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slice of zucchini cake with fork about to remove a bite.

Easy Zucchini Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 48 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 12
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


This easy zucchini cake comes together quickly. You’ll love the cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla flavors paired with the stick-to-the-back-of-your-fork moist texture. Enjoy it with lusciously smooth brown butter cream cheese frosting, or you can opt for a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar instead.


  • 2 and 1/2 cups (313g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (180g) unsweetened applesauce, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (190g) shredded zucchini

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
  • 8 ounces (226g) full-fat block-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (300g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla extract together in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Fold in the shredded zucchini until combined. 
  4. Pour and spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 45–50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on it. Around the 30-minute mark, loosely tent with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Brown the butter: Set out a medium heatproof bowl because you’ll need it at the end of this step. Place the sliced butter in a light-colored skillet or saucepan. A light-colored interior is crucial for determining when the butter begins to brown. Melt the butter over medium heat and stir or whisk constantly. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Continue stirring/whisking, keeping a close eye on it. After about 5–7 minutes, the butter will begin browning and you’ll notice lightly browned specks forming at the bottom of the pan. The butter will have a nutty aroma. The color will gradually deepen, from yellow to golden to golden-brown; once it’s a light caramel-brown color, remove from heat immediately and pour into the bowl, including any brown solids that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely and solidify.
  7. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the solidified brown butter on high speed until creamy and smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat again until smooth and combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Spread the frosting on the cooled cake.
  8. Slice and serve.
  9. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cake through step 5. Cover the cake tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature before serving. Continue with step 6.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): Box Grater9×13-inch Glass Baking Pan | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer) | Light-Colored Saucepan | Silicone Whisk | Icing Spatula
  3. Quarter Sheet Pan: I really like to bake quarter sheet cakes in a glass 9×13-inch pan or this metal pan that comes with a lid.
  4. Can I replace or reduce the oil? Vegetable oil is the best option for this cake. You can replace with a neutral-flavored oil such as avocado oil or canola oil. Feel free to use melted refined coconut oil (refined doesn’t have much of a coconut flavor) and make sure every other ingredient in the cake batter is room temperature, so the oil doesn’t solidify. Do not replace with melted butter because the cake will taste dry. You can replace a small amount of the oil with applesauce if needed, but keep in mind that the cake will begin to taste dry/rubbery the more oil you replace.
  5. Applesauce: It’s best to use unsweetened applesauce in this recipe—you need a wet ingredient that won’t overpower the other flavors in the cake. Feel free to use mashed banana or canned crushed pineapple instead, but keep in mind that the flavor of the cake will change.
  6. Brown Butter: For more information and troubleshooting, see this post on how to brown butter.
  7. Layer Cake: Grease three 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. Divide batter between the three round cake pans. Bake for about 26–32 minutes, depending on which size pan you used. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Use the brown butter cream cheese frosting recipe/ratios from this banana layer cake so you have enough.
  8. Bundt Cake: This cake batter will fit into a greased 10-cup or larger Bundt pan. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 55–70 minutes. The baking time varies depending on your oven; keep your eye on the cake after 55 minutes. Feel free to cover the cake loosely with aluminum foil about halfway through to prevent heavy browning on top. Allow the cake to cool in the pan set on a wire rack, then invert onto a serving plate once cooled and ready to serve.
  9. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19–21 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen.

Keywords: zucchini cake