THIS week, more cake (but no ordinary specimen). I dwelt on the importance of good flour last week, but a good cake requires good everything. The better the butter and the fresher the eggs, the more delicious your cake will be.

My personal rule is never to use margarine. A marvellous and entirely healthful alternative is good oil, particularly olive oil. Richard de Cordova of Southwark, south London, has submitted an excellent Iranian recipe for saffron and olive oil cake. He recommends an Iranian shop, Patisserie Roshan in Bayswater, west London, for ingredients. I found the dried morello cherries he specifies in Reza, 347 Kensington High Street, London W8 (071-603 0924). If you cannot find them, Mr de Cordova urges that you substitute dried apricots. It will still be important to finish the cake with fruit syrup. Only add the honey if making the syrup from soaking juice of dried morello cherries or hunza apricots; bottled syrups will already be sweet. Mr de Cordova will receive a bottle of 1989 Bukkuram de Bartoli, a figgy tasting Sicilian muscat.

Olive Oil and Saffron Cake

Serves 10

Ingredients: 2oz (60g) dried Iranian or Turkish morello sour cherries, soaked

3 1/2 oz (100g) raisins

3 1/2 oz (100g) roasted almonds

4 eggs, size 3

7oz (200g) caster sugar

9fl oz (250ml) strong green extra virgin olive oil

4 1/2 oz (130g) wholemeal cake flour

4 1/2 oz (130g) white cake flour

2 level tsp baking powder

2 generous pinches of saffron threads

2tbs milk

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

3tbs sesame seeds

2tbs honey (preferably thyme honey)

Preparation: Preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas 4. Grease a cake tin, then dust with flour, shaking off excess. Just cover sour red cherries in boiling water in a small bowl. Roast almonds. Sift together the white flour and baking powder. Sift again with brown flour, returning bran from sifter and mixing it in well. Mix raisins and (cooled) almonds with 1-2tbs of flour mixture, or enough to coat them. This will prevent them sinking. On a very low heat, infuse the saffron threads in the milk until the colour diffuses. Do not boil. Whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth and thick. Gradually add small quantities of olive oil and flour until you have used all the oil and about half the flour. Add the lemon zest and juice, mixing thoroughly. Add the saffron infusion. Drain cherries, reserving liquid - you should have about 2fl oz (60ml) juice. Add 1tbs of remaining flour, followed by cherries, raisins and almonds. Fold in thoroughly. Add remaining flour. Using a rubber spatula, tip the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle surface with sesame seeds. Bake on a medium low shelf for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Resist opening the oven for the first 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooking, combine the cherry juice and honey in a saucepan and heat gently. When the cake comes out of the oven, allow to cool 10 minutes, then slip from tin and immediately pour over the cherry juice mixture. Serve with Greek-style yoghurt.

Next week, more cakes and spiced breads. New entries are welcome, addressed to Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Those whose recipes we print will receive a bottle of the above mentioned muscat.

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