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Moist, perfectly spiced, and finished with a fluffy cream cheese frosting, this easy zucchini cake recipe is truly the best!

Close up side shot of an easy zucchini cake recipe on a white plate with chopped nuts on top.
Table of Contents
  1. Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is an Easy Way to Use Zucchini
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make Zucchini Cake
  4. Preparation and Storage Tips
  5. Recipe Variations
  6. Tips for the Best Zucchini Cake Recipe
  7. Easy Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

We can’t get enough easy cake recipes to add to our rotation! From a one-bowl carrot cake to a one-bowl buttermilk chocolate cake or a Greek yogurt chocolate zucchini cake made with cake mix, these simple desserts are always popular, and they’re perfect for just about every occasion. Best of all, they don’t require fancy equipment, expensive ingredients, or extensive time in the kitchen.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is an Easy Way to Use Zucchini

If you’re looking for an easy zucchini cake recipe to make at home, you have come to the right place. You don’t need any fancy ingredients or any special baking skills. The foolproof recipe is made from scratch and yields a moist, tender crumb every time.

Best of all, there’s no need to worry about stacking layers, crooked cakes, or evenly icing the sides. This sheet cake has the perfect cake-to-frosting ratio, and is sweet…but not too sweet. If you’re going to enjoy boatloads of garden-fresh zucchini over the warm summer months, this is the way to do it!

Overhead image of two small plates with slices of zucchini cake on a green table.

Why Use Zucchini in Baking

If you’ve never tried a zucchini cake, then it might sound odd to add this green vegetable to a sweet dessert. But don’t worry — you can’t actually taste the zucchini when it’s baked into the cake.

Think of zucchini like bananas or applesauce in baked goods. It adds texture and moisture; helps bulk up cakes, muffins, and bread; and contributes a bit of nutrition as well. Plus, if you’ve ever had a summer garden overflowing with zucchini, you’ll likely appreciate any new way to take advantage of the abundant veggies!

Two slices of zucchini cake on a table with raisins and cream cheese frosting in the background.

Do you peel zucchini for baking?

No, you don’t need to peel the zucchini before grating it and folding it into the batter. Zucchini skin is so thin that it does not add an unpleasant, tough texture to baked goods.

Should you drain zucchini before baking?

Some recipes suggest that you should squeeze the zucchini dry to wring out most of the moisture before adding it to the dish. In this recipe (and in other similar recipes like zucchini bread and zucchini muffins), you do not need to drain the zucchini before mixing it into the batter. The damp zucchini will keep the cake nice and moist!

What does old fashioned zucchini cake taste like?

If the sound of zucchini cake makes you think of a salad, then think again! You cannot actually taste the zucchini in this recipe. Instead, zucchini cake is a type of spice cake, prominently flavored with warm notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and vanilla. The zucchini adds a bit of texture and helps to keep the cake moist. You’ll also love the rich, creamy, and fluffy cream cheese frosting on top!

While zucchini cake is ultimately a spice cake, it gets its unique flavor and texture from the extra mix-ins that you won’t find in just any spice cake — such as nuts, coconut, or raisins. Add as many (or as few) of these extras as you like!

Process shot showing how to make zucchini cake.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an easy zucchini cake. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • All-purpose flour: the base of the cake batter.
  • Baking soda: the leavening agent that helps the cake rise.
  • Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves: warm spices that give the zucchini cake its classic flavor.
  • Salt: to balance the sweetness and enhance the other flavors in the cake.
  • Granulated sugar and light brown sugar: to sweeten the cake.
  • Canola or vegetable oil: keeps the cake extra moist!
  • Vanilla extract: for even more warm flavor.
  • Large eggs: give the cake structure.
  • Grated zucchini: the cake’s namesake! You can’t actually taste the zucchini in the cake; however, it adds great moisture and texture. I use about 2 small zucchini to equal 2 cups shredded.
  • Chopped pecans or walnuts, shredded coconut, or raisins: optional mix-ins that you can add to the batter (or to the top of the cake) for more texture. I like to use golden raisins in the batter for even more texture and sweetness, and then garnish with chopped pecans on top.
  • Butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract: come together to create an easy cream cheese frosting. You can sub with a tub of store-bought frosting if you prefer a shortcut!
Zucchini cake batter in a baking dish before it goes in the oven.

How to Make Zucchini Cake

A recipe for zucchini cake is handy to stash in your recipe box — especially for those warm summer months when zucchini is abundant! I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview of how to make it:

  • Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Whisk together the wet ingredients.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
  • Stir in the zucchini and raisins (or other mix-ins). Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes. Cool.
  • Mix together the cream cheese frosting and spread on the cool cake.
  • Chill for about 1 hour (to let the frosting set), and then slice and serve!
Overhead shot of cream cheese frosting spread on a zucchini cake with chopped pecans sprinkled over top.

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Make Ahead Instructions: This cake just seems to get better as it sits, so it’s a really nice option to prepare in advance. Make and frost the cake one day ahead of when you plan to serve it.
  • Bake the cake ahead of time, cool, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze the unfrosted cake for up to 2 months.
  • Make the frosting in advance and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The frosting will need to sit at room temperature to soften slightly before you spread it on the cake.
  • Storage: Keep the cake covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil in the refrigerator. I like to bring it to room temperature for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving, but that is optional.
  • While it’s best within 1-2 days of baking, you can safely store the leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Sealed in an airtight container, slices of frosted zucchini cake will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Square side shot of a slice of zucchini cake with a bite on a fork.

Recipe Variations

  • Adjust the spices to suit your taste preferences. For instance, use only cinnamon if you don’t care for cloves, nutmeg, or ginger.
  • Zucchini cake with butter instead of oil: A fat is necessary to keep cakes moist and tender. While butter is sometimes used as the fat in mild cakes (like yellow, white, or pound cakes), a flavorless oil like canola or vegetable oil is best for zucchini cake recipes, which get flavor from the warm spices and other mix-ins. That said, if you prefer to use butter instead of oil, you can substitute with an equal amount of melted unsalted butter in this recipe.
  • Instead of baking the cake in a single 9 x 13-inch pan, make a layer cake by dividing the batter between two 9-inch or 8-inch round cake pans. Stack the layers on top of each other, with frosting in between. If making a layer cake, you’ll need to prepare a full batch of cream cheese frosting, since you’ll need extra frosting for the sides and in between the layers.
  • Carrot Zucchini Cake: replace half of the shredded zucchini with 1 cup of grated carrots.
  • Small Zucchini Cake Recipe: Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake this cake in an 8-inch square pan. You’ll need to decrease the baking time by a few minutes, too.
  • Zucchini Cake Cupcakes: Use the batter to prepare about 24 cupcakes. Bake standard-size cupcakes at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Keep it really easy by using store-bought cream cheese frosting for a shortcut!
Fork taking a bite of a slice of the best zucchini cake recipe.

Tips for the Best Zucchini Cake Recipe

  • Grease or spray the pan really well with non-stick spray so that the cake doesn’t stick. I like to use a baking spray with flour in it. If making a layer cake, grease the pans and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper.
  • For a single-layer zucchini spice cake, you only need to prepare half of a batch of cream cheese frosting.
  • Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the frosting. The cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you substitute with low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread from a tub.
  • Optional Mix-Ins: I’ve shown this cake with golden raisins mixed in, but you can omit any extra mix-ins, or use nuts, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, or a combination of these.
  • Sift the powdered sugar to avoid lumps in your frosting.
  • Garnish the cake with chopped pecans or sprinkle with shredded coconut.
Side shot of a slice of the best zucchini cake recipe with cream cheese frosting on a table.

More Easy Zucchini Baking Recipes

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3 hours hrs 13 minutes mins

One-Bowl Zucchini Muffins

30 minutes mins

Zucchini Banana Bread

3 hours hrs 5 minutes mins

If you’re looking for even more ways to use up zucchini, check out this convenient collection of more than 20 of the best zucchini recipes!

Square side shot of a slice of zucchini cake with a bite on a fork.

Easy Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Cooling Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 16 slices
Calories 293 kcal
You don't even need an electric mixer — just whisk together this easy zucchini cake in minutes!

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with baking spray with flour or grease well with butter and flour.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
    Whisking dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, oil, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.
    Whisking wet ingredients for zucchini cake recipe.
  • Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture. Whisk or stir just until combined; do not overmix. Stir in zucchini and raisins.
    Process shot showing how to make zucchini cake.
  • Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
    Zucchini cake batter in a baking dish before it goes in the oven.
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before frosting.
  • Spread the cream cheese frosting on the cool cake. Garnish with chopped nuts or shredded coconut, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (to allow the frosting to set) before slicing and serving.
    Overhead shot of cream cheese frosting spread on a zucchini cake with chopped pecans sprinkled over top.

Notes

  • Grease or spray the pan really well with non-stick spray so that the cake doesn’t stick. I like to use a baking spray with flour in it. If making a layer cake, grease the pans and line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper.
  • For a single-layer zucchini spice cake, you only need to prepare half of a batch of cream cheese frosting.
  • Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the frosting. The cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you substitute with low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread from a tub.
  • Optional Mix-Ins: I’ve shown this cake with golden raisins mixed in, but you can omit any extra mix-ins, or use nuts, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, or a combination of these.
  • Sift the powdered sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Garnish the cake with chopped pecans or sprinkle with shredded coconut.
  • Recipe adapted from Cooking with Paula Deen magazine.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/16 of the recipeCalories: 293kcalCarbohydrates: 58gProtein: 4gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.004gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 355mgPotassium: 227mgFiber: 1gSugar: 42gVitamin A: 119IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 27mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: easy zucchini cake, old fashioned zucchini cake, zucchini cake, zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting, zucchini spice cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Perfect! You can’t taste the zucchini at all! We have lots of zucchini’s coming in from the garden so it was nice to have another use for it!