cherry laurel a shrub of the E. Mediterranean region, Laurocerasus officinalis. It is sometimes confused with the unrelated bay tree (see bay leaf) which it rather resembles, although it is larger, with larger and glossier leaves. Since the French for bay leaf is laurier, unwary translators of French recipes sometimes advise cooks to use ‘laurel leaves’, which could lead to serious consequences since these leaves contain prussic acid, and have been known to cause poisoning.
However, cherry laurel leaves, with their bitter almond flavour, do have a limited use in flavouring rice puddings and custards, although they must always be used with caution because of their toxicity. A liquid distilled from the leaves and available commercially is used in the food industry.