If you like a lighter cake at Christmas, then honey saffron cake is for you. It’s still full of fruit and nuts but rather than being heavy with treacle and spice, there’s golden sugar and delicate saffron, which shine through in the amber colour and scented flavour. Honey and saffron are natural partners so I’ve drenched it in a boozy honey syrup, too! You can repeat the soaking part of the recipe twice more if you want a more intense flavour.
For the cake
- 225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 2 tbsp brandy
- pinch saffron (about 1⁄4tsp strands)
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 225g plain flour
- 50g ground almond
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300g raisin
- 300g sultana
- 100g natural-coloured glacé cherry, halved
- 85g mixed peel
- 50g whole blanched almond, roughly chopped
- 50g whole blanched hazelnut, roughly chopped
- 50g walnut pieces
- 3 tbsp brandy
- 2 tbsp honey
Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Butter and line a round, deep 20cm cake tin with two layers of baking parchment (see Knowhow, below). Tie a few sheets of newspaper around the outside of the tin, level with the top of the baking parchment.
Heat the brandy in a small pan, then add the saffron and leave to infuse off the heat for a few mins. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl, then beat together until creamy and smooth. Mix the fruit, nuts and brandy saffron mix into the batter and stir well.
Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and make a slight dip in the middle. Bake for 1½ hrs, then cover loosely with foil to stop the top over-browning. Turn oven down to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1 and cook for 1 hr more until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin then, while it’s still warm, prod the cake all over with a skewer.
Mix the brandy and honey together and spoon over the cake. Wrap up well in foil and keep in an airtight container until Christmas, feeding with more honeyed brandy every so often.