June 16, 2014

Yellow Saffron Butter Cake with Chocolate Cardamom Fudge Frosting


It's my party, I can do what I want.

It's my party, I can say what I want.

It's my party, I can love who I want, I can kiss who I want, I can sing what I want.


I've never been a big birthday person. The last official party I threw for myself was in eighth grade, in which my friends and I went to a water park AND a movie, and that strikes me as overly ambitious now (SIDE NOTE: thanks Mom! I'm sure that a bunch screaming eight graders at a water park was probably not very fun at all). I guess there was also the obligatory drunken kegger that my friends threw me for my 21st birthday, but I'm not really counting that because in college, birthday celebrations are more about the free beer than the actual person itself.

Then there were the terrible birthdays of the last few years. My 25th birthday, I tweeted about the hassle of booking hotel rooms for a friend's wedding, and that, like most things related to weddings, just got wayyy overblown and dramatic. Oh well. At least I'd made myself this near-perfect knockoff of a Momofuku Milk Bar confetti cake. In contrast, my 26th birthday was so quiet and forgettable that I don't even remember what I did... OH WAIT — that might have been the year I got food poisoning from one of my favorite restaurants in town, a place I'm sorry to say that I'm still a little wary of (despite still adamantly defending that they make the best pizza in town).

This year though, I've decided to start celebrating like I mean it. Because I'll finally admit that birthdays are a big friggin' deal! To be alive on earth for another year is kind of a miracle, especially for somebody who eats as poorly as I do and frequently partakes in apparently life-threatening activities like biking to work and Crossfit. I'm serious! Erlend spent the last year studying anatomy and physiology for the last year and been filling my head with random facts about what it takes to keep a human body healthy and in good shape. I'll spare you the details, but long story short, it's this: a LOT.


I'm also excited about this birthday because, according to Buzzfeed, 27 is apparently the final year in which it's okay for me to regress back to my early 20s antics and have one last big hurrah before I head into my comfortable, stretchy-pants-wearing late 20s. And by that I mean, the kind of late 20s lifestyle they're referring to in the web series "I Miss Drugs", where weekends are spent looking for Rumors on vinyl at flea markets and gawking over Simple Human trash cans at Target. But can I tell you a secret?

My life has been like that for some time now, and I've been loving it.

So maybe this year isn't gonna be me partaking in the crazy hurrahs that Buzzfeed is promising, but instead, a very blatant celebration of the official arrival of a lifestyle where I don't have to make excuses for not wanting to take shots and stay out late on weeknights. Because at 27, I'm legitimately in my late 20s and it's finally okay to be kind of a grownup. At this age, I'm comfortable and confident enough to be okay with how lame I can be, and that makes me incredibly:


So I'll be damned if that doesn't deserve a celebration, especially one with an amazing and epic cake like this yellow saffron butter cake with chocolate cardamom fudge frosting. I used to think I was a red velvet girl, but honestly, ever since I made this beautiful yellow butter cake with chocolate ganache frosting for Erlend's birthday last year, I've been a firm believer that chocolate-covered yellow cakes should be a standard at any birthday celebration.

But don't get me wrong — this yellow birthday cake is far from standard. The cake gets its beautiful yellow color from butter that's been infused with a generous portion of saffron, one of my favorite spices and one that I would use every day if it weren't so freaking expensive:


Besides the saffron, the cake recipe itself is an absolute delight. Despite being a butter cake, it has a light and fluffy crumb that works wonderfully with the fudge frosting.

The fudge frosting is a neat little recipe that I've been holding near and dear to my heart for some time now. It's completely effortless and involves combining melted chocolate, butter, and confectioner's sugar in a food processor and blending until this creamy frosting appears. It's delicious and so, so, so easy to work with, allowing you to frost an almost perfectly smooth cake without too much effort. Oh, and of course, for fun, I threw in a pinch of cardamom to bring out the butter cake's saffron flavor. This cake is absolutely delicious and a recipe that I'm going to be keeping for birthdays to come.


Some baker's notes:
  • Okay, so this cake uses a pretty generous amount of saffron, which is crazy expensive and overpriced. The only reason I shelled out for it was because it was my birthday (and I did what I wanted!). But there is an alternative! On his last trip to the international supermarket, Erlend found a $2.99 package of Mexican saffron, made from dried safflower threads. The taste isn't quite the same, but it will give your cake the same rich yellow color similar to my cake. Dried safflower threads are available in specialty herb stores, Asian supermarkets and (sometimes) the international/hispanic section of any local supermarket. If using safflower instead of saffron, be sure to increase the recipe amount to 1 full tablespoon's worth because safflower isn't as strongly flavored or as vividly colored as saffron.

  • My mom once told me that it actually takes hours for saffron to fully release its flavor when cooking or baking. If you don't want to use as much saffron as I did, you can reduce the recipe quantity to a 1/4 teaspoon's worth and simply infuse the butter with saffron flavors for longer, preferably overnight. 

  • Still not convinced by the merits of saffron or safflowers? No worries! You can substitute out the saffron/safflower threads with 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract to turn it into a classic vanilla buttermilk cake with chocolate cardamom fudge frosting. Still great flavor, though the cake probably won't be as yellow.

  • Unfortunately, you will need a food processor for the fudge frosting recipe. If you try and using a Kitchenaid mixer or a handheld electric mixer, it simply won't work or come together properly. Sorry!


Yellow Saffron Butter Cake with Chocolate Cardamom Fudge Frosting

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Ingredients

Special Equipment:

For the Yellow Saffron Butter Cake:
(makes an 8-inch, triple layer cake)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons saffron threads
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, divided into 1/4 cup and 1 cup portions
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Chocolate Cardamom Instant Fudge Frosting:
(makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough for one triple layer cake)
  • 3 ounces 100% unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Recipe

For the Yellow Saffron Butter Cake:
  1. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup unsalted butter and 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons saffron threads. Cook over medium-low heat until the butter melts completely, and starts to brown and foam. At this point, both the butter and saffron are fragrant and emitting a faintly nutty aroma. Once the butter has browned, remove from heat, cover and transfer to a wire rack to sit for 1 hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Prepare three 8-inch cake rounds by spraying with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper round. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray as well.

  3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Set aside.

  4. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3 cups cake flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low speed until well combined. With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the saffron-infused butter (from the 1st step) and the remaining 1 cup buttermilk, before raising the mixer speed to medium and beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  5. After 2 minutes, with the mixer speed still on medium, add the egg mixture (from the 3rd step) in 3 additions, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mixing only until the ingredients have been incorporated. DO NOT OVERMIX THE CAKE, or it will be dense and dry and I will be sad. 

  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans and bake the cake layers for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the layers to cool in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, before turning out onto the wire racks to cool completely and peeling off the parchment paper liners. 

For the Chocolate Cardamom Instant Fudge Frosting:
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 3 ounces melted and cooled 100% unsweetened chocolate, 2 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar, 3/4 cup unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons whole milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pulse the ingredients together to incorporate. At first it will seem like there's too many ingredients in the food processor and that they will never incorporate together, but continue processing until the frosting is smooth and a uniform brown color. It will happen! Use immediately.
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30 comments:

  1. That looks AMAZING! I love the flavors in there, like a traditional cake but with a bit of extra spice! The frosting looks perfect too. :)

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  2. Happy Birthday, Michelle! Cheers to another amazing and inspiring 27 years! I'm so bad at celebrating my own birthday but you really reminded me of why it really is worth a toast and a slice of cake. xx

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    1. Thanks Sini! I'm still not great at celebrating my own birthday (contrary to what this post says, I actually ended up doing nothing special today), but I'm slowly teaching myself to treat it as a special day.

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  3. many many happy returns of the day!!! I turned 27 last year too - it is kind of a big deal and it took a long time realize that about birthdays. love those notes on saffron, i purchased some a long time ago but havent really used it..i will have to make this cake soon. hope you have something amazing planned for later also :)

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    1. OMG, yes, this is the perfect use for your saffron!

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  4. I am not big on parties either for birthdays but cake is a must. This one looks fabulous. Three solid layers and some chocolate frosting. Yes please. Happy Happy Birthday!!

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  5. chocolate frosting on yellow cake has been my go-to birthday cake for as long as I can remember - I love the saffron twist! (My boyfriend has a little container left over from his ex - I think that mean's it's up for grabs, right?!) Can't wait to try this frosting. Happy Birthday!

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  6. Happy Birthday!! My bday was last week and I would have killed for a slice of this cake! What a beauty - pinned!

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  7. happiest of birthdays to you michelle! this cake looks like the perfect birthday treat! :D

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    1. Steph I don't think I've ever noticed your avatar before, but your photo of you eating ice cream is absolutely adorbs! XOXO

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  8. YUM!! Happy Birthday!! I love baking with buttermilk and the chocolate fudge frosting sounds right up my alley! I love the unique flavor twists that you put on it as well!

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  9. Oh my GOSH HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!! Another stunning cake for a stunning lady ;) Lol at the line about college parties...so so true. But YAY for really coming to terms with yourself, your age, your happiness. One coworker told me that once she hit 30, she was so much happier with herself + life than she was in her 20s. I can only hope I'll be where she/you are in a few years! Hope you have/had a FABULOUS day and eat lots of (insanely gorgeous and delicious-sounding) cake! (Re: poor eating--hey, if it makes you happy, that's healthy in a way right? :))

    PS. When you come to Houston, we must go here!!! http://wearecommonbond.com/

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    1. OHMYGAWD that Common Bond place you sent me to looks absolutely delicious. That close-up shot of the croissant being all perfectly airy and fluffy?! STUNNER. Can't wait!

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  10. What a stunning cake! I just love the smooth chocolate icing!

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  11. This cake looks damn gorgeous! Happy Birthday. I started crossfit six weeks ago and I regularly think to myself how crazy far I push my body in those one hour workouts. I'm off to put cardamom in frosting now!

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    1. Yay! I hope you like Crossfit, come back and we can compare notes :-) It's a good way to balance out all the baked goods!

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  12. This must be the most absolutely perfect birthday cake in the world - it's so beautiful and that food processor frosting? Total magic! I was a huge fan of being in my late twenties; they are the best few years in my opinion.

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  13. Happy Birthday! Gorgeous cake... I can't wait to try to make the frosting in a food processor... Pinned :)

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  14. Happy Birthday! That frosting looks amazing. I am definitely going to have to try it. I totally hear you about settling into your late 20's, it feels like such a relief! Though, I have just officially turned the corner of 30.

    That's so sad to hear about Ken's...it's so good! Though, I really like Life of Pie, their happy hour is great and the pizza is pretty dang good too.

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  15. This is the most perfect cake. Everything about it. It is exotic but classic, polished yet rustic. Happy birthday!

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  16. Happy birthday! Your cake looks exquisite- interesting flavour combo- bet it tastes divine!!

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  17. awww! happy happy birthday, michelle! this cake looks stuff-it-in-your-face delicious, saffron and all! 27 is indeed a sweet year - i remember loving 27 through 29!! you inspire me with all your fitness! love the photos of the cake too! hope you have a super awesome birthday year!! xo

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  18. Happy Birthday!!!! I. Love. Saffron. I'm Indian, and my mom ALWAYS has saffron in our pantry no matter what. This cake is right up my alley. Printing it out and saving it for the next time I have to bake a cake!

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  19. Love the styling of this - it's so cute!
    http://youtube.com/addalittlefood

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  20. Happy Birthday my hija! Love the cake and love you lots !!

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  21. This is such a gorgeous cake and with saffron! There should be more desserts with saffron and cakes like that. Happy birthday to you ;)

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  22. It's my birthday to day ^_^ Thank you so much for this RECIPES Miaaaammm :) Check my SNICKERS

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  23. You can also get saffron for very decent prices at Barbur World Foods (on SW Barbur, as the name would indicate). It's a great source for spices and middle-easternish ingredients at killer prices!

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  24. ****Saffron Hint- get a mortar and pestle, put your saffron threads in it and crush away to powdery. Add 3T of your water to the powder and return to mottling the threads into the water. The saffron will give it up right away- flavor and glorious color, then pour the whole mess into your mixing bowl and carry on. Always open your saffron with liquid, be it oil, broth, water or whatever you're cooking with and you will have maximum magic from this amazing ingredient! OLE!
    P.S. learned this in Cadiz from a wonderful Spanish woman/cook/seamstress/housekeeper.

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