Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Do you have zucchini still proliferating from your garden? I swear, I’m the only person in the universe that can plant zucchini…and yield nothing. In my defense, what with the house remodel and subsequent move (we moved last weekend – yay!), I haven’t devoted a single thumb, let alone a green one, to my garden this year. So, no zucchini. Thank goodness for lovely friends who have bequeathed upon me lots of the green monsters. I love them (and my friends).

For sure you need to be making this chocolate zucchini cake with any zucchini that crosses your path, especially since zucchini season isn’t going to last forever. I guarantee if you don’t have any from your own personal stash, there are at least a dozen people within your network of family and friends who probably have at least a trunk full put together.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This chocolate cake is moist (thank you, zucchini!) and tasty. Perfect for a nice dessert after a meal but also light (and healthy-ish if you make a few substitutions) enough for a snack-type cake. As in, I’m totally making this for my kids this week to eat as an after school snack and you can’t make me feel guilty about it. I have a feeling my kids won’t be making me feel guilty, they’ll be gobbling this up like there’s no tomorrow. Chocolate zucchini cake in the face of three hungry boys after school is like a total no-brainer around here.

I’ve never thought to sprinkle brown sugar on top of a cake but it’s genius, really. The brown sugar bakes into a sweet, brickle-like layer that when combined with the soft, chocolate cake is pure magic. Come to me little zucchini, I have a plan for you!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

One Year Ago: 39 Meals to Make in 30-Minutes or Less
Two Years Ago: Over-the-Top Andes Mint Cupcakes
Three Years Ago: Lasagna Primavera

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Brown Sugar Streusel

Yield: Makes a 9X13-inch cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Brown Sugar Streusel

I've included some easy substitutions next to a few of the ingredients!


  • 1/2 cup butter (can substitute applesauce)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (can substitue canola or vegetable oil)
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (here are a few easy buttermilk substitutions)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • Topping:
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer), cream together the butter, oil and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix. Add 1/2 of the buttermilk; mix. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining buttermilk and mix followed by the last of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in the shredded zucchini.
  3. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the almonds and chocolate chips. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of everything.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs (don't overbake!).
  5. Let cool completely before serving. This cake tastes best at room temperature (and is great the next day, too!).

Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe Karen Y. (a MKC reader) sent me (thanks, Karen) – I decreased the oil and flour, increased the cocoa, decreased the nuts in the topping!

64 Responses to Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Brown Sugar Streusel

  1. Bev says:

    I loved this recipe, but my brown sugar did not melt. What went wrong? It was very good but unless someone can tell me why the brown sugar did not melt, I will omit it next time.

  2. yvonne says:

    Came home from work planning to share a couple pieces of this cake with our neighbor who so generously shared her zucchini with us. The entire 9×13 cake was gone! My husband never got to taste it, consumed by 3 teenagers in one day. Enough said!! Love your website!

    • Kate says:

      I love this recipe in the summer time when zucchini is over abundant. So delicious! The brown sugar and almond toppings are unexpected and such a yummy addition.

  3. Barbara says:

    When I had a HUGE zucchini a couple of weeks ago, I made three of these at a time and froze two of them. Yesterday I took one of them out of the freezer, let it sit on the counter for about 4 hours, and took it to a pot-luck luncheon. It was a screaming hit — especially when I told everyone that it had zucchini and apple sauce, important to women who insist on feeling guilty for eating chocolate (of which I am not one).

  4. Helen says:

    So Mel I have been making this recipe for 10 plus years of zucchini seasons … Almost exact… I checked mine and I could see where you had made the changes and substitutions … So the person who sent the recipe has the same one I do .. Or pretty close. Anyway, I’ve always made it in a large cookie sheet pan and called it “zucchini brownies”. It comes out perfectly that way too … It’s obviously a bit thinner … And I rarely use the nuts, just lots of chocolate chips and brown sugar 🙂 just thought I’d mention this variation if you or others want to try it … It’s still very moist and cake like in texture …. But it goes a little farther (feeds more people … More times) which is a HUGE deal for my family of 9 chocolate zucchini brownie lovers … Or for a potluck item .. As always .. Love everything you do here on this amazing blog .. Thanks again for that amazing back to school post !!!!

  5. Debbie says:

    This cake was absolutely delicious. I’ve had many chocolate zucchini cakes over the years but none of them compare. The only thing I was disappointed in was that my chocolate chips and almond slices sunk in even with the top of the cake. I was looking forward to having it look as incredible as yours. Was it because I used Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate chips? If you have any suggestions I would love mine to look as professional as yours. Thanks, I love your website!

    • Mel says:

      Debbie – Actually, mine did the same – I think the picture of the cake I used was of a corner piece or one of the pieces that had more on top but I think that’s pretty normal with the chocolate chips and almonds since they weigh down into the batter while baking.

  6. sue says:

    I want to make this gluten free, so you think I can substitute cooked quinoa, like in your decadent choc. cake recipe?

    • Mel says:

      sue – Definitely have to experiment! I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure how it would work. Might be better to use the actual chocolate quinoa cake recipe and add shredded zucchini to that batter. Good luck!

  7. Stacy W says:

    Best chocolate cake I have ever had! Thanks Mel!

  8. Busy Mom says:

    This chocolate cake was the best! I made it for my husband’s birthday earlier this year and now both of my kids want me to make it for their birthdays too. 🙂

    For some reason the brown sugar didn’t melt into the top of the cake like it did for you. It still tasted great, but maybe a little too sugary so next time I might omit that sugar or sprinkle a little less on top. But seriously, the cake was amazing. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    You can see my post about it at

  9. […] from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe to make it a grain-free recipe and a gluten-free […]

  10. Jenny says:

    I made this last week and it is my new favorite way to eat chocolate cake! I could not get enough of it! I did use the butter instead of applesauce and I stuck to the recipe completely. Wow! Wow! Wow! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I noticed you decreased the flour in the recipe. How much did it originally have? Living at a much higher altitude than Minnesota, we actually have to increase the amount of flour instead of decreasing it.

  12. Aubrie says:

    Loved this! It was so moist and chocolatey and delicious (even with half whole-wheat flour and nonfat greek yogurt in place of the oil!) I subbed pecans for the almonds because that’s what my grandma does on a similar cake and it reminded me of her. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  13. Abbie says:

    This cake was amazing!! For what ever reason I had cocoa powder on my grocery list but didn’t buy it. So when I went to make the cake I had a dilemma do run to the store and get some or make do with what I have. So I was lazy and made do. I tried 1/2 cup nutella and melted 6 squares of a dark chocolate bar, I also decreased the amount of sugar to 1 cup. Well it came out beautifully delicious and moist. Thanks!

  14. Julie says:

    This was so moist and absolutely delicious! I used the applesauce substitute and left off the topping. I was going to frost it with chocolate frosting but it was so good on it’s own that I left that off too. My husband and four boys also loved it! By the way, we also loved your Summer Garden Vegetable Soup. My boys even ate the vegetables without complaining, which is pretty rare in our family. Thank you!

  15. I just can’t wrap myself around savory zucchini recipes usually (so many other one to make with other ingredients before I get to an interesting one), but baking is another ball game. And chocolate is the way to go! Love this recipe Mel, looks so chocolaty. I sprinkle brown sugar (with cinnamon many times) all the time on simple cakes, it’s the best way to add an extra layer.

  16. Nancy says:

    You’re not alone Mel! We were not able to harvest anything from our zucchini plant either. From my research, it appears that we only had male blossoms. 🙁 I have some Farmer’s Market zucchini to use up and this looks like the perfect recipe to do that.

  17. leesha jones says:

    Can you make buttermilk with almond milk and vinegar? My husband is vegan and I really want to make this cake for him.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Leesha – I’ve never made buttermilk with non-dairy milk substitutions so you’ll have to experiment. Try googling to get other people’s experiences – it would be awesome if it worked out!

  18. Sally says:

    I’m probably the only person who would eliminate the chocolate chips from the topping. I hit chocolate overload very quickly.

  19. Carrie says:

    OMG…this was amazing and I had less guilt when eating it!

  20. Mariann Rothwell Ryckman says:

    I made this today for a church function. The only substitution I made was I used yellow squash instead of zucchini. This cake is beautiful. Raves all around.

  21. Dawn says:

    This is so yummy! Thank you for a fantastic recipe. I shared the first batch with friends and neighbors and everyone raved about it. I’ve now got my second batch of the week in the oven. I’m not sharing this one! I’m also curious if it would work in muffin form. That would be great for defrosting a muffin/cupcake as needed.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Dawn (and others that asked) – I haven’t made these in muffin form so I can’t attest to how they would work out but since it’s a pretty basic cake batter, I think a little experimenting should produce pretty great muffins/cupcakes. Good luck if you try it!

  22. Deborah says:

    I’m the crazy one who is hounding everyone for zucchini – I can’t get enough! Loving this!

  23. Anne says:

    So… I made this today, and after baking for 45 minutes, the brown sugar topping still just looked like crumbled brown sugar. I even tried broiling it for a few minutes but that just kind of browned it on top. My brown sugar wasn’t super fresh but still soft. There are a few spots that were touching the batter that melted in, so in the future I’ll put the brown sugar under the chocolate chips and nuts. Did I do something wrong? The cake still tastes fabulous, but I was really looking forward to that brickle. 😉

  24. Katie says:

    These look great! Do you think they would work in regular or mini muffin form? I wanted to freeze them and pop them into school lunches.

  25. Carolyn Stutz says:

    Hi! I can say I love most every recipe of yours that I’ve tried. The ones I didn’t care for were personal preference – and seriously, we’re talking two or three 🙂
    Anyway, tried this recipe this morning and love it. However, I need to find gluten free recipes or recipes that can be adapted – and this one absolutely can be adapted. For anyone interested, I used applesauce (only because I didn’t have time for the butter to thaw enough to beat it!) I used an all-purpose GF flour blend (garbanzo bean based), I added xanthan and guar gums, sucanat (cause it’s what I had on hand), I baked it for 28 minutes at 325 and could possibly have gone a few minutes less. I have found that gf flours need less baking time. The cake is wonderful and if I can keep myself from eating all of it, my dd will love it. Thank you!!

  26. Teresa says:

    I made this last minute last night and it was really good. I halved the recipe for an 8×8 cake and it worked out fine. Used all applesauce also and did not miss the butter. I did, too, have to cook it longer than stated (seemed thicker in the 8×8). Very moist and the chips gave it a wonderful chocolate taste. Thanks.

  27. Emily says:

    I made this today as well and it was wonderful! I had to cook it for much longer though and had to then the oven temp up to 350. Total baking time was about 50 min. Worth the extra wait!

  28. Robin says:

    Made this and shared with friends we all vote AMAZING!

  29. Jen M says:

    Made this today. It was delicious. The ONLY way I can eat zucchini is in bread/cake. This will be my go-to for zucchini cake from now on. Thanks for all of your awesome recipes!

  30. Beth says:

    I made this cake yesterday afternoon!! It is DELISH!!!! I only had a 1/4 c butter so I used that and 1/4 c applesauce, it turned out just fine. I love the chocolate chips almonds and brown sugar on the top so yummy! Thanks for the great recipe.

  31. cakes with brown sugar come out really well. thanks for the recipe

  32. Lea says:

    Do you think I could halve this and make in an 8X8?

  33. Tami says:

    This totally counts as a breakfast food.

  34. Christy Pruitt says:

    I was elated this morning when I received the e-mail for this recipe. I have a giant zucchini sitting in my counter that a coworker had given me. I needed to use it, but tue weather has been too hot and I have recently made up some eggplant recipes that I could have used zucchini instead. Instantly I was drawn in and saw I had all the ingredients to pull this chocolate beauty off. I made it tonight before dinner – my first cake ever from scratch! I’m elated that this was my first cake, this truly is a magnificent recipe – the pictures do not do it justice! It is a moist, decadent chocolate dessert, with a fantastic crisp top. Mine turned out slightly crisp around the edges similarly to the coveted brownie edges. It’s a huge hit in my household and one of the best uses for zucchini ever! If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly suggest you do! THANK YOU MEL! =)

  35. Amy says:

    So, did you use applesauce in place of the butter?

  36. Marilee says:

    Will it still taste good without almonds? I have all of the ingredients except the almonds.

  37. amanda says:

    Looks awesome! Just one question: do you drain or pat the shredded zucchini before you add it?

  38. Kristi says:

    That cake looks good. It’s something a little different than the regular zucchini dessert recipes.

  39. amc0808 says:

    Lucky me I just picked up a few zucchini at the Farmer’s Market today — I just need to go get some coconut oil and I’m all set to try this! Looks incredible.

  40. Julie says:

    I’m excited to try this! My computer desktop is littered with recipes to try from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. It’s gotten a little out of hand, actually — I’m now creating a special folder for them. 🙂 Thanks for great recipes!

  41. Des says:

    I love chocolate and zucchini together. This looks perfect!

  42. Debbie says:

    You are not the only one who can plant zucchini and get nothing in return. Last year I got absolutely no zucchini. This year I got 1 and was so excited. I have a few more that started, but have died out. I don’t know what I do wrong. I’ll have to go to the farmer’s market to get some to try this yummy sounding cake.

  43. Caroline says:

    I’ve got lots of zucchini on my counter so thanks for the recipe:)

  44. thanks for sharing this delicious cake recipe!!

  45. Tauna says:

    Just last weekend I was looking on your site for a chocolate zucchini cake recipe. So glad it is here now! Can’t wait to try it.

  46. Karen says:

    Yay! The fact that you used a recipe I submitted makes me all giddy and happy. I feel famous! This completely made my day…yes, I need to get a life. 😉

  47. Rachel says:

    Have you seen this bit from Bill Cosby? Its kind of long, but hilariously relevant.

  48. My favorite vegetables are the ones disguised as chocolate cake!!

  49. Nathalie says:

    Glad I checked your site out today (I do most days!) since I have a zuchinni that I’ve been waiting to use and this recipe sounds delicious so I guess I’ve found a match- your recipes never disappoint, can’t wait to try it out! 🙂

  50. Kim in MD says:

    Wow…this looks so delicious!

  51. I love the fact I can use applesauce in this recipe.

  52. Sophie says:

    This sounds SO amazing!! Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *