Steve Sando, bean impresario behind Rancho Gordo, outlines the steps from beans in a bag to glorious pot o’ beans. Dried beans may not be fresh, per se, but the ones you're using shouldn’t be more than two years old. Soak them first, and then use the soaking water to cook them. A quick, hard boil followed by a long, slow simmer will get them cooked up right. (Click here for Steve's bean-cooking recipe.)
The addition of cinnamon adds a kick of “something special” to this rich chocolate sheet cake, but if you prefer, you can reduce the amount or leave the cinnamon out all together; you'll simply have a delightful, classic chocolate cake on your hands.