The first time my mother baked a zucchini bread, we all thought it was wildly exotic. It was even crazier than banana bread, which was already pretty crazy. "I can hardly even taste the zucchini!" we said, and shook our heads in amazement. "It just tastes like cake! Like good cake, even!"
Feel free to omit the spices, although I love the flavor combination -- just don't cut back on the vanilla or the salt, which the cake really needs in its successful fight against blandness.
Yields 24 cupcakes. You can use the same amount of batter to make 12 cupcakes and one 8-inch cake.
I use a box grater for the zucchini: the food processor is quicker, but the shreds are kind of big and disinclined to melt moistly into the cupcakes.
Heat the oven to 350ºF, and line 2 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Or line only one muffin tin, and grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan.
In one bowl, mix together the sugar, butter and oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each.
Stir in the vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini, and chocolate chips.
In another bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients, except the walnuts.
Pour the wets into the dries, and mix well until combined, adding the walnuts at some point, around halfway through the mixing. You don't want to over-mix the batter, but you don't want to leave hidden pockets of flour either.
Now scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, filling each one about 3/4 of the way, then scrape the rest of it into the prepared cake pan, if you're making a cake too. Pop the pans in the center of the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.
When the timer rings, check the cupcakes: your want them just set, with no jiggliness on top, true, but also without an excess of bakedness -- they'll continue to bake a bit as they cool, and you really want these moist; a toothpick should come out with some damp crumbs clinging to it. If they need another minute or two, give it to them. Check the cake at 30 minutes -- mine took 33 minutes for perfect, moist doneness.
Cool on a rack and, if you like, sift powdered sugar over them before serving.