This Zucchini Bread Has it All

August 27, 2015

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?

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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. 

Gingery Olive Oil Zucchini Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon Crunch Glaze

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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • stephen paulson
    stephen paulson
  • Cheri Mayell
    Cheri Mayell
  • Susan
  • golddeer
  • Laura415
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


stephen P. October 12, 2015
This is funny brings to mind a special brunch event where I took two recipes that my mother gave me one for a poppy seed cake with lemon sugar crust and one for zucchini bread and made a Frankenstein loaf that ended up to be gran Marnier crusted zucchini and poppy seed bread. My old Chef calls me every couple of years looking for that recipe and I make up a different one every time. Newest version used coffee flour.
Cheri M. October 10, 2015
No poppy seeds at present could I use Nigell seeds? Looks scrummy
Susan October 9, 2015
2 cups of sugar??? is that really necessary?
golddeer October 9, 2015
You could easily dial the amount of sugar back. Also the amount of EVOO is way overboard - I did half and could have even done less than that.
golddeer September 29, 2015
I had one lone zucchini and two ripe bananas so I made this bread last night. I simply mixed everything together in one bowl and cut the EVOO in half - it baked for 75 minutes and it is *THE* best quick bread ever. Thanks for the incredible recipe!
Laura415 August 30, 2015
My mom always hid the zucchini in a very chocolatey cake with chocolate chunks. This one looks great! I'm glad to see you were grating up both green zucchini and yellow crook neck squash. I have much more of the later these days. I might even try a sour sorrel glaze since I have much more of that in the garden than lemons these days.
Sharon I. August 30, 2015
Can't have flour or there a substitute? Help ...seems delicious!!!!!!
Laura415 August 30, 2015
You can use various non wheat flours if wheat is your issue. Tender quick breads/cakes do very well with no gluten flours.
Sugar is much harder to get rid of. Sugar causes your cake to taste sweet but sugar also makes a cake moist and tender. You can soak the zucchini in fruit juice instead of sugar. Then after the zucchini releases it's water you'll drain that juice away. For the rest of the sugar you could reduce the 1 and 3/4 Cup sugar to probably 1 - 1 1/4 cups. You could also try adding banana or applesauce to sweeten but you'll need to adjust the liquid to do that. Also it will taste strongly of the fruit you use. Fruit is sugar too, just to be clear. I think it'll be hard to get rid of all the sugar but you can get rid of some of it. Good luck:)
Sharon I. August 31, 2015
Laura thank you for your kindness and responding to me. I am so grateful. I will certainly try your suggestions.
Laura415 September 2, 2015
Good luck Sharon. The good news is once you find a way to make it work you'll have a great recipe you can make and substitute different flavors and fruits or vegetables in.
lizykat August 30, 2015
This is very similar to 101 cookbooks, "My Special Zucchini Bread" which I have made twice in as many days...I scanned the ingredients in this version and it sounds delish as well, thanks for another one to try!!
SUSAN R. August 30, 2015
This article couldn't have come at a more perfect time. The zucchini in my garden is growing larger by the day. You must have been reading my mind.
Bella B. August 28, 2015
It looks like a "must try" recipe!
MS August 27, 2015
The lemon crunch glaze should really be credited to Gina DePalma.
Sarah J. August 27, 2015
Yes, you're right! This recipe has made several appearances on the internet (Lottie + Doof, as I said, plus on David Lebovitz's blog: but it's originally attributed to Gina DePalma at Babbo. Thanks for pointing that out!