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North Cascades cinnamon roll smackdown

Searching for cinnamon rolls between Anacortes and Twisp

As I was checking out of my hotel, the man behind the counter said “When you get there, be sure to go to the bakery and get the cinnamon roll. My wife just loves their cinnamon rolls.”

Cinnamon roll isn’t a particular favorite of mine, and second-hand recommendations from hotel staff aren’t always to be trusted. But hey – it was Saturday, and I was out touring on my motorcycle, so why not break away from my more restricted diet and give it a try. At worst, I’ll take a bite and then toss the rest. I ate the whole thing.

Which got me wondering. It’s been years since I’ve had a cinnamon roll. Could they be this good anywhere I go? There was only one way to find out. On a dark November day, the Senior Editor and I hopped in the red rice rocket and jetted to Skagit County. I’d done my homework and pinpointed five bakeries near the North Cascades Highway. For this field trip we’d stop at each location, buy a cinnamon roll, then adjourn to the car and sample it, making notes as we worked our way along.

From east to west, here are the results:

Calico Cupboard **

3 locations (Anacortes, La Conner, Mount Vernon)

Calico Cupboard sources a lot of their ingredients locally, as does their sister, Seeds Bistro in La Conner. Sadly, the roll just didn’t have a lot to offer. It had plenty of cinnamon and sugar, but it lacked butter. Of course, you could get it heated with butter, but that won’t change the interior texture, which has to be considered when sussing out a cinnamon roll. The price, $6.51, was the premium price for any roll we bought on the route. Almost 50% more than our winning roll.

Joy’s Bakery *

823 Metcalf St, Sedro Woolley

Hello Seattleites. Looking for an alternative to Beth’s Café 90 minutes north? You’ll find it in Sedro Woolley at Joy’s, where you’ll find plenty of breakfast entrees, some deep fried, served in enormous portions. And yes, there are baked goods. Sadly, the cinnamon roll here tasted as though it was made with the lowest grade ingredients. Cinnamon must taste like cinnamon.

5B’s Bakery ***

45597 Main St, Concrete, WA

In my more than two decades of living in Washington, I had yet to visit Concrete. But I have now. And in the tiny town there stands a bakery that pleases many. The staff here lean toward healthier ingredients shooting for being gluten-free. When it comes to flours, there are many good alternatives to wheat flour and they’ve opted to use millet, which is a non-gluten seed. For oil, they prepare their cinnamon rolls using canola oil, which is the devil if you’re a cardiologist in-the-know. The roll was better than what we’d encountered to the west, but it didn’t do much to retain moisture after leaving the oven, which was evident from the dry outsides.

The Eatery ****

58468 Clark Cabin Road, Rockport, WA

The legend of Tootsie and her cinnamon roll deliveries to those awaiting the opening of the North Cascades Highway each spring near Diablo Dam is going to live on for decades since her passing a few years back. We’re not sure if this is the same recipe of her lore, but what we enjoyed on this day was pretty good. The sugar, cinnamon, and butter were all nicely balanced. The rolls were moist, and the frosting was a good blend of cream cheese and sugar. The inclusion of nuts and raisins was something we hadn’t crossed paths with up to this point. A nice addition.

Cinnamon Twisp Bakery *****

116 N Glover St., Twisp, WA

If you want the best of the best, you’re gonna have to cross over the Cascades to get it to the tiny town of Twisp near Winthrop. This is by far the hands-down best roll I encountered. All the ingredients are organic, and most are local. The roll is moist inside and out, and oh-so savory. Instead of a white cream frosting, the top is adorned with crushed hazel nuts melded together with brown sugar and butter, making the entire flavor experience unforgettable. Inside the case you’ll see the list of ingredients. Take a picture of it, then try and recreate it back at home!

TM/December 2020

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