Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Super moist and indulgent chocolate zucchini cake is studded with chocolate chips and topped with chocolate fudge frosting. Made with three cups of shredded zucchini (you can’t taste it!), this is the most decadent way to eat your greens.

slice of chocolate zucchini cake on a black plate

Today, we have a triple dose of chocolate in the form of luxuriously rich chocolate zucchini cake. No, you can’t taste the zucchini. No, you can’t see the zucchini. Yes, it’s unbelievably delicious and I’m showing you exactly how to make it!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Video Tutorial

Can you just look at how rich and moist this cake is? It tastes even better than it looks, I swear. The real secret behind it are the hidden vegetables inside. If you’re one who believes veggies should have nothing to do with dessert, keep an open mind. Carrot cake, anyone?!

slice of chocolate zucchini cake on a black plate with a fork

Why You’ll Love This Chocolate Zucchini Cake

  • Just as loved as my chocolate cake
  • Super moist and rich with mega chocolate flavor
  • Easy to make
  • Uses up summer zucchini
  • 3 cups of vegetables hiding inside– you don’t even taste it!
  • Covered in chocolate buttercream

Overview: Chocolate Zucchini Cake Ingredients

This decadent cake is made with fresh summer zucchini and pantry basics. Did you know that cocoa powder can dry out baked goods much more than flour? To compensate for this, we ensure there’s plenty of added moisture in the cake batter. Let’s review:

  • Flour: Sturdy all-purpose flour is the base of this cake recipe. Do not use cake flour– when combined with ultra-light cocoa powder, cake flour is too fine.
  • Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder: Cocoa powder takes the place of some flour. Just as in my regular chocolate cake recipe, make sure you’re using natural unsweetened cocoa powder instead of dutch-process cocoa powder. If you’re interested, see dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for an in-depth explanation.
  • Baking Soda & Baking Powder: Use both baking soda and baking powder for lift.
  • Espresso Powder: Espresso powder accentuates the chocolate flavor. While optional, I highly recommend using it. The chocolate zucchini cake won’t taste like coffee. Rather, the espresso powder helps bring out the intense chocolate flavor.
  • Salt: Salt balances the flavor.
  • Oil: Oil adds moisture. You can try replacing *some* of the oil with unsweetened applesauce. I’ve done this with chocolate cakes and muffins and the result is wonderful, but I don’t recommend replacing all of it. Regardless of the zucchini inside, this isn’t health food, it’s dessert. Don’t make it something it’s not! 🙂
  • Sugar: We’ll use a combination of brown sugar and white granulated sugar. Brown sugar not only provides moisture, but flavor as well.
  • Eggs: 4 eggs bind everything together and add moisture. Remember room temperature is important.
  • Sour Cream: You can use sour cream or plain yogurt. Either add moisture.
  • Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract adds flavor.
  • Zucchini: There are a whopping 3 cups of shredded zucchini in this recipe. Testing how much we can get away with… without actually tasting it! Zucchini is pure magic in cakes– nothing but flavorless moisture. Same goes with my zucchini bread, too!
  • Chocolate Chips: For mega chocolate flavor, add chocolate chips to the batter. They’re key to those melty pockets of chocolate in each slice. I use semi-sweet chocolate chips, but mini chocolate chips or even dark chocolate chips would pair wonderfully.

wet ingredients in a glass bowl and dry ingredients in a glass bowl

2 images of shredded zucchini on a white cutting board and chocolate cake batter in a glass bowl with a hand mixer

2 round cake pans filled with chocolate zucchini cake batter before baking

Overview: How to Make Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This chocolate zucchini cake comes together quickly and easily! Simply whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl and beat the wet ingredients together in another bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then add the chocolate chips. The cake batter will be slightly thick thanks to all of the zucchini! Divide the batter between two 9-inch cake pans or you can make a quarter sheet cake using a 9×13 inch cake pan. See my recipe notes for details.

  • Need cupcakes instead? This recipe yields about 24-30 cupcakes. See recipe note.

spreading chocolate fudge frosting onto layer of chocolate zucchini cake on a serving plate

Chocolate Frosting

We’re topping and filling this chocolate zucchini cake with smooth, silky, and creamy chocolate buttercream. We’re using my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe, but increasing the quantity. We do this for my regular chocolate cake, too. If you would rather top this cake with vanilla frosting, use the vanilla frosting included in my white cake recipe. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll have enough frosting to frost the entire layer cake AND a little leftover for some fun piping on top. Decorate however you’d like! I used Ateco #30 tip for the piping.

overhead image of chocolate zucchini cake with piped frosting decorations with a slice cut out

chocolate zucchini cake on a serving plate

Deep, dark, luxuriously rich, crazy moist, and weirdly loaded with vegetables that you absolutely can’t taste. After one bite you’ll be convinced this is the best way to eat your veggies! You’ll love my zucchini oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, too.

More Chocolate Recipes

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slice of chocolate zucchini cake on a black plate with a fork

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 10-12
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This super rich and moist chocolate zucchini cake is topped with milk chocolate fudge frosting- you won’t even taste the vegetables!


Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (63g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)*
  • 1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • chocolate frosting or vanilla frosting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9×2 inch cake pans. (Make sure they’re at least 2 inches high, deep dish style.) Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, espresso powder (if using), and salt together in a large bowl. In another large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and zucchini together until combined. Pour into dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until completely combined. Beat in the chocolate chips. Batter will be slightly thick.
  3. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 25-32 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  4. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Pipe any leftover frosting on top. (I used Ateco #30 tip.) Decorate with chocolate sprinkles or mini chocolate chips if desired. Slice and serve.
  5. Cover any leftover cake and store at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare cakes and frosting 1 day in advance. Keep cakes at room temperature, covered tightly. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container, then bring to room temperature when ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cakes may be frozen up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, if desired, before serving.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): Box Grater, Glass Mixing Bowls, KitchenAid Stand Mixer, KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Round Cake Pan, Cupcake Liners, Cupcake Pan, #30 Ateco Closed Star Tip, and Disposable Icing Bags
  3. Blot the Zucchini: Give the shredded zucchini a very light blotting with a towel. Don’t squeeze too much moisture out, just a little blot before adding to the wet ingredients. I own and love this box grater— works quickly!
  4. 9×13 Cake: Interested in making a sheet cake instead? This batter will fit into a 9×13 pan. The bake time is long– at least 45 minutes to ensure the thick cake is baked through. Same oven temperature.
  5. Cupcakes: This recipe yields 24-30 cupcakes. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out *mostly* clean with no wet batter. Same oven temperature.

Keywords: chocolate zucchini cake

Also try these as cupcakes! Directions in the recipe notes.

chocolate zucchini cupcake topped with chocolate fudge frosting

444 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,
    Let me just say that I have made this amazing cake and with cup for cup gluten free flour and it was out of this world and YES!!! you would never know that there is a vegetable in this luscious cake! Love your recipes, they are always a hit!
    Rosetta

  2. Made this into cupcakes for a family gathering and everyone LOVED them. Thank you, Sally, for doing all of the work and making me look so good.

    1. Soooo chocolatey, soooo moist, and no one could detect the zucchini! I did 3- 8 inch cake layers for 22 minutes and they turned out perfect. They also baked pretty flat which is impressive since I’m at about 4,000 feet in elevation. I’m so glad I planted a zucchini plant this year .

  3. Earl Williams says:

    This cake is a legend in our family. Just had a request for it yesterday from my sister-in-law.

  4. This is now my “go to” chocolate cake. The grandsons love it and so does my husband. Neighbors, too! I’ve brought it to dinner parties and served it to my classmates as unadorned mini-cupcakes. Everyone agrees with you, Sally, this is a super recipe.

    1. I add 1 tsp. of cinnamon to the dry ingredients. Yummy cake!

      1. Beryl, next time!!

  5. I made this in a 13×9 pan. It was DELICIOUS!! It was moist and it was hard to believe there was zucchini in it

    1. Did you change the baking time for the 13×9 pan?

      1. Alex,
        Yes, if I remember correctly, it took longer than the original time. I would start checking it with a toothpick around 35 to 40 minutes and go from there.

  6. You can never have too much zucchini if you bake this cake all summer! Super moist! Chocolate! We loved it! Thanks Sally!

  7. CrazyCookieLady says:

    Wow! This recipe is amazing! Made as cupcakes and they were so chocolaty yet still light and fluffy! Thank you for this delicious recipe. I have it pinned and will absolutely be making it again!

  8. naomi winkel says:

    I’m making this for our church luncheon tomorrow to celebrate all 3 of my kid’s birthdays. My middle daughter’s birthday was July 15, my youngest daughter’s birthday is Monday and she will be 5, and my oldest child my son his birthday is Tuesday and he will turn 14.

  9. This cake is incredible!

  10. This was the most delicious chocolate cake! I brought this to a weekend gathering of friends. They went crazy for it, they just couldn’t believe there was zucchini in it.
    I did, however, use a different recipe for the icing. It was a recipe that was a little more difficult to make than yours but was incredibly delicious with this cake. It is also a milk chocolate icing but was a custard based icing but friends said it was delicious and not too sweet.

    1. Trish Poirier says:

      Oh man, I don’t think I squeezed enough liquid from the zucchini. It’s baking now.

  11. Bette Bailey says:

    This was absolutely wonderful!
    Do you have a recipe for a white chocolate cake with zucchini??
    Maybe with white chocolate buttercream frosting??

    1. That sounds divine! I don’t have any recipes like that right now, but here is my white chocolate frosting recipe.

  12. If you just have the standard 9×1.5″ cake pans (not deep dish style), would you recommend dividing the batter into 3 cakes or would they be too thin this way?
    Or i have deep dish square pans (8×8), would 2 of these work and just do a square cake instead of a round one?
    Alternatively I could just fill the current cake pans up to a certain level (what level do you recommend, 3/4?) and the rest make a few cupcakes? Preferably do an entire cake with layers (not interesting in doing a 9×13).

    1. Hi Cora, I think making it into a three layer cake would be just fine! Each layer will be thinner so just keep in mind that your bake time will likely be shorter. Hope you love it!

  13. I made this cake with and it was extremely delicious. My husband loves it. How can I can make this cake without eggs?

    1. Hi Inna- I’m so happy you and your husband love this recipe! I’m not the best one to ask about egg free baking– I have every little experience. Sorry!

  14. Giselle Larson says:

    I don’t have espresso powder but I do make espresso using freshly roasted beans. How would this be substituted?

  15. Kimberley Paszkowski says:

    My family was silent while eating this dessert! Absolutely delicious and easy!

  16. Corinne Arnold says:

    I loved it. I put nuts in it . . I want to make a vanilla zucchini. I could peel the zucchini so there wouldn’t be iany green flecks in it.. It was really moist.
    thanks

  17. Good to know, we have a few relatives that suffer with Celiac.

  18. Gretchen Hanes says:

    This cake recipe is excellent. I made it in a 9 x 13” pan at 350 and baked for 50 minutes. I baked it on parchment paper, and while it was heavy, I was easily able to remove it to place on a tray. I used a mix of Hershey’s and Wincrest unsweetened black cocoa and frosted with homemade cream cheese frosting. I took it to a party and it was inhaled. Your measurements and instructions were spot on and I appreciate you going to the trouble to share this delicious dessert with us!

    1. I’m so happy it was a hit at the party, Gretchen!

  19. Lisa Heberling says:

    Do I need to make any adjustments (other than baking time, of course) to make this as mini-bundt cakes?

    1. No, it should work as mini cakes as written. Enjoy!

  20. I made this cake for my sister-in-law’s birthday and I ABSOLUTETLY LOVED IT! Will be making this again for the weekend.

  21. Hi can I use sour milk instead of sour cream/yogurt? How would I assure the same consistency?

    1. Hi Mary! Replacing the solid sour cream/yogurt with a liquid is definitely doable, but it will slightly change the texture of the cake. The cake crumb may not be as densely packed– likely a little softer. Let me know how you like it!

  22. This was a hit when I brought it to work for a birthday. Lots of compliments and “I just can’t stop eating cake” comments. Will definitely make this again! Loved the frosting too.

  23. Do you think that I can double the recipe and freeze one?

    1. Hi Carol, I recommend making the recipe twice instead of doubling it to avoid under or over-mixing. But this cake freezes well!

  24. I’ve been hiding zucchini in chocolate cake since my boys, (now adults), were little.
    After trying many recipes, I thought I’d found the perfect one – the one that I’ve been using for years- until- on a whim- I found your recipe and OH MY GOODNESS!
    This cake is to die for- so chocolate -e and so moist – and amazing even without the frosting I didn’t have the chance to make.
    Thank you for sharing and for my new favorite chocolate zucchini cake recipe.

  25. So delicious! No one would ever know 3 cups of zucchini are in this cake! I needed a glass of milk to enjoy it fully, its very decadent. Thanks for sharing, I am saving the recipe!

  26. I made this recipe a few weeks ago and even with the “help” of my toddler, baking it in three 20cm pans in a slightly dodgy oven, and reducing the amount of sugar by about two-thirds, it was delish. I found letting it sit for a day got the balance just right between the super-sweet icing and my less sweet version of the cake. Am making again for my niece’s birthday tomorrow!

  27. I’ll definitely make this cake again. The cake has chocolatey depth, and I used Guittard extra dark chips (63%), so I opted for the vanilla frosting for balance. The Vanilla Frosting is great too. Got rave reviews from the four people I shared with.

    For your high altitude peeps: At a mile high, I did *almost* textbook adjustments—added 1/4 C. flour (2T. per cup) and cut the baking powder in half. Silly, but I couldn’t bring myself to halve the baking soda to such a small amount. Baked 24 cupcakes at 350 for 23 minutes. Cake was perfectly done, though domed a skosh too much (a little pointy) for proper results. I’m just happy they didn’t rise tall and then collapse into craters. Next time, I’ll cut the baking soda, too, in search of the perfect dome.

  28. Could you please provide the nutrition info for this cake ? My husband is diabetic and I need to know the carbohydrate and sugar content.

    1. Hi Rose, I’m unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  29. Made this cake several times this Summer and it was a hit with everyone even our picky eaters! So moist and delicious chocolate cake heaven. Thank you

  30. I am using a Bundt pan. How does that effect cooking time. I am figuring about an hour.

    1. Hi Mary, I haven’t baked this in a bundt pan, but yes it will be a much longer bake time!

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