Swedes traditionally serve gingerbread cookies and saffron buns with glögg. Holiday Saffron Cake, a much easier version of the traditional saffron buns, is a subtly flavored treat.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon pearl sugar (sugar crystals)
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place butter and all but 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat until well combined.
Heat milk in a small pot over medium heat. Crush saffron with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in a mortar or small dish. Remove milk from heat; add saffron sugar to pot, and stir. Cover and let steep 5 minutes.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, blending well after each addition. Stir in raisins.
Scrape batter into a lightly greased 8-inch round cake pan. Arrange almonds on top of batter; sprinkle evenly with pearl sugar.
Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove cake from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
Learn About Saffron: These yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus make up the world's most expensive spice because it is extremely labor-intensive--each flower provides only three stigmas, which must be hand-picked then dried. Fortunately, a little saffron goes a long way. This spice is integral in many traditional dishes such as the Swedish saffron buns mentioned, risotto milanese, bouillabaisse, and paella. Powdered saffron loses its flavor and can often be adulterated with imitations. Buy a small quantity of high-quality threads, and crush or steep just before using. Store saffron airtight in a cool, dark place.
This cake isn't overly sweet, but it is topped with pearl sugar, which you can sometimes find among the icing and cake decorating items in the grocery store. Regular granulated sugar would work in a pinch, but we highly recommend using either pearl or turbinado sugar. Make sure to use high-quality saffron threads.