A Guide About the Many Uses of One of Fall’s Favorite Spices
Imagine waking up to the sweet warm aroma of home-baked goodies wafting throughout your home. The heavenly smell of cinnamon floating in the air, dancing around your nose, enticing you with its fragrant and comforting scent. I’m sure most of us can attest to the fact that cinnamon has become a staple in our yearly Fall baking rituals and routine. But where does cinnamon come from?
A Brief History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is created from the inner bark of several trees of the genus cinnamomum. When cinnamon dries it naturally curls into long quill-like shapes that are then cut into smaller sticks or ground into cinnamon powder. The two main varieties of cinnamon include: ceylon cinnamon, produced largely in Sri Lanka, and cassia “real” cinnamon, mainly from Indonesia. The main difference between these two cinnamons is that ceylon cinnamon is lighter in color and said to have a sweeter flavor. Ceylon cinnamon also has a much higher presence of a natural plant chemical in it called coumarin, which acts as a natural blood thinner. Both ceylon and cassia cinnamon are fine for consuming; it’s really up to personal taste preference. Ceylon cinnamon is usually harder to find and more expensive compared to the more widely available cassia.
The Holistic Appeal
There are an astonishing amount of health benefits that come from cinnamon. Essential oils found in the bark of cinnamomum trees are made up of active components that have been known to help with everything from anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties, to helping aid as a chemopreventive drug for cervical cancer. Other studies have shown that simply smelling cinnamon or chewing cinnamon gum can help boost brain activity. After consuming cinnamon our bodies produce sodium benzoate which stimulates the birth of new neurons in the brain that can “prevent, or greatly slow the progression of, a variety of degenerative diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.” [Psychology Today]
But enough science talk! Let’s talk about the one thing most people know cinnamon for — cooking! Cinnamon is commonly used in both Asian and Middle Eastern cooking for both sweet and savory dishes. And after learning about all the health benefits cinnamon provides, why not try adding it to more dishes? Below you can find both a sweet and savory recipe that calls for the use of cinnamon. Try both and see smiles around the dinner table!
Cinnamon Sugar Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
- 1 (2 sticks) cup unsalted butter, softened
- 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 Tablespoons 2 percent milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon-sugar, sprinkle on top of cake
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray two 9-on. round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer on medium speed, beat eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and creamy. Add the butter and vanilla extract and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, or until well blended. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed until blended. DO NOT OVER MIX! Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.
- Divide batter evenly into prepared baking pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool before frosting.
- MAKE THE FROSTING: Mix softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 30 seconds until smooth and creamy.
- Add powdered sugar, milk, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes or until smooth.
- Spread the frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
Roasted Maple Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes
- 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
- Add potatoes and toss to coat.
- Spread potatoes in an even layer onto prepared pan.
- Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Good Inside and Out
Did you know that cinnamon is used in a lot of beauty products? Cinnamon can be found in face masks, lip plumps, and dry skin scrubs. Cinnamon is also commonly found in Fall scented candles and other forms of air freshener. Psst … Want to be let in on a little secret? Cinnamon can also act as an ant and moth repellent! So it’s always healthy to keep a little extra around the house. The best way to store cinnamon is in an airtight container, in a cool, dark cupboard, away from direct heat or sunlight. This will help it retain its potency. The shelf life of cinnamon sticks can last between 2-3 years, if the proper measures are taken. Ground cinnamon usually lasts between 6-12 months. In order to test product quality, break off or crush a small bit in your hand and smell it. If the aroma is weak and the flavor isn’t as strong as it should be, then it’s time to replace.
So, let’s give it up for cinnamon! A natural remedy, a tasty spice and an additive in some of women’s best sought after beauty products. Hopefully, this new knowledge inspires you to add some more spice in your life — cinnamon spice that is!