19 March 2024

A Whisper of Cardamom - how to spice up your baking with Eleanor Ford

We are always excited when a new spice cookbook comes out but we are particularly excited by award-winning author Eleanor Ford's new book A Whisper of Cardamom.

A Whisper of Cardamom - how to spice up your baking with Eleanor Ford

A Whisper of Cardamom

We are always excited when a new spice cookbook comes out but we are particularly excited by award-winning author Eleanor Ford's new book A Whisper of Cardamom. It contains eighty recipes and stories exploring the cultural history, symbolism and flavours of spice and how they can be used in sweet cooking and baking. 

We had a lovely opportunity to ask her some questions about the book and are delighted to be able to share a few of her delicious recipes too. 

1. What inspired you to write A Whisper of Cardamom? 

My previous cookbook, The Nutmeg Trail, was about the use of spices in savoury cooking. Recipes explored how to use spice to bring out the best in food whilst the stories looked at the fascinating history and politics of spice. With such a rich topic, there was much more to say so this book, its sweet sequel, came about.

A Whisper of Cardamom explores how spices can be used in sweet cookery to enhance and transform desserts and bakes. The spicing techniques are different and I wanted to explore flavour matching and how spices can be used, both boldly and delicately, to take your cooking to the next level. 

2. Do you have a favourite recipe in the book? If so why?

There are so many, but the carrot and candied ginger is a particular favourite. It is a real celebration of ginger and the texture of the sponge is so light and moreish. I have to say there are lots of great cakes though - the lemon drizzle with turmeric, the nutmeg cake, the cardamom and marzipan, and the pink cake for Sylvia is THE ULTIMATE birthday cake recipe. 

3. What is your favourite baking spice and why? Do you use baking spice blends too? If so any in particular?

I think the title gives away that green cardamom is the queen for me! It has the most beautiful fragrance and is so adaptable in its flavour pairings. Try it in chocolate mousse and you’ll never look back. 

I have my own house sweet spice blend that combines sweet warming spices like cinnamon and ginger with more floral ones including cardamom and mahleb. It’s magic. Generally though I prefer showcasing one or two spices rather than relying on the usual sweet blends which can lead to all spiced bakes beginning to taste the same. 

4. We’re featuring a couple of your delicious sweet recipes that use spices traditionally seen in savoury dishes. Have you had fun experimenting? Which combinations work best for you?

Cardamom smoky browniesDid you try any that just didn’t work??

I love taking the same recipe in different flavour directions. Each recipe in the book has ‘spice switch’ options so you can customise them to your own taste. For instance, are you a floral lover? Then maybe you’d like liquorice meringue kisses with rose cream. Those flavours not for you? The same recipe can become cinnamon meringues with a fresh ginger cream. 

I did have fun playing with some more traditionally savoury spices. Black cardamom in rice pudding; juniper in tangy lemon bars; smoky chilli in brownies. How about garam masala in chocolate chunk cookies? Sounds mad, but its warmth and savoury edge works surprisingly well here, like how salt plays off caramel. And my salt and black pepper shortbread is a combo you must try! 

Fenugreek is one spice I had trouble incorporating into a sweet recipe; its bitter-nutty-earthiness is divisive. Interestingly, it a key ingredient in mock maple syrups because it also has a brown sugar-like quality, so in the end I found it made an intriguing pairing with apricots baked with real maple syrup and butter. Half my testers loved it, the other half politely demurred and preferred the spice switch for vanilla seeds and lemon!

5. Who would you most like to have dinner with and why? 

Nigella Lawson is my hero. How to Eat was the first cookbook I ever bought, paid for with a Christmas book token. I read it cover to cover, enraptured by her writing and way with food, and my career in food writing was sparked. That she chose to review A Whisper of Cardamom, and with such generous words, means the world to me. Imagine the joy of having dinner together! (I’d make her the perfumed roast figs).


Why not try out a few of Eleanor's sweet spicy baking recipes for yourself?

Smoky Chilli Brownies

White Chocolate Pots with Sumac Soured Berries

Saffron Macaroons

For more information please visit Eleanor's website: https://www.eleanorfordfood.com/

A Whisper of Cardamom: Sweetly spiced recipes to fall in love with by Eleanor Ford (Murdoch Books, £26). Photography by Ola O. Smit.