Cinnamon: the comfort spice

Alabama Living Magazine

One of the treats that baker Karen Preuss remembers from her childhood is buttered toast, topped with sugar and cinnamon. “It was my favorite thing as a child,” says the owner of Fennel & Figs, a Montgomery-based bakery. “I would make it in the toaster, then put the butter, cinnamon and sugar on top.”  The smell of cinnamon brings back thoughts of her grandparents and childhood, “so it’s very familiar and comfortable.”

Amber Anderson, owner and baker of FPH Bakery in Union Springs, agrees. “You think about cinnamon and it gives you that homey, warm feeling.” 

Both bakers love to use cinnamon in the food they prepare, from baked goods to spice blends to savory dishes such as chili and stews. “It’s a versatile spice,” says Preuss, “and everyone thinks about it this time of year. It’s a ‘warm’ spice, so even if you’re not baking, it brings a warmth of flavor to whatever you’re making.”

The fun thing about cinnamon is that it comes from the bark of a tree, she notes, “and some products also use the leaves.”  Indonesia, China, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are the main producers of cinnamon, which can be bought in ground form or in sticks, which come from the inner bark of the tree which is dried and cut for sale. 

   Anderson says while cinnamon rolls are a top item at her bakery, she also does a bread pudding with a bourbon sauce and cinnamon is a key ingredient. Her lunchtime pork tenderloin has a fig sauce spiced with cinnamon. “I also put a pinch of cinnamon in chili,” she says. For a “wow” factor, she sprinkles cinnamon on top of her apple spice cake. Her snickerdoodle cookies, everyone’s favorite cinnamon-based cookie, are a big seller.

   Preuss uses cinnamon in her granola, cakes and muffins, and makes a line of spices, many of which, such as baharat (a Middle Eastern spice blend) include cinnamon. “Almost every spice blend from the Middle East has cinnamon in them,” she says. “It’s also a key ingredient in chai.”

   So pour yourself a cup of mulled cider, add a cinnamon stick, and sit by the fire. Or channel your inner child and make some cinnamon toast. You don’t have to wait for breakfast to be comforted!  — Lenore Vickrey

Monkey Biscuit Bread is a sweet treat that I’ve been making since I was a kid.  Biscuit pieces are rolled in cinnamon and sugar and baked with a caramel glaze.  You can cut it like a cake, or pick at it by the piece. It has a warm cinnamon flavor and you make it with homemade biscuit dough or store-bought canned biscuits. Either way, you’ll love its simple goodness. For more recipes, visit –Brooke Burks

Monkey Biscuit Bread

Photo by The Buttered Home

Biscuit dough:

4 cups self-rising flour

1/3 cup Crisco shortening

1/3 cup cold, cubed butter

2 cups buttermilk


4 cans prepared biscuit dough

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare homemade biscuit dough and flatten to a disc. Cut into small 3/4 inch squares. If using prepared biscuit dough, cut each biscuit into 4 pieces.

   In a shallow bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon. Roll each biscuit piece in sugar mixture to coat.

   Layer biscuit dough into a well-greased cake pan in two layers. In a small boiler, heat butter and brown sugar until combined. Bring to a soft boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour over biscuits in cake pan. Reserve 1/4 of mixture for when cake is done.

   Bake 35 minutes until brown. Cool in pan for 20 minutes and turn out onto cake plate. Drizzle remaining brown sugar and butter mixture over the top. Slice and serve or pick apart to eat!

Cook of the Month Mary Dell Chism, Baldwin EMC

The key to this month’s winning recipe for Honey Bun Cake is to serve it warm. That’s coming from someone who knows, Mary Dell Chism of Northport and a member of Baldwin EMC, who has made the cake countless times since 1999. “I always make it on Christmas morning. It’s a tradition. When we were having Sunday School class and we would bring different refreshments, everyone always wanted me to bring the Honey Bun cake. It’s good for brunches and it’s usually a hit wherever you take it.” (If you can’t serve it warm, pop a slice in the microwave.) 

Mrs. Chism says her recipe is somewhat similar to the “Sock It To Me” Cake recipe that was popular years ago, but she changed it up by using buttermilk instead of sour cream. She also likes to use an 11×15-inch pan rather than a 9×12-inch pan, “because to me it’s better if it’s a little thinner.” When she was working on site at The Westervelt Company in Tuscaloosa, she brought the cake for employee birthday celebrations, and the larger pan yielded more slices. (She has been working at the company for 59 years, and now is able to do so remotely). 

She also notes that while the recipe calls for raisins, they are optional, since some people don’t care for them. And even though the icing uses two cups of confectioners’ sugar, she plans to try substituting Truvia confectioners’ sugar sweetener, which would make it more acceptable for those trying to cut back on sugar. – Lenore Vickrey

Honey Bun Cake 

Photo by Brooke Echols


1 box yellow cake mix

1 cup buttermilk 

4 eggs 

¾ cup oil 

½ cup sugar 

½ cup pecans, chopped

¼ cup raisins, optional

¾ cup packed brown sugar 

4 teaspoons cinnamon


2 cups confectioners’ sugar 

2 tablespoons milk (more if 


1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Combine cake mix, eggs, buttermilk, oil and sugar; pour into prepared 11×15-inch pan. Mix pecans, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over cake batter and cut through with a knife to swirl. Bake at 350 degrees until cake tests done (30–35 minutes). For the icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla; punch holes in top of cake and spread mixture over hot cake to glaze. Serve warm. Serves 15–18.

Kat’s Apple Cake

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup cooking oil

3 cups Pioneer Baking Mix

1 cup chopped pecans

3 cups chopped tart apples

Beat eggs well, add sugar and mix well, add cinnamon and vanilla. Alternate baking mix and oil and mix well. Fold in apples and pecans until well blended. Bake at 350 degrees in greased and floured Bundt pan for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when tested.  Let cool briefly and turn out. Add topping below, if desired.


1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup evaporated milk

1/2 stick margarine

Mix and boil 5 minutes; pour over cake while warm. 

Ronnie Crocker, Cullman EC

Gramma’s Cinnamon Rolls

Photo by Brooke Echols


2 tablespoons shortening

4 tablespoons white sugar

1 cup hot water

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (or 1 tablespoon jarred yeast)

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

23/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided


1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Rolls: In a large bowl, mix the shortening, sugar and hot water. Allow to cool to lukewarm and mix in the yeast until dissolved. Mix in egg, salt and 21/4 cups flour. Allow to rise for 1 hour, then punch down and knead in about 1/2 cup of reserved flour until dough is soft, and no longer sticky. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to an 18×12-inch rectangle. 

Filling: Spread softened butter on top of dough and sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecan mix on top of butter. Carefully roll the dough along the long side and cut into desired number of rolls. Place rolls in a greased casserole dish and let rest 15-30 minutes or refrigerate overnight. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Top with icing, if desired.


1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Add vanilla to powdered sugar and stir together until smooth. Slowly add milk while stirring until desired consistency is reached.

Meaghan Bartlett Mole, Baldwin EMC 

Apple Cobbler

1 cup sugar

2 heaping tablespoons flour

2 heaping tablespoons cinnamon

1 level teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

8 cups apples, sliced or diced


1 pie crust

2 teaspoons milk

Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Reserve ¼ cup sugar mixture for topping. Combine 8 cups apples with remaining sugar mixture. Generously butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Pour the apples evenly into the dish. Place a pie crust over the apples. Wet the top crust lightly with 2 teaspoons of milk and then sprinkle with ¼ cup reserved sugar-cinnamon mixture on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes. 

Jane Kendrick, Coosa Valley EC

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup 2% milk

1 box spice cake mix

21/2 cups old fashioned oats

11/2 cups raisins

1 cup dried craisins, chopped

2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

2/3 cup chocolate chips

1 cup pecans, chopped

In large bowl, beat oil and brown sugar with a mixer until blended. Beat in eggs, then add milk and stir well. In another large bowl, combine oats and cake mix. Stir well. Gradually add this to the brown sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in raisins and dried craisins, cinnamon sugar, pecans and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool in pan 1 minute, then cool on wire racks. Makes approximately 7 dozen cookies. 5½ dozen if making larger cookies. 

Suzy Shepherd, Pioneer EC

Themes and Deadlines:

March: Jams, jellies, marmalades | December 4

April: Eggs | January 1

May: Sugar-free/diabetic friendly | February 5


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