“The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.” By Chetna Makan. Photographs by Nassima Rothacker. Mitchell Beazley. $29.99

Never have I felt the truth of George Bernard Shaw’s witticism that England and America are “two countries divided by a common language” so forcefully as I did when baking from Chetna Makan’s new cookbook, “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

Weighing ingredients was not the problem – I own a digital kitchen scale that records both ounces and grams so I can navigate amounts outside of the American cup system. I could also work out relatively quickly that their “plain flour” is our “all-purpose flour,” that “bicarbonate of soda” is “baking soda” and “double cream” is “heavy cream.”

A few minutes of internet sleuthing taught me that I could substitute granulated sugar for caster sugar (though some disagreement exists about whether or not it needs to be whizzed in the food processor first to make it finer) and that we Americans have no real substitute for golden caster sugar so I’d have to settle for more granulated sugar. I also knew “digestive biscuits” as one of those charmingly English unembellished cookies.

But was “plain dark chocolate” our semi-sweet or unsweetened? Did their “dessicated coconut” contain sugar? Why did so few recipes call for either salt or vanilla extract? And how the heck did the 2-pound loaf tin called for to make Black Sesame and Lime Cake relate to my own American standard 9 x 5-inch pan?

I was already scratching my head in puzzlement and frustration, wondering if I could ever bake the many intriguing pies, cakes and loaves in “The Cardamom Trail” that the stunning photographs had me lusting for, when I flipped the page to Raspberry Biscuits with Coriander Lemon Curd; the utterly alien “freeze-dried raspberry powder” lurking in the ingredients list stopped me cold.

I am an experienced home baker. So despite the language obstacles – the book was put out by a division of the British firm Octopus Publishing Group – I refused to be daunted.

“The Cardamom Trail” is the second of three cookbooks that have crossed my desk recently, all of them on the same theme – infusing Western-style baked goods with exotic spices, in other words pushing the baking envelope beyond cinnamon.

I reviewed “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking in June and will review the last in the trio this fall. “The Cardamom Trail” author Chetna Makan, Indian by birth, English by current residency, was a semifinalist in the popular British show “The Great British Bake Off.” This is her first book.

In it, she ranges from savory to sweet, from clearly Western cakes (though with Indian touches) such as Mango, Cardamom and Coconut Cake to clearly Indian foods, such as Spinach Pakoras and Rajma Paratha.

She sprinkles the book with practical information on the exotic spices in her baking arsenal, including tamarind, fenugreek and coriander. When it comes to our ubiquitous cinnamon, she brings an outsider’s perspective: “To the British, cinnamon is the quintessential sweet spice and most people have a jar of ground cinnamon in the cupboard for baking. I did not know of it until I moved to the UK. In India, my mother used whole cinnamon sticks, and only for savoury dishes.”

I tested three recipes from “The Cardamom Trail.” Each had its own translation challenges, yet I was really pleased with all three outcomes. Lychee Cake was moist, tender, floral and surprising. Black Sesame and Lime Cake had an equally lovely tender texture, and the attractive black sesame seeds that flecked the cake also gave it an appealing slight crunch.

Curry Onion Tart – imagine a quiche traveling to India and reinventing itself – was truly delicious with layered complex flavors, make that flavours.

I had specifically selected these three recipes because the language barrier in the directions and ingredients felt lower than with other recipes in “The Cardamom Trail.” Nonetheless, with each one, I had to wing it at times, adding extra cream, guessing at pan sizes, ignoring my misgivings about mixing methods.

I intend to take up Makan’s challenge – “experiment as I do and give your favourite bakes a new edge.”

But until the publisher translates this book to “American,” I would recommend it to only the most confident of American bakers.

LYCHEE CAKE

This recipe comes from “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

I wouldn’t have thought to put together lychees and caramel, but the combination turns out to be delectable.

Depending on the season, you can sometimes find fresh lychees at Veranda Asian Market.

Serves 10-12

400g (14 oz.) canned lychees

200g (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

150g (5 1/2 oz.) caster sugar, plus 4 tablespoons

4 large eggs

150g (5 1/2 oz.) self-raising flour

50g (1 3/4 oz.) ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE:

100g (3 1/2 oz.) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

40g (1 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, diced

4 tablespoons double cream

FOR THE DECORATION:

300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

200g (7 oz.) canned lychees (drained weight) or fresh peeled and pitted lychees, halved

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), Gas Mark 4. Grease 2 x 20 cm (8in) cake tins and line them with nonstick baking paper.

To make the cake, drain the canned lychees, reserving the syrup, then chop the fruit into small pieces and set aside. Cream the butter and the 150g (51/2 oz) sugar together with an electric whisk or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients and beat for 1 minute until thoroughly combined.

Fold the chopped lychees into the cake batter, then pour the mixture equally into the prepared tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres of the cakes comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the reserved syrup from the lychees and add the remaining 4 tablespoons caster sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by half.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When both the cakes and syrup are cool, brush the syrup over the cakes.

To make the caramel sauce, combine the caster sugar and measured water in a small saucepan and cook for 5-6 minutes until the mixture turns into a golden-brown caramel.

Stir in the butter and cook for another couple of minutes. Now slowly add the cream, stirring continuously.

Cook for a further 3 minutes, then set aside to cool.

To prepare the decoration, whisk the double cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooled caramel sauce and fold it in.

To assemble, place the cake on a serving plate and spread half the flavoured cream on it. Sit the second cake over the cream and spread the remainder of the flavoured cream on top.

Decorate with the lychees and drizzle with some of the remaining caramel sauce.

This cake will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Let it sit at room temperature before serving.