Saffron and Thyme Madeira Cake

To me, there is something compulsive about the texture and buttery taste of Madeira cake; once I start, I can never stop eating it. I also serve this as a pudding, accompanied by a fresh blood orange jelly or a fruit compote.

Ingredients

  • 150 ml/¼ pint milk
  • 2 generous pinches saffron strands
  • 225 g/8 oz plain flour
  • 150 g/5 oz self-raising flour
  • 175 g/6 oz butter
  • 175 g/6 oz golden caster sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

Method

Put the milk and saffron in a saucepan, bring to the boil and remove at once from the heat. Leave on one side to cool. Butter a deep 16-17.5 cm/6½-7 in round cake tin and line with a disc of buttered greaseproof paper. Dust lightly with flour. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Sift the 2 flours together into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the butter with the sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl with a fork and add to the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time, whisking after each addition. Then, using a large metal spoon, fold the sifted flours into the mixture. Strip the thyme sprigs and put the little leaves into the saucepan of cooled saffron milk — it need not be completely cold.

Using a metal spoon again, mix the saffron milk into the cake mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top level and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 1-1¼ hours, until a small sharp knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

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