Cardamom shortbread

August 29, 2012 § 10 Comments

This past Saturday was my sister’s bridal shower. In addition to supplying the decorations (in the wedding colors, of course), I also felt I had to bring some traditional British foods to the party, since the theme of the shower was “English tea party.”

At first I thought (bad maid of honor alert!) themes were kind of, well, cheesy, but it turns out they are a party planner’s best friend — tea party means you serve tea, cookies, and little open-faced sandwiches, and decorate with fresh flowers and tissue paper poufs.

I volunteered to make shortbread: it’s traditional and most everybody loves it. I wanted not just any shortbread though, and I finally found a great recipe to try, which combines the classic buttery delight with one of my favorite spices, cardamom. The cardamom shortbread comes from the charmingly creative (but probably not as well-known as it should be) cookbook The Sugar Cube, which is written by the owner of a food truck I desperately want to visit in Portland, Oregon.

It was the perfect recipe to try since I could tell Kir Jensen appreciates cardamom as much as I do; I think cardamom is under-appreciated in baked goods, especially sweet ones. When partnered with vanilla its bright, almost herbal flavor complements the buttery shortbread without overpowering it, and I was really pleased at how much everyone else enjoyed the shortbread too.

The only change I made to the recipe was to use brown rice flour rather than white rice flour, causing the cookies to be slightly more fawn-colored; whichever rice flour you can find will create a mouth-wateringly tender crumb.

The cookies are also adaptable in that if you have more time, try sandwiching the cookies with a layer you favorite fruit preserves. I think chocolate ganache would be great too. Dipped into tea they’re excellent, creating a sort of chai tea-cookie mashup — don’t worry, I did this with a later batch; as maid of honor I can’t just go around dunking cookies into tea at parties!

Cardamom shortbread

Adapted from The Sugar Cube

Makes approximately two dozen biscuits/cookies


  • One and a half cups (192 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (67 grams) sifted brown rice flour
  • One teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
  • One cup (220 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) confectioners’ (powdered/icing) sugar
  • Approximately 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix together the all-purpose flour, the rice flour, cardamom, sea salt, and vanilla bean seeds. Stir in the butter and confectioners’ sugar for two minutes on low (or beat by hand with a wooden spoon) until the mixture is crumbly like sand.

2. Pat the dough into a roughly circular shape, cover loosely with a tea towel (or wrap tightly in plastic wrap if storing for more than a few hours), and chill in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes to an hour.

3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or Silpat) for easy cleanup (alternatively, grease the cookie sheets with a bit of softened butter).

4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Pour the granulated sugar into a bowl.

5. Pinch off a tablespoon-sized piece of dough; quickly roll it into a ball shape. Next, roll the cookie/biscuit dough balls in the granulated sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the dough balls on the parchment sheets about two inches apart. Then, press on the dough balls until they flatten to about 1/3 of an inch thick.

6. Bake the shortbread for fifteen to eighteen minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden brown at the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!

Note: cardamom shortbread can be stored as chilled dough for up to a week, or tightly wrapped and frozen, then thawed in the refrigerator before use. Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.


Jensen, Kir, with Danielle Centoni. “Cardamom shortbread cookies.” The Sugar Cube. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2012 (51).


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