Saffranstårta / Saffron cake with the garden’s still blossoming calendula, and sage.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

Six weeks to Christmas, and the Christmas street lights are on display at Haga, lighting up in festive manner one of the oldest market and living quarters of the city of Gothenburg. Haga Nygata is lined with cafés currently inviting visitors with displays of festive treats, the large summer cinnamonroll side by side with Lussekatter saffron swirls.

Saffron came to Sweden during the 1300s by trade with Asia. The rarity of saffron meant it was limited in use to those who could afford such luxury. But by the 1800s, socio-economic circumstances made it possible for saffron to be used (still exclusively) as a winter festive spice in cakes and breads. Since arriving in Sweden in 2002, I perhaps only ever tried saffron cake on one occasion. Most other saffron experiences had come in the form of eating Lussekatter, which are now available in bakeries and grocery stores in the weeks that lead up to St. Lucia day (13 Dec.) in Sweden and then to Chiristmas. Attracted to its rich golden hue, but wanting to leave Lussekatter [1,2,3,4,] baking as a closer-to-Christmas project, I thought to try my hand at saffron cake baking.

I have an inclination (and apparent reputation) for not following recipes, but rather going by ingredient ratio, which made me laugh when I heard the comment, “You have to try to remember the recipe to this cake, because it’s good.” Well, yes, baking adventures. I mentioned that it goes into this cake, one part finely ground almonds (or in this case, also a handful of sunflower seeds to make up for the 10g almonds someone had quality-checked from my lot of peeled and readied almonds for this cake), one part sugar/honey, one part polenta, one part soured cream and six large eggs with yolks and whites separated. Pretty much the same recipe as the Eurasian almond sugee cake [5,6,7], add saffron. For the purposes of a deep golden-hued cake that made a sweet accompaniment to coffee/tea, this worked well.