The Pleasures of Cinnamon: 5 Cinnamon Desserts

Cinnamon’s attraction seems to be universal. Everywhere, people cook with it, perfume with it, flavor liqueurs and mask foul medicinal tastes with it. Learn more about this versatile spice and discover our five delicious cinnamon desserts.

| December/January 1997


Cinnamon takes many forms. The small double quills next to the plate are Indonesian cassia; the rest of the quills are Ceylon cinnamon. The piece of bark is Saigon cassia, and the powders, left to right, come from Vietnam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), China, and Indonesia. The plate holds cassia buds; the dried leaves are Chinese cassia, and the fresh are Ceylon ­cinnamon. Also shown are cones of Mexican brown sugar, called­ ­piloncillo.

In this season of short days, sparse warmth, and brittle nerves, stop a moment and ponder the pleasures of cinnamon. Even if your thoughts drift no farther than the kitchen, cinnamon’s warmth and sweet fragrance will buoy your spirits, revive memories of feasts with friends and family, and perhaps even encourage visions of others yet to come.

5 Cinnamon Desserts to Try

• Fezanjan
• Medivnyk
• Cinnamon-Pecan Brittle
• Jalapeño Spoon Bread
• Rum Raisin Ice Cream 

Cinnamon: A Versatile Spice

Few other spices marry so well with both sweet and savory dishes or bridge the gap between sweet and sour or fiery and bland. Cinnamon is fundamental to peppery spice blends throughout the world, including Chinese five-spice powder, Indian garam masala, Ethiopian berbere, Moroccan ras al hanout, Middle Eastern baharat, Georgian kneli suneli, and in the New World, Mexican moles and southwestern chili powders. All these blends complement the taste of savory grain, vegetable, meat, and poultry dishes. And that’s just a start, for cinnamon really comes into its own when it flavors the sweeter spectrum of foods: holiday breads, cakes, fruit tarts, cookies, ice cream, and chocolate.

Cinnamon’s attraction seems to be universal. Everywhere, people cook with it, perfume with it, flavor liqueurs and soft drinks with it, mask foul medicinal tastes with it. Even some toothpastes and chewing gums contain cinnamon’s warm bite.

The Cinnamon Group

The sweet spice we know as cinnamon is the inner bark of several species of the genus Cinnamomum, a member of the laurel family (Lauraceae). The bark, and in some species, the flower buds as well, contain a high concentration of cinnamaldehyde, the compound that defines the taste of cinnamon. The presence of the same compound in cinnamon basil and other unrelated plants gives them their similar spicy taste.

Cinnamon trees are native to Southeast Asia, China, Burma, and India, and most still grow there wild. Four species are cultivated as well and are important in the spice trade:

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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