There are many sweets in the pastry pantheon that all cry out for a dunk in some hot coffee, but the humble cinnamon roll makes perhaps the best partner of all for a cup of joe. When dipped, the roll softens, its icing begins to melt, and the sugary cinnamon filling adds a sweet, spicy touch to your morning mug. The Swedish have created an entire institution centering on this very pairing: during fika, or coffee break, one typically consumes a small, sweet cinnamon roll along with a cup of coffee.
So perhaps it's only natural that Starbucks has recently expanded its cinnamon roll selection to include this guy, a basic, medium-sized cinnamon roll with a standard spiced filling. Never one to turn down a pastry, I gave this one a try to see how it stacks up.
First, allow me to describe my ideal cinnamon roll: I think it should be fairly large, almost overindulgent—not quite a Cinnabon-style behemoth, but close. Its crumb should be moist, improved by a coffee dunk but plenty palatable without one. There should be a thick layer of dense, highly spiced cinnamon filling, which should also be moist and not overly dry or chalky. Finally, a rich, soft, cream cheese-based icing should be applied thickly to the top.
The first warning sign of the inferior pastry-eating experience that Starbucks' new cinnamon roll provides comes when you pick the roll up: it weighs about a quarter of what you expect it to. True to its lack of heft, the crumb is airy and incredibly dry, its flavor vanishing from your palate almost before you stop chewing. The cinnamon filling has good flavor, but there's barely any of it, and what is there is insufficiently moist. The hard, sugary icing on the top of the roll doesn't really have any taste.
Cinnamon rolls are supposed to be gooey, luxurious affairs, but Starbucks' new offering feels a little phoned-in. I wouldn't pick this one up again.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.