[Birgitta´s saffron cake]
If you follow me on instagram, you’ll recognise this cake. One that I make year after year, sometimes late november, when the snow starts to settle into a thick coat and paper stars hang at our windows. One that we made, Sienna and I, on a very cold Monday, just a few weeks ago. And filmed the whole process. You can watch our videos here, but it’s a bit of a happy circus!
This recipe is adapted from my friend Susanne. Her mother-in-law – Birgitta – used to bake this cake every year around Christmas time. If I recall right, her recipe has a less sugar and she never soaked raisins, one thing that Susanne is also partial too. I also like to add grated marsipan into the batter, and a thick coat of slivered almonds on top of the cake before it goes in the oven.
Sadly, I never got the chance to meet Birgitta, but I’m deeply grateful that her cake has become a tradition in our house as the very first thing we bake with saffron every year, not unlike a soft step into the Christmas season.
In Sweden, ground saffron is readily available at every supermarket in small half-gram enveloppes. And that’s the reason why most Swedish Christmas recipes call for saffron powder instead of the usual saffron threads.
As always with saffron, it’s fundamental to extract its flavour as much as possible before incorporating it into a batter or a dough. Now, I must admit that I’ve baked cakes and bullar only doing a quick infusion, often by mixing the saffron powder into melted butter or into the liquids of a recipe.
However, if you have time, I would recommend to make a saffron syrup. It can be made mid to late-November and will keep throughout the Christmas season.
Start by mixing 3 g saffron (threads or powder) with 1 tbsp vodka in a small jar (I use a 150ml jar). Allow to infuse for a week. Then make a simple syrup by boiling 50 g water along with 50 g sugar, then pour over the saffron infusion and mix well.
Now, when a recipe calls for 0.5 g saffron, you can easily substitute it with one tablespoon of your saffron syrup.
Notes on gräddfil
Gräddfil is a Swedish sour cream made with different bacteria strains than in the yoghurt making process. It has around 10-12% fat content and is best substituted with sour cream, or Turkish yoghurt, but in a pinch, natural yoghurt or even crème fraiche would make a good substitute.
Birgitta’s saffron cake
Makes one 20cm cake.
100 g raisins
210 g sugar
pinch of salt
100 g salted butter
0.5 g ground saffron (read notes above)
150 g gräddfil, Greek/Turkish yoghurt or sour cream (read notes above)
180 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100 g marsipan, coarsely grated
a handful slivered or flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C. Butter and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
Before you get on with the cake batter, soak the raisins i boiling water and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugar along with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy. In a small pan, melt the butter. Add the saffron (read notes above) and the yoghurt of your choice.
Add the melted butter mixture to the eggs and mix well to combine.
In a separate bowl, sieve the flour and baking powder. Drain the raisins and shake them thoroughly to get rid of as much water as possbible. Then gently coat them with a tablespoon of the flour mixture.
Now mix in the remaining flour into the batter, folding with a silicon spatula. Add the raisins and grated marsipan, and pour into the prepared tin. Top with slivered or flaked almonds and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool slightly on a wire rack then unmould and dust with a thin coat of icing sugar.