Lemon Zucchini Layer Cake with Strawberry Buttercream

A gluten-free and vegan lemon-kissed moist, light zucchini cake, loaded with a rich strawberry buttercream. Summery and fresh, you can do double duty with the recipe and nix the frosting for a simple brunch cake that goes perfect with tea.

Gluten-Free Lemon Zucchini Layer Cake with Strawberry Buttercream2

Lemon Zucchini Layer Cake with Strawberry Buttercream

For the cake:
7/8 cup (210mL) unsweetened nondairy milk (see Notes)
2 tablespoons (30mL) cider vinegar
1 cup (240mL) granulated sugar
1/3 cup mild or medium extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60mL) dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons (30mL) ground flaxseeds
2 teaspoons (10mL) vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (300mL) sorghum flour
3/4 cup (180mL) millet flour
6 tablespoons (90mL) tapioca flour
1/4 cup (60mL) arrowroot flour
1 1/4 teaspoons (6mL) baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons (6mL) xanthan gum
1 teaspoon (5mL) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4mL) salt
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 cups tightly packed grated zucchini, squeezed dry

For the buttercream:
1 cup (240mL) chopped strawberries
1 cup (240mL) vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance (see Notes)
3 1/2 cups (840mL) icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon (15mL) vanilla extract

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil two 8-inch round baking pans, line them with parchment paper, and lightly oil the parchment paper.

Put the nondairy milk in a bowl or measuring cup. Add the cider vinegar and let stand until the mixture is curdled, about 3 minutes.

Put the sugar, oil, brown sugar, flaxseeds, vanilla extract, and curdled milk mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Turn the mixer or a hand-mixer on medium high speed and beat until well mixed and emulsified.

Put the sorghum flour, millet flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Stir in the lemon zest. Mix well.

Turn the mixer to low speed. Add the flour mixture, about a third at a time, beating after each addition, until well mixed. Turn off the mixer. Stir in the zucchini by hand.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans using a spatula, smoothing evenly. Bake in the centre of the oven for 23 to 27 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean. The cakes will be golden brown, begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, and will spring back when lightly touched.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes from the pans and put them on a cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature before frosting.

To make the frosting, put he strawberries in a small saucepan. Cook the strawberries on medium heat until softened, then mash to a puree. Turn heat to low, then continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to about 1/3 cup (80mL). Let cool completely.

Put the vegan buttery spread in the stand mixer or large bowl. Using the stand mixer or hand mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the buttery spread is fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed. Add 1 cup (240mL) of the icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of the strawberry puree, and the vanilla extract. Beat until well combined. Alternately add the remaining icing sugar and remaining strawberry puree, beating until smooth. Once the mixtures are both added, turn the mixer to high speed and beat until creamy and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes, adding a little extra icing sugar if needed.

To assemble the cake, carefully transfer one layer to a service dish. Spread a layer of frosting using a metal offset spatula over the top of the layer. Cover with the other layer, pressing down slightly. Spread the remaining frosting over the sides and top of the cake. Serve immediately let stand at room temperature or in the refrigerator before serving. Store leftovers at room temperature or in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Notes: It’s best here to use a nondairy milk such as coconut milk beverage (in the carton) or almond milk, as they are fattier and richer, producing a more tender cake.

When measuring the flour, spoon the flour into the measuring cups, then level the top with a flat edge for optimal results.


Late Summer Oven Ratatouille

Though the actual assemblage of this dish is more akin to a tian, it delivers a pretty presentation and tastes great, too. Like most amazing things, it is excellent the next day, too. I’ve included photographs inside the recipe for putting it together. If this makes it difficult to print, let me know, and I’ll adjust it.

rataouille close

Late Summer Oven Ratatouille

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic
7 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

For the rest:
1 medium eggplant, sliced 1/16 to 1/8-inch thick (try to find one with a smaller diameter)
1 yellow zucchini/summer squash, sliced 1/16 to 1/8-inch thick
1 green zucchini, sliced 1/16 to 1/8-inch thick
1 red onion, sliced 1/16 to 1/8-inch thick
1 to 2 red peppers, cored and sliced in rings 1/16 to 1/8-inch thick
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Additional sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil an 9-inch square baking dish.

Put the garlic in the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the Roma tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Pulse until combined and almost pureed. Pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and drain the excess water.

Pour the tomato mixture in the bottom of the dish. Line the eggplant, yellow and green, zucchini, onion, and red pepper upright in a pattern, starting around the perimeter of the dish and working your way to the centre.

rataouille first step

Brush with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

rataouille second step

Cover the vegetables, loosely tucking into the inside of the dish with foil or parchment paper. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until vegetables are softened but not mushy. Uncover and let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

rataouille baked

Curried Zucchini and Kale Soup

Make this simple soup a full meal by adding 2 cups of chickpeas, and leave it in a chunky purée instead of completely smooth. You can serve this cold or warm. Initially, I wrote the recipe as a cold soup… but I like it warm and cozy with some crusty bread.


Curried Zucchini and Kale Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth (you can also use water, although you may want to increase the spices)
3 cups packed, chopped kale
2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk (in the can, not coconut beverage)
Zest of one lime
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Lime, for garnish
Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the spices and ginger, and continue to heat for an additional one to two minutes, until fragrant. Add the zucchini, and stir until coated with spices, then top with vegetable broth. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, letting cook until the zucchini is tender, about 12 minutes.

Once the zucchini is tender, add the kale, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until wilted. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, whizz until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, let the soup cool slightly and purée in batches in a blender or food processor.

Once smooth, add the coconut milk and lime juice, adding salt and pepper to taste. Let come to room temperature and then place in fridge to chill before serving. Garnish with a squeeze of lime juice and cilantro, if desired.