let cool in pans on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat shortening and butter together.   Add vanilla.  Gradually beat in confectionary sugar until fluffy.  Add cooled milk mixture, and beat until creamy.  

Frost cake and serve!

(My mother's recipe of Bride's Frosting, which is the true version Grandma used to make, no matter what my aunts may say, uses half the amounts I named above.  It is enough to frost the top of a 9 x 13 and possibly the sides if you use it sparingly.  Here are the original amounts:
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup confectionary sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla)