Cinnamon sugar is a blend of ground cinnamon and granulated sugar. It can be made with true cinnamon — also known as Ceylon cinnamon — or cassia cinnamon. Its traditional use is as a topping for sweet pastries and bread.
Cinnamon sugar has been around since the 19th century. While both of its ingredients were used separately for many years before that, the combination of the two as a spice does not seem to show up in cookbooks before the mid-1800s.
Charles Elme Francatelli used cinnamon sugar as a topping in the 19th century. Cinnamon sugar is mentioned in Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (published in 1892) and The Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery from 1898.
It would become better-known and more widely used in the middle of the 20th century and regularly showed up in recipes in the latter part of the century.
Cinnamon is the aromatic component of cinnamon sugar and it has been around since Ancient Egypt where it was used to embalm corpses. It was popular in Ancient Rome as well. During the Middle Ages, Europe’s cinnamon supply came via Arab traders and was in limited supply making it rare and costly.
The Arab traders kept the source of cinnamon a secret to protect their monopoly. In the 16th century, the Portuguese found cinnamon in Ceylon and enslaved its people to control the cinnamon trade. The island would eventually be taken over by the British, and by the 19th century, cinnamon was no longer rare or expensive. Its new availability at this point in history may have something to do with why cinnamon sugar started showing up in cookbooks.
Cinnamon sugar flavor profile
Cinnamon sugar’s taste consists of spicy warmth from the cinnamon accompanied by the neutral sweetness of refined white sugar.
Health benefits of cinnamon sugar
Cinnamon sugar is a mix of cinnamon and sugar. As such, it is not a good source of nutrients. Cinnamon itself does contain a few important compounds, but they are present in small amounts. The nutrients in cinnamon include:
- Vitamins: The cinnamon part of cinnamon sugar contains vitamin K and small amounts of vitamins A and E.
- Minerals: You can get both calcium and iron from the cinnamon in cinnamon sugar.
- Osteoporosis: One of the conditions that tend to come with menopause, osteoporosis refers to an ailment wherein bone density is lost. Taking in minerals like calcium may slow the loss of bone mass or help to compensate for it.
- Iron deficiency anemia: As its name suggests, iron deficiency anemia is a condition that affects people without enough iron in their bodies. It lessens the ability of their red blood cells to carry oxygen and this leaves the individual feeling fatigued. Iron in the diet along with supplemental iron can help to mitigate the symptoms.
Refined sugar is the main ingredient in cinnamon sugar, which means that it has many of the same health risks as plain sugar. Too much cinnamon sugar will contribute to tooth decay, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon sugar is used mostly as a breakfast topping that is sprinkled on regular buttered toast as well as on French toast. It is also sprinkled on waffles and muffins or used as a sweetener in oatmeal and on fruit salad. You can also use it in cobblers and pies to add sweetness and cinnamon flavor.