Saffron and Walnut Courgette Cake with Oat Bran

Four hundred grams of courgettes? You gotta be kidding me! That’s how a friend reacted yesterday when she had the first bite.

I’ve made many courgette cakes and breads but this really has to be the finest I’ve ever made. The cake turned out so moist, light and tasty even critics No 1 and No 2 didn’t fault it. I loved it myself because without any compromise on flavour I managed to sneak in more courgettes and even some oat bran. I also used much less oil and sugar than I usually would in any cake of this size. Saffron really does wonders!

One gram of good saffron is plenty. It will flavour and colour several dishes. Grind to a powder to get maximum flavour and colour.

So, as with any other courgette cake I started with grating my veg. Then I ground my saffron with a mortar and pestle and “brewed” it with very hot water to get the maximum colour and flavour. I used 1/4 teaspoon (not filled to the top) ground saffron which is a fraction of a one gram packet. One gram of Persian saffron comes under five pounds so it’s not really expensive.

If you like to know more about saffron read my post How to Use Saffron, the King of Spices.

Fold grated courgette into the batter.
Fold grated courgette into the batter.
Saffron hits the batter.
Saffron hits the batter.
Sprinkle chopped walnuts and coarse muscavado sugar on top of the batter for a little crunch.
Sprinkle chopped walnuts and coarse muscavado sugar on top of the batter for a little crunch.

Oat bran is almost flavourless and looks like sawdust but it adds a lot of nutrients and fiber to the cake. It also improves the texture and makes it very light and airy.

By the way, I used grape seed oil which is a lovely oil with very mild flavour. You can get it from most UK supermarkets. But any vegetable oil, such as extra virgin rapeseed, canola or olive oil will be good too.

We had the cake with some nice shop-bought vanilla custard. Go for the best you can buy or make your own with good quality vanilla pods. The custard makes the cake really divine. Or vanilla ice-cream, even better perhaps…

I said divine. But can food be divine? Well, maybe. If it’s a saffron courgette cake with vanilla custard and all the other good things that go into this one!

I cut my cake in half and put the two pieces together with a couple of tablespoons of the custard, not too much, just enough to moisten the surface of the bottom layer a little. Use a tablespoon of softened (not melted) butter if you are not using custard. Will work the same.

So here is how to make the cake:


  • 400g courgettes, grated
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron (this will be very saffrony- you can use as little as 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp very hot water
  • 300g flour
  • 100g oat bran
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250ml grape seed oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 300g sugar (or less if you are having it with custard, about 250g)
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 100g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp coarse muscavado sugar
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • A tbsp slivered pistachios to decorate (optional)
  • Vanilla custard to layer the cake and to serve


Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line a rectangular 40cm x 25cm x 5cm cake tin with baking paper or non-stick liner. Oil the sides very lightly.

  1. Put the saffron in a small bowl or cup and add the very hot water. Cover with a lid or cling film and set aside.
  2. Mix flour, bran, baking powder, salt and baking soda and mix well with a balloon whisk or fork.
  3. Beat the oil with sugar for two minutes on medium speed (or one minute in food processor). Add eggs one by one, beating after each addition (for about 30 seconds) to incorporate each into the oil mixture.
  4. Add the flour mix to the egg base in two batches and beat well after each addition, for about a minute to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Batter will be quite thick.
  5. Fold the grated courgette into the batter with a large spoon. Add all but three tablespoons of the chopped walnuts to the batter with all the saffron liquid and mix again.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle the rest of the walnuts and the muscavado over the top.
  7. Bake the cake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin.
  8. Cut the cake in half. Spread a little custard or softened butter on the top of one layer. Put the other piece on top and lightly press to stick the two pieces together. Cut into as many pieces as you wish. Dust lightly with icing sugar and decorate with pistachio slivers. Enjoy as it is or with vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream. The cake gets moister and even tastier the next day.

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