When I asked my double cousin/bestie/practically sister Rawa what she’d love to learn to bake with me while I’m here in Portland, without hesitation she asked for the saffron milk cake.
She had fallen in love with it when visiting several cafes in Dubai and Saudi earlier this year, and really wanted to learn how to make it from scratch. Mind you this mama of 2 has like ZERO baking patience, and when I’d tell her things like all the ingredients need to be at room temp, I would get MAJOR yawns and eye rolls without hesitation. Yeah, this was gonna be a fun teaching lesson!
While this cake is really inspired by the Latin American / Mexican Tres Leches (3 milks) cake, the batter typically calls for a lot of eggs with yolks creamed separately, then egg whites whipped and folded in etc… so you can imagine the “hell no” look on her face.
So instead, this version uses a pound cake batter formula. It’s easy to remember and always turns out consistent with equal parts in weight of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. It’s dense when baked, but turns fluffy and decadent once the milk mixture is poured over and chilled in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
With notes of cardamom, turmeric, and orange blossom water, this saffron milk cake has been lovingly crowned as my “signature” dessert by the family after countless indulgences both here and back home.
I’m just happy that my cousin can now make it perfectly on her own… eye rolls and all.
Watch our kitchen escapades, up in stories.
Saffron Milk Cake
- 200 g all purpose flour
- 200 g butter room temp
- 200 g fine granulated sugar*
- 200 g eggs 4 large eggs**
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp cardamom
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp saffron water***
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 1 Tbsp saffron water**
- 1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream 36-40% fat
- 2-3 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Handful shelled roasted pistachios chopped
- Preheat oven to 350F / 180C
- Butter or spray your baking dish of choice, something that the cake can be served from****
- In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, turmeric and cardamom. Set aside
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between for around 5 minutes
- Next, beat in one egg at a time into creamed butter mixture until fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Please don’t rush this part, around 5 minutes.
- Add 1 Tbsp of the saffron water and vanilla and mix until incorporated
- Next, slowly beat in the flour until just fully combined, be careful to not over-mix. Yes, the batter is thick***** but we are dousing the cake in milk after it is done so this is normal.
- Transfer to your baking dish, spread evenly, and bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean (45-55 minutes)
- While the cake is baking, mix all your milk ingredients together in a pitcher and set aside
- Once the cake is finished, cool for 10 minutes, then poke holes throughout the cake with a toothpick or fork
- Pour 3/4 of the milk mixture over, getting all the sides. Save the remaining 1/4 mixture for serving later.
- Refrigerate cake covered for at least 3 hours. You want everything nicely absorbed and chilled.
- 20 minutes before serving, stick a clean bowl and egg beaters into the fridge or freezer
- Pour your whipping cream into the chilled bowl and beat until soft peaks form. After 1 minute add the vanilla and sift in the powdered sugar. Beat until nicely thickened, aerated and smooth. Be careful to not over-beat, otherwise your have a nice butter formed instead
- Spread whip over your cake, top with crushed pistachios and slice into squares. Serve slices with a little bit of the reserved milk mixture, and indulge with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee
**Bloom one tsp of ground saffron with 2 Tbsp of how water, use half in batter and half in milk mixture
***Your baking pan will determine how long your cake will need to bake…
****You can add a touch of milk in the batter to loosen it up if you feel your flour is on the denser side (higher protein content)