Saffron Cake, Traditional Cornish Recipe (2024)

Saffron Cake, Traditional Cornish Recipe (1)

Traditional recipes intrigue me. Saffron intriques me. Let’s just say I’m easily intrigued. But making a recipe that’s traditional, and an old recipe from a particular place doesn’t make me an expert. Obviously. I just wanted to make something with saffron in it. Something that wasn’t too sweet, but not a savory dish. This seemed to fit the bill. Even though it says “cake”, it’s sort of a cross between a cake and a loaf of bread.

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Except. I had to put off doing it for awhile, because it called for a fair amount of saffron, and saffron isn’t cheap. So I put this recipe to the side and decided to try it once I got hold of some cheap saffron to practice with.

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Saffron Cake, Traditional Cornish Recipe (4)

Enter Trader Joe’s. I’ve been shopping there more and more, since getting rid of our car, because there are a couple of them that are easy to get to, by foot, or by bus. Anyways, I noticed that they sell one gram of saffron for $6, which is roughly one third of the usual price at most grocery stores that sell saffron. Of course, the quality probably isn’t as good, but still. So I bought a few bottles.

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(This is what happens when you just throw un-activated dry yeast into the dough.)

The first time I made it, I used this recipe, which said to just dump the yeast into the dough and let it rise for a few hours. As soon as I dumped it in, I realized that they are probably referring to usefresh yeast, but it was too late to try and take the active dry yeast out, or start all over.It did rise, but very little, and it basically tasted and lookedlike a quick bread, but was very heavy, and after a day, not very good at all.

So I had to try it again, but maybe use a different recipe.

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Saffron Cake, Traditional Cornish Recipe (7)

This time, I think I got it right. This was a better recipe, and luckily, I still had all the ingredients I needed, including the saffron. The only thing that turned out different than what I was expecting was that it was a little lopsided at the top. Oh well. At least the dough rose, and it felt lighter and more like a yeast bread should feel and look, I think.

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(Once, I sliced it, it didn’t look as lopsided, as it does here!)

Saffron Cake (adapted from Baking For Britain)


1 and 1/2 gram of saffron threads
600ml hot milk
1000g unbleached white bread flour
2teaspoons fine sea salt
300g unsalted butter, diced
100g light muscovado sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
14g active dry yeast
160g dried currants


1. Grease a large 14 inch Pullman pan, or two 9-inch by 5-inch bread loaf pans. Set aside.

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2. Heat the milk in a small stove top pan until very hot, but not quite boiling. Remove from heat and place into a heat-proof container. I used amasoncanning jarthat holds 600 ml almost exactly and has a lid. Stir to let the saffron threads start to impart their color and flavor to the milk. Let sit for a few hours. (The recipe said to let sit overnight, but I thought the flavor and color was enough after just a couple of hours! I did use more saffron, though.)

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3. After a couple of hours, stir milk/saffron mixture to blend again, and pour half of it into a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of the sugar and if milk has gotten too cold, heat up in the microwave to get it lukewarm, roughly 110 degrees. Place yeast into warmmilk/saffron mixture with the sugar and stir gently, then let sit until foamy. If not foamy, it means that the yeast is dead and you’ll need to start all over.

4. Add the flour and salt together into a bowl and stir with a whisk several times. Add the butter to this flour mixture and rub the butter together with your fingers, like making pie dough, until the flour resembles coarse sand. After yeast and milk mixture is foamy, add the remaining sugar into the flour mixture and whisk to blend the sugar thoroughly. Make a well in the center of theflourand pour the yeast/milk mixture, and the remaining milk/saffronmixture, and use a rubber or wood spatula to mix the liquid into the flour to make a dough. After a while, you may continue to knead using a utensil, or your hands, to work the dough until it is less sticky and more pliable, about 10 minutes.

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5. Add currants and mix thoroughly in bowl, again with your hands, or a utensil, to incorporate well, another minute or so. Put plastic wrap over the bowl and leave undisturbed in a warm place in your kitchen to rise, about 1-3 hours, until doubled.

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6. Punch down doubled dough, to remove air pockets and reincorporate ingredients. Shape into a loaf and place in tin, or tins. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Top should be fairly browned, and bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

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As an aside, it snowed yesterday!! The last time it snowed in Seattle, several days before Christmas, it melted within a few hours. This time, it stuck around for about a day. I love snow!

Saffron Cake, Traditional Cornish Recipe (2024)


Is Saffron Cake Cornish? ›

The making of the legendary Saffron Cake is said to date back to the days when Phoenician traders exchanged spices and other goods for tin from the Cornish mines. The luxurious saffron spice, made from the dried stigmas of crocus flowers, was added to give exotic flavour to bread and cakes.

What cake is Cornwall famous for? ›

A Hevva Cake is a traditional treat enjoyed across Cornwall year-round: a spiced dough mixed with dried fruit baked into a warming, crumbly cake that's perfect with a cup of tea on Christmas afternoon.

What is the origin of Saffron Cake? ›

Saffron first came to Cornwall in the fourteenth century, and people have been baking cakes and buns with it since the 1800s when it became an integral part of Methodist feast days. At the end of a day of processions, games and races, child participants would be given oversized 'tea treat buns.

What is the history of saffron buns in Cornish? ›

It's thought that saffron came to Cornwall as early as 4000BC with foreign merchants bringing it with them when they were trading in tin. Ever since the Cornish have been cooking with it and the traditional saffron bun gradually developed.

Why is saffron popular in Cornwall? ›

Saffron was said to have found its way to Cornwall through trading tin. A valuable commodity across the world, tin was exchanged as early as 400BC for popular goods such as food and spices.

What is the traditional cake of England? ›

Victoria Sponge

Named after Queen Victoria herself, this classic British bake is an afternoon tea staple. The classic Victoria sponge cake is a light, two-tiered sandwich cake traditionally filled with whipped cream, jam, and fresh fruit.

What was Queen Elizabeth's favorite cake? ›

Posted on (Read original article here.) “This chocolate biscuit cake is Her Royal Majesty the Queen's favorite afternoon tea cake by far,” chef Darren McGrady, The Royal Chef and former personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, told TODAY Food.

What is the national dish of Cornwall? ›

Cornish pasty

The pasty is regarded as the national dish of Cornwall, and an early reference is from a New Zealand newspaper: In Cornwall, there is a common practice among those cottagers who bake at home of making little pasties for the dinners of those who may be working at a distance in the fields.

What is the most loved cake in the world? ›

Chocolate Cake

You've guessed it right! Chocoholics' favorite dense and moist chocolate cake ranks top of the list. Glazing the cake with a thick chocolate ganache is one of the most popular ways to enjoy this dessert!

What is the oldest cake in the world? ›

The Egyptians gave us the world's oldest known cake–and also the world's oldest Tupperware as it happens. During the reign of Pepi II from BCE 2251 to 2157, bakers mixed up a wheat dough for flatbread and filled it with honey and milk. The dough was poured into two pre-heated copper molds that fit tightly together.

Is saffron grown in Cornwall? ›

Cornish Saffron is a small family business situated in the hamlet of Curgurrell on the Roseland Peninsula growing 100% pure Cornish saffron and a few other herbs and spices, flowers and vegetables.

Why is saffron so expensive? ›

Since such a small part of the flower is used, it takes 75,000 saffron flowers to make one pound of saffron spice. The small amount of saffron spice per plant, along with the fact that harvesting must be done manually, leads to saffron's being majorly expensive.

Who brought saffron to Cornwall? ›

The story goes that the ancient Phoenician traders came to Cornwall and exchanged saffron for tin. In Britain, Cornwall is seen as the end of the country. However, if you're coming from the Med, Asia or Africa with a cargo of spices, Cornwall is the beginning.

How do you eat Cornish saffron buns? ›

They can be eaten on their own, or split in half and smothered with salted butter (Cornish!) or, of course, as we like them, with lashings of Cornish clotted cream!

How do you eat Saffron Cake? ›

A highly fruited, yeast-raised dough cake with an aromatic flavour, delicious eaten cold or toasted, liberally spread with butter, or add Cornish Clotted Cream for a special treat.

What is the name of the cake in Scotland? ›

Today, Dundee cake remains one of the most popular Scottish food and drink specialties – alongside shortbread, whisky and black pudding.

What are the traditional cakes in Poland? ›

  • The most popular cakes are sernik (cheesecake) and makowiec (poppy seed cake). Every family has it for Christmas, Easter and other occasions.
  • Wuzetka (W-Z-ka), chocolate and cream cake.
  • Kremówka.
  • Murzynek (chocolate cake)
  • Piernik (ginger cake)
Nov 1, 2022

What is Scotland's national cake? ›

Dundee Cake is one of the most famous and widespread traditional Scottish cakes. Usually, it is being made using almonds, currants, sultanas and sometimes cherries, alongside a wide range of...

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