having my (chocolate-zucchini) cake and eating it too

Flashback to last fall: A large sum of money for  a master’s degree I wasn’t sure would benefit me. The economy crumbling. Journalism and publishing thrust suddenly into uncertain terms. Everyone running scared. Most of us dismal.

The news kept pouring in. Magazine closures. Mass lay-offs. Falling stocks. It was a hard time in which to dream, but we pushed ahead. After all, the news — however depressing it was — kept pouring in.

I heard somewhere that if you do what you love, the money will follow.

We listened to speakers challenge us to reinvention. We were urged to develop skills unheard of a year prior. We told each other over wine that it would be OK, that we’d find that elusive “something.” We joked about back-up plans. In the end, some of us pursued them.

And despite the pessimism, words and ideas compelled me on. There was really little else I could do.

There were deadlines and ethics classes and pouring over 100-year-old magazines in the caverns of Cornell University. There were hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails, and a beast called Media Law.

There was an incorrect byline, and months of correspondence with an editor just to get a tiny piece published.

We fact-checked, edited, and wrote display copy until we were “dek’d” out in punchy prose. We interned, blogged, and built websites as we watched our favorite magazines sink like the Syracuse winter sun.

The things that kept us alive?  Coffee and conversation. Yoga. Significant others. Early-morning swims. Getting published. Parties. Praise from professors. Awards. The simplest things were somehow the most profound.

Well, the money hasn’t followed yet, but a dream I never named as such has recently come true. The ingredients, never much on their own, have coalesced into something of great satisfaction and potential. I feel as grateful for these new gifts as I often do for dessert — a thing so unnecessary, and in a way, so undeserved.

This one is so soft and gently spiced with orange you’ll think the world a better place with each bite. And for now, at least in my little corner of Syracuse, it really is.

Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ cup cocoa

2 ½ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1-2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup softened butter or canola oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp grated orange peel

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini

½ cup milk

Glaze: Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan lightly and dust it with flour.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter (or oil) and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  4. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange zest and zucchini.
  5. Add the milk and dry ingredient mixture alternately to the creamed mixture, adding the nuts at the end.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cake passes the toothpick test. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly.
  7. Drizzle glaze over cake and cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

from Sunset Magazine, via Simply Recipes

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8 responses to “having my (chocolate-zucchini) cake and eating it too

  1. Chocolate zucchini is probably my favorite cake (it is usually my birthday cake request!).

    Congratulations on your internship Jen. I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs over the years (and I have been reading them, I just never comment!), and following your journey as a writer and journalist. I’m sure no matter what economic or other crises the world might be in, there will be people who want to read your work. Good luck Jen!

  2. Jen, this post just gave me goosebumps and almost made me cry! So well written. What a tough but wonderful year it was. Thanks for reminding me of all the good times like long conversations over wine and morning swims! And our research awards! I can’t wait for you to be in DC! And, I wish you had published this recipe before I used the last of the zucchini in my freezer. My mom always sends me back with it to make muffins!

    • Amanda Poninski – Annie I made your vanilla beettrcruam frosting but I think I may have done something wrong it was WAY too buttery!! I do know I measured correctly, so can you tell me does the temp of the frosting affect how strong the butter flavor is? I let it get close to room temp to make it easier to pipe from my #18 tip .January 9, 2010 12:55 am[]Annie Reply:January 9th, 2010 at 1:42 amHi Amanda,Sorry you didn’t have good results. I usually have my butter at about room temp when I make the frosting and I’ve never had a problem. I’ve made this so many times I can’t count and never had a problem with it. I wish I had some advice![]taylor Reply:January 22nd, 2010 at 5:07 pmPerhaps you aren’t mixing long enough? I’ve made beettrcruams in the past and have ended up way too buttery but I believe it was because I was only mixing until it looked like frosting texture. This time I made sure to beat it for the long 4 minutes, per the instructions, and it turned out excellently. Just keep whipping, I think []Annie Reply:January 23rd, 2010 at 1:33 amTaylor,Who is your comment directed at? I love this vanilla beettrcruam and I didn’t say anything negative about it in the blog post. I make it all the time, always beat it for the recommended amount of time, and it’s always delicious. I was simply saying this cake would be great with any number of frostings.[]Amanda Poninski Reply:January 23rd, 2010 at 1:46 amAnnie I am pretty sure Taylor was addressing my question I made the beettrcruam from your recipe and it was just way too buttery, I was sure I did something wrong! LOL I will take her advice and mix longer, she was right that I mixed until it visually had the frosting texture adn forgot to actually time it .I am also using a hand mixer, as I don’t have a stand mixer yet. Thank you so much for your tip!! I really do appreciate it []

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