This recipe was based on a saffron pound cake with lemon caramel sauce written by Gale Gand on the Food Network website. Saffron has been used in baking since Medieval times, when spices were an expensive commodity and therefore used to show status and for celebration. Saffron buns are a specialty in the county of Cornwall in the United Kingdom, where they were baked for high days and holidays, particularly Christmas. The spice trade route has existed for centuries, bring spices from India and beyond, via North Africa, to the lucrative markets of Europe.
10 tablespoons orange juice
2 pinches saffron strands
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) vegan shortening
1 cup sugar
Egg replacer, equivalent of four eggs
2 cups pomegranate juice
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 6 cup loaf pan and line the base with parchment paper
Bring the orange juice and saffron to the boil in a small saucepan, turn off the heat and leave to steep for five minutes.
Whisk the cinnamon, flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt together in a large bowl.
Beat the vegan shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy and add the egg replacer. Working in alternating batches, and mixing after each addition, add the dry ingredients and 1/4 cup of the saffron spiked orange juice, using up all the saffron threads. Mix until just smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for an hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre come out clean.
Meanwhile pour the pomegranate juice and remaining orange juice into a shallow pan and bring to the boil. Continue to boil until the liquid has reduced by two thirds, and is thick and syrupy.
When the cake is cooked take it out of the oven and prick the surface all over with a cake tester or cocktail stick. Pour the pomegranate syrup over the cake while it is still hot and leave to cool in the tin. Release the sides of the cake with a palette knife and carefully ease out of the tin. The cake improves with age, so wrap it up with plastic wrap and store in a cool place.
To serve, cut the cake into slices and serve with chopped pistachio nuts, pomegranate seeds and a dusting of icing sugar. Delicious with a dollop of vanilla yoghurt.