While “baking” spices—including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, ground ginger, star anise, and cardamom—are used all over the world in any number of sweet and savory dishes, as the year draws to a close, we can’t help but want to bake them into tantalizing cakes, pies, and cookies. But what is it about them that makes any kitchen feel instantly warm and cozy?
It wasn’t until the middle ages that Europeans had access to spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and even pepper—all products of the spice trade with Asia. While mostly grown in tropical regions, in medieval Europe, it became advisable to consume these sorts of heady, pungent spices during freezing winter months to keep constitutions warm and healthy. A physician in the 13th century suggested that these spices would aid digestion, and provide balance to the body’s “four humors” during brutal winters. We still think of them as “warming” to this day.
No matter how you use them, though, there’s no beating the smell of a decadent spice cake wafting from the oven on a cold winter’s day. Here are 13 recipes to keep the spice coming all winter long.