Courgette, lemon & thyme cake

Courgette, lemon & thyme cake

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(5 ratings)

Prep: 1 hr, 30 mins Cook: 1 hr, 5 mins plus cooling

A challenge

Serves 16 - 20

Inspired by the allotment, this fragrant, modern bake makes the most of a late-summer courgette crop

Nutrition and extra info

Nutrition: per serving (20)

  • kcal681
  • fat32g
  • saturates20g
  • carbs92g
  • sugars76g
  • fibre1g
  • protein5g
  • salt0.4g
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  • 350g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus extra for greasing



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • zest 2 unwaxed lemons



    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

  • 6 large eggs
  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
    Baking powder

    Baking powder

    bay-king pow-dah

    Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

  • 4 courgettes (about 600g), coarsely grated



    The courgette is a variety of cucurtbit, which means it's from the same family as cucumber,…

  • 2 tbsp chopped thyme leaves

For the icing

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • zest 2 unwaxed lemons



    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

  • 900g icing sugar

For the crystallised thyme

  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 12 thyme sprigs (use a combination of thinner and thicker sprigs)
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

For the candied lemon slices

  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 unwaxed lemons, thinly sliced into rounds



    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

To decorate

  • gold paint and gold leaf (optional)


  1. Start by making the decorations. For the crystallised thyme, put the sugar on a plate, brush the thyme with the egg white, then roll in the sugar. Shake off some of the excess, then leave the sprigs on a piece of baking parchment to dry out completely.

  2. For the candied lemon slices, tip the sugar into a saucepan with 200ml water. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring the syrup to the boil. Drop in the lemon slices and cook for 15 mins until softened. Carefully remove the slices from the syrup and place on a piece of baking parchment to dry. (Lift them gently as they will be quite delicate, and you want to keep them in rounds if possible.) Keep the remaining syrup for brushing over the cake.

  3. Heat oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4. Grease and line the bases of two 20cm springform cake tins. Make the four sponges in two batches. To make the first batch, in a stand mixer or in a large bowl using an electric hand whisk, beat 175g butter with 175g sugar and the zest of 1 lemon until creamy. Gently beat three of the eggs together in a jug. Gradually add the egg to the mixture, scraping down the side and whisking well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix together 200g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt, and fold this into the cake mixture. Finally, stir in 300g courgette and 1 tbsp thyme leaves. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

  4. While the sponges are still warm, prick all over with a skewer and brush over a little of the reserved lemon syrup. Once cool enough to handle, remove from the tins and place on a wire rack. Make and cook the second batch of cakes using the remaining ingredients – you can use the same baking parchment, just re-grease the parchment and the sides of the tins.

  5. When the cakes are cool, make the icing. Whisk all the ingredients together with a pinch of salt until smooth and fluffy.

  6. Using a cake turntable, if you have one, sandwich the cakes together with a little of the icing. Using a palette knife, spread a thin layer of icing all around the cake and chill for 30 mins to set. (This layer is known as a ‘crumb coat’ because it traps any loose crumbs on the surface of the cake – so when you put a second layer of icing on, the cake will be nice and smooth.) If you are short of time, put it in the freezer for 5 mins.

  7. Once chilled, completely cover the cake in a second layer of icing to achieve a smooth finish. Stick the crystallised thyme and candied lemon slices over one side of the cake and top as if they are cascading.

  8. Return the cake to the fridge or freezer until the icing has completely set. For extra shimmer, use a thin paintbrush to brush a little of the gold paint across the lemon slices for a burnished, autumnal effect, and dot pieces of gold leaf as you go, if you like.

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Comments, questions and tips

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2nd Feb, 2019
This cake was delicious! Very easy to make and totally moreish. I made just two layers, sandwiched them with an ordinary buttercream - butter, icing sugar and lemon juice - and dredged the top with icing sugar. Most delicious cake I've ever made!
tomloveswine's picture
17th Oct, 2017
Cake tasted lovely however it did look very wet once cut into, it was suggested I squeeze the moisture out of the courgette next time.
31st Jul, 2017
It's that time of year for every allotment holder; the courgette glut. I've tried quiches, chocolate cakes, ratatouille, chopping it small and hiding it in various dishes, but this is far the best recipe I've managed to use 600g of courgette in! I dipped two fingers in the egg white and pulled a piece of thyme between them before coating in sugar. On my first attempt I simply dunked the thyme in the egg white but this lead to a sticky mess rather than a beautifully sugar-frosted piece of thyme. I also grated my courgette and then put it onto a sheet of kitchen paper and pressed another piece on top to get the worst of the excess liquid out. I'm not sure if this was necessary but previous courgette baking disasters made me wary! The cakes are tangy and moist. The buttercream is very sweet, I didn't use all of it and ended up creating a more "naked" looking cake with just a thin layer of buttercream around the outside of the cake. I made the decorations, and although it looks beautiful, if you've got limited time, it would still taste great without them.
8th May, 2017
I made this for my mums birthday, it was delicious but if i were to make it again i would use more lemon zest in the cakes to add more sharpness with thr ultra sweet butter icing. Will be making this again, just with more lemon!
8th May, 2017
I made this fabulous, impressive cake for a 30th birthday party and everyone loved it, even the courgette skeptics. The cakes came out wonderfully dense and moist and the icing was great too. And even without much artistic talent, I managed to decorate it like the picture! Definitely recommend.
Sammie Chapman
26th Jun, 2019
Can anyone tell me if this cakes works well with Gluten free flour?
goodfoodteam's picture
27th Jun, 2019
Thanks for your question. We haven't tested this with gluten-free flour but you should be able to use a gluten-free self-raising flour such as Doves Farm which contains xantham gum which helps maintain a good texture. You may need to add a tbsp or so of milk to the cake mix too as gluten-free flours tend to need a bit more liquid. Let us know how you get on.
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