Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Saffron Cakes (bbd #04)

Posted by bakinghistory on November 30, 2007



These buttery buns have the golden color of saffron, the lemony aroma of coriander seed and a light touch of sweetness


This is my entry for Bread Baking Day #04 (Bread with Spices), which I was very happy to host. Thanks as always to Zorra for initiating this monthly baking event!

The recipe for these delightful buns comes from the 1803 American edition of a book by Susannah Carter which was originally published in England around 1765. Susannah was a truly wonderful baker, and this is one of my absolute favorites among her recipes. I have halved her recipe and chosen an amount of sugar, saffron and coriander seed to my taste–as she wrote in her original recipe, which in fact does not specify quantities for those ingredients.

From the original recipe by Susannah Carter

In: “The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook” 1803–USA



2 lb (6-1/2cups–900 g) bread flour (or as needed)

1/2 lb (2 sticks, 225 g) butter

1 cup (237 ml) cream or whole milk

3/4 cup (150 g) sugar (or to taste)

4 eggs

1 yolk

1 tbsp (7 g) active dry yeast dissolved in 3 tbsp (45 ml) warm water

1 tbsp (18 g) kosher salt

1/2 tsp (generous) saffron strands (or to taste)

2-1/2 tbsp whole coriander seed (or to taste)

1 egg white (to brush the buns before baking)




Prepare the spices: place a small pan (preferably cast iron or stainless steel, but not nonstick) on very low heat and put in it the coriander seed. Stirring continuously toast them lightly, until the aroma rises and their color darkens slightly. Be careful because they burn easily. As soon as they are ready transfer them to a plate to cool and set aside. Then place in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until fine and powdery.

Put the butter and milk or cream in a pan with the saffron, sugar and salt and scald until the butter melts. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Add 1/2 tbsp flour, taken from the total, to the yeast water, then sift the rest of the flour with the ground coriander seed. Mix the eggs, yolk, saffron milk mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed using the flat beater attachment. Add the flour mixed with coriander seed and the yeast. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is well developed, shiny, supple and elastic.

Let the dough rise until doubled in a covered bowl. saffron-cakes-dough.jpg

When the dough has raised, divide it in small balls (cut pieces of dough with a pair of kitchen scissors, do not tear them off) and arrange them on a baking sheet.

I made 12 rather large buns.saffron-cakes-rising.jpg

Let the buns rise, covered, until they are almost doubled in size and are very light. Gently brush each one with lightly beaten egg white (the butter and sugar will ensure that the dough will bake to a nice dark golden color, the egg white will provide some shine).

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)

Bake the buns for about 20-25 minutes, and lower the heat slightly if they color too fast. Cool them on a rack. They are good fresh from the oven or toasted with jam and butter.


P.S. Visit soon for the BBD #04 roundup, which will be ready by December 6th.




4 Responses to “Saffron Cakes (bbd #04)”

  1. Susan said

    Oh yes, another saffron lover! And I love the idea of pairing it with coriander. What beautiful buns! And thank you for hosting this month – great theme and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else has come up with.

  2. bakinghistory said

    Hi Susan. Thanks!

  3. Chiara said

    Ciao BakingHistory,
    che bello, un’altra ricetta! ti aspettavo 🙂
    Questi panini sono stupendi, mi ispirano parecchio. So cosa farò domenica, giorno che adoro e che dedico to my baking activities. I tried corn bread, and these buns reminds me of it somehow…don’t know why!
    Grazie, buona giornata Baking

  4. ejm said

    Wonderful!! More saffron buns!! (I just came from Susan’s site) Very interesting to add ground up toasted coriander seeds to the buns!


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