Saffron & Chocolate Tea Cake

March 18, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

What makes a good love match? Chocolate needs a grown-up playmate. He needs to stop partying with gobs of ice cream, neon cherries, rainbow sprinkles, sugary goo, and just come back to earth. Cheesecake takes advantage of him. Marshmallows are clearly a bad influence.

Saffron is smart and sensible. She’s just the bright and slightly acerbic partner that he badly needs. She puts him in his place, gets that sweetness in check, and adds color, depth, and sophistication.

Reprinted with permission from THE JOYS OF BAKING © 2019 by Samantha Seneviratne, Running Press.Samantha Seneviratne

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Saffron & Chocolate Tea Cake
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2–inch loaf pan.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and saffron to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for at least 15 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the saffron milk and the yogurt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Fold in the chocolate.
  5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top liberally with sanding sugar. Bake until puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Using a sharp knife, carefully loosen the cake from the edges of the pan, tip out the cake, and set it right-side up on the rack to cool completely.
  6. The cake is best the day it’s made, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emrie Tomaiko
    Emrie Tomaiko
  • ifjuly
  • Ahtoy
  • NXL

6 Reviews

Emrie T. March 7, 2021
An interesting concept. I think I may not be accustomed to the flavor of the saffron? Not my favorite, but certainly not bad
Ahtoy May 21, 2020
What a divine cake. It is inherently elegant in its fragrance and golden hue, and yet understated as a loaf with chocolate chips. It’s the ultimate surprise for guests who think they know what they’re getting into. My house smells fantastic every time I’ve made this. It’s a reliable recipe and even bakes well with dairy substitutes, if necessary. Also, thanks for giving us such a tender and intimate view into the author’s family life.
NXL March 29, 2020
The batter was so beautiful that I was very excited about the final product. I think, though, that perhaps I just don't care for saffron? I used bittersweet chocolate , so per one reviewer's note, maybe another would have complimented better.
Serena January 4, 2020
Oh my god- this tea cake is unreal. I love making unique recipes and I’ve never had anything like this before. Everything about it was perfect and so many people loved it- it isn’t too sweet, the dark chocolate is perfect in this recipe. The saffron is divine. Five stars!
ifjuly December 24, 2019
I too love this one. Have made it twice now, and thought a lot about it afterward each time (by definition a compelling recipe!), and my personal takeaways include: 1) one of the best charming and true recipe intro write ups, what! 2) the scent that permeates the kitchen while steeping the saffron in simmered milk is DIVINE, as alluded to in earlier wonderful it tempts one to make this cake too often, to enjoy that experience regardless of whether a finished loaf's needed/desired at the time or not 3) personally after the first time I made a note that instead of my usual go-to intense dark/semi/bittersweet chocolate, sweeter milk chocolate suits as indeed, per the recipe notes/introduction, the saffron lends a seriousness that if anything needs softening/tempering/balancing, not bolstering, via chocolate. (I have to say I can't recall just now another time I've encountered this observation about chocolate vis a vis saffron, how uniquely they complement and challenge each other in a good way...I feel like this cake might not be for "everyone", a lazy no-forethought-needed crowdpleaser, at least not yet, but to me it's a good "indicator", bold observational statement/assertion that, upon scrutiny, holds up in a "well I'll be!" sort of pioneering way.) The second time I made it, it was for an office potluck and I did use good milk chocolate and the entire thing got eaten (much to my surprise given there was so much other food too; I'd made 2 types of cookies alongside). It made me happy in this goofy-of-me "other people DO get it too!" way. Looking forward to making it again!
Nishi P. December 13, 2019
I made this and it was one of the best tea cakes I have ever had in my life. My entire family was in love with this cake. Also, this cake made my entire house smell amazing.