The Problems With Cinnabon's New Salted Caramel Center of the Roll Start With the Name

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[Photographs: Todd Brock]

Cinnabon is jumping onto the sweet-meets-savory bandwagon by adding salted caramel onto a new limited-time-only treat. For those who haven't been to a mall food court in a while, the chain already features an item called the Center of the Roll. It's essentially the inner mass of a standard Cinnabon, cut into bite-sized pieces, served in a cup, to be eaten with a fork.*

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*Why this is necessary to begin with is a little unclear to me. According to Cinnabon, it's supposedly more portable than a regular bun. I guess. Maybe. But that name! Good heavens, how tongue-tyingly awkward is that? "Center of the Roll" is the best a team of marketing professionals could come up with?!? Middles. Cinnacenters. Hell, even Centerbons. To this English major, as soon as you start throwing a prepositional phrase into the product name, it's already way more trouble than it's worth.

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You could already opt for a Center of the Roll in either the regular Cinnabon or Caramel Pecanbon variety, but this fall you can also get your bun-bites covered in salted caramel sauce. As a rule, salted caramel is kind of a sophisticated sweet. It suggests a flavor profile a bit more refined, a bit more elegant than just overloading a dessert with straight sugar nine ways to Sunday.

I wish I could say that the new Salted Caramel Center of the Roll flavor is a complex revelation that reinvents the brand... and maybe makes a trip to the Cinnabon line feel a little less like signing up for an immediate sugar-induced coma. (For a brutally funny—and slightly NSFW—riff on this theme, check out Louis CK's brilliant comedy routine.)

But the truth is, my Salted Caramel CotR ($2.99 at my local shop) tasted exactly like an ordinary Cinnabon. While I could maybesortakinda see some shade of caramel-colored topping drizzled over the doughy chunks, there was not at all a pronounced caramel taste—at least not one that stood out above the standard Cinnabon flavor assault. And I could neither see nor detect any saltiness whatsoever. In fact, after a few bites, I actually came to the conclusion that I was misheard at the register and given a regular Center of the Roll.

So I went back. ('Cos I am nothing if not thorough. And because "I have to go to eat at Cinnabon...for work" is just damn fun to say.)

This time, I made sure to specify "salted caramel" and watched to see what happened. A pre-assembled cup was pulled from under the sneeze guard and unceremoniously plopped in an undercounter microwave. No extra goo, no pre- or post-nuking squirts of sauce, no hand-grinding of any salt.

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And no change in taste. A little digging uncovered a puddle of caramel sauce at the bottom of the cup, but that runoff didn't do a thing for the bites I'd already eaten. If I had been blindfolded, I would have told you I was eating a Cinnabon. "Yes, but is it a special FLAVOR of Cinnabon?" you would ask. And I would say no... just before I slipped into a sugar-induced coma.

Let's be clear: there are days when that is precisely what I'm after. But Cinnabon Version 1.0 gets the job done just fine all by itself. I don't need my bun cut into bite-sized pieces for me, and I don't need it gussied up with a swanky-sounding flavor that's not really there.

About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT, pizzas for Slice, and desserts for Sweets, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for The Gaslight Anthem. Or both.

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