The following article was contributed by Brentwood resident and Ward 4 Alderman, Tom Kramer.
The headline read ,“There could be a new Cinnabon bakery coming soon near you.”
That was all I needed to spark my interest. The St. Louis Business Journal piece went on to say that Mid Rivers Mall, South County Center and nearby St. Clair Square could all soon become locations for the Cinnabon ‘phenomenon’.
But, what about this worldwide passion for a perfect, gooey, cinnamon sugary treat? Cinnabon is part of a $1 Billion global brand with other names like Carvel and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in its fold. I needed to try one again, and fast.
But, wait. I knew of another cinnamon roll. It was here in town. I happened to like it very much from the very first time. What if I set up a competition? A “Cinnamon Roll-off”, of sorts… And, that’s exactly what I did, just a few days ago.
Enlisting the assistance of my trusty friend Greg, and his daughter Allissa, we set up a St. Louis cinnamon roll square-off one morning at local cheesecake bakery & café de•lish, in Florissant.
There, owners Jeff and Kris Mullersman agreed to host quite the curious battle. Only two participants knew they were going to be scrutinized ahead of time. (Though, they had no idea of their competition).
There were five opposing cinnamon opponents in all. As the samples were purchased fresh, ahead of the competition, I paid particular attention to the self proclaimed juggernaut of sweetness, Cinnabon, and how they prepared the staple of their success.
The baker on hand at the West County Cinnabon informed me that the substance I saw so prevalently heaped atop the kneaded dough was not butter, as I hoped, but margarine. Of the five rolls competing, theirs was the only one that is prepared hourly, in kind of a showcase, for the public to watch and wonder. (For those old enough to remember…kind of like Shakey’s Pizza.)
Now, on to the competition. Unwitting participants included the de•lish entry (made with a slice of bacon), John Donuts from South Broadway, Amy’s Corner Bakery in The Grove area, The St. Louis Junior League (sold in participating markets), and Cinnabon (West County Center). After researching reviews on Yelp, I found these were good representatives of the local talent for our unofficial analysis. And, now, the results:
We started with the Cinnabon entry.
- Cinnabon: Greg: “ Doughy”, “not really impressed”, “just OK”. Allissa: “Yes, similar, I think they are doughy”. Tom: “Chewy”, “OK”, “some cinnamon flavor”, “Doughy”.
Next, came the Junior League’s offering.
- Junior League: Greg: “Sweet”, “crispy”, “good”. Allissa: “I agree…crispy, good cinnamon”. Tom: “Good sugar/cinnamon”, “tasty”.
- Amy’s: Greg: “Hmnn, tastes like Pillsbury”. Allissa: “Sweet”. Tom: “Dry”, “Interesting banana undertone”. Allissa: “Yes, I taste that banana flavor too”.
John Donuts sampling was tested:
- John’s: Greg: “Well, tastes more like a donut”. Allissa: “yes, donut, not really any cinnamon”. Tom: “Dry”, “No cinnamon”, “Lots of yeast flavor”, “yes, a donut”.
De•lish Cheesecake & Bakery rounded out the list:
- De•lish: Greg: “Cinnamon sweetness”. Allissa: “Beautiful taste”. Tom: “ Hmnnn, dreamy cinnamon”, “Soft sugary goodness."
It was time for the moment of truth.
Who was your favorite? That was the surprise. It wasn’t just the flavor that caught our attention. The presentation and visual appeal made an impression too.
For us, Cinnabon, just didn’t deliver. Their roll looks absolutely amazing. The color contrasts of the gooey cinnamon glaze, and the white sweet icing was very appetizing. The aroma was terrific. But the flavor is just not there…unsatisfyingly so. And, since it is so chewy, we can only make one conclusion as to why the Cinnabon ‘phenomenon’ exists.
Thousands of hungry mall shoppers, who are unsuspecting victims of that sweet cinnamon-y scent, wafting through the corridors, fall prey to their senses.
As the temptation festered, to finish the remainders of our sampled pastry goodness, the final commentary was polled: Greg ranked John Donuts as a distant last place, Junior League as second finisher and de•lish Cheesecake & Bakery as number one. (To be fair to John’s, it was Yelp contributors that rated their fried cinnamon roll fare as well worthy.) He graded Amy’s and Junior League as most visually appealing.
Allissa judged John Donuts as a last place also, while rating Amy’s at number two, and de•lish as her number one.
For me, the visual appeal of the Cinnabon roll left my taste buds sorely confused. Why wasn’t it better? Equaling Greg’s sentiments, I rated de•lish the winner, with Junior League a near second, and John Donuts out of the class.