It might be a little bit of an eyeroll moment to make a cake that is crowned with a saffron infused glaze, but when you taste this, you will understand.
I hate opening up recipes with disclaimers but I know how this world works and I know the internet shames recipes writers and their pre-recipe psychobabble (“JUST GET TO THE CAKE!!”) but I do feel as though some things not only need but also benefit from a bit of an explanation.
No, saffron would not be instinctively where my hand would usually go when I am prepping my ingredients for a sweet-led bake but I knew I wanted to have this cake be infused from the top down with a sticky orange glaze and knew I wanted to counter the sweet sting of orange juice with something else.
Adding cardamom to these kinds of things are familiar territory to me (see my Cardamom Pear Upside Down Cake and my Cardamom Marmalade & Poppy Seed Loaf) however this time I didn’t want something so smoky. I wanted something that had a deep, throaty soul to it but with a softer edge, to round out the sharpness of the oranges.
I saw a small cork bottle with a few strands of phoenix coloured saffron strands. Done. Exactly what I wanted.
Sure there’s a couple of steps to take with the oranges here before we actually start baking, but the batter for this cake is literally such a breeze to make, it’s in the oven and baking before you realise you’re even baking.
And the glaze we make at the end? Hoooooo-ney! It’s caramely and chewy and all sorts of sweet citric syrup and your mouth needs it.
Preheat the oven to 180c and line/grease a 20cm loose bottom cake tin.
Grab yourself 3 oranges.
Grate all 3 into a plate. You need this for later but trust when I say it’s easier to grate whole oranges than halved up, mangled ones.
Now take two oranges, slice them and juice them. Put the jug of juice to one side – you need this for the glaze later.
Now with your last orange, peel it and thinly slice up. Leave to one side.
What you’ll have is a plate of zest, a jug of juice and a chopping board of orange slices. Done. Now you’re ready to batter up.
In a big bowl, combine 175ml of olive oil with two eggs, 175ml of plain yogurt and 175g of caster sugar and whisk together. Fling in the orange zest and mix together.
Now add 175g of plain flour, a heaped teaspoon of bicarb and a pinch of salt and mix together. Pour the batter into the greased up tin.
Chuck the orange slices on top of the batter – I did mine very sloppily but hey, as long as they’re on there.
Slide the cake in the oven for 45 minutes.
While the cake bakes, you got time to clean all dishes up (or make your partner do it…. if you’re baking and they’re eating, they can clean) but then also make your glaze.
Pour your orange juice into a pan on a high heat. Pour in 175g of caster sugar and bring both to a boil. Once it starts furiously bubbling, turn it down to a low simmer and let it simmer for the cake’s cooking time until it reduces down to a thicker syrup.
10 minutes away from the cakes cooking time, add a generous pinch of saffron fronds to the pan of orange syrup and stir in so that the saffron begins to infuse the sugar, turning it a gorgeous golden orange.
Remove the cake from the oven and using a skewer, check that the centre comes out clean when pierced. If it doesn’t, throw back in the oven for 10 more minutes but if it comes out clean, pierce the cake all over.
Now carefully and slowly pour the saffron orange glaze over the cake – still in the tin. Don’t worry if it goes to run down the side of the cake, it will stiffen and set before it gets to the bottom.
Once the cake has taken on all of your syrup scatter over some bashed up pistachios. You don’t have to do this step but I feel it adds such a woody nuttiness to the dish as well as crunch. But if you are going to use pistachios, now is the time to adorn the cake as the pistachios will cling to the glaze and stick to the cake as opposed to fall off if you do it later.
Let the cake cool in it’s syrupy tin for about 20 mins before carefully removing, slicing and serving.