Around the holidays, everybody needs a little bit of common scents. That’s not a typo. Shortbread, gingerbread, rum and sugarplum are a few poetic examples of generic yuletide smells, but for myself, there’s one scent that perforates all things Christmas along with the air of every room in my own household if I can help it. That miraculous holiday scent is of course cinnamon... and it makes me yawn just thinking about it.
Why? Certainly not because I find the stuff boring. There’s a calming effect from cinnamon that is so profound it’s been known to induce a need to nap within minutes of exposure and I don’t know about you, but Christmas is always a relaxing time of year for this sooky cook.
Indeed, the history of cinnamon reveals that since ancient times, this spice was prized so highly for its fragrance that it was considered a form of treasure more precious than even frankincense and myrrh.
The ancient Egyptians loved cinnamon so much that they used it to embalm their mummies in hopes that their loved ones would enjoy the wonderful scent in the next life and considered the aromatic inner bark to be holy.
In Christianity, cinnamon is said to have been a principle ingredient in the holy oils (a practice most likely borrowed from the Egyptians) used to anoint the head of baby Jesus and later the feet of the adult Christ.
So, if you think that cinnamon isn’t all that “Christmasy” think again.
It’s got historical roots in Judaism and Islam as well having multiple sacred uses for holy days so we can pretty much say with a measure of certainty that a measure of cinnamon might belong in some holiday recipes this year regardless of your particular brand of faith.
Personally, I’m not one to give it any spiritual distinction but I still like to start my winter solstice off right by making:
Winter Solstice Cinnamon Roll Cake
3 ½ cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1 1/3 cups milk
4 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 block of cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
7 tbsp milk
2 ½ tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all dry ingredients aside from 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 egg in a large bowl and make a well. Whip eggs and butter in a separate bowl and add this to the well. Stir until mixture is smooth. Grease a bunt cake pan and add your mixture. Bake for roughly 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and set aside. In another chilled bowl, combine cream cheese, egg and 1 cup of sugar and whip until smooth. Fill hole in bunt cake with cream cheese mixture and chill for 20 minutes. Combine all listed glaze ingredients and pour onto cake evenly. Use a wooden spoon handle to draw a spiral radiating from the centre of the top of the cake outwards and chill again for 20 minutes. Cut and serve.
I might be preaching to the choir here. Cinnamon is such a universally loved ingredient in so many holiday treats that I might have only managed to bore you with a history lesson on a bland (figuratively, at least) topic. In any case, I hope you give this cake a try and if it doesn’t go right, it’ll at least provide a calming aromatic atmosphere to keep the fail rage away.