When a summer glut of courgettes is upon you & you’re tired of eating them for dinner, try baking with courgettes! They provide a soft, moist texture and vibrant green colour to this recipe for courgette cake (or zucchini cake, if you’re in the US) drizzled with a simple lemon icing. The recipe also happens so be made without eggs or dairy so is suitable for vegans (without needing any special ingredients). You can even use marrow for this recipe.
For more details about the recipe and courgette cake in general, see the section below the recipe card (or use the ‘Contents’ section to help you navigate to your question.)
Vegan Courgette Cake Recipe
Vegan Courgette Cake
- 480 g (4 ½ cups loosely packed) courgette (zucchini)
- ½ tsp fine table salt
- 165 g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
- zest of 2 lemons , finely grated
- 110 g (¼ cup + 3 tbsp) vegetable oil
- 80 g (⅓ cup) soy milk or other non-dairy milk
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 215 g (1 ¾ cups) plain white flour (all-purpose flour)
- 20 g (2 tbsp) cornflour (corn starch)
- 25 g (1/4 cup) ground almonds (almond flour)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) non-fan / 160°C (320°F) fan. Line a 2lb loaf tin with a sling of baking paper.
Salt & Squeeze the Courgette:
- Using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the courgette over a clean kitchen towel. Sprinkle with the salt and toss together to combine. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until the salt has drawn lots of moisture out of the courgette and it appears quite wet. Gather the edges of the tea towel at the top and twist together then twist and squeeze firmly over the sink to remove as much liquid as possible.480 g (4 ½ cups loosely packed) courgette (zucchini), ½ tsp fine table salt
- Unwrap the courgette and weigh out 200 to 230g of the squeezed, grated courgette (i.e. 1 cup packed, squeezed, grated zucchini). Discard any remaining grated courgette.
Mix the wet ingredients:
- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingertips briefly to extract some of the fragrance of the zest. Stir in 90g (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) of the vegetable oil, all of the soy milk and the vinegar.165 g (¾ cup) granulated sugar, zest of 2 lemons, 110 g (¼ cup + 3 tbsp) vegetable oil, 80 g (⅓ cup) soy milk or other non-dairy milk, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- Add the 200 to 230g of squeezed, grated courgette to the bowl of sugar mixture and stir together. If you want to, use an immersion blender to blitz the mixture until smooth and flecked with green.
Mix the dry ingredients:
- Place the flour, cornflour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl and stir together (I like to use a whisk). Drizzle in the remaining 20g (1 tbsp) of oil and rub the mixture together with your fingertips.215 g (1 ¾ cups) plain white flour (all-purpose flour), 20 g (2 tbsp) cornflour (corn starch), 25 g (1/4 cup) ground almonds (almond flour), 1 ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Combine & bake:
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and gently stir together until combined (a whisk is helpful here) - a few lumps may remain, this is fine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50-70 minutes, covering with foil after 40 minutes if it's looking too brown, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Ingredients for Courgette Cake Explained
- Courgette: as courgettes are around 95% water, they bring some liquid to the batter which helps the ingredients to combine, sugar to dissolve, and form a liquid batter which we can pour. Too much water in a cake batter leads to a dense, gummy texture so we first have to grate and then salt & squeeze the courgette to remove as much liquid as possible before it can be incorporated into the cake.
- Salt: in baking, salt generally enhances flavour and also strengthens gluten providing a more stable structure to allow the cake to rise. Here, we’ve also used the ability of salt to draw water towards itself to help us remove as much liquid as possible from the courgette.
- Granulated sugar: provides a sweet flavour and makes the cake tender & provides some bulk. It also helps with browning of the cake. As we combine the sugar with the liquid ingredients first, this helps it to start dissolving which leads to a softer, more even cake texture.
- Lemon zest: this is where all the lemon flavour comes from. By rubbing it into the sugar briefly, the coarse texture of the granules help to pull the essential oils from the lemon zest which enhances the lemony flavour even more.
- Vegetable oil: an easy way to add fat to the cake which helps with carrying flavour and providing a soft, moist texture. I also use a portion of the oil to mix into the dry ingredients before folding in the wet ingredients. When you do this the fat coats the flour particles and helps to partially inhibit the formation of gluten once combined with the liquids. This helps to make the cake tender and slightly less airy.
- Soy milk: I find soy milk most closely mimics dairy milk in baking. However, for this recipe, you can use whichever plant-based milk to like.
- Vinegar: acidic so it reacts with the bicarbonate of soda to help produce carbon dioxide gas, making the cake rise.
- Plain flour: a lower protein flour than bread flour so it produces a soft cake. The gluten in the cake is essential to the structure of the cake. Usually eggs help with the structure formation but as this is a vegan cake, we’re not using eggs, therefore the flour is doing all the heavy lifting! This can lead to a more gummy texture which is why I’ve also included….
- ….Ground Almonds & Cornflour: both of these ingredients are gluten free (so help to reduce the gumminess of the loaf) but are dry, floury ingredients which add to the bulk of the loaf.
- Baking powder & Bicarbonate of Soda: both are chemical raising agents which react upon heating in the presence of liquid, producing carbon dioxide gas, helping the loaf rise. The bicarb also aids with browning.
Courgette cake flavour variations:
For all of these flavour variations, follow the recipe at the top of the page making the following changes:
- Courgette and Lime cake: replace the lemon zest in this recipe with the finely grated zest of 1 lime. If you’re putting a glaze on the cake, use lime juice instead of the lemon juice.
- Courgette and chocolate cake: replace the ground almonds and cornflour with 40g unsweetened cocoa powder. Fold 100g of dark chocolate chips into the batter just before it goes into the tin
- ‘Zucchini bread’ (i.e. Courgette, Cinnamon & Walnut Bread): leave out the lemon zest. Add 2 tsp ground cinnamon and 75g roughly chopped walnuts to the batter.
- Courgette pistachio cake: replace the ground almonds and cornflour with 40g finely ground pistachios (blitz shelled pistachios in a food processor until mealy). Fold another 40g toasted, roughly chopped walnuts into the batter just before baking.
How do you make courgette cake?
Most recipes will require you to grate the courgette first. In my recipe at the top of this page, I use grated courgette which I then sprinkle with salt & squeeze out excess liquid. The wet ingredients are mixed together with the sugar and squeezed courgette. This mixture can be left as is or blended to produce a greener loaf with a smooth texture. Next I mix a small amount of oil into the flour to help produce a softer cake, then I mix the wet into the dry. The batter is poured into a loaf tin and baked until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. I tip the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely and cover it with an optional lemon icing.
Why put courgette in cake?
- Firstly, it’s a great way to use up excess courgettes! If you’ve ever grown courgettes you’ll know that you can soon have a glut which you need to use up and can get tired of eating them in savoury recipes.
- You may also know that leaving a courgette on the plant for a bit too long can lead to MASSIVE courgettes which are quite watery in texture so aren’t ideal for eating in savoury things. By grating, salting & squeezing the courgette, we remove a lot of the water which combats that issue.
- Another reason is that it has a very neutral flavour so it can really go with any other ingredients you put it with. I personally like it with either lemony flavours or chocolatey flavours.
- Finally, courgette provides a lovely moist texture and green colour to your bakes – just like making carrot cake, the grated courgette enhances the batter and makes it even more delicious!
Is courgette cake healthy?
Healthy is a relative term in my opinion. It’s healthy to maintain a good relationship to food and your body! And if eating cake is part of that, then yes you can say that courgette cake is healthy. In terms of micronutrients that the courgette is adding to this cake, the courgette will be bringing relatively little. Courgettes themselves, being so high in water, are quite low in nutrients overall. By squeezing out the liquid we also remove lots of the water-soluble nutrients within so there is little nutritional ‘benefit’ that comes from adding courgette to the cake. See above for the reasons I think adding courgette to cakes is a good idea.
How much courgette do you use in courgette cake?
One of my issues with many of courgette cake/zucchini bread recipes is that they always use a relatively tiny amount of courgette in the batter. When a medium courgette weighs ~300g, most of the time I’ve found that recipes don’t even use one whole courgette. But not any longer!! My recipe uses a whopping 480g which is either ~2 small/medium or 1 BIG FAT courgette.
Can you freeze courgette cake?
Yes you can, it should freeze very well. If you’re planning on freezing it, let the cake cool down at room temperature until fully cooled. Do not put on any glaze as this will become sticky if you freeze/defrost it. Pop the cake into a resealable sandwich bag, press out all the air and seal the bag. Label/date it and place into the freeze for up to 3 months. You can also pre-slice the cake before freezing if you like.