Saffron cake

A Cornish speciality which brings welcome relief from the pasty.

Cornish cuisine is unequivocally identified with pasty, which is sad, because there is so much more to it –a variety of dishes which are just as traditional and just as exquisite as the pasty.

My all time favourite is saffron cake. Its wicked gastronomic appeal starts in the eyes, caught by the cake’s luscious yellow, and develops in the mouth where the rich moisture of raisins and currants meets the spicy flavour of saffron.

My version is far lighter than the traditional recipe, which was created in the days when the principles of healthy eating were blissfully ignored.
Should you want to taste something closer to the original, just replace the eggs and olive oil with lard and butter and the baking powder with yeast.

10 oz(300g) flour
7oz (200g) caster sugar
3 eggs
3/4 glass milk
1/4 glass water
1 small glass extra virgin olive oil
1/2 oz (16g) baking powder
1oz (30g) raisins
2 and 1/2oz (70g) currants
0.35 oz (1g) saffron
2-3 pinches nutmeg
zest of 1 lemon


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  • Cut up the saffron and soak overnight in a little water.
  • Pre-heat the oven at 200§C, 400§F (Gas Mark 6) and grease a cake tin.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat well. Sift the flour onto the egg mixture.
  • Gently fold the flour in, then pour the milk and blend it into the mixture.
  • Add the olive oil and the lemon zest. Stir until well blended.
  • Add the baking powder and blend carefully until the mixture is smooth – ensuring that there are no clots in it.
  • Add the saffron water, currants, raisins and nutmeg and stir well.
  • Ladle the mixture into the tin, spreading it evenly.
  • Place the tin on the centre shelf of the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes.
  • Once baked remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool.