The process of cooking spices and sweeteners together into a syrup is as old as recorded culinary history. Fruit juices have been reduced to syrup and mixed with spices for thousands of years, and the invention of refined sugar made that process even easier.
Sweet spiced syrups make helpful ingredients for desserts, particularly when used as an icing or garnish. Flour-based desserts like cakes or donuts (and other deep-fried pastries) absorb the sweetness and flavor of drizzles and glazes exceptionally well. Spiced syrups also make flavorful additions to homemade cocktails, shrubs, and sodas.
To make a spiced syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a pot on the stove and simmer with your favorite spices. (Alternatively, try other sweeteners like honey, maple syrup,molasses, or fruit syrups like date or pomegranate molasses.) Ground spices will infuse faster with a sharper flavor, while whole spices will take a little longer, but will be rounder and more subtle. Strain the syrup through a sieve or cheesecloth (depending on the texture of spices) into a bottle or jar, and store in the refrigerator for up to a couple months.
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Mix honey with cinnamon and use to sweeten tea or spread on toast.
To make a spiced icing, grind cardamom seeds, star anise, ginger, and cinnamon and simmer in water for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the spices, then mix the infused water with confectioners sugar until the mixture reaches the consistency of pancake batter. Drizzle over cakes and cookies and allow the icing to set, about 10 minutes in the refrigerator or 30 minutes at room temperature.