Chocolate-Orange and Courgette Cake

chocolate orange cake

It all started when O brought home a couple of courgettes (zucchini, for anyone who’s now googling ‘courgette’) that were near their sell-by dates. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit into my plans for dinner either that day or the next – the girls don’t like green bits in their spag bol and T just doesn’t like green at all yet. And so they sat in my fridge feeling very sorry for themselves.

The great green god of courgettes was smiling down on this lonesome pair, however. It just so happened that today, whilst I was finally getting around to adding Melinda’s Kitchen Diary to my blogroll (sorry it’s taken me so long, Melinda – blame the cat … or the weather … or … okay … my goldfish attention span), I was inexplicably diverted to a recipe for Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake. I dutifully bookmarked the page and gave a fleeting thought to my less than youthful courgettes. But no – their great green god had loftier intentions for them. Not only did I have exactly the right amount of courgette for the recipe, I also had every other ingredient in my cupboards, even down to the marmalade and walnuts (ah, the walnuts …).

My courgettes weren’t out of the woods (or the fridge) yet, though. M declared that nothing short of a chocolate cake would be acceptable to her this afternoon, and I’ve learned through bitter experience that it’s best never to attempt to argue with a three-year-old. Especially not when they’ve set their heart on chocolate cake.

Far from being daunted, the great green god of courgettes planted the idea in my mind that here was the perfect opportunity to slip one of those five daily portions of fruit and veg past my eagle-eyed three-year-old unawares. Maybe even T would be fooled – I mean, I know chocolate cake doesn’t look anything like his usual diet of sausages, but hey … chocolate! How could he refuse?

They were all there when I took out a loaf pan and oiled it. They watched as I weighed the walnuts and started breaking them into small pieces.

“What are you doing, Mum?” L asked.

“She’s making a chocolatecakecanIhelp,” said M. This was a statement, not a question. T started dragging heavy chairs across the kitchen floor to the worktop where he knew the Kenwood mixer would soon appear. He climbed up onto one of the chairs expectantly.

Together, somehow, the cake began to be made. Miraculously, everything seemed to be happening in the same mixing bowl. L cracked an egg; M cracked an egg. T put his fingers into the yolks. M sieved the flour; L weighed the marmalade. T gudgled about a bit in it all before turning the mixer on.

Somehow, among the chaos, someone forgot to add the toasted walnuts. Perhaps it was the great green god of courgettes – after all, L did say afterwards that she wouldn’t have eaten the cake if it had had nuts in it.

chocolate orange cake sliced

Chocolate-Orange and Courgette Cake (adapted from Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson via Melinda)

9 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
5 oz sunflower oil
5 1/4 oz caster sugar
4 oz marmalade
7 oz grated courgette
1 1/2 oz cocoa
3 oz boiling water
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 oz walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped (add only if you are unafraid of incurring the wrath of the great green god of courgettes)
2 tbsp caster sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Oil, flour and base-line a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

Pour the boiling water on the cocoa powder and stir. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool to room temperature.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.

Mix eggs, oil, sugar and marmalade together in a large mixing bowl on medium speed.

Add the grated courgette, salt and cocoa/water mix (don’t be tempted to taste the cocoa as L and M insisted on doing this afternoon. It really doesn’t taste good. I told them so, but what do I know?). Beat. Scrape sides of bowl.

Add flour mix. Beat until just incorporated.

Add nuts (at your peril).

Scrape into the loaf pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula (well, that’s what Melinda said, anyway 😉 ). Sprinkle on the sugar (or, if you’re like M, dump it all in one spot).

Bake for 60 to 70 mins in the centre of the oven until the tester comes out clean. Cool for 20 mins before turning out on a wire rack.

Leave a comment


  1. That looks wonderful. I love the adaptation of chocolate. Did you like it? I really like this recipe. So glad you could make it your own!
    I am very proud to be on your blog roll. ‘Tis an honour.

  2. The honour is all mine, Melinda! Your Lazy Bakers’ club is an inspiration – if I wasn’t so ultimately lazy, I’d join you. You should see my bookshelves – I have things I want to bake lined up that will take me into the next century … if I ever get around to it, that is. There are only so many times that I can call my kids a handicap before someone susses me out 😉 . And the chocolate-orange cake is delicious. I will certainly make this again. I used an orange/tangerine marmalade, which gives it extra zing. Lovely!

  3. That looks really good, you would never guess it had courgette in, wonder if I can trick the other half into eating it ;-)!

    • M (my 3-yr-old) saw me grating the courgette. She even helped me to add the courgette … and she still claims it’s the best chocolate cake ever. So if she doesn’t mind the courgette, I’d be very surprised if your other half notices it at all! Do let me know 🙂 .

  4. Like the sound of this recipe! Lovely photos once again.


  5. loldfield

     /  August 14, 2009

    This is a truly fantastic recipe! Have made the cake three times now: both with and without the walnuts it tastes scrumptious! When feeling truly naughty I may even cut it into thick slices and later chocolate-fudge icing on top…thanks for such a gorgeous website and gorgeous food!

  6. Thanks for leaving such a lovely comment, loldfield 🙂 Chocolate-fudge icing sounds truly decadent – I’ll have to try it with this cake sometime!


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