Extra (Ap)Petite: Lola’s Zucchini Chocolate Cake

I’m not usually much of a baker, but I had zucchini on hand and thought I’d let it live its best life in this moist, chocolaty zucchini cake that Nori’s grandmother (“lola” in Filipino) makes and everyone always gobbles up! It’s a family recipe that she adjusted for Nori’s allergies, so see below for substitutions to make this dairy and / or egg free.

We usually eat this cake alone or with some berries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you can eat dairy, though, I would highly recommend making the optional cream cheese frosting below which is extra delicious with this cake! (Or, try a vegan frosting recipe using coconut or sweet potato!) If making frosting, I freeze some cupcakes with frosting piped in the center, wrap them in foil, and just defrost in the fridge one day before eating – comes out perfectly!

PS – scroll to the bottom for how to modify this recipe into a delightful carrot cake!

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Print Recipe
4.84 from 92 votes

EXTRA (AP)PETITE: LOLA’S ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CAKE

Servings: 10 fully-filled cupcakes or 1 dozen less filled ones.

Ingredients

CAKE INGREDIENTS

    Dry ingredients bowl

    • 1 and 1/4th cup flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda baking soda & powder stay fresh for 6m-1 year once open
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/3 teaspoon salt
    • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves adds a slightly spiced flavor like in carrot cake
    • Optional: 1 teaspoon ground coffee

    Wet ingredients bowl

    • 1 egg* see substitution note
    • 1/3 cup oil. We use olive oil or vegetable oil.
    • 1 cup sugar. We use half brown sugar half white sugar.
    • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons coconut cream or 1 small 5.4 oz can** (see substitution note)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Stirred in at the end

    • 1 heaping cup grated zucchini I used 1 medium zucchini which yielded ~1.25 cups
    • Optional: 1/3 cup chocolate chips allergy note: regular chocolate chips usually contain dairy

    FROSTING INGREDIENTS

    • 4 Tablespoons butter (half a stick) softened at room temperature
    • 4 oz. cream cheese (half a standard size package) softened at room temperature
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered confectioners sugar sifted into the frosting bowl
    • Optional, but highly recommended: 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice to taste I also added a little lemon zest into the frosting and on top of each cupcake.

    Instructions

    CAKE INSTRUCTIONS

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    • Grate zucchini and set aside. If if looks watery, blot off excess water with a paper towel otherwise I don’t typically blot it. If you’re doing the optional adding lemon juice or white vinegar into the milk step, do that now as well and set aside.
    • In a bowl, sift together everything listed under “Dry ingredients bowl.” Sifting is key for helping these ingredients combine evenly and to get rid of clumps. I only have a little sift, so just added each ingredient one at a time through the sift, stirred with a spoon, and re-sifted everything together.
    • In a separate, large bowl, mix everything listed under “Wet ingredients bowl” using a hand beater until combined.
    • Stir the sifted dry ingredients into the wet ingredients bowl. Use a large spoon or spatula to stir until combined.
    • Stir in grated zucchini and optional chocolate chips.
    • Scoop batter into cupcake liners or a well greased pan (this recipe fits into an 8 x 8 pan). I filled these to the brim of my cupcake tins for fuller, rounded cupcakes after baking.
    • Bake for 18-22 minutes for cupcakes until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. For a larger sheet cake, bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the toothpick test is clean.

    FROSTING INSTRUCTIONS

    • Cream together the softened butter, cream cheese, and vanilla using a mixer.
    • Sift in the powdered sugar and continue mixing until smooth.
    • Stir in optional lemon juice and/or zest half a teaspoon at a time to taste, until you’re happy with the flavor. If needed, add a few tablespoons more confectioners sugar for thicker frosting.
    • Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes (frosting will thicken up a tad more) and then spread on top of FULLY COOLED cake. You can also make a DIY frosting piping bag (pictured below) by cutting off one corner of a ziploc bag.

    Notes

    * Egg substitute: Oftentimes you can replace 1 egg in baking with 1/4 cup of applesauce or mashed banana. Or, try a flax seed egg which is common in vegan baking.
    ** Coconut cream is the thicker, creamy and more solidified part inside a can of coconut milk. You can buy it separately (like this mini can) or just scoop out the thicker part from a regular can of coconut milk. I used just regular coconut milk for this batch as a test, and it still worked fine. We freeze any unused coconut milk or cream in ice cube trays for various uses later!
    *** If you do not have coconut milk and are able to eat dairy, the original family recipe actually calls for 1/2 cup regular milk (whole milk if available) + 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir the vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and let it sit for 10 minutes before using. This is a common way of making “buttermilk” for baking, and you can also do this with the coconut milk but I skipped it.

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    Optional Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

    Note this frosting is clearly not dairy free, but it’s truly yummy with this cake. I made a smaller batch so that Nick and I can indulge! I decided to add a little lemon, which brightens up the creaminess and pairs perfectly with the chocolate, in my humble opinion!

    You can simply spread the frosting on with a butter knife / spatula, or, make a DIY frosting piping bag (pictured below) by cutting off one corner of a ziploc bag. I had a little leftover frosting (since Nori can’t eat it on her cupcakes) and have been enjoying it with my easy banana muffins – yum!!

    Tip: If you’re making this, take the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge before starting your cake so that they will gradually come to room temperature and soften. See the frosting ingredients and directions above in the printable recipe card!

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    Modifications for Crave-Worthy Carrot Cake

    Carrot cake is one of my all-time favorites, and using this same recipe as a guideline makes one of the most delicious, moist versions I’ve ever had!

    Modifications from Zucchini Cake Recipe Above

    • reduced flour & increased shredded veggies, as I like a higher ratio of carrots in my cake
    • grated carrots a little more finely than zucchini
    • reduced sugar a tad as carrots have more natural sweetness than zucchini
    • replaced cocoa powder with carrot cake spices, raisins & optional nuts
    Print Recipe
    4.87 from 43 votes

    EXTRA (AP)PETITE: LOLA’S CRAVE-WORTHY CARROT CAKE

    Servings: 10 fully-filled cupcakes or 1 dozen less filled ones.

    Ingredients

    CAKE INGREDIENTS

      Dry ingredients bowl

      • 1 cup flour
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda
      • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1/3 teaspoon salt
      • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (do an extra 1/4 teaspoon if you like cinnamon)
      • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
      • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

      Wet ingredients bowl

      • 1 egg* see substitution note
      • 1/3 cup neutral flavored oil
      • 3/4 cup + 1 Tbs sugar I use mostly brown sugar for carrot cake
      • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons coconut cream or 1 small 5.4 oz can** (see substitution note)
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

      Stirred in at the end

      • 1.5 cups grated carrots I used 2 medium sized carrots
      • 1/2 cup raisins
      • Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, plus some crushed for toppings.

      FROSTING INGREDIENTS

      • 4 Tablespoons butter (half stick) softened at room temperature
      • 4 oz. cream cheese (half a standard size package) softened at room temperature
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1.5 cups powdered confectioners sugar sifted into the frosting bowl

      Instructions

      CAKE INSTRUCTIONS

      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
      • Grate carrots and set aside. If if looks watery, blot off excess water with a paper towel otherwise I don’t typically blot it. If you’re doing the optional adding lemon juice or white vinegar into the milk step, do that now as well and set aside.
      • In a bowl, sift together everything listed under “Dry ingredients bowl.” Sifting is key for helping these ingredients combine evenly and to get rid of clumps. I only have a little sift, so just added each ingredient one at a time through the sift, stirred with a spoon, and re-sifted everything together.
      • In a separate, large bowl, mix everything listed under “Wet ingredients bowl” using a hand beater until combined.
      • Stir the sifted dry ingredients into the wet ingredients bowl. Use a large spoon or spatula to stir until combined.
      • Stir in grated carrots, raisins, and optional nuts.
      • Scoop batter into cupcake liners or a well greased pan (this recipe fits into an 8 x 8 pan).
      • Bake for 18-22 minutes for cupcakes until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. For a larger sheet cake, bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the toothpick test is clean.

      FROSTING INSTRUCTIONS

      • Cream together the softened butter, cream cheese, and vanilla using a mixer.
      • Sift in the powdered sugar and continue mixing until smooth. If needed, add a few tablespoons more confectioners sugar for thicker frosting.
      • Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes (frosting will thicken up a tad more) and then spread on top of FULLY COOLED cake.

      Notes

      * Egg substitute: Oftentimes you can replace 1 egg in baking with 1/4 cup of applesauce or mashed banana. Or, try a flax seed egg which is common in vegan baking.
      ** Coconut cream is the thicker, creamy and more solidified part inside a can of coconut milk. You can buy it separately (like this mini can) or just scoop out the thicker part from a regular can of coconut milk. I used just regular coconut milk for this batch as a test, and it still worked fine. We freeze any unused coconut milk or cream in ice cube trays for various uses later!
      *** If you do not have coconut milk and are able to eat dairy, the original family recipe actually calls for 1/2 cup regular milk (whole milk if available) + 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir the vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and let it sit for 10 minutes before using. This is a common way of making “buttermilk” for baking, and you can also do this with the coconut milk but I skipped it.

      We didn’t have nuts, so I crushed up some graham crackers or cinnamon toast crunch cereal for a little topping texture.

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      Hooray for allergen-friendly cake! Nor is in Little Sleepies PJs, Stokke highchair (my review)

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      Let me know how this comes out if you make it! And for more easy meal ideas, check out our other Extra (Ap)Petite posts!

      Leave a Comment

      47 Comments

      1. Sarah wrote:

        5 stars
        These cupcakes are AMAZING. I first tried the chocolate cupcakes with carrots bc I didn’t have any zucchini on hand. While tasty they definitely weren’t moist. I made a second batch last night with zucchini and I’ve already eaten five 😬. They’re so moist, perfect balance of chocolate and aren’t overly sweet. Will definitely be making these again!

        Posted 6.3.20 Reply
      2. tori wrote:

        5 stars
        Just made these– super yummy! Even with 1 c of sugar these are not too sweet. yum yum.

        Posted 6.1.20 Reply
      3. Christine wrote:

        5 stars
        I made these today from the giant zucchini we’ve been growing and they turned out great! The whole family, including toddler who won’t eat anything green, loved them! I may or may not have already eaten 4 of them already, but I’m breastfeeding a 3 week old so there’s my excuse!

        Posted 5.31.20 Reply
      4. Nicole wrote:

        5 stars
        Thank you for the carrot cupcake recipe, Jean! These were on my list of things to bake for a while now.

        The cupcakes were so moist and delicious!! I plan on making the zucchini cupcakes next weekend.

        Posted 5.23.20 Reply
      5. Vivian wrote:

        5 stars
        Thank you, Jean! These were a joy to bake and they were so moist and pillowy soft! I had some whole milk on hand and I used apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar and the cupcakes turned out great!

        Have you tried running the zucchini through a food processor? My arm strength wasn’t quite up to par when I was grating! I’m interested to hear if anyone used a food processor to complete the task! Otherwise, it’s certainly a good workout!

        Posted 5.22.20 Reply
      6. Becca wrote:

        Jean, These zucchini cupcakes are Amazing!! We used milk and lemon juice. My girl and I love to bake and these are now at top of list! Thank you for sharing! I have followed you for years for fashion, and now loving all the recipes! My 14 year old daughter and I look forward to your next posts. Xoxo

        Posted 5.19.20 Reply
      7. Maria wrote:

        Have you tried replacing coconut cream with plain greek yogurt? If so, do you know the replacement ratio? These look delicious, I cant wit to make these!

        Posted 5.12.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          I haven’t tried that substitution myself so can’t speak to how it will turn out, but from a quick google some people say they replace it on a 1:1 ratio. If you end up trying it you’ll have to let me know how it works!

          Posted 5.15.20 Reply
      8. Karen wrote:

        5 stars
        OMG. These cupcakes are amazing. So soft and not too sweet (I halved the sugar and added chocolate chips). They smelt so decadent and yummy even as they were in the oven! I will definitely make these again. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

        Posted 5.11.20 Reply
      9. Aska wrote:

        5 stars
        These turned out so moist and delicious! The first time I made them with the solidified portion of coconut milk, and the second time my coconut milk didn’t have that so I added 2tsp of lemon juice as it suggests in the recipe. Both batches came out great! This will be a go-to recipe for me. I’ve shared them with friends and neighbors already. Thank you Jean and Lola for sharing the recipe!

        Posted 5.11.20 Reply
      10. Sarah wrote:

        Can I make the chocolate recipe and just sub carrots for the zucchini? I’m craving something chocolatey but don’t have any zucchini on hand 🙁

        Posted 5.9.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Hi Sarah, personally I have not tried subbing carrots with the chocolate flavor so can’t speak personally BUT a few readers have done it and enjoyed it! You don’t really taste either of the vegetables in these cakes.

          Posted 5.12.20 Reply
      11. Cindy wrote:

        Hands down the BEST zucchini choc cake. I’m not a baker, but this was so easy to make, and it turned out soft and fluffy; everyone goes back for seconds. I made it 3 times in a week, that’s how fast it goes. And it also made me feel less guilty eating a chocolate cake or giving it to my toddler coz of the hidden veg! Double win for me! It’s a saved recipe in my book that I’ll make again and again.

        Posted 5.8.20 Reply
      12. ThuR wrote:

        5 stars
        I’ve made this 3 or 4 times and comes out perfectly. I just tweak the frosting so there’s less icing and more lemon as a preference. Thanks Jean!

        Posted 5.8.20 Reply
      13. Elaine wrote:

        5 stars
        I’ve used this recipe 2 times so far. The combination of the coconut milk and zucchini resulted in super moist and delicious cupcakes (I did reduce the sugar by 1/3 cup though)! I’m guilty of eating too many of them…but only because they’re healthy cupcakes 😉 The addition of the lemon cream cheese frosting is great, although I haven’t tried piping some into the center yet.

        Posted 5.8.20 Reply
      14. Rose wrote:

        5 stars
        I’ve made this twice since Jean posted this recipe, I used almond flour (doubled the amount), cut the sugar by 1/3, and used butter instead of oil – this is officially the best thing I have ever successfully baked, thank you so much for the detailed instructions! I would never have thought to combine chocolate, zucchini, and lemon frosting but it is so delicious together – and Jean’s tip of lemon zest on top of the cupcake and in the frosting is a game changer!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      15. Binal P wrote:

        I made these for my family and they were devoured within a few days! Used milk and lemon as a buttermilk substitute. 😋

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      16. Lynnette wrote:

        5 stars
        My husband is such a critic but he actually really liked this! The cupcake is moist and icing isn’t too sweet!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      17. Steph wrote:

        5 stars
        Made this zucchini cupcake (with no frosting) recipe with the optional cinnamon and cloves. The additional spices give the flavor more depth, rather than being just a normal chocolate cupcake (highly recommend). I also used a 24-cup mini muffin tin, baked for 13-15 minutes. There was enough batter in the recipe to fill each cup to the brim, so there may be a bit of spillage when it rises to form a true muffin. This definitely yields a very moist cupcake that’s not too sweet – highly recommend!

        Really looking forward to trying the carrot cupcake next, thanks Jean!!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
        • Sarah wrote:

          5 stars
          I made the carrot cake cupcakes and they are SO GOOD! I’m already planning on making a second batch. I’m not a fan of traditional carrot cake but these are amazing. I didn’t make the cream cheese frosting because I felt the cupcakes were sweet enough on their own.

          Posted 5.17.20 Reply
      18. Liz wrote:

        5 stars
        Recipe is soooo good. At first I was side eyeing it because I know Jean as a fashion blogger and not a food blogger, but these are the most moist, delicious cupcakes ever! I’m getting HUGE compliments from my family. I skipped the cinnamon and cloves and added chocolate chips. It pairs fantastically well with the lemony cream cheese frosting. Just make it!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      19. Denise wrote:

        5 stars
        These are amazing have passed this around to family and friends

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      20. Erin L wrote:

        5 stars
        Have made these multiple times (zucchini with buttermilk, one time with egg and one time with applesauce substitute). Both were delicious. Made the last batch in a mini-muffins tin and froze them. Awesome reheated as a bite-size chocolate fix or with ice cream too! Delicious!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      21. Sarah wrote:

        5 stars
        I’ve made these cupcakes both ways (chocolate zucchini and carrot cake). So easy and so delicious! The cream cheese frosting is the perfect mixture of sweetness and tanginess without going overboard. Just perfect!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      22. Anonymous wrote:

        So easy and yummy!!!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      23. Anonymous wrote:

        5 stars
        These cupcakes are so light, moist, and addictive! Love this recipe 🥰

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      24. Josephine wrote:

        5 stars
        Hi Jean! I’m a long time follower and made this recipe as soon as I had the ingredients. Since there’s less people to share with during these times, I halved the recipe and it was incredibly delicious! Thank you so much for sharing!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      25. Vanessa wrote:

        5 stars
        These chocolate cupcakes are so yummy and moist! I can’t wait to try them as the carrot cake version next!

        Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      26. Lindzee wrote:

        Delicious! I subbed kefir for the coconut cream but otherwise kept it the same and they were a big hit! I did have to cook mine longer and they were still hhh

        Posted 4.20.20 Reply
        • Lindzee wrote:

          A bit moist. Looking forward to trying the recipe as a cake!

          Posted 4.20.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Interesting substitution! Thanks for sharing and I’m so glad they were a hit!

          Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      27. Megan wrote:

        I love chocolate cupcakes, so I’m eager to make these! A couple questions:

        I’m not a big fan of coconut flavor. Do you taste the coconut, or can I substitute the coconut cream with milk or anything else?

        Also, my husband won’t eat these if he sees zucchini in it. Do you see the zucchini pieces after they’ve been baked?

        Posted 4.16.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Hi Megan! I personally don’t taste the coconut at all in this recipe. As for hiding the zucchini, if you first peel off the skin the green color won’t be visible and you could try grating it more finely than I did in the pictures. xx Jean

          Posted 4.16.20 Reply
      28. Nithya wrote:

        Hi Jean – Thank you for the awesome recipe. You are the first blogger I started following 10 years ago 🙂 Thank you for all the recommendations.

        Question regarding the vegan frosting, you had mentioned that you have linked two promising recipes but I couldn’t find. Can you please highlight where?

        Thanks much!

        Posted 4.15.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Hi Nithya! Thank you for being such a long time reader 🙂 The two vegan frosting recipes are linked at the top of the post but you can also find them here:

          coconut option: https://www.texanerin.com/vegan-cream-cheese-frosting/

          sweet potato option: https://detoxinista.com/vegan-cream-cheese-frosting-nut-soy-free/

          As I mentioned, I haven’t tried either of these before so if you make one you’ll have to let me know how it is! xx Jean

          Posted 4.15.20 Reply
          • Nithya wrote:

            Absolutely Jean! Will do if I give it a try. I do love my cream cheese but I always looks for alternative healthier options.

            I will tag you in insta when I make them 🙂 Thank you for responding!

            Posted 4.16.20 Reply
            • Nithya Bandi wrote:

              5 stars
              Jean – Would have given 10/10 stars if I had an option 🤗

              We loved it all the way from Dubai!

              Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      29. AJ wrote:

        Thank you for sharing this! My kids are allergic to eggs and cow’s milk so I love finding new recipes for them. I am half Filipina, too. =]

        Posted 4.10.20 Reply
      30. Mireia wrote:

        I really have to try this!

        Mireia from TGL

        Posted 4.6.20 Reply
      31. Jan wrote:

        I have a vegan in my family, and we sub each egg with 3 Tbs aquafaba (leftover liquid from canned chickpeas). It does a better job of binding ingredients vs. banana or applesauce, IMO, and better mimics a real egg.

        Posted 4.6.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Hi Jan – I hadn’t heard of that substitution before, I’ll have to give it a try! x Jean

          Posted 4.16.20 Reply
        • Camille wrote:

          5 stars
          These are delicious! Made it multiple times, with whole milk+lemon vs. coconut milk, finely chopped vs. grated zucchini, and they all came out amazing! Very moist, not too sweet or decadent, and pairs well with a cream cheese frosting or chocolate ganache. Can’t even taste the zucchini or coconut milk!

          Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      32. Anonymous wrote:

        this is perfect as I have coconut cream sitting in my pantry for awhile now and don’t know what to do with it! just need to acquire some zucchini. 🙂

        Posted 4.6.20 Reply
      33. Helen wrote:

        Thank you so much for this recipe! I made it tonight with a mashed banana and almond milk – it was delicious 🙂

        Posted 4.5.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Hi Helen, I’m so happy to hear that! Great to know that it still works with those substitutions!

          Posted 5.7.20 Reply
      34. Annie Z wrote:

        Great recipe! When you have time could you link the bowls or utensils that you use for Nori maybe on your amazon page. I have a toddler around the same age. Also maybe the cubes or ice trays used to freeze the coconut milk? Thanks!

        Posted 4.5.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          Hi Annie, I’m so sorry it’s taken me a bit to reply! The bowls and utensils we use for Nori are linked on my Amazon page (the bowls are on the baby page and the utensils are on the toddler page). For freezing coconut milk I like to use any ice cube tray (I think ours are silicone ones from the brand Tivolo). x Jean
          https://www.amazon.com/shop/extrapetite?listId=132EBCEKRCAM4

          Posted 4.17.20 Reply

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