"Oh the desert dreams of a river
That will run down to the sea
Like my heart longs for an ocean
To wash down over me.
"Oh the outcast dreams of acceptance
Just to find pure love's embrace
Like an orphan longs for its mother
May you hold me in your grace."
- from "From this Valley", by the Civil Wars
The Civil Wars are playing the soundtrack to my life these days. I'm a pretty happy person, but I do like my music full of longing, and the Civil Wars have that in spades. I chose one of the more upbeat songs on the album to excerpt here; I thought you might be alarmed for me if I quoted "Dust to Dust" or "Eavesdrop".
Fall is the perfect season for melancholy, as the days grow shorter and the weather cooler. Out of the corner of my eye, I can almost see winter wafting into the on-deck circle. And maybe this impacts my baking as well as my choice of music.
Zucchini is technically a summer vegetable, but this recipe is a perfect way to pull it into autumn. Although I don't make cake very often, this one has catapulted its way into my top two or three. The spicy flavours of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg warm up the zucchini, and the cinnamon cream cheese frosting is so great, I want to spread it on everything I make. Curl up with the The Civil Wars and a slice of this cake, and you might feel like a little bit of wistful isn't a bad thing.
Zucchini Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
(cake recipe from Eats Well With Others; frosting recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures)
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (8 oz)
3/4 cup raisins or walnuts
For the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” round cake pan (or an 8” x 8” square baking pan) with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar and vanilla. Mix in the eggs until well-mixed. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until just incorporated.
Mix the zucchini and raisins into the cake batter until just incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, beat butter and cream cheese together until creamy and well-mixed. Add icing sugar, a bit at a time, and beat on low speed until combined. Add cinnamon and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed for an additional minute. Spread over cake.