Prepare for St Piran’s Day

This year, why not mark St Piran’s Day (March 5th) by baking your own saffron cake or buns?  A different way to pass another lockdown day perhaps – or how about a home school baking session?  We guarantee everyone will enjoy it and your efforts will be rewarded.

Cornwall’s links with saffron date are thought to date back to the Phoenicians, who traded it for Cornish mined tin, and saffron buns remain distinctively Cornish to this day – no other place in Britain uses saffron in sweet bakery.  As well as giving food a bright golden colour, its taste is completely unique; delicately fragrant with an almost hay-like flavour.

This year, for the first time in many years, even Cornish-grown saffron is available from the Cornish Saffron Company to give your cakes a truly Cornish twist. If you’re using it, it’s powerful stuff and a little goes much further than most of the imported varieties, so you can definitely be a lot more sparing than the recipe suggests.

Our recipe comes from the Great Cornish Food Book, now sadly out of print, but we’ve reproduced it here for anyone who doesn’t have a copy.

To make 3 loaves:


570g strong white flour

60g granulated sugar

10g (2 tsps) salt

225g white veg fat or lard

60g fresh yeast (or 30g dried)

170g currants

170g sultanas

200ml warm water

50ml boiling water

1g saffron strands


Place the saffron in a bowl and pour over the boiling water; set aside for an hour.

Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook, add the fat and mix to a crumb (or rub in by hand).

Disperse the yeast in the warm water.

Add all the liquids to the bowl and mix for 6 minutes on medium speed (or bring together by hand and knead well).

Cover with a damp cloth and rest in a warm place for 40 mins.

Add the fruit, using slow speed if using a mixer to prevent the fruit breaking up, and leave for another 20 mins, covered.

Divide into 3 and mould into shape to fit your loaf tins (or use smaller pieces to make buns and place on a lined baking tray).

Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Bake at 210 deg C for 25 minutes until golden brown.


Purists will say a slice of saffron cake or a saffron bun should be enjoyed unadorned, making the most of the distinctive flavour; others like it generously spread with slightly salted butter, or even a dollop of Cornish clotted cream.