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Would you like a piece of cake right now? For Goodness Cake is here for you.
Today: Why choose between three recipes when you can just combine them all?
If you’ve taken high school economics, you’re familiar with the concept of opportunity cost. For every choice you make, your opportunity cost is the best possible alternative—"the road not taken," if you will (sorry—still in tenth grade mode).
And even if you weren’t able to define that term on your first quiz, you’ve surely experienced its “Real Life Application.” It’s especially palpable when you’re turning away from the ice cream counter. To have chosen pistachio ice cream is to not have chosen chocolate (…or vanilla…or mint chip). It’s the what ifs. It’s what keeps me standing in the store so long that, at 4 P.M., the cashier kindly reminds me that they stay open till 10.
(But learn from multiple my trials and errors and save yourself anxiety: If you’re at Morgenstern’s, buy one scoop sesame caramel, one scoop Peanut Butter Picoso’s. If you’re at Ample Hills, go for Nonna D’s Oatmeal Lace and Peppermint Pattie and you'll walk away happy.)
And since I can’t write about cake every day of the week (I’ve pushed—believe me), I run into a similar dilemma: Each recipe I test sweeps other contenders under the rug. When I wanted to make zucchini bread—a quick bread I’ve come to love in my maturity though was horrified to learn existed—I yearned (really, I did) to find the best one.
At first, I opened a hundred tabs, marking every zucchini bread recipe that appealed to me. And then I realized that while I can't have it all, my zucchini bread can.
Some cakes are ballerinas that ask you to tip-toe, too: They're delicate in flavor or structure and can only handle so much rough-housing. Zucchini bread is not one them. It can take spice like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon; it loves fats other than butter and flours other than all-purpose; it can handle add-ins like raisins (if you dare), chocolate chips, or nuts; it can weather a thick sugary coating or a cream cheese frosting.
So I made the greedy, rather immature (but ultimately good!) decision to not choose only one recipe. Instead, I started with the olive oil base—moist and savory—from Ashley Rodriguez’s version of Renee Erikson’s recipe in A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus and then added the poppy seeds from Leite’s Culinaria zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting, the lemon-crunch glaze from Lottie + Doof, and some chopped candied ginger. (And that's why this recipe has a novel-length name.)
Make this recipe and you won't have to worry about the zucchini breads not taken. You'll get a loaf with a crunchy citrus coating, a ravined top, and a plush interior speckled with poppy seeds.
No regrets there.
Adapted from Ashley Rodriguez, Renee Erickson, Lottie + Doof, and Leite's Culinaria
Makes one 9- by 5-inch loaf
For the cake:
3 cups grated zucchini (from about 1 pound)
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 2 large lemons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the glaze:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Photos by James Ransom