Cardamom Coffee Cake Cupcakes

Last week I wanted to make cupcakes for someone special in my life that is going through one of life’s challenges. This special person loves coffee cake and used to make it for our little guy. As a toddler, he would even want to call her…just to ask her to make it for him… Of course, she did… So, we decided to make coffee cake cupcakes for her.

Below is my take on the classic coffee cake. I opted to spice things up with Cardamom. Cardamom pairs well with coffee (and that is what coffee cake is supposed to do).


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Cardamom Coffee Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

1/2 cup Butter, softened

1/2 cup Shortening

2 cups Sugar, divided

4 Eggs, separated

1 tablespoon Vanilla extract

1 cup Milk

3 cups Flour

1 tablespoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon, divided

1-1/2 teaspoons Cardamom, divided

1 tablespoon unsweetened Cocoa Powder

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line cupcake pans with paper cupcake liners.
  • In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon and the unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and shortening until pale and fluffy.
  • Add egg yolks, 1-1/2 cups of the sugar and vanilla extract.
  • Mix to combine, scraping down sides as necessary.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until you have soft peaks.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of cardamom.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Mixing well with each time.
  • Fold the beaten egg whites into the butter mixture.
  • Fill the cupcake pan halfway with the batter.
  • Sprinkle the batter with of the sugar mixture.
  • Fill the cupcake pan with remaining batter (until 2/3 full).
  • Sprinkle the batter with remaining sugar mixture.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Perfect Paprika Party

My grandmother, who loved to cook, would tell everyone that came to visit that she had made something “especially for you”.  As more people arrived, you realized that she loved cooking for everyone…each person was special to her…which made her extra-special…

One of the things that I enjoy most is cooking for others. It decompresses me after a busy day or a crazy week. I enjoy planning an enticing menu, preparing the food and seeing the satisfied faces as they enjoy the meal “made especially for them”.

While brainstorming ideas on what to make with the spice Paprika, I decided to create recipes for a Paprika Party! This so-called “basic spice” (which up until now has been nothing more than a mere garnish in my kitchen) has a plethora of flavors, colors and health benefits.

I hope this article inspires you to try Paprika for more than just dusting your “deviled eggs” and to make something memorable for those people in your life that are special to you.



What is Paprika?

Paprika is the powder form of the capsicum peppers (e.g., bell peppers or chili peppers). There are many varieties of Paprika peppers which are mainly grown in Hungary and Spain. The peppers are picked, dried and milled.

The Spanish were the first to create the powdered form of Paprika. When Christopher Columbus returned from his trip to the Americas, he presented the King and Queen of Spain with capsicum peppers as gifts. However, Paprika was not introduced to Hungary until the 16-17th centuries.

Nowadays, you can easily find many varieties of Paprika at your local supermarket. Like most spices, Paprika also needs to be stored in a cool and dark location away from direct sunlight. It does not have a long shelf life, so it is best to buy Paprika in small quantities.

Below is a break down on the various types of Paprika that you can choose from.


Plain Paprika is bland which is why it is often used as a garnish for deviled eggs and potato salad.


Hungarian Paprika

Depending on the type of pepper used, the flavor profile for Hungarian Paprika ranges from sweet to very hot. The color ranges from mild to bright red. The brightest red is considered to be the hottest.

There are six types of Hungarian Paprika:

1. Special quality (Különleges) – Mild flavor, Vibrant Red

2. Delicate (csípősmentes csemege) – Mild flavor, Light Red

3. Noble sweet (édesnemes) – Sweet flavor, Bright Red

4. Semi-sweet (félédes) – Sweet flavor with trace of heat

5. Rose (rózsa) – Mild flavor with trace of heat, Light Red

6. Hot (erős) – Hottest of all paprikas, Light Brown-Orange


Spanish Paprika (Also known as Pimentón)

Depending upon the amount of seeds included when milling the peppers, the flavor profile of Smoky Spanish Paprika ranges from sweet to hot.

There are three types of Spanish Paprika:

1. Dulce (sweet) – Sweet & Smoky flavor, Dark red.

2. Agridulce (bittersweet or semi-sweet) – Bitter & Sharp flavor, Dark Red

3. Picante (hot) – Hot flavor, Deep Dark Red

*Note: Be sure to read the ingredient list on the Paprika before you purchase it. Sometimes, manufacturers add either MSG or an artificial smoky flavor.


Tips for Cooking with Paprika

1. Paprika has a high sugar content. If it is cooked too long, it will become bitter.

2. Both Hot Paprika and Smoked Paprika can easily overpower your recipe. Be sure to adjust the amount of Paprika you use to suit your personal taste.

3. Paprika is a great substitute for chili powder (especially for those who love the flavor of chili powder but can do without the heat). One cool tip that I read is useful when you use too much chili powder. Basically, adding the spice Paprika will balance the heat of the chili powder without disrupting the flavor profile of what you are preparing (rule of thumb is to add double the amount of chili powder).


Nutritional Benefits

Note: Home remedies should not be tried without consulting the physician.

  • Loaded with vitamin C.
  • Aids digestion
  • Contains anti-oxidants
  • Increases metabolism
  • Clears pulmonary and nasal congestion
  • Improves blood pressure and circulation



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Paprika Party Mix

2 cups raw Almonds

1/2 cup raw Sunflower Seeds

1/2 cup Dried Cranberries

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1/4 teaspoon Hot Hungarian Paprika

1 teaspoon Sweet Paprika

1-1/2 tablespoons Sea Salt

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sea salt and paprika. Set aside.
  2. Place the almonds and the sunflower seeds in a microwavable bowl.
  3. Microwave for 3-4 minutes (in 30 second increments) until golden brown.
  4. Add dried cranberries.
  5. Drizzle the nut/seeds with olive oil and sprinkle with salt/paprika mixture.
  6. Stir to combine.
  7. Store in an air-tight container.

*Variation: Cumin pairs well with Paprika. Add 1/4 teaspoon on cumin seeds to the salt/paprika mixture.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Chocolate Paprika Fudge

12 oz Bittersweet Chocolate chips

6 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

1 14-oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Pinch of Kosher Salt

1-1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Sweet Paprika

1/2 teaspoon Unsweetened Dark Cocoa

  1. Line a 8×8 square pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk and kosher salt.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir vanilla extract.
  4. Spread chocolate mixture into the prepared pan.
  5. Sprinkle with the Paprika/Cocoa mixture.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
  7. Lift fudge out of pan and peel off the aluminium foil.
  8. Cut into 36 squares.



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spicy Beer Cocktail

(my take on a Michelada…especially for my husband)

1 ice-cold Mexican Beer

2 tablespoons of Kosher Salt

1 tablespoon of Sweet or Hot Paprika

2 tablespoons of fresh Lime Juice

1-2 dashes of your favorite Hot Sauce

1 dash of Soy Sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire Sauce

Black pepper

  1. Mix together the salt and Paprika on a small plate.
  2. Rim a glass with a little lime juice and then dip in the salt and paprika mixture to cover the top of the glass.
  3. Add lime juice, hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of black pepper.
  4. Slowly pour in beer into your prepared glass.

*Note: Not spice enough for you, add more hot sauce or Paprika.

Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Nuttella Spice-tini

1 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

2 oz. Vodka

1 teaspoon Nutella

3/4 teaspoon Sweet Paprika, divided

1/2 teaspoon Cocoa Powder

1 packet Splenda

  1. Mix together 1/2 teaspoon of Sweet Paprika, Cocoa Powder and Splenda. Set aside.
  2. Add the Chocolate Liqueur, Vodka, Nutella and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of Sweet Paprika to a Martini shaker.
  3. Whisk rigorously to blend the Nutella.
  4. Add ice and give a good shake.
  5. Rim the glass with vodka, chocolate liqueur or water.
  6. Dip glass into the Sweet Paprika, Cocoa, Splenda mixture.
  7. Carefully pour into prepared glass.

Variation:  If you do not have Nutella, swap out the 1 oz  chocolate liqueur for 1/2 oz.  Add 1/2 oz of Frangelico.


Nutmeg…Naughty or Nice? (nutmeg cookie recipes)

Decisions…decisions…  There are so many spices that remind me of the holidays. 

 Somehow, I landed on Nutmeg because not only does the spice Nutmeg enhance sweet recipes, the spice Nutmeg also enhances savory dishes.  I was really surprised to learn that the spice Nutmeg needs to be used in moderation.  It also has a lot of medicinal and cosmetic benefits.

Is it Naughty or Nice?  That is definitely a matter of opinion….Read below…You Decide.  

Below, I’ve posted a few cookie recipes.  One recipe is for Chocolate Nutmeg Amaretti  (with a sugar-free variation).  The other cookie recipe is for Spice Drops.  This recipe is my take on my husbands favorite Snowball Cookie recipe.



What is Nutmeg?

Nutmeg is not a nut.   Nutmeg is the seed from a peach-like fruit that grows on an evergreen tree which is typically harvested in Indonesia.   This peach-like fruit is not considered very tasty and is typically pickled.

Nutmeg is purchased either whole or ground (freshly ground Nutmeg is definitely more flavorful).  Like most spices, it needs to be stored in a cool, dark location.

Why is Nutmeg Naughty?

Nutmeg needs to be used in moderation.  A pinch or two per serving is okay.  However, large doses can trigger vomiting and nausea.  Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid the use of nutmeg.

Culinary Uses

Nutmeg is typically used in sweet dishes like rice pudding, fruit desserts, pancakes, waffles and cakes.   It is also enhances savory dishes…especially recipes that have greens, root vegetables, cheese and eggs.   My mother always adds Nutmeg to the cheese filling for baked lasagne and baked ziti.   So, now I do the same and it really kicks it up a notch.

Of course, with the holidays in full swing, we cannot forget about Eggnog (the recipe calls for Nutmeg).   If you have leftover Eggnog and are not sure what to do with it, check out the recipe that Southern Living Magazine published in December 2009 for Eggnog Cupcakes:

Medicinal Benefits  

Note: Home remedies should not be tried without consulting the physician.

Nutmeg is known to have strong antibacterial properties, aid in digestion, improve appetite, and combat asthma.  I also ready that it is used to relax muscles and treat acne. Nutmeg is also listed as an aphrodisiac.  



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Chocolate Nutmeg Amaretti Cookies

Yield:  About 48 cookies

2 cups Almonds (whole or slivers)
1 cup Granulated Sugar
2 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
4 tablespoons Confectioners Sugar
4 Egg Whites
good pinch of Cream of Tartar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
1 tablespoon ground Nutmeg
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
sliced almonds to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, process almonds with ½ cup of sugar until finely ground and transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Stir in cocoa powder and confectioners sugar.  Set aside.
  4. In medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
  5. Sprinkle in remaining ½ cup sugar and beat well until glossy and stiff.  
  6. Beat in almond and vanilla extracts.
  7. Fold egg whites into almond-sugar mixture.  
  8. Spoon into piping (pastry) bag fitted with plain ½ inch nozzle.
  9. Pipe 1 ½ inches rounds about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.
  10. Press an almond sliver into each cookie.
  11. Bake 12 minutes or until crisp.
  12. Cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, drizzle with melted chocolate or dip into melted chocolate and sprinkle with colored sugars or just leave plain..

Sugar-Free Variation:  Substitute the granulated sugar with Splenda.  Substitute the 4 tablespoons of confectioners sugar with 2 tablespoons of Spenda/Brown Sugar Blend.

Blogger’s Comments:  If you do not have a pastry bag, you can use a large ziploc bag and snip the corner.  



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spice Drops

Yield:  About 48 cookies

½ cup Granulated Sugar
¼ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup Shortening
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla
½ cup Butter, softened
2-1/4 cups Flour
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon ground Nutmeg  
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Cardamom
½ cup Confectioners sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Add ½ cup confectioner’s sugar to a large ziploc bag and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugars, butter and shortening.
  4. Add egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the remaining ingredients.
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture and beat until well blended.
  7. Roll heaping teaspoons of the cookie dough into balls.
  8. Place on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other.
  9. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Cool on baking sheet for 3-4 minutes.
  11. Transfer warm cookies to the ziploc back and shake to coat with confectioners sugar.  
  12. Place on wire rack to cool completely.

Variation:  Before baking, Roll the cookie dough ball into the colored sugar.  Skip the steps to roll in confectioner’s sugar.

Chocolate Coated Pumpkin Gingerbread Bon Bons

Here is a recipe that you can enjoy without the guilt! This super-moist pumpkin gingerbread is shaped into little balls and dipped in a chocolate coating.  They are amazing.  

The cake will be very moist which will make it easier to shape the cake into balls.

The calories are reduced by substituting pumpkin puree in place of eggs and butter. I also swapped out the milk with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.  This leaves room to allow for a little chocolate… It is a dessert after all…




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Chocolate Coated Pumpkin Gingerbread Bon Bons

1 15 oz. package Hodgson Mill Gingerbread Mix (100% Whole Grain)
1 15 oz. can Pumpkin Puree
1 teaspoon Gypsy World Spice Cafe’s Sweet Spice (or substitute with Pumpkin Pie Spice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
1 package Chocolate Bark Coating (12 squares)
½ teaspoon Gypsy World Spice Cafe’s Spiced Cocoa (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix, pumpkin, almond milk, vanilla extract and sweet spice on low until ingredients are blended. Then increase speed to high and mix for 3 minutes.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking pan.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely.
  7. Roll 1 tablespoon portions of cake into balls.
  8. Using instructions on package of chocolate bark coating, melt the chocolate.
  9. Stir in spiced cocoa (optional).
  10. Dip cake balls into the melted chocolate and set on wax paper to harden.
  11. Decorate with candies or nuts.

Blogger’s Comment: The cake is also very good on it’s own dusted with confectioner sugar or served with whipped cream.

Spicy Mocha Cupcakes

This week I needed to make cupcakes for a bake sale at the office to benefit a charity.  Since this bake sale was geared toward adults, I decided to go for a spicy chocolate cupcake infused with the flavor of coffee…

The below recipes reference some of my Spice Blends.  Spiced Cocoa is a blend of dark unsweetened cocoa, cayenne pepper and other spices to enhance the flavor of the cocoa and balance the cayenne pepper.  Sweet Spice is a blend of cinnamon and other unique spices.  




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spicy Mocha Cupcakes

1/3 cup half & half
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons Gypsy World Spice Cafe Spiced Cocoa
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup coffee, chilled
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips with half & half in a small bowl.  
  • Microwave chocolate chips / half&half for 25-30 seconds intervals until chocolate chips are softened.  
  • Stir in Spiced Cocoa and set aside to cool.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy.  
  • Add sugar to butter and beat for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Add eggs (one at a time).  Beat well after each egg is added.
  • In another bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.
  • Alternate adding flour and coffee to the butter/sugar mixture while mixing until well combined.
  • Stir in vanilla and melted chocolate.
  • Fill cupcake liner 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  • Transfer to wire rack to cool.
  • Frost with Sweet Spice Buttercream Frosting (see below).  
  • Decorate with chocolate covered espresso beans. (optional)

Blogger’s Comment:   If you want to try this recipe, swap out the Spiced Cocoa for 2  tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa + 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.  It won’t have the heat…but will be very tasty.


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Sweet Spice Buttercream Frosting

3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon Gypsy World Spice Cafe Sweet Spice
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a medium bowl, combine confectioners sugar, butter, milk, sweet spice and  vanilla with a mixer.
  2. Beat for 1-2 minutes until very creamy. ( Add more milk if it consistency is too thick).

 Blogger’s Comment:   If you want to try this recipe, swap out the Sweet Spice for Cinnamon.


Ali Love Cakes

My niece is getting married this December.  Recently, I attended her bridal shower.  My task was to make the bridal shower cake.  Immediately I knew that this cake had to not only be special…it had to be creative and incorporate spices (…especially since this special bride-to-be was a flower girl at my wedding).

I had read while doing my research for  my “Celebrate Cinnamon” article, that Cinnamon paired really well with dried Roses.  This sounded so romantic and inspired new sweet and savory recipes.  Below, you will find the bridal shower cake recipe that triggered  this article — “Ali Love Cakes”.   

So, dedicating this article to this young bride-to-be and her future husband….  May they be blessed with a life that is rich in love and joy….



Are Roses Edible?

Yes, Roses are edible.  The darker the rose, the more flavorful the Rose will be.  

Note:  Be sure that when you purchasing edible Rose products that you ensure that they were grown for culinary purposes (to avoid pesticides/chemicals).   

Culinary Uses

The white portion of Rose petals are bitter and it is recommended that you remove that part of the Rose petal before cooking with them.   Try adding Rose petals to your salads.  Also you can crush dried Rose petals and add them to savory or sweet dishes.  Another way to add Rose flavor is by substituting Rosewater for recipes that call for vanilla extract (or try 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 Rosewater).

If you like tea, try adding a few dried rose petals with your favorite dried tea leaves.  Check out the shop, Most Natually.  The “Love Tea” from this shop is very good.

Cosmetic Uses

Indulge in a facial steam.  Put dried Roses in a bowl.  Add boiling water and place your face over the bowl (while draping your head with a towel).  Steam for 15-20 minutes.
Take a luxurious bath.  Try adding dried Roses to your bath water or try adding dried Roses to your bath salts.

Make your own facial toner.  I’ve been a fan of witch hazel for years.  Add 1 part of dried Roses to 6 parts witch hazel.



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Ali Love Cakes

“Ali Love Cakes” are rose & cinnamon flavored pound mini-bundt cakes that were dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with lavender infused melted white chocolate and then filled with a rose, cinnamon & vanilla buttercream.  To finish the mini-bundt cake, I topped cake with gum paste Christmas Roses and Edible White Pearls.  The bride-to-be loved them…   

Check out for great cake decorating products…

1 box pound cake mix                   (I used Betty Crocker)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons Rosewater

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray mini-bundt cake pan with cooking spray.
  3. Add cake mix, milk, eggs, cinnamon and Rosewater to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Mix on low for 30 seconds.
  5. Increase mixer speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
  6. Fill each mini-bundt halfway.  Smooth tops with a spoon.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean).
  8. Remove from baking pan and cool on a wire rack.
  9. When cool, dust the mini-bundt cakes with powdered sugar.
  10. Drizzle with “Lavender White Chocolate Drizzle” (see recipe listed below)
  11. Fill the center of the mini-bundt cakes with Cinnamon-Rose Buttercream Filling  (see recipe listed below)
  12. Decorate with candies, gum paste flowers or edible roses.



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Lavender White Chocolate Drizzle

3 tablespoons half&half
1 teaspoon dried lavender (culinary use only)
1/2 bag of white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Rosewater

  1. In a small bowl, heat half&half in the microwave for 45 seconds.  
  2. Add dried lavender.  Cover with plastic wrap and steep for about 30 minutes.
  3. Heat lavender infused half&half for 1 minute.
  4. Add the white chocolate chips, Rosewater and vanilla to the lavender infused half&half.
  5. Stir until smooth.  


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Cinnamon-Rose Buttercream Filling

1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Rosewater
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pistachios (optional)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine confectioners sugar, butter, milk, ground cinnamon, Rosewater and  vanilla with a mixer.
  2. Beat for 1-2 minutes until very creamy. ( Add more milk if it consistency is too thick).
  3. Stir in chopped pistachios (optional)

Recipe – Festive Fall Mini Cookie Cupcakes


It has happened to all of us.   Your child comes home from school with a note that says that you need to send in some baked goods for the next day.   You think about what to make …and start searching  your pantry to see what you have to work with… 

After all, who wants to run out to the grocery store?  ….Especially after a busy day!

With all the Fall Parties at school this time a year, I developed the recipe just in case this happens…  My son and I were brainstorming some ideas.   They love helping with this blog project.  (Probably because they like eating the goodies..LOL)   Anyway, he asked if I could make a make a cookie that was crispy and chewy at the same time…  In my pantry I had a box of purchased cookie mix….  We were good to go…. The recipe we created resulted in mini-cupcakes that had a cookie top and a cupcake bottom.    He loved them and took them for snack every day last week. 




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Festive Fall Mini Cookie Cupcakes

Yields:  About 24 Mini Cookie Cupcakes

1 box Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix

1 large Egg

1 stick Butter, softened

2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder

3 teaspoons Cinnamon, divided

2 tablespoons Water

1/2 container Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

Festive Fall Sprinkles (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a mini muffin pan with liners.  
  3. Open the cookie mix up and set aside (or toss) the spice packet that came with the cookie mix.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the cookie mix, egg, butter, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon , cocoa powder and water until well blended.
  5. Fill muffin liners about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.  They will be dimpled on top.
  7. Let the mini cupcakes cool on a wire rack.
  8. Meanwhile, use a spatula to scoop out 1/2 container of pre-made chocolate fudge frosting into a small bowl.
  9. Stir in vanilla and remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
  10. When cookie cupcakes are cool, top with frosting and sprinkles.

Celebrate Cinnamon!

As we approach the holiday season, I thought this would be the perfect time to blog about the spice Cinnamon.   It is a popular ingredient in traditional recipes for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas…  We sprinkle Cinnamon  on our oatmeal or applesauce and often use it as a staple ingredient for making pies, cookies and cakes.  There is a lot more that Cinnamon brings to the table…

How is Cinnamon Harvested?

Cinnamon is harvested from inner bark of Cinnamon trees which are native to South East Asia.  The inner bark is stripped of the wood portion.  Then during the drying process, the remaining portion of the inner bark strip curls into rolls, called “quills” (or “sticks”).   

What is the Difference Between Cinnamon and Cassia?

Cinnamon and Cassia are harvested from two different trees.  These two spices are similar in smell (Cassia is more aromatic than Cinnamon).  However, they are very different in both appearance and taste. The thickness of the Cassia quills are much thicker than that of the Cinnamon quills (which are paper-thin).  They are sometimes sold interchangeably, so, some countries even have laws to prevent Cassia from being sold labeled as Cinnamon.  

How should Cinnamon be Stored?

Cinnamon (ground and quills) need to be stored in an airtight container and placed in a dark location.   Buy Cinnamon in small quantities because it quickly will lose its flavor and aroma.  So, if you have had that container of Cinnamon in your spice cabinet for more than a few months — it is time to replace it.  

Cooking with Cinnamon

Cinnamon can be described as sweet, fragrant and aromatic.  It is often stereotyped as being only used in sweet recipes.  Most people  do not realize just how savvy Cinnamon can be.   It can be used for savory as well as sweet recipes.  Be sure to check out the savory recipe that I posted on 09/16/2010 for Moroccan Inspired Slow Cooked Chicken & Chick Pea Stew which uses a Spice Blend of mine that features the spice Cinnamon  (

  • Cinnamon quills (sticks) should be used when you want to infuse liquid with Cinnamon flavor.
  • Cinnamon powder is used with other ingredients to flavor baked goods, spice blends, and beverages.

Here are some ways you can easily add Cinnamon to your everyday cooking:

  • Add to hot oatmeal or cold cereal
  • Mix with peanut butter
  • Add to warm milk with honey.
  • Stir into plain yogurt.
  • Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.
  • Add to your post-workout shake.
  • Add to coffee grinds before brewing

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Recently, cinnamon has had more attention due to all the health benefits that can be gained by incorporating Cinnamon into your diet.   Below I’ve listed some topics that I read about.   There is a lot of great information and articles out there…if you want to google and read more about them.

  • Aid in Digestion
  • Treat toothaches
  • Fight Common Cold and Sore Throat
  • Fight Bad Breath
  • Antioxidant & Antimicrobial properties
  • Increase Alertness.


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spiced Pumpkin Soup

15 oz can Pumpkin Puree
14 oz can Chicken Stock
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Corsican Herb Blend
1/8-1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Sumac Pepper
Splenda (or Sugar) to taste
Salt to taste

  1. In a large saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.   Simmer for 5 minutes.  
  2. Serve in mugs warm or chilled garnished with chopped chives.

 Blogger’s Comments:   

This is a really healthy and easy recipe to pull together to serve as a starter or at lunch with grilled sandwiches.  The Cinnamon and Cayenne combination is really scrumptious.  Each serving is about 50 calories, so it is a great snack too!

Corsican Herb Blend is a mixture of herbs frequently used in Corsican cooking.  You can substitute Thyme.  Sumac Pepper is a blend of Sumac and ground black pepper.  You can substitute black pepper or lemon pepper.


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Cinnamon Sangria Hot Toddy

4 Apple Cider Tea Bag
4 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
4 oz red wine
apple slices
ground cinnamon (to garnish)

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  2. Add Apple Cider Tea Bags and Cinnamon sticks to the boiling water.
  3. Steep for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove Tea Bags and Cinnamon sticks.  
  5. Add wine to the brewed tea.
  6. Pour into 4 mugs.  Garnish with apple slices and sprinkle with ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick if want.

Blogger’s Comments:   

I could not decide on whether to post a recipe on Mulled Wine or Mulled Apple Cider.  This recipe is a result of the decision to combine what I liked about both.   It is good warm or chilled.  

Another variation would be to use 3 ounces of wine and 1 ounce or orange flavored vodka (to get some citrus flavor into the mix).  There are plenty of combinations to try by switching out the type of tea, vodka or wine. 

Have fun with it!


Cookbook Recipe – Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (minus 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine flour, nutmeg, baking powder, cocoa and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter with 1/3 cup of sugar until pale in color.
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  5. Stir in dry ingredients until you have a smooth mixture.
  6. On a plate, mix together the cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  7. Roll dough to balls that are about the size of walnuts.  
  8. Roll each dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place onto greased baking pan.
  9. Bake for about 15 minutes.  Rest on baking sheet for 1 minute then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Source:  How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson  

Blogger’s Comments:   

First and foremost, if you do not have this cookbook, it is one you should have. The recipes are great.  However, I do have to say that I almost chose to not include this recipe with this blog article.   Snickerdoodle cookies tend to be a dry cookie and this cookie is not very sweet. Typically, if I am going to indulge in a cookie, it has to be worth the calories.   At the urging of my taster’s I decided to include the recipe because they really liked it.  They also tend to like the butter cookies that are dry (like Snowballs).  So, if you like that sort of cookie, you will like this one too.

Also, want to note here that I decided to flatten each cookie with a glass before baking.

Taster’s Comments:    They tasted even better the next day.  

Look out for mini-articles which will be posted over the next few weeks featuring Cinnamon.

Hope you try some of these recipes and enjoy them as much as we did.


Provocative Peppercorns!


 As we continue on though the Back the Basic series, this article will focus on Peppercorns.  

 Why use an adjective like provocative to describe Peppercorns?

Well, provocative is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate” (listing synonyms as “charged… edgy…exciting…inciting…stimulating”).  Peppercorns, either ground or whole, add that background heat to a dish that leaves the palate with that tingly sensation…and has health benefits (listed below) that charge the body!

 The recipes at the end of the article are recipes that I have either chosen or created to demonstrate that you can use Peppercorns in non-traditional ways to enhance your culinary experience.


History of Peppercorns

Peppercorns have been used for over 4000 years.  It quickly gained popularity and value.  This was because Peppercorns easily enhanced food to make it seem fresher than it actually was as well as added zing and heat to otherwise bland food.   Peppercorns were often used as a commodity which is why the spice trade grew and many explorers were tasked with finding more sources for Peppercorns.  Due to the unstable currency systems, landlords often requested to be paid their rent with Peppercorns in place of currency.


Peppercorn Harvesting

Peppercorns are typically grown in India.  However, Peppercorns are imported from India as well as Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.   The pepper plant grows small flowers which become green berries that turn pink when ripe.   These berries are typically harvested when they are green.  The green peppercorns are dried and result in a black color.  White peppercorns are actually created by removing the outer skin of the peppercorn.  

Flavor Breakdown

  • Green Peppercorn -> Flavor is Hot ( However More Subtle than Black, White, or Pink)
  • Black Peppercorn -> Flavor is Warm &  Full-Bodied
  • Pink Peppercorn   -> Flavor is Sweet, Berry, Fruity with Delayed Heat
  • White Peppercorn -> Flavor is Hotter, Sharper then Green, Black or Pink


Health Benefits to Peppercorns

  • Powerful anti-oxidant.
  • Promotes mental clarity
  • Combats fatigue and tiredness
  • Increases metabolism
  • Promotes Digestion & calms stomach
  • Essential oil of black pepper added into oils used to treat aching, painful joints
  • Used in teas with mint to combat colds, viral infections and flu.
  • Added to mouthwashes to treat sore throats.



Snack Recipe – Peppered Caramel Corn

  • 1  (12-oz.) package Buttery Toffee Popcorn with Peanuts
  • 1/4  teaspoon  coarse Black Pepper

  1. Microwave popcorn with peanuts in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 2 minutes, stirring at 30-second intervals.
  2. Stir in Black Pepper.
  3. Spread mixture in an even layer in a lightly greased jelly roll pan.
  4. Let cool 10 minutes; break into pieces.
  5. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Source -> Southern Living, OCTOBER 2007


Blogger’s Comments:  

I actually cut this recipe out several years ago and was excited to finally make this.   Microwave time is dependent on your microwave.  You will know it is ready to be peppered when it gets gooey and sticky.  I increased the amount of pepper to 1 teaspoon.   This is a great recipe and the variations are endless.  I think this would be great with a cinnamon based spice or with cayenne pepper….

Taster’s Comments: 

My tasters really liked this and snacked on it all weekend…



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Corsican Herbed and Peppered Goat Cheese

  • 4-oz log of Goat Cheese
  • 1  tablespoon coarse Black Pepper
  • 1-1/2  teaspoons Corsican Herb Blend

  1. Mix together the Black Pepper and Corsican Herb Blend
  2. Pour the Pepper/Herb mixture onto a flat surface (wax paper, plate, etc)
  3. Roll the Goat Cheese log on the mixture to cover
  4. Serve with water crackers (or cracker of your choice)


Blogger’s Comments:  

I like to use goat cheese for appetizers and have to definitely say that the flavor combination of the Goat Cheese, with the Herbs and Black Pepper was awesome.   Corsican Herb Blend is a unique blend of herbs commonly called for in Corsican recipes.

Taster’s Comments: 

This was a big hit with the tasters.   One taster commented that it was “addictive”…


Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup

This recipe is a nice thing to have in the refrigerator.  It has many uses.  The recipes that follow this all call for Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar/Splenda Blend
  • 1 tablespoon Peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coarse Black Pepper
  1. Put all ingredients into a heavy saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain into  an airtight container and keep refrigerated.




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spiced Espresso Brownie Cupcake

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 box Brownie Mix
  • 1/3 cup strongly brewed Coffee, chilled
  • 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tablespoon coarse Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Gypsy Sweet Spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Ganache Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3 tablespoons Half & Half
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend
  • 1 tablespoon strongly brewed Coffee, chilled 
  1.  Mix the cupcake ingredients with a spatula until well blended.
  2. Pour batter into cupcake liners until 2/3 full.
  3. Bake 25-30 minutes until set.  Cool on wire rack.
  4. Melt chocolate chips with half & half in the microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate chips soften.
  5. Add Peppercorn Syrup, Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend, Coffee.  Whisk until creamy.
  6. When cupcakes have cooled completely, cover tops of cupcakes with about 1-1/2 tablespoons of chocolate ganache.  Top with chocolate covered espresso beans.
  7. Chill until set.   Save remaining ganache for other recipes.


Blogger’s Comments:  

Have fun when making cupcakes.   The craft stores all have great cupcake liners.  I chose a cheetah print for my cupcakes.  

Taster’s Comments: 

My taster had one when first frosted and another after it had been chilled.  They said the flavor was better when it was chilled.



Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Spicy Pepper Martini

  • 1/2 teaspoon Zest of a Lemon, divided
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1-oz Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup
  • 4-oz Vodka
  • 2-oz Vermouth
  1. Put the ingredients (except zest) in a shaker with some ice.
  2. Give a good shake.
  3. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with reserved zest.


Blogger’s Comments:  

I thought this was a little bit too spicy for my palate (and I love black pepper).   Next time, I may add a splash of diet cola.

Taster’s Comments: 

My taster thought it was great and finished mine!    I guess this time, the drink was not too girly.





Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Peppered Strawberry Orange Martini

  • 1-oz Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup
  • 4-oz Vodka
  • 2-oz Orange flavored Vodka
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar-Free Strawberry Preserves
  • Slices of Lime
  1. Put the ingredients (except lime) in a shaker with some ice.
  2. Give a good shake.
  3. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with reserved lime slices.


Blogger’s Comments:  

I loved this one!  Strawberries and Peppercorns are a classic combination…  So, thought this might be the drink for me since the other one was too spicy.


I hope you try some of these recipes…

If you haven’t already, please take the time to subscribe to this blog.

Seeking Sumac…

Welcome to the debut article on the Gyspy World Spice Cafe blog. 
Be sure to check out the “About” section to learn more about the author,
the reason for the blog and what this blog will be all about… 

Why choose Sumac for the debut article?  
I love to cook! I am always searching out new recipes and ingredients to try. Recently, I’ve read and viewed recipes that have the spice ingredient called Sumac. In fact, on one show recently, a contestant on a “cook off” pulled Sumac out and called it their secret ingredient. That was enough to spark my interest enough to try this spice. First I checked out my local grocery store and upscale markets. No luck there. It was time to take the research online…  
What did I learn?  


First and foremost, be very careful when buying the spice Sumac. Always buy the spice Sumac from a reputable source. You do not want to have it confused with an the ornamental Sumac shrub grown in America that has inedible poisonous white berries (aka Poison Oak).      

The spice Sumac is grown in the Middle East and in parts of Italy. It has dark red berries that are sold as whole berries or as dried coarsley ground. It has a tart, fruity taste and the the smell is only slightly aromatic. This spice has been used for over 2,000 years ( mainly in Arabic cuisine as well in Turkey, Greece and Lebanon). North American Indians were known to use the spice Sumac to make a beer-like beverage.  Typically the spice Sumac is used as a souring agent. It is often used as a substitute for lemons. It pairs well with grilled meats & fish, rice, beans, vegetables, marinades and salad dressings. It is especially well known for being excellent with tomatoes. Hummus is often served with a dusting of Sumac…. Hmmm. I thought it was Paprika…  

I was very surprised to read about the spice Sumac’s medicinal uses and health benefits. It is known to have the affect to calm your stomach, promote digestion and reduce fever. I also read that some believe it to contain antioxidants and possess antimicrobial properties.  

Finally Finding Sumac… 

Empowered with all this information, I continued my search for the spice Sumac. While out and about with the family, we found that a new Mid-Eastern store had recently opened at a local shopping center. We all went inside to check it out and asked about Sumac — THEY HAD IT! After leaving the store, I carried my my purchase like I scored a treasure. Before we even got to the car, I had already opened the container to smell and taste the Sumac. It was pleasant and slightly tart. It was definitely not overpowering or dominant in either flavor or taste.
Cooking with Sumac

The next day, I hit the cookbooks and brainstormed ways to thread this new spice into my family meals over the next few weeks. I’ve incorporated the spice Sumac in breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer and even dessert dishes. I tried it on eggs, added it to both Pizza Sauce and Marinara Sauce, used it in hummus (adding a dusting on the top too), and on vegetables. It is very flexible and I think the best way to describe the spice Sumac is that is in my opinion it is a “flavor enhancer”. It takes food to the next level without you realizing it. It is a background flavor that leaves you wondering hmmmm this is good and I’m not sure why… At this point, I cannot imagine my spice cabinet without the spice Sumac.  

Traditional Recipe # 1 – Za’atar 
This traditional spice blend is used on vegetables and flatbread. You can mix it with olive oil or yogurt to make a very good dip.        

2 tablespoons dried thyme   

1 tablespoon sumac     

2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted     

1/2 teaspoon table salt       

Mix all ingredients in a small container with a lid. Give it a good shake. 


Traditional Recipe #2 – Warm Chickpea and Swiss Chard Salad with Sumac      

9 oz. dried chickpeas      

1/2 cup olive oil      

1 onion, cut into thin wedges      

2 tomatoes      

1 teaspoon sugar      

2 garlic cloves, chopped      

3 lbs swiss chard      

3 tablespoons fresh mint      

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice   

1-1/2 tablespoons ground sumac       

  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 3/4 hours, or until tender. Drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes, or until soft and just starting to turn brown. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and dice the flesh. Add to the pan with the sugar, cinnamon and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
  3. Wash the swiss chard and dry with paper towel. Add to the tomato mix with the chickpeas; cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the swiss chard wilts. Add the mint, lemon juice and sumac; season and cook for 1 minute. Serve at once. 

   Blogger’s Comment: I chose to use only 1/4 cup of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper…   

Taster Comments:   One taster commented “This stuff is great!”.  Another taster commented “Love It!” and ate two servings.     

Source:  Taste of the Mediterranean Step-By-Step by Bay Books            



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe –  Sumac Scented Cherry Almond Chocolate Bark


12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips   

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon      

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped      

1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped finely      

1-1/2 teaspoons sumac, divided       

  1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Place the chocolate chips into a medium sized bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the chips have softened up. Stir until smooth.Stir in cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of sumac.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate mixture onto the wax paper. Using a spatula, evenly spread the chocolateSprinkle the cherries and almonds on top. Using an off-set spatula, gently press into the chocolate.
  4. Dust the chocolate with the remaing 1/2 teaspoon of sumac. 
  5. Chill until set. Break into smaller pieces and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Variation: If you like a creamier texture, add 1-2 oz of half/half to the chocolate chips (before melting). Then add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract too if you like. It will take longer to set…         

 Taster Comments: One taster asked if I had added Cherry Juice as they had picked up on the fruity flavor of the Sumac. My younger tasters, got caught eating too much of the chocolate… they had it on their faces when I caught them …     

Upcoming Articles       

Working on developing my own spice blends. The next few articles will continue with the Sumac theme and be about the Sumac Spice blends.     You will also see mini-articles to give some other tips and facts about the Spice Scene…