Cinnamon Test, With Buns

Indonesian cinnamon on the left and Ceylon cinnamon on the right

In shocking news to cinnamon lovers the world over, too much of this tasty spice has been found to cause liver damage. Because of this European authorities have issued a guideline to bakers of how much of the good stuff to use. This however has left some Scandinavian panties in a serious (cinnamon) twist. All in all quite disturbing news if you have been putting a teaspoon a day into your oatmeal for health benefits. But not all cinnamon is the same. Cassia cinnamon, from the Cinnamomum Cassia tree is the offender in this case (though this is also the kind of cinnamon that showed the benefits regarding blood sugar). It is this variety that contains the offending coumarin that has been proven to be toxic to your liver in certain amounts. If you buy cinnamon and it is not labelled otherwise, it is Cassia. There are however other types of cinnamon around, such as the prized and more expensive Ceylon cinnamon, from the Cinnamomum Verum. My snobbish arse always considered this to be the true cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon does not contain coumarin so might it replace the cassia cinamon for bakers everywhere? I decided to do a little experiment to see whether it is worth it to use Cassia at all and if we should just cough up the cash for Ceylon cinnamon.

You can buy Ceylon cinnamon as sticks and as a finely ground powder. Cassia however has a much rougher bark that doesn't roll up as nice so it is sold as a powder. Which doesn't mean that every stick of cinnamon you buy is the prized Ceylon variety. Cheap sticks of cinnamon are often Cinnamomum Burmanni, or Indonesian cinnamon. This variety also doesn't contain coumarin but it is  very low on essential oils meaning it won't have that much flavour anyhow. You can easily identify whether a stick is Ceylon or Indonesian by looking at the layers. Indonesian cinnamon will only have one thick bark layer whereas the Ceylon will have more papery layers as you can see in the photo on top.

Cassia on the left and Ceylon on the right

Due to the price difference it will be unusual to accidentally buy Ceylon cinnamon, if it is the real thing, it will tell you. However you can also see the difference. Cassia is a finer powder with a more vivid yellowy tint. Ceylon on the other hand is slightly darker and rougher and has a less uniform colour.

Cassia cinnamon sugar and Ceylon cinnamon sugar

So let the first taste test begin by making a little bit of cinnamon sugar with both types of cinnamon.  Because of its finer consistency the Cassia cinnamon mixes through the sugar much more evenly. Now for the first taste. The Cassia cinnamon sugar tastes great, it has that early hint of sharpness that you know from jawbreakers and cinnamon gum. On to the Ceylon sugar, surely this will blow my mind..........but it doesn't. It tasted a little timid and weak. So I add more Ceylon cinnamon to the sugar and taste again. It is improved and I can taste the subtle warmth of the spice but it is still much less well....cinnamony than the Cassia sugar. Perhaps heat will influence the flavour so I am going to make easy cinnamon rolls using three different cinnamon sugars. One with Cassia, one with Ceylon and one with double the Ceylon sugar. The first two are a heaped tablespoon per 100 grams of sugar and the last two tablespoons.

Croissant Cinnamon Rolls


  • 1 can of ready made croissant dough
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • butter

Step 1

Remove the croissant dough from the tin and roll it out. Usually it contains three rectangles divided into triangles for the croissants. But for this recipe we will use the rectangles so just gently squeeze the dotted line to repair the tear. Brush generously with melted butter.

Step 2

Now sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.

Step 3

Now roll up the dough and slice into thumb thick slices. Place the slices in a buttered baking tray.

Step 4

Bake into a preheated oven at 180 c for 20 minutes until puffed up and golden. 

Cassia bottom left, Double Ceylon top right. 

Taste Test

First of, they smell amazing. I'm extremely chuffed with how they turned out. I used croissant dough because I had it laying around but it is a revelation. They are light and puffy but with a much more pleasing texture than puff pastry. The Cassia cinnamon sugar is noticeably lighter compared to the Ceylon. A quick whiff of the different buns proofs that much of the cinnamon smell comes from the Cassia buns. 

And now for the tasting. The Cassia bun is tasty with a good strong cinnamon hit at the start. The single Ceylon bun is a disappointment tasted directly afterward. It lacks the punch of the Cassia though it does have a nice complex body in the middle and end. The double Cassia proves to be a mistake. Increasing the cinnamon has made it taste much like I would imagine a vintage bookstore to taste. Powdery, woody and quite frankly a bit dusty. I feel a bit miffed, shouldn't Ceylon be the obvious winner? Have I been conditioned by eating cheap ass Cassia, ruining my tastebuds? I take another tentative bite from the single Ceylon bun. Not eating it directly after the Cassia bun helps, it does taste nice and the cinnamon flavour is there but still it misses that initial hit. So I end on a compromise. I make some more cinnamon sugar from halve a cup of sugar, a tablespoon of Ceylon and a teaspoon of Cassia. And I think I found the perfect mix. The Ceylon provides the body and complexity while the Cassia hits you in the face with pure cinnamony goodness. 

Cinnamon Recommendations

If you are concerned about the toxicity of coumarin, because of a weak liver, or because you eat large amounts of the stuff I think Ceylon or the Ceylon Cassia mix are a worthy alternative. As with all things, toxicity is dependent on dose and a little cinnamon bun here or there won't hurt you. But if you were taking a tablespoon a day due to health benefits it might be a good idea to switch to Ceylon.


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  4. It is not truth that indonesian cinnamon does not contain coumarin. There is citation from the "Cinnamomum burmannii" page of Wikipedia: "Cinnamomum burmannii oil contains no eugenol, but higher amounts of coumarin than cassia and Ceylon cinnamon with 2.14 g/kg in an authenticated sample." So, this cinnamon specie is one of the most rich of coumarin.

  5. Ceylon cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. If someone wiling buy naturally grown, sulfur free true Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka, visit us at http://www.trueceylonspices.com/.