What I love about this recipe is its extreme cocoa flavor. It's not too sweet with a texture that's dense and fudgy yet light, with wickedly delicious crunchy edges. Baked as cupcakes, the large shreds of zucchini are clearly visible in the middle, but undetectable upon consumption. Instead of a rich frosting, I opt for a modest topping of chocolate ricotta mousse, which is airy, not too sweet and decidedly very grown-up. I originally served the cake topped with hazelnut brittle but for my own tastes, chopped toasted nuts (pistachios, in this case) are all these cupcakes need to be perfect.
- For the Cupcakes:
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup grated zucchini
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- For the Ricotta Mousse:
- 1 cup good quality ricotta
- 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
- 2 ounces melted dark/bittersweet chocolate (still warm)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the Cupcakes: Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the dry mixture to the wet and fold until completely combined. Divide batter equally between 9 paper-lined portions of a muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes, then turn and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean with no raw batter, but may be moist from the zucchini. Be careful not to overbake. Allow cupcakes to cool fully before frosting.
For the Mousse: Combine ricotta and confectioner's sugar in a blender or food processor and turn on machine. Add chocolate in one steady stream, then immediately stop machine and scrape down any splashes of chocolate before it hardens. Turn machine on again to fully incorporate chocolate. Drizzle in cream until mousse is light and airy. Transfer to small bowl, cover and chill at least 3 hours. If the mousse seems a little runny (it depends on the ricotta), whip with a balloon whisk or in a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer to stiff peaks. Spread on top of cupcakes and top with chopped toasted hazelnuts or pistachios, if desired.
muffin pan, cupcake liners, blender or food processor