Cornish saffron cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For



Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

Saffron cake was once also baked in other parts of England, but it remained popular in Cornwall, where it is still available today. The yeast makes it more like a fruit bread than a cake. In the West Country, it’s eaten with a good layer of butter on it.


  • 325 ml (11 fl oz) lukewarm milk
  • 15 g (½ oz) dried yeast
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) strong white bread flour
  • 60 g ( oz) raw (demerara) sugar
  • 30 g (1 oz) lard or butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 5 g ( oz) sea salt
  • 5 g ( oz) caraway seeds
  • 60-100 g (2¼-3½ oz) currants
  • 50 g ( oz) candied citrus peel, finely chopped
  • butter, for greasing
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash


For a loaf tin (900 g/2 lb)

Divide the lukewarm milk in half. Add the yeast to one half to activate it. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the saffron threads and add them to the remaining milk.

Put the flour and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Put the lard or butter on top. Pour in half the yeast mixture and start mixing. When the liquid and lard or butter have been completely incorporated, add the remaining yeast mixture and knead for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes and then add the salt and caraway seeds and knead for another 10 minutes until all the dough has come together in a smooth dough that is not too dry. Scrape all of the dough back together. Knead the currants and the candied citrus peel through the dough.

Cover the dough and set aside for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. Meanwhile, prepare the loaf tin.

Briefly knead the risen dough, shape it into a rectangle and put it in the tin. Cover and set aside to rise for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled again.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Brush the top of the cake with the egg and milk mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until it is cooked and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.