A Zucchini Birthday Cake & Flowers, too - No. 138
Happy Birthday to August people! 🎉 Recipes for zucchini cake and fried zucchini blossoms.
AUGUST AND ZUCCHINI ARE AT OPPOSITE ENDS of the alphabet, but truly, they have much in common.
Zucchini thrives in August’s insufferable heat, and August birthdays are all the better with zucchini cake.
I came to this realization a half dozen years ago when my younger daughter was home working summers in Nashville. Finally, I selfishly had someone who wanted to cook all the mutant zucchini taking over my garden and someone to ask those magical words to the cake doctor, ‘’Mom, what kind of birthday cake do you want this year?’’
Oh, did I tell you I have an August birthday?
And that it’s today?
Which is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day for whatever reason that may be. What’s wrong with those day-naming people? This is zucchini season!
Zucchini is such an interesting vegetable. We fry it, saute it, shred it into breads and cakes, spiralize it into pasta, pickle it, am I missing anything? But it’s like so many other vegetables in that it’s sweeter and more tender freshly picked from your own garden.
And in the garden, it is the beast! I would say it’s taking growth hormones if I didn’t know better. It waits there uninterested all summer while the tomatoes are ripening and basil is cranking out and then like a teenager who’s neglected summer reading, it gets seriously busy. Laser focused. As if fear set in and nothing else mattered but more zucchini for me to cook.
I’ve been intrigued by how warm weather cultures make good use of zucchini and how Olia Hercules added it to her Armenian sheet pan roast of vegetables along with tomatoes and feta. And certainly the Italians know a thing or two about zucchini.
We rented a house in Tuscany for a week one summer, and a perk of the house was this massive vegetable garden with tomatoes on the vine. We asked a local cook to teach us how to make homemade pasta, and she cooked dinner for us one night, too. Her name was Elena Nasoni. She had brought large zucchini squash blossoms with her and found a few more in our house’s garden. And just to sit in the breeze outdoors and smell the aroma of potatoes sauteing with garlic and sage inside, and these squash blossoms frying in oil, and to have it cooked for you, well, it was one of the most glorious experiences of my life.
I came home with her tiramisu recipe, which I treasure. But the squash blossoms we had to recreate on our own. I believe they had a hint of lemon zest. I do recall we gobbled them up and washed them down with Campari as well as Vermentino.
Those memories flooded back today as I picked more zucchini. One of the squash had its blossom still attached. I think I’ll fry some for my birthday. Grab some ricotta and a lemon while I’m at the store. I’ve got a load of fresh mint, and surely there’s a chilled Italian white downstairs.
On any other day, I can grate zucchini onto my salad or fry slices like Marcella Hazan did in a batter of 2/3 cup all-purpose flour stirred into 1 cup of water. My children loved that.
But for birthdays, I want cake and flowers.
Next Tuesday in Between the Layers
The Italian food love continues as Domenica Marchetti will teach us how to make crostata. Tis the season!
So find an apron, and happy baking zucchini cake (and frying those blossoms)! I do appreciate that you’ve joined me on this journey. And I’d love to know your favorite birthday cake, too.
- xo, Anne