Is one type of cinnamon really better than the other? Plus 263 ways to use it

Cinnamon layer cake

If you had to choose one spice to be associated with the holidays, it would have to be cinnamon. From pies to squash to drinks to candles, it's omnipresent. So we thought we'd highlight some recent articles that add a bit to our common knowledge, or possibly our common confusion. On Epicurious, we have True Cinnamon, which explains that there are two, very distinctive types of cinnamon. And one of our favorite blogs, Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate and Zucchini presents 263 Things to Do With Cinnamon. 

Regarding real vs. faux cinnamon, Epicurious has a slightly different take on it than Penzey's, which is one of the biggest purveyors of cinnamon. Per Epicurious "Most of what you find in grocery stores in stick and powdered variety is Chinese or Indonesian cassia labeled as "cinnamon." Cassia is less delicate in flavor and less expensive. The sticks are thick and rough.  Ceylon cinnamon - cinnamomum verum - is considered the true cinnamon. Preferred in Mexico and Europe, Ceylon cinnamon comes from the inner, thin layers of bark from the cinnamon tree native to Sri Lanka. True cinnamon is more easily ground in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle than the thicker cassia bark which can sometimes even tear up your electric grinders."

Penzey's, on the other hand, considers both to be cinnamon and isn't willing to say one is better than the other. They differentiate them as follows: "There are two main types of cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is native to Southeast Asia, especially southern China and northern Vietnam, and has the strong, spicy-sweet flavor most Americans are familiar with...The second type of cinnamon, Ceylon, or "true" cinnamon, has a much different flavor. It is less sweet, with a more complex, citrus flavor. The special flavor of English and Mexican sweets comes from Ceylon cinnamon. "

So what to do? Our advice is to do a taste test if you're curious and not willing to assume that one is better than the other.

And to help out with that taste test, Clotilde  has compiled 263 ways to use cinnamon. In Part 1, she lists sweet uses, and in Part II, she lists savory, beverage, and non-food uses. We couldn't choose among all the great food ideas, (and this recipe in the EYB library of Cinnamon layer cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting is awfully tempting), but thought we'd list the non-food uses for fun:

- Cut off ant trails with ground cinnamon
- Throw some cinnamon sticks along with other spices and a cut-up orange in a pan of water, and leave on a low simmer to make the house smell lovely and welcoming
- Use as a cure according to tradional Chinese medicine
- Leave a stick in the car as an air freshener
- Put a few sticks in almond oil: perfect for giving warming massages

3 Comments

  • sir_ken_g  on  11/13/2013 at 4:05 PM

    Vietnamese cinnamon is definitely more powerful than others. I love it.

  • Aggie92  on  11/15/2013 at 4:59 PM

    I order cinnamon from Penzeys. I love their Penzeys blend for baking. It is just the right amount of spicy, cinnamon flavor. I also order their China cinnamon for its delicate sweet flavor. It is too mild to bake with, but it is devine sprinkled on my oatmeal. It fools your taste buds into believing you have added a sweetener to the oats. Nice low-cal way to enjoy an otherwise boring breakfast.

  • boardingace  on  11/22/2013 at 12:09 AM

    I like Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon, which I read about at cooksillustrated.com. It smells AMAZING and I'm not a super-taster but I think that it really does make a difference in my baking. Plus, it's super affordable. I'm giving bottles as Christmas gifts to the women in my family this year :)

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