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Essential Baking Spices for Every Home Baker

Use these warm spices for baking in your desserts.

When you crack open your recipe book to start making those delicious and warm fall desserts, it can be overwhelming to see the long list of spices you need.

Cinnamon nutmeg allspice clove and ginger

What are all these different spices? Why do you need them for pumpkin pie?

The most common baking spices have complex flavors that bring a bittersweetness to desserts to create well-balanced profiles.

Baking Spices

Learn more about the ten most popular baking spices and a few spice mixes you can use too!


Allspice

Despite the name, allspice is not a combination of different spices, it’s its own spice!

It comes from dried peppers and berries from trees native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America.

Sometimes called the Jamaica pepper or pimento, this baking spice has a peppery and warm taste.


Cardamom

Cardamom is a spice that comes from a pod in the ginger family.

It’s popular in Indian dishes, thanks to its bold and zesty flavor that melds well into sauces.

It has some herbal elements that make it smell like mint or eucalyptus but still has a bitter pepperiness.

Many people detect a slight citrus taste among the warm notes.


Cinnamon

While cinnamon is popular in baking, it has many other uses.

It is a type of bark from several tree species in the same genus.

The uses for cinnamon are endless, from breakfast cereals to cocktail syrups to coffee toppings to chicken rubs.

It’s one of the most versatile baking spices, as it works in both savory and sweet scenarios.


Cloves

Cloves have a distinct bitter and slightly sweet flavor but are one of the warmest spices, making them quintessential in sweet fall dishes.

They are dried flowers from a clove tree, native to islands off the coast of China.

This rich baking spice has a slight astringency that can help counterbalance sugar in some desserts.


Ginger

Ginger straddles the line between sweet and savory, as it’s used equally in salty and sweet dishes.

For example, people serve slices of fresh ginger with sushi! But ginger as a spice can add complexity to sweet desserts, like pumpkin pie or apple recipes.

The subtle bitterness and spiciness are interesting on your palette.


Vanilla Beans

While most people use vanilla extract when baking, you can also use vanilla beans.

You can grind up vanilla beans into a powder and use it to add that creamy and luxurious taste of vanilla to anything.

Fresh vanilla beans bring a more authentic and distinct floral flavor to your baking.


Mace

Mace, the spice, not the weapon, is a golden brown spice that comes from dried arils of nutmeg seeds.

It has a similar fragrance to nutmeg, but the mace has a more concentrated and spicy flavor, while nutmeg is a more subtle and delicate spice.


Nutmeg

Nutmeg is one of the most popular and well-known baking spices.

Many people see it as a close cousin of cinnamon, but they are different. Nutmeg comes from the seed of nutmeg trees native to Indonesia.

The spice has a cozy, nutty flavor with a balanced sweetness. It’s highly aromatic and works in sweet and savory meals.


Star Anise

Star anise has one of the most distinct tastes and appearances.

As the name suggests, this spice in full-seed form looks like a star or flower.

This spice comes from China and is not as common as cinnamon or ginger, but finds its way into many fall desserts.

The licorice-like bitter taste can bring out the sweetness of other ingredients it’s paired with.


Anise Seed

Despite the similarity in name, star anise and anise seeds come from two different plants from different parts of the world.

Anise seeds come from Egypt and the Middle East but have a similar bitter herbal aroma as star anise.

Anise seed is a key ingredient in things like anisette, sambuca, absinthe, and ouzo.


Mixed Spices

When shopping for baking supplies, you can buy mixed spices.

These mixtures are typically a combination of standard baking spices.

Other mixed spices used for baking are pumpkin spice, five-spice, gingerbread spice, golden-milk spice, British mixed spices, and apple pie spice.

Almost all baking spice blends include cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.


Baking Spices

  1. Allspice
  2. Cardamom
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Cloves
  5. Ginger
  6. Vanilla Beans
  7. Mace
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Star Anise
  10. Anise Seed
  11. Mixed Spices 

Final Thoughts

You can use these baking spices in a wide range of recipes, from French toast recipes to other classic desserts.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.