Baking for Bookworms: Saffron Cream from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked


There’s not much food mentioned in the Wicked series. Elphaba has way more important things to do than cook. Or even eat. But there are a few foods that manage to convey both a very Oz-like sense of the exotic as well as a dark of mysterious quality–something decadent but not quite right.

Saffron cream is mentioned several times throughout the book. It’s both a decadent treat as well as an expected one on important occasions. It’s a sign that someone’s made an effort, but it’s also associated with dissipation like in the quote below:

“They sang, and chattered, and ordered sandwiches, and Avaric plunked down an embarrassment of coins to demand a salver of saffron cream, in Ama Clutch’s memory. Money did wonders and the cream was found in the larder, which gave Glinda an uneasy feeling, though she didn’t know why. They spooned the airy mounds into one another’s mouths, sculpted with it, mixed it in with their champagne, threw it in small gobbets at one another until the manager came over and told them to get the hell out. They complied, grumbling. They didn’t know it was the last time they would all be together, or they might have lingered.”               162-3

Ama Clutch dies in mysterious circumstances and the saffron cream is associated with honoring the dead. It’s one last night of wild, carefree behavior before the group goes their separate ways. The mood is uneasy, even if it’s only Glinda that feels it. But just because there are some strange associations with this dish doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it yourself!

Saffron is a very strange substance. For one it’s crazy expensive. In fact it’s the most expensive thing per pound that you can cook with. For that reason, there’s fraudulent saffron out there, so you need to be careful. Want to know what to look for in saffron? Check out this helpful post.

Saffron is normally used in savory dishes, but it’s equally good in sweet ones. It’s got a great, subtle, complex flavor.

  • one pinch saffron
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Bring out the flavor of the saffron by soaking the strands in the tablespoon of water for a couple minutes.

Add the saffron and the water to the heavy cream along with the powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

You can put your cream on top of anything you would normally put whipped cream on top of: scones (like these yummy ones I made this morning), hot cocoa, tarts, pies–whatever. It’ll be delicious on everything.