September 22 is the best day of the year. Why? Because it’s the official start of pumpkin spice season…also known as fall. “I was so excited about pumpkin spice season that I bought pumpkin spice yogurt in August,” says self-described pumpkin spice enthusiast Blanche Joslin. Joslin—a graduate student in Toronto—raves, “I LIVE for the pumpkin spice muffins with cream cheese. The Tim Horton’s ones are the best but Starbucks has a good runner up.” Joslin’s not the only one who looks forward to pumpkin spice season all year. In 2015, over $500 million in pumpkin spice products was sold in the U.S., and the craze has only continued to grow since then.
So why does fall bring out the inner pumpkin spice enthusiast in all of us?
Pumpkin spice just smells delicious.
According to the McCormick jar in my spice rack, pumpkin pie spice contains an aromatic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves, which has been around since the 1600s when a recipe appeared in the book The Compleat Cook: Expertly Prescribing the Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish, or French, for Dressing of Flesh and Fish, Ordering of Sauces, or Making of Pastry. I admit, there’s nothing better than waking up to the scent of my favorite pumpkin spice coffee brewing. But while the spices in my McCormick bottle are real, it turns out that the components responsible for the aroma of most pumpkin spice products are synthetic—and designed to trick your brain into wanting more.
Sugar is the real culprit.
When it comes to most pumpkin spice consumables, sugar is the real reason we become addicted. The ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte, which started the whole pumpkin spice craze way back in 2003, contains over 50 grams of sugar in the grande size alone. Sugar basically hijacks your brain, triggering a release of dopamine—the hormone that makes us feel good. The more sugar we eat, the higher the amount of dopamine that needs to be released in order for dopamine receptors to signal to our brains that we’ve been rewarded for our behavior. So, you might have started your PSL addiction by getting a tall every now and then, but by the end of pumpkin spice season, you could be downing three or four ventis a week to satisfy your craving.
Get your fix the healthy way.
The blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves is actually pretty great for overall health. Cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease. Ginger and nutmeg can reduce inflammation. Clove can even help ease pain when applied topically. Instead of splurging on calorie- and sugar-laden prepackaged treats, consider getting your pumpkin spice fix naturally with my take on Grandma’s Pumpkin Spice Roll, a straightforward and crafty recipe featured below.
Pumpkin spice is here to stay.
Just like Charlie and Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of fall for the first taste of pumpkin spice. It doesn’t look like the pumpkin spice trend is going away anytime soon, and an increasing number of products are embracing the pumpkin spice trend, much to Joslin’s joy. “I’m ordering pumpkin spice nail polish as soon as it’s available.”
Grandma’s Pumpkin Spice Roll
You’ll need: A cookie sheet, parchment paper, blender, and mixer For the cake: –3 eggs –¾ cup pure maple syrup –2 teaspoons ground cinnamon –1 teaspoon ground ginger –½ teaspoon nutmeg –? cup puréed pumpkin –¾ cup self-rising flour For the filling: –1 cup granulated sugar of choice (I like to use Pyure Stevia for baking) –One 8 ounce package cream cheese –4 tablespoons salted butter –½ teaspoon real vanilla extract Whip it up: –Preheat oven to 350 degrees. –Beat the eggs at medium speed for 5 minutes, gradually adding in the maple syrup. Add in pumpkin, followed by flour, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour mixture onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. –Blend granulated sugar on high in blender for 30 seconds. Sprinkle liberally onto a sheet of parchment paper. –Once it’s finished baking, immediately flip the pumpkin cake onto the parchment paper. Roll up (longways or you’ll have a HUGE pumpkin roll) and let cool completely. –Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until smooth. Unroll the cake carefully and spread the filling on the cake. Re-roll the cake and place it in the refrigerator overnight before serving. –Cut and enjoy your synthetic-free, fall feel-good treat!