Since saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (by weight), it makes sense to let it stand out in a recipe. Otherwise, why bother using it? Saffron is definitely the star in this simple, small cake, and its distinctive flavor is enhanced by the sweet nuttiness of almond paste and a hint of orange zest.
- 1/2 CUP BUTTER, AT ROOM TEMPERATURE, PLUS MELTED BUTTER FOR GREASING THE PAN
- 1 CUP ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, PLUS MORE FOR DUSTING THE PAN
- 1/4 CUP WHOLE MILK
- 1/2 TEASPOON SAFFRON THREADS
- 1 TEASPOON FRESHLY GRATED ORANGE ZEST
- 1/2 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
- 1/4 TEASPOON BAKING SODA
- 1/4 TEASPOON SALT
- 1/2 CUP ALMOND PASTE
- 1/2 CUP CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR, PLUS MORE FOR DUSTING THE CAKE (optional)
- 2 EGGS
- 1 EGG YOLK
- 1/2 TEASPOON ALMOND EXTRACT
- 1 TABLESPOON FRESHLY SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICE
- 1/2 CUP CREME FRAICHE
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the inside of a 6-cup Bundt pan with the melted butter and dust it lightly with flour. (Use a pastry brush to help distribute the flour and tap out any excess.)
In a small nonreactive saucepan over low heat, combine the milk, saffron, and orange zest and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter with the almond paste and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat at the same speed for another 2 minutes, until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the egg yolk, almond extract, and orange juice. Add the flour mixture (in two increments) alternately with the creme fraiche, beginning and ending with the flour and beating just until incorporated. Add the milk-saffron mixture, and beat until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when you touch it and a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool for about 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then invert the cake onto the rack and dust it lightly with confectioners' sugar (if desired). Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
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