A Zucchini Bread Recipe (or, Zucchini Cake Baked in a Loaf Pan)

Zucchini breadOne of my summer dessert favorites is zucchini bread, something that could be called zucchini cake if it was baked in a shallow cylindrical pan instead of a loaf pan. It’s something I seem to only bake in the summer when zucchini is at the farmers markets, even though it would take an exceptionally skilled taster to determine that the zucchini was at its peak when I baked it, so imported winter zucchini would be fine.

The recipe I share below has been in the family for a few decades.  It’s reliable, easy to assemble, and creates a moist and flavorful bread/cake. I suspect that the use of liquid vegetable oil instead of butter as the fat could help — while vegetable oil is 100% fat and a liquid at room temperature, butter is an emulsion of fat and water, and can small create problems with breaking, difficulty in incorporation, and so on.

My latest batch of zucchini bread got me thinking: What is the origin of the idea of putting zucchini into a sweet bread/cake? My guess is that it was probably created to respond to zucchini’s torrential growth rates that require creative thinking to get rid of the huge volumes of the vegetable. There are plenty of similar cases of vegetables being added to sweet dishes, like carrot cake.  The “bread” name is similarly straightforward: someone decided to bake it in a bread pan and suddenly cake turned into “bread” (it could also be zucchini muffins, of course). Another open question is “What is the role of zucchini in making a tasty bread/cake/muffin?” (probably related to moisture retention).  Someday I hope to look for the answers to these questions (or perhaps read the answers in a comment on this post).

While I wonder about these trivial questions, I’ll share my ‘go to’ zucchini bread recipe. The original calls for three eggs, which is usually too much for me, so I scaled the ingredients and built a table that shows quantities for 1, 2 or 3 eggs.

 

Recipe:  Zucchini Bread

  • You can use ‘regular’ green or yellow zucchini, or any other variety of soft-skinned summer squash (like straightneck, zephyr, pattypan, costa romagna, etc.).
  • This recipe could be baked in any type of pan — a loaf pan is traditional, but a cake pan or muffin tins would work too.  Your choice of a pan (or pans) depends on how many eggs you use.  To help you with estimates, the last row in the table has the approximate volume of the finished recipe (i.e., it accounts for the rise during baking). As an example, for the 2 egg recipe, my regular loaf pans (7 7/8” x 4” x 2 1/2” / 20 cm x 10.2 cm x 6.35 cm) gave me two cakes that were about 1 5/8″ (4 cm) tall. That’s short and wide, but with that dimension you get a lot of tasty crust and can be sure that there will be no gummy interior areas.  Using two small loaf pans (Bake King H2, 7 5/8″ x 3 7/8″ x 2 1/4″ / 19.3 cm x 9.8 cm x 5.7 cm), the cakes almost completely filled the pans.
  • An optional step is coating the insides of the pans with granulated sugar, a trick that makes the crust a little more interesting. I learned it from an article about How to Grease and Sugar Your Cake Pans at Food52.
  • I prefer walnuts in this recipe because their slight bitterness offsets the sweetness and their flavor is strong enough to stand out.  Pecans could be tasty; I suspect that almonds are too mild; cashews or peanuts don’t have the right flavor profile.
  • Other additions could include chocolate chips, raisins, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds.
  • Preparation time:  25 minutes
  • Baking time: 45 to 55 minutes

Ingredients

IngredientUnit3 Eggs2 Eggs1 Egg
Eggseach321
Sugargrams400267133
Vegetable oilgrams20013367
Zucchini, gratedgrams25016783
Vanilla extracttsp321
All-purpose flourgrams350235117
Baking powdertsp1.250.830.42
Baking sodatsp21.330.67
Cinnamontsp10.670.33
Salttsp10.670.33
Chopped nutsgrams755025
Approx. Baked Volumefl. oz.724824

(Unit conversion page)

Method

  1. Butter the pan(s). (Optional: coat the insides with granulated sugar — after greasing, pour some sugar into the pan, distribute evenly, pour out excess.)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  3. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, beat eggs and sugar with a spoon until smooth (about a minute).
  5. In the jar of a blender, combine oil, grated zucchini and vanilla extract. Blend until mixture is smooth, but not completely pureed (this might take a few seconds of blending, then mixing with a spoon to redistribute, then a few more seconds of blending). Add to the eggs/sugar mixture.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir until just mixed.
  7. Fold in the nuts.
  8. Pour into prepared pans.
  9. The baking time depends on the pans you selected. For a full small-sized loaf pan or a partially filled regular-sized loaf pan, baking time is 45-40 minutes. For a full regular-sized loaf pan, baking time is 50-55 minutes.  Rotate half-way through.  Check the loaves near the end with a cake tester (every oven is different!) — the tester should come out clean when the loaf is ready.

 

If you don’t like tables (or are a computer program that reads recipes), here’s a more traditional version of the recipe that uses 2 eggs:

Zucchini bread
Print

Zucchini Bread

One of those unusual desserts that contains a vegetable (zucchini, in this cake).  Traditionally, it is baked in a loaf pan to become "bread."  It's easy to prepare and hard to mess up.

Course Dessert
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 267 grams sugar
  • 133 grams vegetable oil
  • 167 grams shredded zucchini
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 235 grams white flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/3 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 50 grams chopped nuts

Instructions

  1. Butter the pan(s). (Optional: then coat the insides with granulated sugar -- after greasing, pour some sugar into the pan, distribute evenly, pour out excess.)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  3. In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. In bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, beat eggs and sugar with a spoon until smooth (about a minute).
  5. In the jar of a blender, combine oil, grated zucchini and vanilla extract. Blend until mixture is smooth (this might take a few seconds of blending, then mixing with a spoon to redistribute, then a few more seconds of blending). Add to the eggs/sugar mixture.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir well.
  7. Fold in the nuts.
  8. Pour into prepared pans.
  9. The baking time depends on the pans you selected. For a full small-sized loaf pan or a partially filled regular-sized loaf pan, baking time is 45-40 minutes. For a full regular-sized loaf pan, baking time is 50-55 minutes.  Rotate half-way through.  Check the loaves near the end for doneness with a cake tester (every oven is different!) -- the tester should come out clean when the loaf is ready.

Recipe Notes

  • You can use ‘regular’ green or yellow zucchini, or any other variety of soft-skinned summer squash (like straightneck, zephyr, pattypan, costa romagna, etc.).
  • This recipe could be baked in a variety of pans, but I always use a loaf pan.  Your choice of a pan (or pans) depends on how many eggs you use.  To help you with estimates, the last row in the table has the approximate volume of the finished recipe to help your estimate (i.e., it accounts for the rise during baking). For the 2 egg recipe, my regular loaf pans (7 7/8” x 4” x 2 1/2” / 20 cm x 10.2 cm x 6.35 cm) gave me two cake that were about 1 5/8″ (4 cm) tall. That’s short and wide, but with that dimension you get a lot of tasty crust and can be sure that there will be no gummy interior areas.  Using two small loaf pans (Bake King H2, 7 5/8″ x 3 7/8″ x 2 1/4″ / 19.3 cm x 9.8 cm x 5.7 cm), the cakes almost completely filled the pans .
  • I prefer walnuts in this recipe because their slight bitterness offsets the sweetness and their flavor is strong enough to stand out.  Pecans could be tasty, but I suspect that almonds are too mild, and cashews or peanuts wouldn’t work.
  • Other additions could include chocolate chips, raisins, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds.
  • I call for coating the insides of the pans with granulated sugar, a trick I learned in an article about How to Grease and Sugar Your Cake Pans at Food52.  This is an optional step that makes the crust a little more interesting.

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