Edmonton Bakery Review: Cinnaholic

What’s inside the box?

Cinnaholic is an American-based franchise that introduced their first Alberta location in Edmonton this past spring. Opening to much fanfare in the downtown core (the Mayfair on Jasper building at 10075 109 Street), the promo of $1 cinnamon buns for the first half of their launch day had patrons lined up all the way down and around the block. Even though my co-worker and I had plans to take advantage of the deal, there was no way we would get away with staying in line for what would likely be a few hours. We turned right back around, leaving empty-handed.

Cinnaholic’s menu is quite extensive when building your own bun.

Fast forward to early fall, and a few of us decided we’d treat ourselves to a lunchtime dessert. We walked over to Cinnaholic once more. This time, it was a normal business day for them and it was a lot quieter. The most difficult part of the process when ordering your cinnamon bun is choosing from the 18 icing options and 24 topping selections. However, the cost is no joke either. The Classic Old Skool Roll with Vanilla Frosting is $5.50. Modification to the icing is going to be an additional 50 cents per flavour. Additionally, every single topping chosen is another 75 cents each.

Their showcase has a number of suggested buns.

My friends went all out with theirs. I kept mine fairly simple by swapping out the vanilla frosting for what I think should always be the regular accompaniment to a cinnamon bun, cream cheese frosting. To top it off, I picked a cookie dough topping. All in all, I expected that this would total about $6.75 plus tax. However, it was a little less, ringing in at only $6.25 as though the switch to the icing was free.

They can get quite elaborate.

As a bonus, I do recommend signing up for Cinnaholic’s rewards card. For every dollar spent, you’ll earn points, and those points can be redeemed for discounts. You’ll also get periodic offers for free toppings, etc. Best of all, with my first purchase, I was able to save $3 off of my bill, making this treat significantly more affordable that day.

Once our orders were placed, it didn’t take the staff long to prepare our buns. They carefully packed them up in paper bags, so we could take them to go. As soon as we returned to the office, I opened up my box to take a look. Honestly, the dessert looked a little worse for wear. I guess the heat from the cinnamon bun had melted the cream cheese icing and caused the cookie dough to slide off. It certainly wasn’t as pretty as what I’d seen of other purchases on social media. Still, the biggest test came with a tasting.

I was the last to try my Cinnaholic bun out of my friends since I decided to eat my real meal first. From their desks I heard them say that theirs were good, but super sweet, so I got a little bit apprehensive. When I finally began to take bites of mine, it was no longer as warm (I was too lazy to walk to the microwave to heat it quickly). And, although the bun itself felt fresh, because Cinnaholic uses all vegan recipes that are dairy, lactose, egg and cholesterol-free, the dough was somewhat dense. It, unfortunately, doesn’t become as airy and fluffy once baked as one might be used to.

In terms of the frosting, it was sugary to the point of the granules being evident, and, while I do believe that cream cheese icing is better than vanilla, I’m not sure it was immediately discernible that what I was tasting was supposed to be cream cheese flavoured. The cookie dough topping may have been the best part of the cinnamon bun. It was malleable and I scooped up dough to spread onto each piece of bun as I ate.

Cinnaholic’s interior is bright.

Personally, Cinnaholic wasn’t my favourite. I’d much rather get my usual cinnamon bun from Cinnzeo. Those are tried and true and they never disappoint. Still, I do feel that Cinnaholic serves a niche market for those who may have food intolerances. That’s the clientele that they were created for, and it’s nice that customers have this option. It’s just not going to be my top pick, and I likely won’t continue to go out of my way to visit Cinnaholic often.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Sugarbowl

The Sugarbowl (@sugarbowlcafe), serving Edmontonians in various forms since 1943, is a community favourite in an area peppered with popular independent restaurants. Known for their famous cinnamon buns (Seriously, who would have thought that a roll without cream cheese icing would be so good! Plus, one bun is essentially a meal on its own.), they have plenty of other items to please the palate.

Patrons enjoying their meals and conversations.

Patrons enjoying their meals and conversations.

My very first visit to the establishment was several years ago, likely when I was still finishing up my Bachelor’s degree. I ordered the lamb burger and was blown away by the flavour of the meat and the use of goat cheese, a combination I had not yet experienced at the time. I’ve never forgotten that burger or the restaurant. It was the place to be before it really mattered where you hung out. And, while I was a bit late to the game considering I was born and bred in the city, it has since become a top venue to chat with family over breakfast or meet up with friends for drinks.

My girlfriends and I did exactly that approximately a month and a half ago. We met up for brunch at about 11 AM on a Saturday morning knowing full well that, by arriving at that late hour on the weekend, we might possibly miss out on the coveted cinnamon buns (we were, in fact, too late to get one!). On the other hand, it was during that sweet spot between the early morning risers and the lunch crowd, so my friend managed to grab a table quickly before the rest of us got there.

The brunch menu is pretty succinct, so it wasn’t too hard to make our decisions that day. After finding out that the cinnamon bun was no longer an option, my friend chose to go with the french toast. My other friend ordered the huevos rancheros, which was one of the menu items that was mentioned on The Tomato‘s list of 100 best eats and drinks in Edmonton this year (overall, the restaurant came in at No. 5 in 2014 and No. 15 in 2013). I went with the chicken & waffle, a dish that seems to be a little more prevalent at food establishments lately.

The chicken and waffles from the breakfast menu.

The chicken and waffles from the breakfast menu.

I didn’t sample my friends’ orders, but I was told that the french toast – fried brioche pastry/bread covered in berry compote and whipped cream – was a worthy alternative to the cinnamon bun goodness that she didn’t get to eat. I’m certain that if you’re looking for a somewhat sugary breakfast, the french toast will certainly do the job. The huevos rancheros, touted by patrons as one of the top selections for breakfast, turned out to be a bit underwhelming. Consisting of 2 eggs, corn tortilla, spicy beans, three cheeses and salsa verde, my friend wanted me to say that she thought the addition of a starch would have been ideal – hash browns or toast perhaps?

Personally, I was really happy with my chicken & waffle. Plated with two perfectly cooked waffles and two pieces of lightly breaded buttermilk, spice marinated chicken breasts, I knew I was in for a filling and hearty meal. Served with a small side of greens and a little cup of maple butter, it presented the scrumptious combination of savoury and sweet flavours. The spices from the chicken were strong enough to break through the almost too sugary maple taste as well as the blueberry syrup that I had added to my waffles. All-in-all, the dish is very well-balanced and a good contender for those who can never decide between having something salty or sweet during brunch.

Sometime this summer, when the weather decides to stay steadily warm with just a light breeze, I would like to visit again for lunch or dinner on the patio. It’s been a while since I have had the opportunity to sample from those menus and I’d love to see if the lamb burger still lives up to my memory of it.

I also have to hand it to the servers here. They always have smiles on their faces, they are fun, friendly and they do a great job of checking in throughout your meal to remove empty dishes and refill drinks as needed without giving you the sense of being overbearing. There’s a real feeling of camaraderie between the staff that shines through, too.

When we were done our food, cappuccinos and orange juice, we cleared out to make room for others who were waiting patiently for tables. The only downside is that they don’t take reservations. But, I suppose that is part of the charm of the Sugarbowl. There’s something about being in line, anticipating your turn to sit down, watching everyone else have a great time, and knowing that you will soon join them.

Edmonton Bakers Make Life Brighter

Joint Photo

Left: Tiramisu cupcakes from Beyond The Bowl Baking
Right: Lemon cupcakes from Cupcakes by Courtney

I’ve been fighting a cold these last seven days. And it’s starting to take its toll, especially because it’s a week before I leave for a trip to see The Rolling Stones. I don’t want to be sick during my holiday, so I’m doing my best to get rid of it, but without the help of meds. I’m drinking plenty of fluids and rinsing with Listerine. However, it’s persisting and maybe it’s because my busy schedule isn’t really allowing me the rest or sleep I should be striving for. Sometimes settling down for a bit and having a nap is a good thing for us. While I know this probably won’t happen today, I wish I could sit on the couch and just veg out with a plate of cupcakes and some movies or a book. That, for me, would be a day of heaven.

Cupcakes really help to brighten my day and I’m certain that others feel the same way. I count myself as a connoisseur of the delightful treats, and in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta I have tried the majority of the cupcake shops in town (thank you Groupon and all the other deal sites for contributing to any weight I may or may not have gained over the last few years). Some of the shops I’ve bought from have been great and others could certainly use improvements.

Yet I’m currently counting myself lucky because I now not only know just one, but two bakers who have ventured into the world of cupcake creations over the last year! I share them with you in the hopes that you will find the perfect dessert for your upcoming celebrations or your own personal indulgences.

Both ladies bake part-time outside of their full-time jobs, so if you would like to order anything from them, a few days notice would be great.

Cupcakes by Courtney is the first.

Courtney

Courtney of Cupcakes by Courtney

Courtney really started baking for others last fall with a few trusty recipes including Red Velvet and Irish Car Bombs and has been experimenting with new flavours ever since. She is a fellow bridesmaid in our friend’s wedding this coming August and will be providing peacock themed cupcakes for the reception in place of a traditional cake. We did a tasting one evening and the chocolate cake with whisky chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate cream cheese icing was the winner! Other delicious sounding flavours include:

Cinnamon-Sugar

Cinnamon sugar cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes

Grapefruit Chiffon with Grapefruit Cream Cheese Icing

Grapefruit cupcakes with grapefruit cream cheese icing

Triple Chocolate with Jack Daniel's Whiskey Ganache Filling and White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

Triple chocolate cupcakes with JD’s whiskey ganache filling and white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream icing

Red Velvet and Lemon Cake Pops

Mix of red velvet and lemom cake pops

Courtney also makes beautiful cake pops for those who prefer a sweet in a bite-sized package. I believe she can also do some cakes sugar or butter free. Please inquire with her for specifics.

Additional information can be found on her Facebook page by clicking the link above her image. You may also contact Courtney by e-mail at courtneys355@hotmail.com or phone her at 780-288-5249.

The second is Beyond the Bowl Baking.

Bev

Bev of Beyond the Bowl Baking

I’ve worked with Bev for a few years now. She heads the United Way committee at our office and as a group we’ve been holding bake sales annually in which Bev’s cakes are the undisputed star. They get snapped up within minutes of the table opening, so it just makes sense for Bev to bring her baking prowess to the masses. She’s worked hard to expand her recipes for her launch this April and I have been lucky to be one of her few product taste testers. I will tell you that, without a doubt, you will not be disappointed.

A new flavour seems to come out every week or so (like the fairy godmother of baked goods I probably gain a pound just smelling one, but it’s worth it – just eat healthy the rest of the week!) and each one becomes my new favourite.

Bev’s uniquely filled cupcakes are moist, deliciously flavourful and topped with the perfect amount of frosting. Here are some samples of what she’s got on her order form right now (the list is growing!):

Chocolate Raspberry

Chocolate cupcake with raspberry cream cheese frosting

Peaches Supreme

Peaches Supreme cupcake

Root Beer

Root Beer cupcakes – these are amazing if you love this soft drink

Cinnamon Bun Cupcake

Cinnamon bun cupcake

Mango Coconut topped with Mango-Coconut Rum Frosting and Dried Mango

Mango coconut cupcakes topped with mango coconut rum frosting and dried mango

Chocolate Infused with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Chocolate Shards and Bubble Sugar

Chocolate infused cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting topped with chocolate and bubble sugar shards

Bev also makes some slab cakes. I would highly recommend her pumpkin cake (my personal favourite) and her Guiness gingerbread ones.

Her order form includes pricing: BtBB 2013. If you would like to place an order, please fill it out and e-mail to Bev at beyondthebowlbaking@gmail.com. You may also click on the link above her photo to view her Facebook page.

I hope that these cupcakes bring happiness to your best days and perhaps even your worst. People always ask me why I love these single serving desserts (I was probably obsessed with trying every one I could get my hands on for a time) and I think it’s because they bring a little sunshine into my life. And, I believe that’s something that the world can use more of.

Photo sources: Cupcakes by Courtney images were all borrowed from her Facebook page and taken by her husband, Pat. Solo cupcakes from Beyond the Bowl Baking were snapped by me. All other images of cupcakes from Beyond the Bowl Baking came from Bev’s Facebook page.