Kathy Slack’s Pumpkin & Sage Cake With Thyme & Feta Frosting

“The herbs add a floral, garden air to things, and the citrus twang of feta makes the cream cheese frosting pleasingly eccentric”

“I know this sounds a bit odd, but really it’s just a carrot cake that took a wrong turn in life and ended up somewhere more interesting. The herbs add a floral, garden air to things, and the citrus twang of feta makes the cream cheese frosting pleasingly eccentric.

You can use any winter squash or pumpkin, but some varieties, usually the paler ones, can be rather watery when grated, in which case, you should squeeze out the water from the gratings before adding to the batter. This is a pudding-y cake, equally at home with an afternoon cuppa as it is with a chilled sweet wine for dessert. “

Serves 8 

1 hour 10 minutes, plus cooling time

For the cake:
• 300g self-raising flour
• 250g soft light brown sugar
• 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 1⁄2 tsp flaky sea salt
• 200g butter, melted and slightly cooled
• 4 eggs
• 500g winter pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded and coarsely grated (see intro)
• 10 sage leaves, finely chopped 

For the frosting:
• 75g feta cheese
• 200g full-fat cream cheese 200ml double cream
• 75g runny honey
• 2 tbsp chopped thyme leaves, and a few thyme flowers if you have time 

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Line two 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment. 
2 Mix together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. 
3 Whisk together the cooled melted butter and eggs in a jug. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir together. You will think, ‘No good can come of this,’ but trust me. Add the grated pumpkin or squash and the chopped sage and mix well. 
4 Divide the batter equally between the lined cake tins, levelling off the tops, then bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes. 
5 While the cakes cook, make the frosting. Use a spatula to smudge the feta into a paste in a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, double cream, honey and 1 tablespoon of the chopped thyme, then mix together briskly until it forms soft, billowy peaks. 
6 Once cooked, take the cakes out of the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, spread a third of the frosting on the top of one cake, pop the other cake on top and cover the whole thing liberally and messily with the rest of the frosting.
7 Sprinkle with the remaining thyme leaves and flowers (if you have some) and serve. The cake will keep in an airtight container in a cool place (but not a fridge) for a couple of days. 

Extract taken from the book: From the Veg Patch by Kathy Slack (Ebury Press, £25). Photography by Kathy Slack

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