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You're probably thinking that it's part of my job to like all the cake recipes I develop. Even if there's something I don't like, I have to sell it, don't I, so that you, dear readers, will be tempted to strap on an apron and bake. But, scout's honor, I do in fact really, really like most of my cakes. Some, like the recent bourbon-peach extravaganza, I even ate until there were only crumbs left clinging to the top of the Tupperware container (I licked those off).
As I was writing that recipe, I knew it would be a favorite, but once in a while there comes along a cake that catches me off guard and sweeps me off my feet even though it is decidedly not my type: this is one of those surprises.
It's summer and by this point we've all been badgered with zucchini, squash, and squash blossom recipes ranging from frittatas and simple sautées to breads and stuffed, deep-fried flowers. So here's one more for your book, because I know you still have a few leftover squash in your kitchen.
Most of the zucchini breads and cakes I've had are similar in texture and spicing to carrot cake—tender crumbed and moist, usually made with vegetable oil or a combination of butter and oil, flavored with warm cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Delicious, to be sure, yet those flavors make me think of fiery leaves and the brisk air of fall.
For this recipe, I wanted to go in a lighter, more season appropriate direction. So instead of those russet spices, I use floral cardamom and finely grated citrus zest (a winter fruit, but refreshing and sunny) combined with bright yellow summer squash. The squash is subtle—it hides in the batter and leaves people wondering what the secret ingredient is. A chocolate cream cheese frosting tops the cupcakes, the orange and cardamom flavors accentuating its rich flavor.
Go on, eat your vegetables. With chocolate.