Zucchini spice cake is filled with shredded zucchini and cozy fall spices for the most tender and moist sheet cake. Topped with velvety cream cheese frosting and chopped walnuts, this will be your new go-to fall cake recipe.
Zucchini spice cake is the perfect way to celebrate fall - it's filled with your favorite seasonal spices and topped with a creamy buttercream frosting. Best of all, this cake is moist, incredibly tender, and surprisingly easy to prepare.
The zucchini cake is made with finely shredded zucchini, which adds tiny speckles of green throughout. Zucchini adds fiber, structure, and moisture to your cake. Seasonal spices include cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a dash of cloves, for a flavor reminiscent of gingerbread. The cream cheese frosting is rich but not too sweet, and the perfect pairing for this fall spice cake.
Serve your zucchini spice cake at your next fall gathering, like Halloween or Thanksgiving - or just because. It's perfect for a crowd and can easily feed anywhere from 16 to 24 people.
For a single serving of fall flavor, try my apple spice zucchini mug cake.
Cake ingredients and substitutions
- Flour - All purpose flour adds structure to your cake. I have not tested this recipe with other types of flours, so I don't suggest making any substitutions. Baking is an exact science, and altering main ingredients can change the density and texture of your cake.
- Spices - Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. I don't recommend omitting the cinnamon. However, if you don't care for a particular spice, like cloves, it can be substituted with more cinnamon instead.
- Leavening - Baking powder and baking soda are needed for the proper rise. One cannot be substituted with the other - you'll need both for this recipe.
- Salt - Enhances the flavor of your cake.
- Eggs - Add structure and moisture to your cake.
- Brown sugar - Adds moisture and sweetness to your cake. I chose to use all brown sugar for extra molasses flavor, reminiscent of gingerbread.
- Vegetable oil - Adds moisture to your cake. Canola oil, light olive oil, or any neutral cooking oil you have on hand will work.
- Vanilla extract - Adds depth of flavor to your cake.
- Zucchini - You'll need two cups of finely shredded zucchini for this recipe. This is about 2 medium or 3 small zucchini. I highly recommend weighing your shredded zucchini for best accuracy. Two cups of shredded zucchini (with the liquid) equals about 270 grams.
Do I need to squeeze the liquid from my zucchini?
No, do not squeeze or drain the liquid from your shredded zucchini. Shred the zucchini, place it into a measuring cup, then add the zucchini (and any liquids in the measuring cup) to your batter.
This liquid adds moisture to your cake, and the recipe is written to include this liquid.
Frosting ingredients and substitutions
- Confectioner's sugar - Confectioner's sugar melts seamlessly into your frosting, and is a must for making buttercream frosting.
- Butter - Unsalted butter can be substituted with salted butter (omit the salt listed in the recipe). Make sure your butter is room temperature before preparing your frosting.
- Cream cheese - For cream cheese frosting, you'll need block-style cream cheese. Whipped or spreadable cream cheese will not work, it makes the frosting runny. Make sure your cream cheese is room temperature before preparing your frosting.
- Salt - Enhances the flavor and cuts the sweetness of your frosting.
- Vanilla extract - Adds depth of flavor to your frosting. Can be substituted with half the amount of maple extract or cinnamon extract for a different flavor.
How to prevent a dry cake
There's nothing worse than wasting ingredients and time when your cake comes out of the oven dry. Here are a few of my favorite tips to ensure your cake turns out moist and tender.
- Do not substitute ingredients. Eggs, sugar, oil, and zucchini all help make this cake moist. Substituting, omitting, or reducing these ingredients can cause your cake to turn out dry.
- Properly measure your flour. Improperly measured flour is one of the most common issues I see in baking. Adding extra flour to a recipe can cause your baked goods to turn out dry and dense. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale and clicking 'Metric' in the recipe card to use gram measurements. Scooping flour directly from a bin compacts the flour into the cup, adding up to 25% extra flour to a recipe.
- Take care not to overbake your cake. Baking for too long will dry out your cake.
- Don't slice into a hot cake. Slicing into hot baked goods releases steam (moisture), making it dry once it has cooled down. Allow your cake to cool completely to room temperature before frosting and slicing.
- Watch your cake, not the baking time. Ovens all run at slightly different temperatures, and if your oven runs hotter, your cake may be done faster than mine. Check on your cake 5 minutes early, especially if this is your first time making this recipe.
Once assembled, your cake can be stored at room temperature for about two hours. After that, due to the cream cheese frosting, your cake should be refrigerated.
Your cake will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 5 days.
Zucchini cake, either whole or in slices, can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or on the counter top for 2-3 hours before serving.
Zucchini Spice Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
Zucchini spice cake
- 2 ½ cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups (270 g) finely shredded zucchini, do not squeeze liquid out
- 1 ½ cups (320 g) light brown sugar
- 1 cup (198 g) vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream cheese frosting
- 8 ounces (227 g) block-style cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups (400 g) confectioner's sugar
Zucchini spice cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) a 9x13 baking pan. Set aside.
- In a bowl, add dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk to remove clumps and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add wet ingredients: shredded zucchini (do not squeeze liquid out), brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir until incorporated.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just incorporated (do not overmix). Pour cake batter into prepared 9x13 baking pan and bake for about 28 to 34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with crumbs, not wet batter.
- Allow cake to cool completely to room temperature before frosting or slicing.
Cream cheese frosting
- In a large bowl, add room temperature cream cheese and butter and beat until creamy. Add vanilla, salt, and confectioner's sugar and slowly mix until ingredients are fully combined. Then, whip at high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- As written, this frosting turns out soft and creamy (not pipeable). For a stiffer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar as desired.
- Spread frosting in an even layer onto cooled cake. Optionally, top with chopped walnuts or pecans.
- Frosting recipe makes a nice thick layer of frosting for your 9x13 sheet cake (as pictured). If you prefer less frosting, feel free to cut the frosting recipe in half.
- Nutrition based on slicing cake into 16 pieces. Cake can be sliced to serve up to 24 guests.
- Cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Cream cheese frosting needs to be refrigerated if it sits out more than 2 hours. Store frosted baked goods in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Remove and bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
- Cake (whole or in slices) can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or on the countertop for 2 to 3 hours.