Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saffron Cake

December 13th is St Lucia Day in Sweden and traditionally you have saffron bread on lucia “Lussekatter.” You can actually make anything saffron and this year I decided to make this amazing moist saffron cake, which was delicious.  The saffron is not overpowering and the cake is not too sweet.  Just a great light moist dessert or during your afternoon “fika” snack.

What is Lucia?

There are a lot of different version of stories and theories of this.  The Lucia tradition can be traced back both to St Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in 304, and to the Swedish legend of Lucia as Adam’s first wife. It is said that she consorted with the Devil and that her children were invisible infernals. Thus the name may be associated with both lux (light) and Lucifer (Satan), and its origins are difficult to determine. The present custom appears to be a blend of traditions.

In the old almanac, Lucia Night “winter solstice” was the longest of the year. It was a dangerous night when supernatural beings were abroad and all animals could speak. By morning, the livestock needed extra feed. People, too, needed extra nourishment and were urged to eat seven or nine hearty breakfasts. This kind of feasting presaged the Christmas fast, which began on Lucia Day.

The last person to rise that morning was nicknamed ‘Lusse the Louse’ and often given a playful beating round the legs with birch twigs. The slaughtering and threshing were supposed to be over by Lucia and the sheds to be filled with food in preparation for Christmas. In agrarianSweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs and scrounging for food and schnapps.

The first recorded appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 20th century, when schools and local associations in particular began promoting it. The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration, and white-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past.Stockholmproclaimed its first Lucia in 1927. The custom whereby Lucia serves coffee and buns “Lussekatter” dates back to the 1880s, although the buns were around long before that.

Picture from Swedish newspaper

Today, Lucia is a ceremony where a girl is elected to portray Lucia. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle “Lucia Train.” The women sing a Lucia song while entering the room, to the melody of the traditional Santa Lucia song describing the light with which Lucia overcomes the darkness.

In the Lucia procession at home the oldest daughter brings coffee and saffron bread to her parents while wearing a candle-wreath and singing a Lucia song. Other daughters may help, dressed in the same kind of white robe and carrying a candle in one hand, but only the oldest daughter wears the candle-wreath.

If you are even in Sweden during this time you will see the competition for the role of Lucia. Each year, a national Lucia is proclaimed in one or other of the TV channels, while every town and village worth the name chooses its own Lucia. Candidates are presented in the local newspaper a couple of weeks in advance.

Print Recipe

Saffron Cake

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes


15 tbsp (200g) butter
½ tsp (0.5 g) of saffron (usually sold in 1 gram packages use ½ of that)
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups (3 dl) sugar
1 cup (2.5 dl) milk
1 3/2 cups (4 dl) flour
2 tsp baking powder
Confection sugar for decoration


Turn oven to 350 F (175C).  Butter a round cake pan with removable bottom.

Melt the butter.  Mix the saffron in a mortar with 1 tsp of sugar until you have it all into a powder consistency.

Using a mixer, whip up the eggs and sugar until fluffy.  Add the saffron/sugar mixture and then the butter and milk.

Then add the baking powder and flour until all mixed together.

Pour into the cake form and bake for about 45 minutes.

Powder with confection sugar before serving.

Adapted from:  Allt om Mat


One Year Ago: Saffron Buns “Lussekatter”

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33 Responses to “Saffron Cake”

  1. 1

    Baker Street — December 11, 2011 @ 11:11 pm

    Absolutely delicious.. The cake looks so moist and the recipe sounds perfect.

  2. 2

    Nami | Just One Cookbook — December 12, 2011 @ 2:01 am

    Wow… this is so simple to make. I have saffron and haven’t figured out what to use to cook something next. I guess this cake seems like a perfect candidate! Your cake looks so beautiful…

  3. 3

    Rosa — December 12, 2011 @ 6:06 am

    A delicious looking cake and a wonderful tradition!



  4. 4

    chinmayie @ love food eat — December 12, 2011 @ 6:18 am

    Such a beautiful cake! Never heard of saffron in cakes! I am imagine how fragrant it will be 🙂

  5. 5

    Splendid Willow — December 12, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    Ewa, SOOOO lovely! Will copy right off the bat! You are my only food magazine you know!

    I am going to William’s pre-K tomorrow dressed up like Lucia. Kids will start cyring…

    Hugs to you!


  6. 6

    Piper — December 12, 2011 @ 8:29 am

    yum, this looks so delicious! and even better – seems simple to make! and can i just say, you take the most gorgeous photos!

  7. 7

    Sissi — December 12, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    This saffron cake looks fabulous. I have never tried adding saffron to sweet dishes, but it sounds like an excellent idea.
    Thank you for St Lucia’s story.

  8. 8

    Yosef - This American Bite — December 12, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    I love saffron! Delightful. This looks so moist too.

  9. 9

    Juliana — December 12, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    Oh! This cake not only looks amazing sounds delicious…never thought saffron in cake, and sure would love to have a slice of it.
    Hope you have a wonderful week and thanks for this delicious cake 🙂

  10. 10

    Oh, It's Just Perfect! — December 12, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

    I loved learning more about this Holiday! That cake looks so pretty and yummy.

  11. 11

    Katarina — December 12, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

    This is so delicious!

  12. 12

    carolinaheartstrings — December 13, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing! This cake looks so yummy. Come visit. We have a great Kahlua hot cocoa this week and today we are giving away a wonderful Christmas present. A great book and it comes autographed! Come by and register to win.

  13. 13

    Feast on the Cheap — December 13, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

    My mom actually picked me up a package of saffron on a recent trip and I’ve yet to use it. This looks like it could be the perfect recipe… I’ve been hoarding it until I find jusssssst the right thing!

  14. 14

    Magic of Spice — December 13, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

    What a lovely tradition. The cake looks and sounds wonderful!

  15. 15

    Sanjeeta kk — December 14, 2011 @ 5:06 am

    Aha..Saffron in that is so flavorful! Yet to bake a cake with saffron..yours look just right.

  16. 16

    Katherine Martinelli — December 14, 2011 @ 9:56 am

    What an interesting tradition! Thank you so much for sharing. And this cake looks absolutely spectacular. Any holiday that encourages cooking with saffron is ok in my book 🙂

  17. 17

    Asmita — December 14, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

    Such an easy recipe, I love that. The cake looks so moist and delicious. Would love a big bite of that!

  18. 18

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — December 14, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    Wonderful learning about the history and that cake looks lovely!

  19. 19

    Sommer@ASpicyPerspective — December 15, 2011 @ 5:50 am

    I hope you know, this makes you BFF material. Saffron cake… awesome!

  20. 20

    BigFatBaker — December 15, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    A saffron cake sounds very intriguing! I would definitely like to try this recipe…must find saffron…

  21. 21

    vanillasugarblog — December 20, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    oh i bet this is just heavenly.
    i must give this a go!

  22. 22

    Jennifer Wickes — December 20, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

    I will make this tomorrow! It sounds amazing!

    • Delishhh replied: — December 21st, 2011 @ 9:46 am

      Jennifer – Ohh i want to hear about it 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  23. 23

    Jennifer (Delicieux) — December 20, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

    What a wonderful tradition!!! Thank you for sharing. Your saffron cake sounds delicious and so exotic and indulgent. I’m really intrigued to try saffron in a cake.

  24. 24

    Christina @ The Hungry Australian — December 21, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    It’s always interesting to read about how recipes came to be. Thanks for sharing this traditional cake – it looks lovely.

    So very glad you joined this blog hop!

  25. 25

    Nic@diningwithastud — December 26, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

    What a stunning cake. Thanks so much for sharing tradition 🙂 and thanks for joining the hop!

  26. 26

    Vaishnavi — September 3, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    Hi Ewa, this cake looks amazing. I’ve been toying with the idea of a saffron and honey cake; will honey work well with this cake instead of sugar? And what’s the quantity of honey I should use? Would be great if you could help me out, thanks 🙂


    • Delishhh replied: — September 3rd, 2012 @ 6:12 am

      Hi – I have never made this with honey but i am sure it would be amazing. I would start off with doing 1/2 of the sugar amount with honey, since honey is more sweet. Let me know how it goes.

  27. 27

    Herb Week | Sandra's Garden — March 2, 2013 @ 9:59 pm

    […] Phoenicians (hailing from what is modern-day Lebanon) who traded it for tin. This recipe is for a Swedish saffron cake traditionally made in […]

  28. 28

    Jennifer — December 26, 2013 @ 9:16 am

    Hey Eva! I have a recipe for saffron cake that calls for putting 1 deciliter grated almond paste between two layers of batter (raisins too, if you like!). That puts a surprise in the middle! my recipe comes from Vår kokbok.

    • Delishhh replied: — December 28th, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

      Jennifer – Oh that does sound delicious. Please send to me. Are you Swedish?

  29. 29

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  30. 30

    Maryam — December 25, 2016 @ 8:12 am

    I made this cake 2 times for two separate Christmas parties since last few days and received a lot of compliments. The ingredients can be found in any household except Saffron which comes from my native country but it’s also fast to make the batch when you can’t think of anything more special to bake at this time of the year. I also thank you for the information and history behind this recipe that I was also able to tell my company.
    Thank you.

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