Michael Chiarello is a master of cooking over fire — we don't call him a Grilling God for nothing. His new book, Live Fire, is an aptly named volume full of professional tips for some of the best food you've ever tasted off the grill. Including dessert.
I love a dessert that isn’t too sweet; this grilled lemon-saffron pound cake is just right. It gets its golden color from lemon and saffron, which adds a deep, almost savory flavor note that I really like. It’s baked in the oven; after baking, slice the cake and then finish the slices on the grill until they’re toasted. This is ideal with fresh summer berries or grilled figs with local lavender honey in the fall.
- 4 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 loosely packed tablespoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon lavender (flowers only), plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- olive oil for brushing
- 1 pint blackberries or 1 pint of any sweet summer berry
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice with the saffron and lavender. Bring to a simmer, take it off the heat and let the juice infuse with flavor. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the inside of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan bottom with a strip of parchment paper that extends up and slightly beyond the two narrow ends of the pan. (You’ll use the long ends of this paper to lift the loaf out of the pan after baking.) Lightly butter the parchment paper or coat with a nonstick spray. Pour the 1 tablespoon of sugar into the pan and tilt the pan so the sugar coats the sides and bottom. Dump out any excess sugar and set the pan aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, lemon zest and remaining 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is fluffy and much lighter in color. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat for 10 seconds.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter. Beat for another 30 seconds after the last of the dry ingredients go in.
- With the mixer on low, add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the saffron-lavender-juice mixture and the buttermilk. Mix for 1 minute.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden-brown on top, about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan. When it’s cool and you’re ready to grill it, lift it out by the parchment paper handles and carefully cut lengthwise into 3 equal slabs of cake, as shown in the photo.
- Ideally you’d be using the tail end of a fire you’d built for the main course. If not, ignite charcoal or turn a gas grill to medium. Brush the grill rack with olive oil and brush the cake slices lightly with olive oil on both sides. Grill approximately 2 minutes on the first side and 1 1/2 minutes on second side. (Note: Grill marks are nice but don’t make them your goal; it’s more important that the cake slices be slightly toasted and not too dark.)
- Serve each slice with berries and fresh lavender flowers if available.
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