Tahini Praline-y Zucchini Cake

Recipe by Sarah Jampel

This summery crowd-feeding cake is like a spiced zucchini cake, only richer, moister, and more flavorful. That’s thanks to walnut praline, which is made by grinding up candied walnuts into a toasty, caramelly nut paste that’s used to sweeten both the batter and the frosting. The result is an irresistible cake with layered complexity. A scoop of tahini in the frosting brings home the nutty flavor, but if you’d prefer another topping, check out our suggestions in the “tips” below, or enjoy the cake unadorned. 

25 mins
45 to 52 mins
1 hr 40 mins
one 9" x 13" cake
Tahini Praline-y Zucchini Cake - select to zoom
Tahini Praline-y Zucchini Cake - select to zoom
Tahini Praline-y Zucchini Cake - select to zoom
Tahini Praline-y Zucchini Cake - select to zoom


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  1. To make the walnut praline: In a large skillet (preferably nonstick), combine the walnuts, sugar, water, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently at the beginning and constantly towards the end, until no water is left in the pan and the walnuts are toasted and dry, about 10 minutes. Immediately transfer the candied nuts to a parchment-lined plate or baking sheet; spread into a single layer. (You can reuse this parchment later to line your pan.) Set aside to cool slightly.  

  2. Transfer the candied nuts to a food processor and process until finely chopped, 3 to 4 long pulses. Set aside about 1/4 cup (36g) of the chopped nuts for decorating the cake. 

  3. Continue processing the remaining nuts until you have a thick, peanut butter-like paste, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the walnut praline to a small bowl or container and set aside. Walnut praline can be made up to 7 days ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

  4. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center. Line a 9" x 13" pan with parchment or grease with nonstick spray. Using the grating attachment of a food processor or working with the large holes on a box grater, shred the zucchini. (No need to wipe out the food processor after the nuts.) Set aside. 

  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, and baking soda. 

  6. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs and sugars until lightened in color and voluminous, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually stream in the vegetable oil while whisking; continue to whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Whisk in the vanilla and half of the reserved walnut praline (about 1/3 cup or 100g) until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients, stir with a flexible spatula until nearly incorporated, then add the zucchini and stir until no dry flour remains. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. 

  7. Bake the zucchini cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when gently pressed. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, 15 to 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and let it cool completely. Meanwhile, make the frosting. (The unfrosted zucchini cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead.)

  8. To make the tahini frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment or working in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, tahini, and remaining walnut praline on medium speed until completely smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt; beat until smooth and light. Add the milk, starting with 1 teaspoon, and beat until the frosting is a spreadable consistency.  

  9. Frost the cooled zucchini cake as desired, then sprinkle with reserved chopped nuts. Slice and serve at room temperature.  

  10. Storage information: Store leftover zucchini cake, well-covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Tips from our Bakers

  • This recipe halves easily: Simply make a half batch of all the components (praline, cake, and frosting). Bake the cake in an 8" square pan and check for doneness after 25 minutes, adding additional time as necessary until it tests done. 

  • Not a fan of tahini? Pair this cake with Cream Cheese Frosting or Fudge Frosting