Reason for the season

Why pumpkin spice gets a whole latte love

By Merry Lycette Harrison

Nothing announces fall like the warm aroma of pumpkin spice wafting through the air from shops, restaurants, home kitchens and chilly morning commuters with their steaming hot Starbucks’ pumpkin-spice lattes in hand. A blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice, pumpkin spice aromatizes everything from soup to nuts, cookies to cocktails, pies and pastries, beer and sodas, lotions and candles, even Spam. People just can’t get enough of it this time of year.

A little history: The pumpkin is a cultivar of a squash plant, Cucurbita pepo, that originated in the Americas and has been used for thousands of years. During the Industrial Revolution, city dwellers became nostalgic for the country life they’d left behind. Pick-your-own pumpkin patches and festivals helped make the pumpkin a symbol of idealized American country farm life.

Thank goodness someone came up with the bright idea to make bland pumpkin pulp more appealing using yummy spices. In 1926, an ad for pumpkin-pie spice appeared in Bakers Review. McCormick & Co. sold the blend in the 1950s and in the ’60s, the name got shortened to “pumpkin spice.”

A Colorado coffee company called Purple Mountain Coffee served a pumpkin-pie latte in 2002, and Starbucks introduced the PSL as a seasonal menu item in 2003. Nostalgia and desire for the flavor and scent drive the seasonal popularity of the spice blend along with the urgency created by what the industry calls an LTO (limited-time offering), which is the marketing strategy that Starbucks uses.

Want to make a batch of your own pumpkin spice? It’s easy, just blend the following:

• 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons ground ginger
• 2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
• 1½ tablespoons ground allspice
• 1½ tablespoons ground cloves

Some recipes add a bit of white pepper, vanilla, pinch of cardamom, anise, fenugreek or coffee.

Clearly, the pumpkin spice business is booming. The New York Times reported that the national sales of pumpkin-flavored items reached $414 million between July 2016 and July 2017, an increase of $286 million from the same period in 2013.

If you already have pumpkin spice in your cupboard, you can join the craze with DIY home projects and recipes. Here are just a few ways to use pumpkin spice:

  • Add to apricot or apple crumble and top with whipped cream
  • Use it to flavor carrot and squash soups and purees
  • Mix into a mango or pumpkin and banana smoothie
  • Add to hot cocoa and use pumpkin spice liqueur (recipe below) in whipped cream on top rather than vanilla.
  • Mix it into carrot cake batter and/or frosting
  • Add it to banana bread
  • Use it to make glazed nuts
  • Mix into granola
  • Include the liqueur or spice in cocktails and coffees

’Tis the season to include pumpkin spice in your cooking and celebrations and give as gifts or party favors. Here are recipes to celebrate the noble spice blend.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


½ cup melted sweet cream butter
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1½ teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoons salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Cream first five ingredients together in mixer with paddle. Sift dry ingredients together, Add to wet ingredients; mix well.
Form cookies using ice cream scoop (2- 4 ounces, depending on desired size).
Bake on lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 12-13 minutes.

Sources for Quality Spices and Supplies

Spoons ’N Spice
2274 S. 1300 East.
Ste. G9, SLC

Penzeys Spices
280 E. 12300 South, Draper

Good Earth
Multiple locations


Industrial Container
1845 S. 5200 West, SLC

Liberty Heights Fresh
1290 S. 1100 East, SLC

Lee’s Marketplace
2645 N. Washington Blvd., North Ogden | 801-782-7800

Mountain Rose Herbs

—Courtesy of Moonflower
Community Cooperative

Gluten-Free pumpkin bread with pumpkin seed in white plate set on light blue background.
Vegan Pumpkin Bread:

Makes 3 loaves


4 cups flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon clove powder
2 15-ounce cans of pumpkin puree
2 cups safflower oil
¾ cups maple syrup
¾ cups water


Sift dry ingredients above together. Mix remaining 4 wet ingredients and add to dry mix. Optional: Add chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds and/or vegan chocolate chips. Pour into greased and lined pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.”

—Courtesy of Moonflower Community Cooperative

Glass of a typical Brazilian Sugarcane liqueur called cachaca and some pumpkin seed
Pumpkin Spice Liqueur: Makes 4 cups


1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
¾ teaspoon white pepper
4 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg
One 2-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
2½ cups vodka
2 cups sugar
1 cup water


In a small skillet, toast the clove, allspice, white pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg over medium heat until fragrant, 2 minutes. Transfer to a sealable quart jar with the ginger and pour in the vodka. Seal and steep for 2 days, shaking the jar every 12 hours.

After 2 days, strain out the solids and transfer them to a small saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to simmer and cook until the sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Let cool completely.

Strain the syrup into the jar with the infused vodka and shake to combine. Serve on the rocks, in a cup of coffee or stirred into your favorite cocktails.

Another idea is to poach pears in pumpkin spice liqueur and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche with a sprinkling of the spice blend on top or use the liqueur for any cake that requires a flavorful soak.

—Source: Tasting Table Test Kitchen,

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