Mrs M’s Birthday Treats: take 2 – Saffron Cake

About a month ago, my friend James brought in some Saffron cakes to work. He loves them, and on a trip back home to Plymouth had come over all overenthusiastic and bought 3, as they don’t generally sell them outside of Devon and Cornwall. He then realised that perhaps 3 was too many, and had to bring them into work to help him finish them off!

He requested I make some, and in return gave me some Saffron.

My first attempt? Not so great, it tasted nice, but was somewhat…………….. flat.

However, if at first you don’t succeed… try, try again! The first recipe I got off BBC Food by James Martin, so this time around I tried a different one.

I even rubbed in the butter by hand and everything!


Saffron Cake Recipe – taken from Cakes: Regional and Traditional by Julie Duff

Makes 3 loaves each serving 6-8 (apparently)


1/2 tsp saffron

150ml/ 1/4 pint boiling milk

25g/ 1oz fresh yeast (note: I didn’t have any, so substitued approx 12g of fast action yeast instead, which according to google should be about right. It did get nice and frothy – see below)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

300ml/ 1/2 pint tepid water

900g/ 2lb plain flour

225g/ 8oz soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp salt

175g/ 6oz butter (or apparently hald lard, half butter)

450g/ 1lb currants

75g/ 3o chopped mixed peel


Pour the boiling milk over the saffron and leave to stand overnight…


Cream the yeast with the teaspoon of sugar, adding the tepid water. Stir and set aside until a light froth is formed.


Sift flour into a large warmed bowl, adding the soft brown sugar, spices, and salt. Rub in the butter.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour in the yeast and saffron liquids. Using your hands, mix well until it forms a very soft smooth dough. Knead gently into a ball.


Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Leave in a warm place until it doubles in size. (I think this is my first erroneous step, it didn’t really rise all that much at this stage… I need a better warm place…. or in fact…. any warm place)

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5 minutes before adding the fruit and peel, then kneading again until it in evenly distributed throughout the mixture.


Divide the dough into 3, placing a third into each of 3 well greased loaf tins. Leave in a warm place for the dough to prove and double in size, this will take about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Remove and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.


I think it’s still not quite right, a little overdone, even though I baked it for less time than stated, plus it hasn’t risen as well as it should… I will try again!

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