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Olive Oil Cake with Saffron Frosting

Slofoodgroup Team February 14, 2019

Saffron Frosting with Rose Petals and Pistachio

When you think of saffron, you probably think of classic savory dishes such as paella and risotto. For this Valentines Day we chose to feature saffron as it has always been—a spice that is said to induce feelings of love and romance. For us who love a bit of “savory” in her “sweet”, I couldn’t help but wonder what saffron would taste like in a dessert I did a little research, and it turns out that saffron is used in many Middle Eastern desserts – everything from rice puddings to pies, and even ice cream. I decided to give it an American “spin” and incorporate it into a frosted layer cake (what’s more American than that?).

But why saffron frosting?

I initially planned to infuse the cake batter with saffron but I really wanted to highlight the pale golden hue that saffron imparts. So I went with a saffron cream cheese frosting instead and I paired it with an olive oil cake to keep with the savory-sweet flavor profile.

If you’ve never baked with olive oil, you’re in for a treat - it results in an incredibly moist, less cloyingly-sweet cake, with the subtle flavor of the oil throughout. I knew it would complement the saffron frosting perfectly. To finish it off I garnished the top with chopped pistachios and edible rose petals. The greens and pinks looked lovely with that pale yellow frosting, and added layers of flavors that were anything but “the usual”.

Olive Oil Layer Cake with Saffron Frosting


For the Frosting:

Heaping 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

8 ounces cream cheese

Pinch of salt

2 cups chilled heavy cream


For the Olive Oil Cake:

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup olive oil

1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Saffron Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

For Garnishing:

1/4 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup edible rosebuds and petals


Make the frosting:

Place the saffron, sugar, cream cheese and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until smooth, scraping down the bowl once or twice if needed. Reduce the speed to low and very slowly pour in the heavy cream. Continue whisking on low until incorporated, then raise the speed to medium-high and whisk until fluffy. Refrigerate till ready to use.

Clean out the bowl and whisk attachment.

Make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour two 8” round baking pans.

Whisk the buttermilk and sugar on low speed until smooth. Add the eggs and olive oil and whisk again. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk again. Transfer batter evenly between your prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick tests clean. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a serving tray or plate. If you like, use a large chef knife to level off the domed top. Scoop a generous amount of frosting on top and use an angled spatula to spread evenly. Place the second cake on top and repeat with more frosting. Frost the sides of the cake last, covering completely or scraping the edges with your spatula for a “naked” effect. Garnish with the pistachios and roses; keep refrigerated until ready to serve.