Bake the ultimate summer cake

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

Here’s the thing about cake. It can help make or break a celebration.

I say that because earlier this month I threw a bridal shower for my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, and of course I wanted to make the best impression. Special

occasions require equally special desserts. But because I was doing all the cooking, I wanted to serve a cake that was relatively easy and at the same time as beautiful as the woman who captured my son’s heart.

I found a winner in this luscious two-layer cake

developed by Amanda Rettke, author of “Surprise-Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes For Every Occasion with Something Extra Inside” (Morrow, 2014), and the blogger behind

Surprise: Studded with sweet blueberries and redolent of vanilla and lemon, it was as gorgeous as it was delicious — both before and after I sliced it. But the best part was the surprise inside that made it the ultimate summer cake: zucchini.

Bakers often use applesauce to moisten cakes, but summer squash, too, can make a cake taste decadently rich, thanks to its high water content. And it does so without adding a discernible taste or texture (no one will ever guess it’s in there unless you tell), while also adding fiber, potassium and a blast of

Vitamin C.

Rettke recommends eating the cake while it’s still warm, “and the zucchini bits are lounging around the bursting blueberries in a delightful way.” But you can take heart in knowing that it’s just as scrumptious at room temperature as it is cold out of the refrigerator.

Some tips: You’ll want

to squeeze the shredded

zucchini in a dish towel until most of the water comes out before adding it to the batter, and no, you don’t have to peel it first. Also, let the cake cool completely before frosting the layers, or you’ll end up with a gloppy mess. Depending on how much you love icing, and whether your layers are even, frost the cake just between the layers, or on both the top and sides. An offset spatula works best.

Blueberry Zucchini Cake With Lemon Buttercream

The recipe calls for using 8-inch pans, but it would work just as well in 9-inch pans.

Be sure to let the cake cool completely before frosting.

For cake

2 cups finely shredded and drained zucchini

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

21/4 cups white sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 pint fresh blueberries (reserve a few for garnish)

For lemon buttercream

1 cup butter, room temperature

31/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 lemon, juice and zest of (about

2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to

350 degrees. Grease two

8-inch round cake pans.

Grate a large zucchini (or two small zucchini) and place in a clean dish towel. Squeeze until most of the liquid comes out. You will want to have

2 total cups of shredded

zucchini after it has been drained. Set aside.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Fold in the zucchini.

Slowly add in flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. (My layers took about 45 minutes.) Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

For lemon buttercream: Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat until well combined. Add lemon juice and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minutes or until creamy. Fold in most of the lemon zest. Frost between layers and on top and sides of cake. Top with reserved blueberries and lemon zest.

Serves 12.

— Amanda Rettke,