Treat Cinnamon Sticks the Way You Would Parmesan Cheese

April 24, 2017

Cinnamon sticks should not be relegated to holiday decorations, mulled wine, or spiced cider. I keep them in a jar in the cupboard for use year round.

Freshly grated cinnamon lifts all kinds of desserts, from the simplest dish of sliced oranges or stone fruit to a warm brownie. I‘m not talking about grating the stick every time a recipe calls for ground cinnamon—I know you wouldn’t stand still for that. I am talking about grating a bit of the stick over finished desserts—even to order, at the table. Or pass the stick (and microplane grater) just as you might pass a chunk of Parmesan with certain pasta dishes or salads. It’s homey and stylish at the same time. I do this for family dinners so everyone has a choice.

You might be thinking, why not just put some ground cinnamon into the recipe in the first place and be done with it. Nope, grating cinnamon on top is an entirely different experience.

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Grating the stick puts the scent of cinnamon in the air, creating anticipation and a top note of flavor. Like swirling and sniffing a glass of wine before sipping—your senses are engaged and the fragrance enhances the flavor of the wine when you finally sip. Cinnamon in the air and on top of a dessert adds a layer of flavor without overwhelming the dessert with that flavor. The result is simultaneously nuanced and dramatic! It’s boring to read about, but fun to try.

It’s homey and stylish at the same time.

Here’s how to use your cinnamon sticks all year round. (While you’re thinking about it, the same list is good for those whole nutmegs in your spice drawer—why not use them more often as well?)

  • Grate the stick over a platter of brownies—it’s positively breathtaking over warm brownies—or over the whipped cream atop a slice of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, pudding, etc. Ask each guest first.
  • Grate the stick into a fresh fruit salad (add grated lime or lemon zest while you are at it, with lime or lemon juice to taste).

  • Pass the stick and grater with other toppings and syrups for pancakes or waffles.

You get the idea…

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Nancy April 28, 2017
Often use the sticks and microplane in food prep. Taking it to the table is a new idea for me.
Also reminds me of the microplane nutmeg grater & adding fresh nutmeg when travelling to dishes that are just OK as is, but become ever so much better with fresh nutmeg added.
Beth100 April 24, 2017
Ceylon cinnamon always chips for me; I only use cassia for grating now. The graters from Cinnamon Gill in England are top-notch, producing fine, even powder, works significantly better than a Microplane for me.
Nan April 24, 2017
Hi. I've never been able to grate cinnamon sticks, even with the fiercest Microplane or electric grinder. Do I have the wrong kind of cinnamon? Thanks!