Many families have a signature dessert, a dish they readily bring to gatherings with friends and relatives. The dessert in question might be linked to family heritage (a German chocolate cake, for example), or may have made its way into the kitchen repertoire by other means.

I grew up in a house that was perpetually stocked with homemade baked goods. Yes, poor me. My mother, who seems most at peace with at least two baking projects underway, famously botched her first baking assignment when she was just a teenager. Asked by my grandmother to assemble a blueberry cake for dinner guests that night, Mom threw together the ingredients and popped the cake pan in the oven, marveling at her own speed and efficiency.

Halfway through the baking process, however, Mom realized she had forgotten one crucial ingredient– the blueberries.

After a brief period of panic, Mama Brin did what any resourceful young cook would, stuffing several handfuls of blueberries into the baking cake. The end result was far from pretty, but, according to family lore, tasted just fine.

Mom’s signature dessert today is not blueberry cake, nor any derivation on the theme, but rather a humble and delicious chocolate cake.

Annie Brin’s famous chocolate cake has taken on a variety of incarnations, but today takes the form of a chocolate zucchini cake.

For those of you who have never tasted a chocolate zucchini loaf or dessert, there is nary a hint of vegetable taste to be found. Rather, the zucchini lends moisture and complexity to the treat, as well as helpful folate, potassium, vitamin A and manganese. Even the most veggie-phobic of individuals would have a hard time refusing a slice.

I’ve made this Brin family classic more than a few times, and can assure you that the prep. work isn’t much more complex than that of any other cake. So hit up your local farmer for some delicious zucchini, and adopt this signature dish as your own!

Mama Brin and I won’t breathe a word.

Recipe, chocolate zucchini cake:

1 and 1/2 cups canola oil

3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

4 eggs

3 cups sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

3 cups grated zucchini (make sure to peel the zucchini before grating them)

1 and 1/4 cups chopped walnuts

3 cups unbleached white flour

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bits


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

3. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

4. Beat eggs until thick. Add the sugar and beat again, then add the oil and cooled chocolate.

5. Combine dry ingredients. Add the grated zucchini and 1 cup chopped nuts. Pour into tube pan.

6. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup nuts and the 8 oz. of chocolate bits on top of the cake batter.

7. Bake the cake between 1 and 1/4 hours and 1 and 1/2 hours, checking at 1 and 1/4 to see if the cake is done.

8. To make a quick (optional) frosting, beat the following in a mixer: unsweetened cocoa powder, confectionary sugar, a bit of milk, pinch of salt, one stick butter and a splash of vanilla. Frost the cake when it has cooled to room temperature, and ratchet up the cake’s sweetness by serving it with some delicious coffee-flavored ice cream.

This cake can also be made several days or more in advance, and freezes quite well.


Cake, after a mid-sized hungry family has its way with it.