Saffron Vanilla Cardamom Cake Recipe by Julianne Bell

Saffron Vanilla Cardamom Cake Recipe by Julianne Bell

A plush, moist, buttery cake with a unique flavor blend of saffron, vanilla and cardamom. Frosting is a light, fluffy meringue buttercream with saffron and orange blossom water.


- 2 cups plain/all purpose flour (you may use cake flour for a slightly less dense crumb)
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder 
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 large eggs (room temp)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- generous pinch of saffron
- 1/8 tsp of cardamom (freshly ground if you can!)
- 3 tsp vegetable or canola oil
- 2, 6" cake pans
1. Grease cake pans with butter, then line bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F, with a shelf in the middle of the oven.
3. Sift together: flour, baking powder and kosher salt in a large sized bowl. Set aside.
4. In a medium sized bowl or stand mixer, beat room temp eggs for about 1 minute on high (stand mixer is easier to use in this recipe, but no worries if you don't have one! A hand mixer works just fine).
5. While the mixer is running, slowly pour sugar into eggs.
6. Beat on high for about 5-8 minutes, or until tripled in volume and it turns a creamy white color.
7. While the egg mixture is beating, place butter and milk in a saucepan on medium heat. Do not let the mixture get to a rolling boil. You want a nice mellow simmer. Once the butter is almost melted, add your saffron. Then let simmer for about 6 min. 
8. Once egg mixture is done whipping, and while your saffron is simmering in the milk & butter mixture, add 1/3 of your sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture, and mix until just combined. Continue adding in thirds and mix until just combined. 
9. In the now empty flour bowl, pour your hot milk-butter-saffron mix, vanilla, and oil. Add about 2 ladles of the egg batter into the milk-butter-saffron mix. Use a whisk and mix until smooth. 
10. On low, slowly pour the latter mix into the rest of the egg batter mixture until just combined and smooth. Don't overmix! :)
11. Scrape down the sides and bottom of your mixing bowl and do one last quick mix, just until any dry bits are incorporated.
12. Pour batter into prepared pans (about 2/3 of the way). If you have extra batter, you may pour into a muffin tin or 4 inch cake round for a mini cake!
13. Bang each cake pan on the counter a few times to knock out any large air bubbles.
14. Bake on the center rack for about 20-25 min or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean after inserting into the center.
15. Remove from the oven. Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then carefully turn on to a cooling rack and remove parchment rounds. 
Credits: Adapted from Recipetineats' recipe 

Italian Meringue Buttercream with Orange Blossom Water & Saffron 

- 2 cups granulated sugar, divided in half
- 2/3 cup water
- 5 large egg whites
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 4 sticks of cool (not cold), unsalted butter
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 tsp orange blossom water
- 1.5 tsp brewed saffron (see preparation instructions below)
1. Prepare and measure all ingredients prior to getting started. Make sure your mixing bowl is clean and free of any residual fat (this will prevent the meringue from forming stiff peaks).
2. Brewed Saffron: Pour about 1/4 cup of hot water over a generous pinch of saffron and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.  
2. Mix half of the sugar with the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir just until the sugar dissolves. When the pan heats up, brush around the sides of the pot with a clean, damp pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals adhered to the sides of the pot.
3. When your sugar starts to bubble begin whipping your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of cream of tartar for stability purposes. When your eggs begin to look frothy, begin adding the second half of the sugar in a slow steady stream, whipping constantly on medium-high.
4. Continue whipping your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Ideally your meringue should reach stiff peaks at the same time that your sugar syrup reaches 235˚F. If your egg whites are whipping too fast, reduce the mixer speed to medium. You can also adjust the heat on the sugar syrup to make it cook faster or slower.
5. If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can do the following: Take a tiny bit of the syrup on a spoon and dip it into ice water, reach in and grab the sugar. If it dissolves, it isn’t close to ready; if it forms a little malleable ball, it’s ready.
6. Turn your mixer up to high and SLOWLY pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Be very careful not to hit the whisk. Ideally you should pour it in one solid stream down the edge because it will solidify where it hits the bowl. You want to avoid getting crunchy, solidified sugar crystals in the frosting. Of course, we want this to be a smooth frosting :)
7. Keep whipping the Italian meringue on high until it forms stiff peaks.
8. When the bowl feels just slightly warm (ensure that it is just slightly warm), switch to the paddle attachment and begin adding your butter a piece at a time. Before adding each piece, squeeze the butter.
9. Continue adding the butter and beat on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth and there are no remaining pieces of butter. 
10. You may then switch back to the whisk attachment to add in vanilla, orange blossom water, and brewed saffron (you may add more of the spice components if you feel you'd like more - taste it first though :) ) Once flavor components are incorporated, you may use the frosting to decorate the cake!
Credits: Adapted from Chef Lindsey Farr's recipe 

Cake Assembly:

1. Once cooled, level off your cakes with a long, serrated knife or cake leveler to ensure a flat top, and cut each cake layer in half lengthwise (again using long serrated knife, or cake leveler)
2. With about a tablespoon of prepared frosting, smear on the center of your cake spinner, then place a piece of parchment or cardboard cake round on the center of a cake spinner. 
3. Place one of the 4 layers of cake on the center of your parchment or cake round, and top with about 3/4 cup of frosting. Using an offset spatula, spread evenly across the top of the cake layer. If the frosting layer seems to thin, feel free to add more (or less depending on how much frosting you like). With the rest of the cake layers, continue doing the latter. 
4. Once you get to your last cake layer, add on the rest of the frosting, spreading evenly on the cake round. Some of the frosting will fall to the sides of the cake, which is good! You can use the falling frosting to frost the sides of the cakes using offset spatula. You may use a bench scraper to scrape down the sides of the cake for a smoother finish, and to remove any unwanted, excess frosting. 
5. Top your cake with the garnishes of your choice. We used saffron, orange zest, and candied orange slices. Enjoy!
Note: The above assembly is of course optional. You can just frost the 2 cake layers however you like instead of creating 4 layers if that is easier for you. 

General Notes for Cake Success:

1. Mise en place your ingredients for each recipe. Mise en place is a French phrase which means to have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go before cooking. This ensures a smooth, streamlined process. 
2. Read through the recipe before getting started. I get inpatient sometimes too, but this part is important so you can have an idea of what's coming next :)
3. If you want to work more precisely, you may measure in grams. Both base recipes provide ingredients in grams if you'd like to go that route. 
4. Visit the base recipe links if you'd like further details and photos of the process :)
5. Cake tastes best the day you bake it. Otherwise, place in a cake box, wrap box in plastic wrap and place in the fridge. If chilling prior to serving, take out of the fridge and let the cake come to room temperature. 

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