Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Make your own 'mixed spice' for British baking

Many British winter baking recipes (Yorkshire parkin, mince pies, Christmas cake, bread and butter pudding..), and a few spring ones (Welsh cakes, some hot cross bun recipes..) call for a mysteriously imprecise ingredient named 'mixed spice'. This is a particularly British mix, which is different to 'allspice' and different again to '5 spice'. How confusing. It has a warm, exotic fragrance, redolent of Christmas and mulled wine. It seems that no Japanese supermarkets sell the particular British blend. Why would they?

Cinnamon, coriander, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

What is a Brit away from home, hankering for sticky toffee pudding recipe that calls for mixed spice to do? Well, you could do worse than buying a jar of American pumpkin pie spice, more readily available in Japan - the 4 ingredients found in most pumpkin pie spice blends are also the base of the British mixed spice - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Or you can make your own! This also has the benefit of you being able to alter the amounts of the spices in the mix to suit your personal preferences, and will make your dishes a bit more uniquely yours.

For about 4 teaspoons worth of mixed spice, enough for just a couple of bakes:
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • About 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp allspice powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
You could also add some ground caraway seeds, a little powdered mace, a ground cardamon pod, ground fenugreek, maybe a little white pepper. Cloves and mace are quite strong and can dominate the mix if you use too much, if you're increasing the amount of either of these go slowly and add a bit at a time.

Mixed spice mountains

Make as much or as little as you like using a baker's percentage-like calculation where instead of flour, the cinnamon is used as the 100% base to calculate the amounts of the other ingredients:
  • 100% cinnamon powder
  • 100% ground coriander
  • 80% ground nutmeg
  • 50% ginger powder
  • 50% allspice powder
  • 25% ground cloves

Which, for about 40g of mixed spice (8-16 bakes) would be:
  • 10g cinnamon powder
  • 10g ground coriander
  • 8g ground nutmeg
  • 5g ginger powder
  • 5g allspice powder
  • 2.5g ground cloves

The resulting mix might be a little milder than the version you can buy ready-mixed at supermarkets in the UK, so see how it goes in your baking and use a little more than your recipes suggest if you find it is too delicate.

Ground spices don't keep potent for very long either - make sure your newly mixed spice is kept in a cool dark place and stored in an air-tight container like a clean old jam jar. Store for about 6 months and make a new batch after that.

That's clove powder masquerading as a jar olives on the left

If you want to buy your spices in bulk for less than they'd cost you at an international supermarket, try Spice Home behind Roppongi Hills, near Cafe 8, there is also Jasmine mini market near the tennis courts in Moto Azabu, or make a trip to Hyakunincho, just outside Shin Okubo station, which is becoming a veritable Little India of spice shops.

The next level of dedication to British baking might have you grating whole nutmeg nuts and grinding your own coriander seeds etc. For now though, this should be a quick enough fix to solve your hot cross bun craving.


  1. Perfect. Have been buying mine from the local English bits and bobs shop, where everything's overpriced and out of date. Not anymore!

  2. Actually, I had the same problem with self-raising flour, in that there's only one brand available here and it's astonishingly, revoltingly salty, so I did some Googling and found a recipe for making one's own. It's just 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

  3. I'd never thought about self raising flour being such a strange product until I lived abroad. It's silly really, needing to buy two different types of flour.

    Your ratio is a little saltier to the one I've been using: (half way down, hmm maybe I should break it out to its own handy page. I could do a whole 'make your own' section! Make your own marzipan, your own candied peel..!)

    Annnd you can make your own baking powder with baking soda and cream of tartar powder, though I wouldn't recommend it as ready made baking powders are twice-acting (with liquid and then the heat of the oven), whereas I think baking soda might react just the once.

  4. Just found your blog trying to find Ground Mixed Spiced recipes...
    we are getting rather low... my wife having just made some mincemeat for the forthcoming mince tart season!!
    And I've just made some Apple Bhajis...
    On a troll round the various recipes I came on Spice Parisienne on the Canadian Kraft Foods site...
    Either Kraft make something totally different to the Spice Parisienne we get here in France, or someone's got confused...
    They class it the same as Mixed Spice and give a DIY list in the same proportions as yourself...
    Spice Parisienne is used in Pain Epice and is much less spicy than Ground Mixed Spice.

    My wife has had to go back to the UK this week, so a packet will be procured and we'll be OK for a couple of years...
    but she told me to check the spice rack we bought when we first got the house...
    this is left in the old bit for guests to use...
    it ia a Schwartz set of herbs and spices...
    the ingredients at the bottom of the bottle [no quantities, naturally] are...
    cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves.
    But all the recipies I've found give proportions similar to yours...
    but you are the only one to mention caraway [carvi here in France]....
    and I can smell it when I open the bottle...
    so it must be quite high on the list...
    I can feel a blogpost for "De la Bonne Bouffe" coming on here...
    a comparison of the recipes...
    common quantities...
    extras, etc.

    I'm going to enjoy experimenting....
    first some Spiced Pumpkin icecream...

  5. Hello Tim! Japan and France.. it seems that expat Brits the world over must have the same culinary puzzles to solve when it comes to traditional-style stuff from home.

    I rather like a bit of caraway in the mixed spice, though it is very strong as you say.
    I was actually rather shocked the first time I realised all the savoury types of spices that were in some brands of British 'mixed spice' (and not in the American pumkin pie spice brands) - corriander and the like, that I'd always associated with curries. It's wonderful!

  6. I have given my Welsh cake recipe to my Facebook friends, but of course those non-UK friends asked what goes into mixed spice. I came acroos yours here and must say is seems the most sensible so far. As a matter of interest, Schwartz gives the following information: Schwartz mixed spice: Cassia (40%), Coriander Seed (38%), Caraway, Ginger, Cloves. That is the first time I have seen Cassia mentioned in a mixed spice recipe and for it to be so much was quite surprising. Note there is no cinnamon, which could be the reason I do not particularly like Schwartz mixed spice. Thanks again for sharing your tried-and-tested recipe.

  7. Hi Janet, thanks for the kind and insightful comment. For a long time I thought that cassia was the same thing as cinnamon, since it's listed as the main ingredient in some cinnamon powders, but since learned that it's a cheaper substitute that tastes similar but has different qualities. There is always something new for me to learn. :)