Cinnamon Swirl Bread

cinnamonswirlbreadPeople often tell me that they don’t bake because it’s not as fluid and creative as cooking, where you can add a dash of this or a pinch of that and still end up with a tasty, successful result. While it’s certainly true that baking relies on the right ratios of dry and wet ingredients, you can definitely be more creative than most people think, especially when it comes to flavors and spices.

Many experienced bakers tweak recipes all the time, which is what I did with this cinnamon swirl bread I found on Taste of Home. I added vanilla extract in the batter and a dash of nutmeg to the cinnamon-sugar mix, and I’m pleased to say that it turned out very well. Next time, I’ll probably add a streusel topping for some additional crunch, and I might bake two smaller loaves in 8 x 4 pans instead of one larger 9 x 5 one. While I didn’t stray too far from the original recipe, this successful quick bread is proof that you can spice things up – pun intended – with baking too.


For the bread

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour milk* (or buttermilk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • About 3 teaspoons water

*To make sour milk, place 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and add enough milk to equal one cup, then stir. Let stand for 5 minutes before using.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom only of a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine sour milk, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla; add to dry mixture and stir until just combined. Batter will still be lumpy, and that’s fine – don’t over mix.

For cinnamon sugar, combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl, mixing well,

Spoon half of the batter into your loaf pan and cover with half of the sugar mixture, then repeat with remaining batter and sugar. Cut through the batter with a knife and gently swirl.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. You may want to cover your bread for the last 10 minutes of baking to avoid over-browning on the top.

Cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make drizzle, combine powdered sugar, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of water, stirring to combine. Add additional water to reach a thicker drizzling consistency, then drizzle over the loaf.

Wrap loaf in foil and store at room temperature.




Cinnamon Muffins

cinnamonmuffinsMost of the world’s cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, but other countries – like Madagascar, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia – also grow and process this popular spice. My favorite cinnamon is Vietnamese, which has a slightly more spicy flavor than your average, from-the-grocery-store cinnamon. I purchase it at Penzey’s in Pittsburgh’s Strip district, along with Mexican vanilla extract and Tahitian vanilla beans for the baker’s version of a splurge.

These muffins include Vietnamese cinnamon of the “extra fancy” variety – and yes, I keep both this and regular, from-the-grocery-store cinnamon in my pantry. I’m a generous measurer of cinnamon as well, so if you’re looking for a more mellow flavor, you can always cut back a bit.

These muffins are prepared two ways; first with what the original recipe called a streusel topping, which I expected to be more crumb-like but turned out to be more of a crunchy coating, and second with a cinnamon vanilla drizzle. Whatever you choose, you won’t go wrong – or if you’re feeling really adventurous, do both! I chose to put the streusel crunch on the first batch, and went with the glaze on the second batch because some of my streusel crunch-coated muffins burned at the edges a bit. When dropping your streusel crunch pieces onto your muffins, be careful to keep them as close to the center as possible, as they can spread and burn. Note: this recipe yielded 20 muffins.


Cinnamon Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten

Streusel Crunch (makes enough for all of the muffins)

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze (makes enough for 8 muffins)

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1 teaspoon water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 20 muffins.

Make the streusel crunch: in a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in butter, or rub in with your hands, until the mixture comes together; the original recipe said this would go crumb-like, but that didn’t happen to mine. I had to pull it apart and place drops of it on the muffins, rather than sprinkling it.

Make the muffins: in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the center.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine milk, melted butter, vanilla, and egg and whisk to combine. Pour into the well in the dry mixture and mix until just combined and no dry streaks remain.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough into prepared muffin tins. If using, place drops of streusel crunch on tops of muffins.

Bake for 18-2o minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately remove muffins to a wire rack to cool completely if glazing.

Make the glaze: in a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and cinnamon, stirring to combine. Add vanilla extract, then add water about 1/4 teaspoon at a time to reach a drizzly consistency.

Drizzle over cooled muffins; I placed my drizzle in a small zip-top bag and piped it on, but ypu could just drizzle it with a spoon.


Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

cinnamon roll cupcakesI love cinnamon! It is my favorite spice, as I believe I’ve mentioned before. It has a calming effect on me like lavender does, especially when paired with vanilla. And while I didn’t have time this weekend to make cinnamon rolls–in fact, I have never made cinnamon rolls from scratch–I did have time to whip up a batch of cinnamon roll cupcakes.

The recipes below are hybrids of several that I found online, including a delicious cinnamon cream cheese frosting that would pair well with pumpkin, apple, or ginger cupcakes. They’re sweet, but not too sweet, and almost muffin-like; I could certainly eat one for breakfast. What’s great is that you don’t actually need the frosting if you’re short on time, or just not into frosting; you could leave the cupcakes plain, or dust them with powdered sugar.

Note: the original recipe that I found claimed to yield 26 cupcakes, but the recipe below that I used yielded 33 cupcakes.

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans; mix well and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 30 seconds; add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine.

Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until just combined after each addition. Scrape sides of the bowl often.

Use a 1-inch cookie scoop and drop one level scoop of dough into each cup; top with 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar mixture, then add another scoop of dough, followed by 1/2 teaspoon of the brown sugar mixture.

Bake for at least 20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons cinnamon


In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and cinnamon and beat well, scraping the sides of the bowl often.

Use a 1-inch cookie scoop and drop scoops of frosting onto each cupcake. Frost with a small offset spatula. Store in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake






In one of my favorite movies, Sense & Sensibility, Margaret Dashwood asks Colonel Brandon what it’s like in the East Indies.  He replies, as if imparting a great secret, “The air is full of spices.”

Whenever someone asks what that wonderful flavor is in a dish, it’s usually a spice.  Spices can be subtle, enhancing the flavors of other ingredients—the way pepper does, for example.  They can also be the main component, around which other ingredients are based, like in a cinnamon roll.

Cinnamon is a delightful aromatic spice that has been cultivated around the world for centuries.  I use Vietnamese cinnamon, which has a more complex flavor than your average grocery store-bought variety, but you can certainly bake with any kind.

From the moment this cake went into the oven, my kitchen was filled with the aromatic scent of cinnamon, and it lingered for hours after the cake was done.  The honey glaze is a surprising addition, offering a smooth, sweet flavor that complements the warm, spicy cinnamon cake.

For the streusel:

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or two knives) until the mixture resembles small peas.

Place in the freezer until cake batter is ready.

For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup sour cream

Spray a 10-inch tube pan with vegetable spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Add vanilla and sour cream, beating until just combined.

With the mixer on low, add flour mixture in thirds until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Remove streusel mix from the freezer.

Spoon half the batter into the tube pan and spread evenly with a spatula; sprinkle 3/4 of the streusel mix over the top.

Spoon the remaining batter into the pan, spreading evenly with a spatula; sprinkle the remaining streusel mix on the top.

Bake for 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Place the pan on a wire rack to cool before drizzling with glaze.

For the honey glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons water

In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, honey, and water together and stir until smooth.

If the glaze is too thick, add a small amount of water to thin it slightly; if the glaze is too thin, add a small amount of powdered sugar to thicken it.

Drizzle over cake.