It's no secret that winters suck in Vancouver. Of the past thirty days in this city, only about three in total weren't ruined by pouring rain, and the sun has all but disappeared from memory. It may not be quite as bad as the flurries and freezing winters of Calgary and Toronto, but the season's still a downer here on the West Coast.
One of the few things that makes the weather worth bearing through is the density of quality bakeries in the city. This fact means that there's always easy access to any number of feel-good desserts and baked goods – but unlike richer offerings like cheesecake, pie, and cannoli, cinnamon buns fill that downer craving without stuffing you up halfway through.
Clearly you don't need further convincing about the goodness of cinnamon buns – it's a universal truth that cinnamon buns are God's gift to mankind. Thing is, final exam season is fast approaching, so you've gotta be efficient and selective in where you go for them buns. Luckily, I've stuffed myself silly searching for the best ones so you don't have to.
In all honesty, this probably ranks closer to a guilty pleasure than a prime offering, but these cinnamon buns have their merits. With locations in major malls throughout the Lower Mainland including Metrotown, Guildford, and Lougheed Mall, Cinnzeo was probably the first cinnamon bun joint that most of us were exposed to growing up.
Also known as the Cinnabon of Western Canada, Cinnzeo was established in 1987 in Calgary, and now fills the void within us that Cinnabon does in Ontario and the rest of the United States. Naturally, this means that the baked products share the same advantages and disadvantages that we can expect between the two chains.
A huge advantage of a large enterprise with 29 years of experience backing your operations is standardization of product. They may not be much to look at, but each bun has the same gooey, familiar texture when you bite into them, regardless of which location you order from.
This can be both a good and a bad thing – it tastes decadently greasy each time you bite into one, but you pay for it in calories. One bun alone provides about 840 calories, not including the icing it's usually topped with, and definitely not the extra icing that we tend to ask for.
Another note is that while the icing may be standardized across batches, the icing baked onto the top of the buns tastes significantly different than the extra icing you can order for a small charge. The latter has an almost synthetic taste to it that can really kill the mood, so buyer beware.
Regardless, Cinnzeo's buns are the exact same type of goodness that you can expect from a typical summer action blockbuster. Don't go in with incredibly high expectations, and you'll usually have a pretty good time.
4. Cobs Bread
Originally hailing from Australia, Cobs is a widespread bakery franchise spanning from the Tri-Cities to Kitsilano, with further locations in other provinces not nearly as photogenic and livable as British Columbia. Basically, there are a ton of locations to tickle your fancy for baked goods, which is great since their entire selection of loaves of bread are my personal favourite.
As with Cinnzeo, standardization is a huge boon for such a widespread company; however, the differentiating factor for Cobs is how clean their buns are. If Cinnzeo's greasy decadence resembles the campy slapstick of Roger Moore's take on James Bond, Cobs' buns are more akin to the nuanced, sexy performance of Daniel Craig.
By "clean", I simply mean "not lathered in oil like a Tongan Olympic flag bearer." Cinnamon buns from Cobs bear the same simplicity in taste and texture that make their other breads so great - you could accidentally eat two, and still feel like you weren't cheating on your diet.
Speaking of cheating, the cream cheese icing that Cobs tops their cinnamon buns with is by far the best on this list. The cream cheese flavour shines distinctly through the overall sweetness of the icing, and it complements the light cinnamon taste within the bun perfectly.
In the end, it doesn't matter what location you head to – I've never had an unsatisfactory cinnamon bun at Cobs. Mini cinnamon buns are also an option here, for those of you whose guilt can't wait until New Year's resolutions.
Solly's has been around for over two decades now, and on top of their famous boiled bagels, they also make a mean pastrami on rye. Obviously though, it was their cinnamon buns that put them on the map.
Compared to buns from other players, the dough is rolled thinner, which means more layers of sugary buttered cinnamon goodness to taste. While this obviously means more flavour within the bun itself, a fortunate consequence is that there is usually a pocket of extra crystallized cinnamon within the bun itself, at least in the ones that I've had. It'll make your entire day when you taste it.
Another point of differentiation is the layer of gooey caramel slathered on top. It adds such a completely different dimension to the taste, in that it's already completely satisfying without any further cream cheese icing, which you can order for a small charge.
The only point of concern is that there is a huge noticeable difference in quality between order times. Obviously anything tastes best when fresh, but since the cinnamon buns here are stored at room temperature or slightly cooler, afternoon orders taste starchier and less tender than what you would expect, probably due to the recipe. I highly recommend warming the buns up if not freshly baked.
Either way, Solly's gets a lot of hype for their cinnamon buns, and it's all well-deserved. At the very least, it's a slightly different take on a very familiar recipe.
Creme de la Crumb is a company providing fresh goods through storefront locations throughout Vancouver, as well as by catering services for corporate events. Of course, where they shine most is clearly their take on the cinnamon bun.
A word of caution: Creme de la Crumb doesn't offer cinnamon buns at all their locations. The storefront that I personally hit up is just up the stairs on Granville and Cordova by KPMG and Odlum Brown; however, they do tend to have limited quantities by 3pm. As a rule of thumb, you want to pick your buns up by 8:30am for optimal freshness.
The term that I associate best with their buns is "harmony." There is a delicately balanced proportion of bread, cinnamon glaze, and icing within each cinnamon bun, such that no group overpowers the other in any way. Very few bakeries have nailed this aspect of the bun, instead choosing to overload with sweetness - yet this is exactly what compels us to give up halfway through the bun.
Creme de la Crumb handles texture masterfully, as even buns purchased during the mid-afternoon retain the same level of softness that fresh morning orders do. The staff here typically offer to warm up your bun in the microwave if you're inclined, but I've never found it necessary.
All this being said, you can never go wrong with Creme de la Crumb. So far, it's solidified as the cinnamon bun of choice for working professionals in Downtown Vancouver.
Without a doubt, this place is synonymous with the phrase "best cinnamon buns in Vancouver." Grounds for Coffee has been in business nailing cinnamon buns since 1993, so they've got it narrowed down to both an art and a science.
Located on Alma in between Broadway and West 10th, these guys are actually only ten minutes away from campus. Basically, there's no excuse not to have tried them yet.
Everything just works. These buns are simply the gooiest you'll ever taste, and the vanilla bean cream cheese icing is perfectly nuanced, adding so much flavour to something you theoretically couldn't improve upon. If we're still talking sexy performances, we're way past Daniel Craig in Casino Royale... this is on the level of Jennifer Love Hewitt 15 years ago in The Heartbreakers.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, words can't express how mind-numbingly amazing these cinnamon buns are. You owe it to yourself to experience them in person.