When I was visiting friends in Chicago last month I stopped by The Spice House, my favorite place in the city to buy spices. Actually it’s still my favorite place to buy spices. They have a mail order service, so when I do my corporate baking for holidays, I order from them.
While I was there buying souvenirs for friends, I was also sent with a shopping list from my friend that I was staying with. She wanted saffron for paella. We talked about how expense saffron can be, but it has a shelf life of seven years, so $10 is a worthwhile investment. I wish I bought some for myself because it was something that stayed in the back of my mind for weeks, and then I came across this recipe.
Lemon saffron pound cake. I was mesmerized by its color and curious to know how it would taste. Being too impatient to order saffron from my favorite spice shop, I trolled the local markets in search of saffron. It was surprisingly hard to find, but I did come across a bottle of McCormick and made my purchase.
The batter smelled so good as well as the aroma while baking. The recipe called for slicing the cake lengthwise in 3 slices for grilling. I was also supposed to grill the cake in olive oil, but instead I grilled two with olive oil and one with butter. For me you can never go wrong with butter.
The cake was delicious! The lemon boosted the flavor of the saffron which was the clear star in this recipe. The cake wasn’t very sweet but by the time you add fruit (I opted for honey for some reason), the balance was there.
If I were to make this again, and I’m sure I will, I would like to try it at a bbq and grill the cake on an outdoor grill. I bet it would be fab!
- 4 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 loosely packed tablespoon saffron threads
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup buttermilk
- olive oil for brushing
- 1 pint blackberries or 1 pint of any sweet summer berry or honey or berry compote
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice with the saffron. Bring to a simmer, take it off the heat and let the juice infuse with flavor. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the inside of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan bottom with a strip of parchment paper that extends up and slightly beyond the two narrow ends of the pan. (You’ll use the long ends of this paper to lift the loaf out of the pan after baking.) Lightly butter the parchment paper or coat with a nonstick spray. Pour the 1 tablespoon of sugar into the pan and tilt the pan so the sugar coats the sides and bottom. Dump out any excess sugar and set the pan aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, lemon zest and remaining 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is fluffy and much lighter in color. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat for 10 seconds.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking pow¬der and baking soda. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter. Beat for another 30 seconds after the last of the dry ingredients go in.
- With the mixer on low, add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the saffron-juice mixture and the buttermilk. Mix for 1 minute.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden-brown on top, about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan. When it’s cool and you’re ready to grill it, lift it out by the parchment paper handles and carefully cut lengthwise into 3 equal slabs of cake, as shown in the photo.
- Set your griddle or grill pan to medium high heat. You can also do this on an outdoor grill. Brush the pan with olive oil and brush the cake slices lightly with olive oil on both sides. Grill approximately 2 minutes on the first side and 1 1/2 minutes on second side or until lightly browned.
- Serve with berries, compote, whipped cream or honey.