Pumpkin bulgur wheat cake with saffron mahleb icing

Dan Lepard's pumpkin bulgur wheat cake.
Dan Lepard's pumpkin bulgur wheat cake. Photo: William Meppem

The combination of pumpkin and bulgur wheat is a classic; there's a gourd and grain harmony that kicks in. In this simple honey butter cake loaded with grated pumpkin, the burlgur adds a curious chewiness reminiscent of ground almonds. If you want to go nut-free, just leave out the walnuts and extract, but you'll need to whack a little texture back in so replace it with chopped dried apricots or figs. The icing is a must, especially if you can find the ground mahleb


50g bulgur wheat

80g melted butter

80g dark honey, like red gum

80g castor sugar

2 eggs, 60g each

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

20g lemon juice

100g peeled pumpkin, coarsely grated

125g chopped walnuts

200g plain flour

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp ground cardamom

For the icing

30g boiling water

225g icing sugar

¾ tsp ground mahleb (spice made from cherry seeds), or 1 drop almond extract

pinch saffron


1. Take a saucepan and add the bulgur wheat. Pour on twice its volume in water, bring to the boil then put the lid on and leave off the heat to cool. It should absorb all the water and have a slightly chewy texture.

2. Line the base of a round, 18cm spring-form cake tin with non-stick paper and heat the oven to 160C (fan-forced). Put the cooked burghul wheat in a mixing bowl with the melted butter, honey, sugar and eggs, then whisk everything together well.

3. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, grated pumpkin and walnuts. Finally combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cardamom, sift and mix evenly.  Spoon into the tin and bake for about 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before removing and  icing.

4. For the icing, weigh in the water (easier than using a measuring spoon) straight into a small bowl. Stir in the saffron and leave for 10 minutes. Then stir in the icing sugar and mahleb (or almond extract) until smooth and spread over the cake.