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

May 30, 2021
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes one 9- by 5-inch loaf
Author Notes

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. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 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
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a small mixing bowl, mix the zucchini with 1/4 cup sugar. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set over the mixing bowl. Fill another small bowl—just large enough to nestle inside of the strainer—about halfway with water and set it directly on top of the zucchini so that it is pushing down. This will press the water out of the zucchini and into the bowl below.
  2. Butter the loaf pan, line with parchment paper, leaving some to hang over the sides, and butter the parchment.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, poppy seeds, and chopped ginger.
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla until well blended. Beat in the olive oil gradually, whisking it in until it's thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Using a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well incorporated, with no remaining white spots. Working with a handful of zucchini at a time, use your hands to wring out all of the excess moisture. When all of the zucchini has been pressed, add it to the batter, and stir it in gently until evenly incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Cool the bread in the pan for about 20 minutes. When it's been almost 20 minutes, make the lemon crunch glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and raw sugar. Add the confectioners' sugar and whisk until no dry spots remain.
  8. Lift the cake by its parchment paper handles and place on a cooling rack. Peel back the parchment paper and use a pastry brush to apply a generous coating of glaze to the top and sides of the cake, making sure to sweep up any raw sugar that's settled on the bottom of the bowl.
  9. Let the cake cool until the glaze has hardened. Slice into fat pieces and eat.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Maryte
  • Jenna Hess
    Jenna Hess
  • Ellie Irving
    Ellie Irving
  • Alma Mahler
    Alma Mahler
  • Bridget Ausman
    Bridget Ausman

35 Reviews

Sami November 5, 2022
My most revisited recipe. Substitute any kind of flour, vegetable (squash/pumpkin), and add nuts, spices, etc. This recipe never disappoints !
T October 3, 2020
Delicious, what a lovely recipe and less guilt for it being butter less :)
I did half the sugar and a little less olive oil (like 75%?) and it worked perfectly.
T October 13, 2020
Second time, I added 1/2 lemon juice, 200ml on the sugar and I could go slightly less next time. 150ml on the oil, and next time I’ll try to do even less.
Mary August 17, 2020
Delicious! I cut the sugar by about 10% and only used 1/2 the icing just because I didn’t want it to be too sweet, and it was perfect. Great way to use those summer zucchini!
Lauren September 1, 2019
I made this yesterday and it is very tasty but I had a couple of issues that came up. First my loaf pan is 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" and was too small to hold all of the batter (perhaps the recipe should include a note about loaf pan size). I made the mistake of not following my instincts there and some of the batter bubbled up out of the pan and onto a sheet pan below. This made the edges rather unsightly and made quite a mess as well. The second issue I had was that the cake took much longer than 75 minutes to bake fully; it probably took closer to 90 minutes before it was done. I think it took so long because I didn't squeeze enough moisture out of the zucchini. I followed the recipe as written but probably needed to wrap the grated zucchini is a dish towel and squeeze out even more of the moisture. My cake was so moist that it actually fell when it came out of the oven and left a dense ravine in the top of the cake. (It still tastes really good but I definitely need to adjust some things on the next round.) Perhaps next time I'll try this as muffins which will bake much more quickly.
Maryte February 26, 2019
How is this gluten free when it calls for flour?
LL March 4, 2018
This is my absolute favourite recipe for zucchini loaf, and my kids request it all the time. I have lost count of the number of times I have baked it in the last few years. I agree with the advice to decrease the sugar and oil. I cut back on the sugar by half, and the oil by one quarter (I cut oil by half once, and found it to be too dry.) I do use the glaze, and find that compensates for the decrease in sugar in the main loaf. (I like it with or without the glaze, but the kids really love it with the glaze.) Total winner!
Atieno December 31, 2017
awesome recipe. i used half the sugar and it come out awesome.
Jenna H. June 29, 2017
Made this just as written and WOW it's a winner! I'll add more candied ginger next time but this is by far the best zucchini bread I've ever had. And I've had a lot! Thank you thank you! I've found my new go to :)
Sarah J. July 3, 2017
So glad you liked it!!
Ellie I. June 24, 2017
I made this last night, minus the ginger and cutting 10% of the sugar. I wanted to use my mini loaves (5.75" L x 3.25" W x 2.25" H) and somewhere I found that two of them would equal one 5x9. I divided the batter evenly, which filled each tin to the top. I ended up with some major overflow. The cake is delicious though but if you use a mini loaf, you shouldn't use all the batter.
za'atar May 26, 2017
I enjoyed the flavors in this recipe, but found it to be too sweet. I would try it again with some less sugar.
Alma M. March 12, 2017
I made this as written and agree it is on the sweeter side of perfect. Super excited to make again with less sugar and some extra ginger!
Bridget A. January 5, 2017
I made this gluten free two days ago. I substituted carrot for zucchini and orange for lemon and it was fantastic- I am making it again tonight. Brilliant recipe.
Laura D. August 22, 2016
Could I make this as muffins?
Sarah J. August 22, 2016
Yes, you should be able to do it! I don't know quite how many muffins it'll make. I'd also check on them very early—look after 15 minutes!—because they'll back so much faster than a loaf would.
Laura D. September 1, 2016
Hey Sarah! I wanted to let you know I made these as muffins (and a mini cake with the leftover batter), and they were insanely delicious! I posted about them on my blog if you have a moment to check them out!
LouLou April 25, 2016
Moist, delicious! My only complaint is that it didn't have enough ginger flavor. When I make again (and I will), I will add more chopped candied ginger - loved the little surprise of biting into a sweet bit of ginger!
Cindy November 19, 2015
Can I use pumpkin instead of zucchini and if so, same 3 cups grated?
Bridget A. July 3, 2017
This is a very late reply, But I would think so- I made this as written and with grated carrot in stead of the zucchini. It was nice. I think grated pumpkin is a great idea (although you may have to bake it longer)
Anastasia S. October 24, 2015
It's so tasty and smells amazing, but sadly too much sugar! 2 cups = 480 ml = almost 500 gr sugar. I put less than 2 cups, but it's still too sweet. I love this recipe, next time I'll take 2-3 times less sugar.
chefrockyrd September 13, 2016
But part of the 2 cups of sugar is for the zucchini to release the liquid. It goes down the drain. So you are not really adding 2 cups to the cake. I used fresh picked zucchini from my garden and got tons of water out of it. I squeezed it out 3 times and got a good amount each time. Adding sugar to it is a very good idea. Love the poppy seeds, the lemon and 2 kinds of ginger. Love the whole idea of it. Thanks.
Chase T. October 19, 2015
Sarah this recipe is incredible! I made it for my CSA potluck. I only had fresh ginger on hand (from the farm!) and used 1/3 cup grated ginger in place of the ground ginger and candied ginger. This recipe is a stunner and I can't wait to make it again. The bread itself is insanely moist and I love the brightness of the lemon juice in the crunchy glaze.
Sarah J. October 19, 2015
So glad you liked it!! :)
Sandra H. October 9, 2015
I just made this taking the advice offered in comments. Definitely use 1/2 of the oil. Had no candied ginger but used 2 tsp. of fresh grated. Had no poppy seeds and substituted sesame seeds. Was very good but probably better with the poppy seeds. For glaze: Heated 3 T butter, 2 T water, 1/2 t. grated nutmeg and boiled on high for 2 min. Remove from heat and add 1 t of lemon extract (or vanilla). Remove cake from pan and use all of the glaze on the cake - including sides. The next one I will make with 5 yr old grandson who can crack eggs perfectly without crushing the shell. Thanks for this wonderful recipe.
Magali V. October 5, 2015
This recipe is absolutely amazing! I am from Brazil and here we don't eat zucchini as dessert. I own a food blog in Portuguese and I shared the recipe there. It was a huge success!

Thank you for teaching me this recipe. It is one of my favorite cakes ever!
LoveToCook September 30, 2015
This is absolutely delicious. I used fresh ginger as recommended to get a stronger flavor without overpowering. I skipped the glaze for a healthier treat. The cake is moist and light beyond imagination. The whole family loves it. Thank you for an excellent recipe!