Mixed spice is an essential ingredient in many Irish baking recipes, and especially in festive Christmas fare.
Have you ever browsed through an Irish or English cookbook and over and over again the baking recipes and some dishes call for mixed spice for added flavor?
Have you ever wondered what this concoction of spices might be?
Have you ever cast aside a recipe and refused to try it, simply because you had no clue what on God’s good earth mixed spice could be?
Well you’ve come to the right place for a quick tutorial on how to make and mix your very own mixed spice. You too can create a little taste of Ireland and the British Isles.
Plus if you don’t have time to make your own mixed spice, we’ll discuss some good substitutions for your recipe.
Table of Contents
What Is Mixed Spice?
Mixed spice is used extensively in Irish Christmas baking recipes, from mincemeat to Christmas pudding, and from rock buns to Easter biscuits, and from mince pies to fruit cakes. It is the predominant spice used in an Irish Christmas cake.
It’s a British spice blend. Ireland shares many cooking traditions with England, Scotland and Wales. Specific spice ingredients are combined to create this spice mixture with warm, sweet tones. There’s some flexibility in ingredients and quantities used, but there’s a definite balance required for an authentic taste.
Mixed spice includes some or all of the following ground spices: cinnamon, coriander seed, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace.
You’ll find exact ingredient amounts in the recipe at the end of this post.
Caraway is an optional ingredient which I don’t use in my blend, but feel free to add it.
Cinnamon dominates the flavor profile, with nutmeg and allspice adding extra depth of flavor.
Allspice Is Not Mixed Spice
Here is a quick word of warning.
Please, please, please, do not confuse allspice with mixed spice.
Mixed spice includes allspice in its lovely warm, sweet blend, but allspice is simply one ingredient used to add flavor. Never substitute the single spice, allspice, for the entire mixture of spices included in mixed spice.
These two are easily confused.
Allspice is not a blend. It’s simply one, stand-alone spice ingredient.
All spice is made by grinding the dried, unripe fruit of Pimenta Dioica. It has other names, including myrtle pepper, Jamaican pepper, pimenta, or Turkish yenibahar.
Sometimes it’s also called new spice, but never mix this up with mixed spice.
ALLSPICE IS NOT MIXED SPICE.
I seldom use all caps, but this time I couldn’t help myself. I feel passionate about getting this spicy message across.
Similar Spice Mixes To Mixed Spice
Mixed spice is very similar to a Dutch spice mix called Koekkruiden or speculaaskruiden. (Don’t ask me to pronounce those words – they’re double Dutch to me).
This blends are used to flavor food associated with the Dutch celebration of Sinterklass on December 5th each year.
Pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice in America is similar, but trust me it is different. Cinnamon is more dominant in pumpkin pie spice than in mixed spice.
German gingerbread spice has similar ingredients too, but has more star anise and cardamom than British mixed spice.
Other names for mixed spice include pudding spice, and sweet spice.
Origins Of Mixed Spice
This British spice blend boasts a long, but uncertain culinary history.
When this concoction was first created is really unknown. However, some of the Asian spices used in this blend were introduced to the British Isles by the East India Company. Founded in 1600 this English trading company’s goal was to share in the East Indian spice trade and break up the Spanish and Portuguese monopoly of this lucrative business.
New and exotic flavors were introduced to the English palate. Over the years cooks experimented with the new additions to their ingredient cupboards. However it wasn’t until the late 18th century that an official mixed spice blend appeared in a cookery book.
The table of contents of a 1795 book called “The Practice of Cookery” by Mrs. Frazer, lists mixed spices.
It is also found in Frazer’s 1820’s book called “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, Preserving.”
It also appears in “A Supplement to the Pharmacopœias” by Samuel Frederick Gray, published in 1828.
Uncertainty about when mixed spice blend first appeared in cookbooks has arisen because of the many alternative names associated with it. Some books from the 18th century refer to ‘sweet spice” which technically was probably mixed spice. Other names include pudding spice and cake spice add to the confusion.
Substitutions For Mixed Spice
The best substitution for mixed spice is the Dutch spice koekkruiden, but it’s probably just as easy to find mixed spice in the United States as it is to find this Dutch blend.
You can use pumpkin pie spice in any recipe that calls for mixed spice, but the flavors will be slightly different and not exactly provide an authentic, aromatic, mixed spice flavor profile.
Some of the ingredients like mace, might be difficult to find. If you would like to create a simple mix of spices that is relatively close to the original, just combine equal parts of ground cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Then use this blend wherever a recipe calls for mixed spice. The primary flavors of mixed spice will come through in your recipe.
However, for an authentic mixed spice blend, here’s my recipe.
Ingredients For Irish Mixed Spice For Baking
Here’s what you’ll need for making this Irish baking essential. You’ll find exact amounts in the printable recipe at the bottom of this post.
- ground allspice
- ground cinnamon
- ground nutmeg
- ground mace
- ground cloves
- ground coriander
- ground ginger
How To Make Homemade Mixed Spice
The directions for making homemade mixed spice couldn’t be simpler.
Measure out all of the spices as directed.
Use a balloon whisk to blend them all together.
Transfer the spice blend to an airtight container.
Storage of Mixed Spice
I use an airtight glass jar for my homemade mixed spice.
Old spice jar bottles can be recycled and reused for your homemade concoction. Once the jar has a tightly fitting lid it will work out well.
Wash the jar out well in hot, soapy water first. Then dip it into boiling water to help make sure it is clean. Air dry it completely before filling it with the spice mixture.
Store the spice jar in a dark cool place. A nice dry place at the bac of a kitchen cabinet or cupboard, and away from direct sunlight is best for storing spices.
It should be good to use for up to 9 months.
Printable Recipe For British or Irish Mixed Spice
Here’s the printable recipe if you’d like to add this one to your collection.
- 1 tablespoon allspice ground
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon ground
- 1 tablespoon nutmeg ground
- 2 teaspoon mace ground
- 1 teaspoon coriander ground
- 1 teaspoon ginger ground
- 1 teaspoon cloves ground
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
I hope this recipe is helpful if you’d like to create this taste of Ireland and the British Isles to add a little authentic spice to your baking.
Here are some of my baking recipes that call for mixed spice.
Happy baking to all! May all your pies, cakes and tarts be filled with festive flavor this year.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad –Irish American Mom
Pronunciation – rhymes with parade
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