Cornish Saffron Cake

A traditional Cornish yeasted cake flavoured with delicate saffron and fruity currants. Serve the saffron cake sliced, spread with butter, or for extra decadence, clotted cream.

Cornish Saffron Cake

Saffron cake has long been a tea time treat here in Cornwall, smothered in a layer of butter, or if you were really good, clotted cream!

Why you should try it?

✔️ A traditional Cornish tea time treat
✔️ Delicious served with butter or clotted cream
✔️ Stale slices make an amazing bread and butter pudding!

What is saffron?

Saffron is a delicate aromatic spice, which arrived in Cornwall with Phoenician traders, more than 2000 years ago. It's believed the traders exchanged it for prized Cornish tin and copper.

There is evidence that saffron was also cultivated in select parts of the county, including near me in Bude, on the north coast. It's also experiencing a revival today, with a couple from the Roseland peninsula cultivating and selling it, through their newly established Cornish Saffron Company.

Growing and harvesting saffron is extremely labour intensive, which is what makes it the most expensive spice in the world, and even more expensive than gold! Each crocus flower has to be hand picked and the three red stigma removed by hand (most usually at night). A painstaking process!

It has been estimated it takes a quarter of a million flowers to produce one pound, that is 454g. So if my little pot contained just 0.5g of stigmas, that’s still around 275 flowers!

Saffron strands


To make the Cornish saffron cake you will need;
  • Saffron - the star of the show in this saffron cake. Aromatic and delicately spiced, giving the cake that distinctive yellowy hue.
  • Strong Plain Flour
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Dried Yeast
  • Currants
  • Caster sugar
  • Nutmeg
  • Milk


A couple of mixing bowls and a 2lb loaf tin are all you need to make this saffron cake, as well as a bit of patience. Proving the cake takes 3 hours, and you also need to infuse the saffron strands in milk overnight, before you even start baking!

Sliced saffron cake

Serving suggestions

The best way to enjoy this cake is simply sliced and spread with butter or clotted cream, for a delicious and traditionally Cornish tea time treat. Stale slices of saffron cake also make incredibly good bread and butter pudding too, which I usually serve with creamy custard or clotted cream.


The baked cake will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Wrap in parchment paper to keep it as fresh as possible.

Suitable for freezing?

Yes, this saffron cake can be frozen. Wrap in parchment paper then tightly wrap in 2 layers of foil, to prevent freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Related recipes

Saffron cake pin image

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The recipe

saffron cake
Yield: 10
Author: Beth Sachs
Cornish Saffron Cake

Cornish Saffron Cake

Prep time: 30 MCook time: 1 H & 10 MTotal time: 1 H & 40 M
A traditional Cornish yeasted cake flavoured with saffron and currants. Serve with butter, or for a extra decadence, clotted cream.


  • 1/2 tsp Saffron Strands
  • 150ml Boiling Whole Milk
  • 500g Strong Plain White Flour
  • 125g Butter, cold and cubed
  • 125g Lard, cold and cubed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp grated Nutmeg
  • 250g Currants
  • 50g Caster Sugar + 2 tsp
  • 1 tsp Dried Yeast
  • 100ml Lukewarm Water


  1. The night before you want to bake the saffron cake, bring the milk to the boil on the hob, then pour over the saffron strands (ideally in a glass bowl). Leave to infuse overnight.
  2. The day you want to bake the cake, mix together the dried  yeast, the 2 tsp of caster sugar and 100ml of lukewarm water (I use warm water from a recently boiled kettle). Stir and allow to sit for 20 minutes until starting to foam.
  3. Meanwhile place the strong flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter and lard until you get a breadcrumb consistency.
  4. Stir through the currants, grated nutmeg and 50g caster sugar.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the saffron infused milk and yeasted water. Form into a soft dough before turning out onto a floured work surface. If you feel the mixture is too dry add a touch more warm water, if it's slightly too wet add some more strong flour.
  6. Knead the dough for 10 minutes and place in a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to prove for 2 hours.
  7. Beat the dough down and knead for a couple more minutes before placing into your lightly oiled 2lb loaf tin. Prove for another 45 minutes to an hour (in the winter you might want to leave it to prove for slightly longer).
  8. Preheat the oven to  180°c (160 fan) and bake in the oven for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin slightly before turning out and slicing.


Also allow proving time of 3 hours. Please note the saffron must have been left to infuse overnight in the milk, before starting the recipe.
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  1. I have never had this before but it sounds amazing! I will be saving this to try!

  2. This is so good! Anything with saffron is a treat!

  3. This looks so good, I love that you are using saffron to give this cake an amazing color.

  4. Love dishes with saffron flavor! This looks great..I will try it tomorrow

  5. This looks so delicious! Wish I had a very large slice just now! Thanks for linking up to #CookBlogShare. Michelle

  6. OMG this looks amazing I love yeasted sweet breads like this