Brown Butter Zucchini Cake

  • Brown Butter Zucchini Cake with salted caramel

    Can I offer you slice of my belated birthday cake?  Is 2 months too late to celebrate a birthday?  Okay, scratch that.  We’re celebrating the fact that I completed another half marathon. (Check out my picture on Instagram.)

    Hip hip hooray! Woot, woot!

    In all honesty, I actually made this cake last week and I ate it all (with the help of Alex) well before the marathon.  Hey, I needed the carbs and energy to run 13.1 miles.  The calories were SO worth it.  Everything about this 6-inch, 5 layer, decadent and over the top cake is worth it.

    Brown Butter Zucchini Cake with salted caramel

    Originally I was going to make zucchini bread.  And then I thought, boring!  If carrots can be made into a delicious cake, why not a zucchini cake?!

    I like vegetables.  I really do… especially when they are mixed into a cake.

    Even though zucchini makes up a huge portion of the batter, this is hardly a healthy cake.  It’s a brown butter zucchini cake with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and a heavy drizzle of salted caramel on top.  I wish that sounded healthy, however, it is absolutely fabulous and delicious!

    Brown Butter Zucchini Cake with salted caramel

    I’ve been eating too much chocolate lately and I needed a break.  When chocolate and I are not on speaking terms, I turn to brown butter.

    Brown butter is a wonderful, wonderful friend.  It makes baked goods taste nutty without any nuts, it makes kitchens and homes spell amazing without any artificial air fresheners, and obviously it makes for the BEST pasta ever (see Brown Butter Spaghetti with baby kale and roasted butternut squash).

    I’m going to have two slices.  One slice counts as my dessert of the day, and the second slices counts toward my daily vegetable intake.

    Brown Butter Zucchini Cake with salted caramel

    Like zucchini bread, this zucchini cake is moist but a whole lot tastier because of the brown butter.  I’ve paired it with a simple cream cheese frosting sweetened with homemade salted caramel.  (I took the caramel recipe I used in my banana cake with whipped caramel.)  If you are not up to making caramel, high quality store bought caramel also works.  The recipe will yield three 6-inch cakes.  I split each cake in half to create a total of six cake layers.  However, I only used five layers to build the cake. I like to reserve one layer for taste-testing (but mostly, snacking).

    Brown Butter Zucchini Cake

    Like zucchini bread, but better! This brown butter zucchini cake is moist and super flavorful. It is paired with a simple cream cheese frosting sweetened with homemade salted caramel.

    Yield: three 6-inch cakes


    Brown Butter Zucchini Cake:

    • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
    • 4 large eggs, room temperature
    • 1 pound shredded zucchini, about 3 cups packed

    Salted Caramel:

    • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
    • 3 Tbsp water
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream, heated
    • 1 tsp fine sea salt
    • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, cut into tablespoons

    Carmel Cream Cheese Frosting:

    • 8 oz cream cheese
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • pinch of salt


    Brown Butter Zucchini Cake:

    1. Place butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pot.  Melt butter over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, continue to cook over medium low heat until butter has browned and is fragrant.
    2. During this cooking process, the butter will foam up.  Swirl the pan occasionally to check for doneness.  Carefully watch the butter because it can quickly burn and blacken.  When it is done it will smell nutty.  Pour the brown butter into another container and allow it to cool down. (If you want to speed up the process, let it chill in the fridge for 10 minutes or freezer for 5 minutes.)
    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter three 6-inch cake pans and line bottom with parchment paper.  Set side.
    4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.
    5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream cooled brown butter with sugar and brown sugar.  Mix until sugar is thoroughly moistened.  Add eggs one at a time and continue to mix on low.
    6. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.  Scrape down down as needed to ensure thorough mixing.
    7. Add shredded zucchini and mix until evenly distributed.
    8. Divide cake batter between the three prepared cake pans.  Level out batter using the back of spoon or a mini offset spatula.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Let cool for 5-8 minutes before molding.  Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

    Salted Caramel:

    1. Using a heavy bottomed sauce pot, heat sugar and water on high heat.  Let sugar melt.  Do not stir or agitate mixture to prevent unwanted crystallization.
    2. Lower heat and allow sugar syrup to color.  Remove from heat one syrup is aromatic and amber in color.
    3. Warm up heavy cream in the microwave for 45 seconds.  Add about 1/3 of warm cream to sugar syrup and whisk.  BE VERY CAREFUL.  The mixture will bubble and steam vigorously.  Add remaining warm cream and continue to whisk until mixture has slightly cooled.
    4. Add butter and salt.  Whisk until mixture is homogenized.  Let cool to room temperature.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of caramel.  Transfer remaining cooled caramel to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment.
    5. Whip caramel on medium speed for 5-10 minutes until caramel has thickened to the consistency of buttercream and is much lightly in color.  Set aside until ready for

    Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:

    1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Scrape down bowl as needed.
    2. Add whipped caramel.  Mix to combine.  Add powdered sugar and salt.  Mix until smooth.
    3. Using reserved caramel to drizzle on top of finished cake.

    Note: If you are not up to making caramel, high quality store bought caramel can be used in it's place.  Adjust the amount caramel used in the frosting according to your taste. 

    The Little Epicurean

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    Jen @ Baked by an Introvert

    Wow! This is simply beautiful!

    Ellen - in my Red Kitchen

    I love everything about this cake, it’s so gorgeous! Too bad I’m on a 30-day refined sugar and carbs free challenge right now, otherwise I would have baked it today! Now I’m turning my zucchini’s into fritters I guess.

    And congrats on completing the half marathon! xoxo

    Nazia @ Your Sunny Side Up

    Just look at that caramel action! Gorgeous cake :)

      Maryanne Cabrera

      Thank you Nazia! I had to take the pictures as fast as possible before the caramel started to drip! lol

    Millie | Add A Little

    This is stunning – the cake is a masterpiece and looks so delicious! The salted caramel sounds divine too!

      Maryanne Cabrera

      Thank you Millie! I was so hesitant to slice the cake because I didn’t want to mess it up…but I really wanted to taste it!

    Liz @ Floating Kitchen

    This cake is a work of art! And congrats on the half marathon. That is certainly deserving of cake….and wine!

    Rochelle @ Oh So Sweet Baker

    This is such a gorgeous cake. Love it!

    Cathy Perez

    This cake looks so delicious, Pinned!

    shelley @ Bacon Egg & Cheese{cake}

    I love zucchini cakes! They are so moist. Your frosting looks beautiful!!

    Suzanne @ Flour Arrangements

    Love the look of those five layers. And that caramel sauce — Wow! Good thing my garden is still producing zucchini!

      Maryanne Cabrera

      Thanks Suzanne! Lucky you! I wish I had enough outdoor space to have a garden. Happy baking :)


    Who knew that a zucchini cake could look this good?!
    I sure want a slice of this goodie!

    rachel logan

    OH MY. This looks AMAZING. I’m putting this on my summer baking list!

    Sarah @ SnixyKitchen

    Bahaha – this post made me laugh several times. And this cake!? Omgergawd. I can’t emphasize you how sad I am that California is such a big state and we live so far apart.

    Also, you totally earned this cake (post hoc)!

      Maryanne Cabrera

      Thanks Sarah! Don’t worry, I’ll be up north to visit one day! ;)

    Katie @ Butterlust

    this cake looks amazing!! and congrats on the half marathon! i’ve done the Disney Princess in Orlando twice and I’m convinced Disney races are THE BEST!

      Maryanne Cabrera

      Thanks Katie! That’s awesome! And yes, agree- Disney marathons are the best. I’ve ran other ones and they’re not as well organized. I’m actually running the Disney Princess next year. I’m hoping to complete the Coast-to-Coast.

    Amanda - A Cookie Named Desire

    Yes! This cake is so perfect! What a great way to celebrate a belated birthday AND a half marathon! You totally deserve it. Plus, it is considered guilt-free in my book because of the zucchini. Pinned!

    Megan Jenkins

    Quick question — I’m assembling a masterpiece for my friend’s going away party and I love the idea of incorporating some veggies.

    Can you taste/tell the zucchini is in the cake?
    Also, do you shred the zucchini and leave all the liquid, or do you strain any of it out?

      Maryanne Cabrera

      You’ll be able to see the little specks of zucchini in the cake. You can’t really taste the zucchini flavor, it gets masked by the sugar. Shred the zucchini right before you make the batter. Do not shred it ahead of time. I used the shredding blade in a food processor. When I made it, the zucchini did not expel any liquid. If you end up with liquid, simply strain it out. Hope that helps!

    Nina Renarve

    Thank you thank you thank you!!! I finally found the ultimate zucchini cake recipe!!! AND the whole house is smelling mouthwateringly (?! is that a word??) good!


    I only have 9in cake pans and am looking to make a two layer cake. Can I keep the amounts in the recipe the same or will there not be enough batter?

      Maryanne Cabrera

      You can use the recipe to make two 9-inch cake rounds. You will have to adjust baking time. It will cook faster since the cake layers will be thinner.

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