Sunday, May 1, 2011

Almond Saffron Cake

For those are you that are unfamiliar with saffron, it is a spice derived from a flower's stigma. Since it is hard to harvest, it is quite expensive. Needless to say, I didn't want to let the jar I had go to waste, staling away in my pantry. I decided that it would be unique to bake with it. The only thing that I have ever really known saffron to be in is paella, I am sure the same probably goes for most of you. Well, I am about to change that! I found this recipe for almond saffron cake and immediately became intrigued. First of all, it has almond paste and I am a big fan of anything with almond paste, it always adds such flavor and moisture. I read that saffron has a tendency to dry things out so moisture is a key with this cake. And boy is it ever moist! If you enjoy cakes that aren't overly sweet and incredibly moist, this is it. It has such a tight crumb that it is almost pound cake like in resemblance. I definitely recommend making the glaze to top the cake, it just takes it to another level, especially if you use a toothpick to poke some holes in the top first. Honestly though, I didn't get much flavor from the saffron... at least nothing strong. I think that the saffron is mostly used to impart color, but maybe I'm wrong. Just trying to make the point that even if you don't want to spend the money on the saffron just to make this cake, you can definitely make it without it, seriously, I think it's that good. Unless your like me and it's just wasting away in your pantry... in that case throw it in! I feel like this cake is almost exotic because it has saffron- how special! I have a handful of other saffron recipes I want to try so be sure to look for those as well. Also, I hope you aren't too attached to appearances.. because this cake is so dense and moist that it caves a bit in the center. I find that appearance is second rate anyways. Those fancy modern bakeries with their special decorative glitters and paper cups don't have anything on the old school bakeries!

(Update: the saffron flavor strengthens by the next day. This cake is like those that are best after they sit and the flavors have time to mingle)

Almond Saffron Cake

generous 1/2 tsp saffron threads
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
7 oz (1 tube) almond paste
4 egg yolks at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
juice of 1 orange, optional
confectioner's sugar for dusting or glazing cakes, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9" round springform cake pan with butter and flour or parchment. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar along with the saffron and zest until fluffy. Add the almond paste a few pieces at a time, and beat on medium speed for 8 minutes. (Yes, this seems like a long time, but do it. The mixture will get gorgeously fluffy.) Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. (If it looks curdled, don’t worry.) Beat in the almond extract and the sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter a couple of times to make sure there’s no unincorporated flour lurking around.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly with the rubber spatula. Bake for about 1 hour: the cake is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also when it shrinks from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack, and cool the cake in its pan.

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