I see in several recipes for spice cake to do things like "combine dry ingredients through cloves" or "add flour through cloves". What does that mean? I'm looking at this recipe. It calls for 1/2 tsp - can I use ground cloves instead of whole cloves?

  • 6
    Those parentheses you omitted are an important clue. Same with the word "the". The recipe says "combine the dry ingredients ( through cloves ) in a large bowl…". This instruction (as @Jefromi answers) takes it normal English meaning—it is not cooking jargon.
    – derobert
    Jan 13, 2012 at 21:36
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    @derobert, normal American English. British English speakers may well be equally as perplexed as chadoh. Jan 13, 2012 at 22:53
  • 1
    Move to "English Language and Usage"
    – Midhat
    Jan 14, 2012 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


It means to combine the things listed up to and including the cloves, as in "combine ingredients 4 through 11". In that recipe it's just a helpful hint to tell you where the dry ingredients stop.

The recipe is already calling for ground cloves - it mixes them into dry ingredients as-is. When using whole cloves, if you don't immediately just grind them, you generally cook them in something liquid then strain them out later. (Similar to cinnamon sticks or whole allspice.) The cinnamon and nutmeg in the recipe are also ground, not whole. If a recipe wants whole cloves, it will explicitly say, and often count them: 10 [whole] cloves.

  • So ground cloves vs. whole cloves dunt matter?
    – chadoh
    Jan 13, 2012 at 20:51
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    @chadoh: If you have a choice between using freshly-ground cloves and preground cloves, usually you'll want to pick freshly-ground, the flavor will be better. Spices lose the flavor over time, especially when ground. The exception might be when you're using a family recipe from a family member who kept his/her spices way to long (but then, I'd say still use freshly-ground but less).
    – derobert
    Jan 13, 2012 at 21:40

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