Michelle Krell Kydd ended her article Saffron : The Flavor and Fragrance of Joy with the promise of sharing the recipe for saffron cake. Although saffron lends itself to many preparations, both sweet and savory, I find that the nutty warmth of whole wheat and the piney freshness of cardamom are the perfect backdrops for the full range of saffron’s flavor. In Indian and Middle Eastern desserts, saffron is often paired with cardamom, rose and the velvety richness of milk. Whispers of this classical composition can be noticed in this quick-bread. It combines the lightness of the crumb with the delicately chewy texture of the toasted crust. The voluptuous flavor of saffron lingers beautifully, attesting to the perfect name for this cake—Saffron Kiss.…
The cake is quite easy to put together, as it does not require any special equipment or long mixing. The aroma in the kitchen while the cake is baking is reason enough to make it. Although Saffron Kiss is delicious straight out of the oven, it is simply incomparable the next morning, slathered with some sweet cream butter and toasted. Add a layer of fruit jam, make a cup of tea, and voilà—a perfect breakfast!
Saffron Kiss Cake (Gâteau Baiser De Safran) Recipe
Makes two cakes, but you can easily halve the recipe
4 cups (560 g) whole grain pastry flour
4 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
4 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds (depending on your love for this spice)
½ teaspoon saffron infused for 10 minutes with 2 tablespoons of warm water*
1 tablespoon of pure almond extract
1 ½ tablespoon rose water**
5 ounces (140 g) golden raisins
2 1/2 cups (625 ml) low-fat, unsalted buttermilk
1/2 cup (250 ml) grapeseed oil
4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 loaf pans. You can certainly use round cake pans, but in that case, you would have to adjust the baking time accordingly.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and then add cardamom and flaxseed meal to the dry mixture.
In another bowl, mix egg whites, rosewater and almond extract until incorporated.
In a separate container mix buttermilk and the saffron infusion, including stigmas. Add grapeseed oil to the buttermilk mixture and mix well. Combine the oil mixture with the rose and almond scented egg whites. Add raisins.
Make a well in the bowl containing the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients, gently folding until everything is mixed.
Fill two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 loaf pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Try not to overbake, since the crumb is likely to be too chewy. Remove cakes from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
“The recipe for success in any baking venture is fresh ingredients and great preparation. I find the scant raisins to act like a note in fine fragrance; you taste the cake and then you get a raisin surprise that is lemony and sweet against the seductive musky saffron. I cannot forget the important ingredient of buttermilk as it adds flavor to the cake and texture to the crumb.
Saffron Kiss Cake is made with healthy ingredients and although it does not taste like it is diet material, it is extremely good for you. Grapeseed oil has high Vitamin E and linoleic acid content and since it is a byproduct of winemaking, it also contains valuable antioxidants (known as proanthocyninidins). Grapeseed oil is fantastic for sautéing because it has a high flashpoint, which means it does not burn as quickly as other oils. In addition, grapeseed oil has a long shelf life and unlike other oils, can be refrigerated without turning cloudy. Last, but not least, flaxseed is a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids.”
*Michelle introduced me to Iranian Sargol from Vanilla, Saffron Imports. Few other saffrons I have tried combine the depth of fragrance—leathery, musky, with a unique floral dimension—with the rich color and gorgeous flavor. Update: I recently switched to Penzey’s Kashmiri saffron, and I am not looking back. It is by far the best saffron available.
Photo © Bois de Jasmin. Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd, used with permission.