Chocolate Zucchini Gluten-free Tea Cake

  • Serves: Makes two 9 x 2-inch layers or one 9 x 13-inch pan
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 350
  • Views: 7786
  • Comments: 2

This chocolate flavored moist tea cake is a great treat to have when you're looking for an afternoon snack or want something not-too-sweet to have with tea or coffee. It has a texture that is somewhere between zucchini bread and a cake; its lighter in texture than a zucchini bread but not as fluffy as a cake. This recipe makes a great healthy snacking cake because it's chock full of fruit and fiber from the applesauce and the shredded zucchini, and the cocoa powder adds lots of antioxidants. There's not a lot of fat in the recipe; I replaced it with unsweetened applesauce, making it the perfect gluten-free treat! I use the gluten-free mixing methods I developed to enhance this tea cake's taste and texture in the absence of wheat flour. Find out what I did.


2 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour; spoon into dry measuring cup and level to rim; or any Gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken or soy milk buttermilk* 
1 tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 cups (about 2 to 3 medium) zucchini squash; shred on the small holes on a grater, measure, squeeze out juice from
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips; mini's are best to use

1 cup powdered sugar; spoon into dry measuring cup and level to rim
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice or water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange or 1/4 teaspoon pure orange oil 

Fruit Filling and Garnish:
5 - 6 medium navel oranges
1/3 cup raspberry preserves or jam; does not have to be seedless

2 pints of raspberries

*To make 1 cup soy milk buttermilk: 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar (does not add flavor to baked good) in a glass measuring cup.  Add in soy milk to equal 1 cup. Stir. Let stand for 15 minutes until it looks like it is beginning to curdle or slightly curdled.

Use 1 1/2 cups (about 2 to 3 medium) zucchini squash; shred on the small holes on a grater, measure, squeeze out juice from:
1. Place the grater disc in the food processor. Process the washed zucchini through the food processor.

2. Measure 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini in a dry measuring cup.

3. Then squeeze out the juice from the zucchini shreds with your hand. Use the squeezed zucchini in the recipe. Discard the extra juice.

Make Orange supremes or segments for the cake filling and garnish:
1. Cut the top and bottom off the orange.

2. Cut the peel off the orange, making sure to remove all of the white pith.

3.  Cut the orange segment on both sides of the membrane, releasing the supreme into a bowl. 
Place the orange membrane in another bowl, because we will be using it later.

4. Continue with the rest of the oranges. 

5. Line two plates with paper towels and place the supremes on the plates to absorb the excess juice.
Put the prettiest supremes on one plate, and the less than perfect ones on another plate. 
You will use the prettiest slices on top of the cake, and the others between the layers.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed to fill and garnish the cake.

6. Afterwards, squeeze the juice from the saved membranes into a small bowl.
Throw the membranes away, and cover and refrigerate the saved juice until need in the glaze recipe.


Heat the oven and prepare the pans:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  

2. Grease two 9 x 2-inch or one 9 x 13-inch baking pan and set aside.
A. Line with parchment paper: Place one pan on top of a piece of parchment paper and trace around it with a pencil. The lead is nontoxic.
Cut out the round of parchment paper following the pencil marks as a guide.

B. Grease the pans with cooking oil spray. Place the parchment paper round in each pan, and grease again. Set pans aside until needed.

Mix the cake ingredients:
1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon and salt. into a stand mixer bowl.

2. In another bowl, combine the applesauce, sugars, eggs, buttermilk, and oil.

3 . Add the applesauce mixture to the dry ingredients in the stand mixer bowl.

4. Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. Set the mixer speed to high and beat for 2 minutes until the batter is light, fluffy and aerated.
SARAH SAYS: Besides mixing, this also activates the xanthan gum and after two or so minutes, the batter should have strands forming in it, as it is beaten.
This is a critical part of my new gluten-free mixing method. The cake batter will look pretty strange before this "miracle mixing" process; it magically turns into a "real" looking fluffy cake batter after this important aerating step.
If mixed properly, the funny odor from the gluten-free ingredients should pretty much disappear. The batter should not taste bitter, either.

5. Unclamp the mixer bowl. Add the shredded and squeezed zucchini and chocolate chips to the chocolate cake batter. Fold them into the batter.

6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth the batter in the pans.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until done. The cake will spring back lightly when touched. Do not overbake. 
Let sit on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then unmold cake. 

7. Peel off parchment paper from the bottom of each cake. Place cakes right-side-up on a wire rack to cool completely.

Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for a day, and then freeze, even if for a day or two. Thaw at room temperature. The applesauce in the cake layers will make them sticky on top if stored at room temperature for more than a day.

Make the Orange Glaze: 
1. Sift the measured powdered sugar into a medium size mixing bowl.

2. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice. (Drink the rest!) Add it to the powdered sugar.

3. Add the vanilla, and the zest of one orange. Stir to combine.

4. Stir to combine. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto its surface and set aside until needed.

Assemble the cake right before serving:
1. Cut the mound off of one of the cake layers with a sharp serrated knife. Place it cut side up on a serving platter.

2. Spread the raspberry jam over the surface of the layer, avoiding the edges of the cake.

3. Scatter the orange supremes over the surface of the jam, then put the second layer of cake in place.
Make sure to reserve the prettiest supremes for the top of the cake.

4. Alternate one orange slice and one raspberry around the edge of the cake, filling the gap.

5. Spoon the Orange Glaze over the cake, letting the glaze flow down the sides of the cake.

6. Make a ring of orange supremes around the top of the cake, and fill the center with raspberries.

7. Use the rest of the raspberries around the bottom edge of the cake.

8. Serve right away.

Store cake in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. It can be frozen for a month or more. Cakes with applesauce tend to "sweat" when stored because they draw moisture from the air, so refrigeration helps with this issue.

Other Recipes