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Zucchini Cake Recipe with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

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This lightly spiced zucchini cake is topped with a luscious maple cream cheese frosting for the perfect fall touch. This moist zucchini cake recipe is one you’ll want to make all autumn long!

Plated slice of zucchini cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting.

Alright, I’m finally almost ready to embrace fall.

Even though the afternoons are still a bit warm and humid around here, the mornings are starting to be nice and cool. With school in session and Labor Day over, it’s starting to feel more like fall.

So to continue to ease us into the season, I’m taking some of the last of my summer zucchini and putting in this zucchini cake with maple cream cheese frosting.

It’s a little hybrid of summer and fall, with the zucchini pairing with fall spices, ginger, and maple.

It’s a simple cake that you can whip up quickly, so it’s perfect for guests or just because you’re craving cake on a Thursday afternoon.

Slice being lifted up from a zucchini cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting.

WHY PUT ZUCCHINI IN CAKE?

I put zucchini in baked goods all of the time. It’s the only way I stand a chance at getting zucchini into my family.

But other than trying to get my husband and kid to eat zucchini, why put zucchini in recipes like chocolate zucchini cake, lemon zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini muffins, and this zucchini cake with maple cream cheese frosting?

Slice of zucchini cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting with a bite taken from the corner.

You can think of zucchini the way you’d think of bananas or applesauce in a baked good. Why would we put bananas in moist banana cake or applesauce in applesauce bread

For moisture and texture!

Zucchini has such a high water content that it instantly helps keep baked goods moist and tender. It also has a lovely mild flavor that pairs nicely with warm spices like cinnamon and ginger.

Even though some recipes, like chocolate zucchini bread, are made to hide the flavor of zucchini, this zucchini cake recipe lets the zucchini shine alongside the spices and maple frosting. 

Ingredients for zucchini cake arranged on a light gray countertop.

HOW TO MAKE THIS ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This zucchini cake recipe is super simple to make. In fact, you can mix up the cake batter with just a bowl and a spatula – no mixer required!

Key ingredients

There are a few key ingredients that work with the shredded zucchini to really make this simple cake extra special.

Apple pie spice: Remember how zucchini pairs well with warm spices? Apple pie spice has all of the spices we need here: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cardamom. 

Crystallized ginger: This is an optional ingredient, but I think it’s one of the best parts of this cake! Chopped crystallized ginger adds a great zip and amazing texture to this recipe. Most grocery stores sell crystallized ginger in the baking aisle, but you can also purchase it online.

Dry ingredients for zucchini cake whisked together in a glass mixing bowl.

Vegetable oil and applesauce: To make sure this cake is super moist, vegetable oil and applesauce are used in place of butter in this recipe.

Brown sugar and granulated sugar: This recipe uses half brown sugar and half granulated sugar. The brown sugar is especially important – it adds flavor and helps the cake hold the moisture from the zucchini, vegetable oil, and applesauce.

Other ingredients you will need are:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Wet ingredients for a zucchini cake whisked together in a white mixing bowl.

Making this recipe

Making the batter for this zucchini cake recipe is as simple as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, apple pie spice, crystallized ginger, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients: oil, applesauce, eggs, sugars, and vanilla extract.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in the zucchini.
Zucchini cake batter in a greased cake pan, ready to go in the oven.

From there, pour the batter into a greased 8×8-inch cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely before adding the maple cream cheese frosting.

This frosting has maple syrup and apple pie spice in it for a flavorful twist, but you can use a classic cream cheese frosting if you prefer.

Baked and cooled zucchini cake on a cooling rack next to a bowl of maple cream cheese frosting.

STORAGE AND FREEZING

Because of the cream cheese frosting on this cake, store the cake in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. I recommend bringing the cake to room temperature before serving it.

Wondering if you can freeze this zucchini cake?

For best results, I recommend freezing the cake before adding the frosting. Wrap it tightly in a layer of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of foil, and freeze for up to 1 month.

Side view of sliced zucchini cake with maple cream cheese frosting.

Let the cake thaw at room temperature before frosting.

You can make the frosting ahead of time and freeze it separately from the cake if you’d like. Freeze it in an airtight container for up to a month. 

Let the frosting thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature, then whip it with an electric mixer for a minute before spreading it over the thawed zucchini cake.

Corner slice pulled away from a zucchini cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini

For the Frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray an 8×8 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, apple pie spice, crystallized ginger, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. Combine oil, applesauce, eggs, sugars and vanilla; add to dry ingredients and mix well. Add zucchini; stir until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared 8×8 inch baking pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

For the Frosting

  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and apple pie spice until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix well.
  2. Frost cake once completely cool.

Notes

Store covered in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

This frosting is a little on the thin side and is not able to be piped. If you find the consistency to be too thin for your taste, gradually add in a little more confectioners’ sugar.

If you enjoy nuts, pecans and walnuts both pair well with this recipe. Simply fold in a ½ cup of chopped nuts before pouring the batter into the pan.

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Nutrition Information

Yield 9

Serving Size 1 slice

Amount Per Serving

Calories 485Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 64mgSodium 262mgCarbohydrates 70gFiber 1gSugar 54gProtein 4g


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