Saffron Cake

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

saffron cake or saffron bread (as some would call it) has a long history. In earlier centuries, as Laura Mason (1999) points out, saffron buns and cakes were made in various parts of England, although they are now regarded as a Cornish speciality. Sir Kenelm Digby (1669) gives an early recipe. It is for a rich yeast bread with butter, milk, sugar, sultanas, currants, and other spices as well as saffron.

Saffron was also an ingredient in Devonshire revel buns, an old variety served on special occasions such as revels. They were made from a rich yeast dough, contained currants, were additionally flavoured with cinnamon or nutmeg, and were sprinkled with powdered sugar after baking. Florence White (1932) explains that a revel was ‘an anniversary feast to celebrate the dedication of a church’, and says that the buns were traditionally baked on sycamore leaves.