Eat & Drink

Dish With Gish: Scouting out KC’s sweetest cinnamon rolls

Corner Cafe makes some of the largest and softest cinnamon rolls in the Kansas City area.
Corner Cafe makes some of the largest and softest cinnamon rolls in the Kansas City area.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like cinnamon rolls.

What’s not to like? The classic breakfast pastry magically transforms common ingredients — flour, yeast, butter, sugar, cinnamon — into soft, warm swirls of heaven.

As a kid I loved any and all cinnamon rolls, including the loose, crunchy ones that came with my school lunch on chili day. Occasionally my mom would buy cinnamon roll dough from the grocery store, and it was my job to pop the paper tube, arrange the pinwheels in a pan and drizzle on snow-white icing.

Now that I’m a carb-conscious adult, cinnamon rolls are a rare indulgence, and I’m slightly more selective. My favorites are served by local bakeries that have cinnamon rolls down to a science.

The Corner Cafe, with locations in Riverside, Liberty and Independence, has some of the largest cinnamon rolls around. They’re baked close together in a deep pan, which prevents the outside from forming a hard crust. The outer swirl is just as soft, light and feathery as the center of these plate-sized rolls, which cost $3.29 each and are served with a serrated knife and fork.

You also need a fork to eat the oversized cinnamon rolls at the Roost, 920 Massachusetts St. in Lawrence. The $3 breakfast pastries are baked with space in between, which gives them a round shape and firm, golden edges. Their perfectly defined swirls are blanketed with a thick sheet of opaque icing.

At M&M Bakery and Deli, 1721 E. 31st St., the cinnamon rolls ($2.50) are loaded with lots of cinnamon and sugar, which makes for a looser swirl construction and more potent flavor. If you’re going to eat one, grab plenty of napkins. Same goes for M&M Bakery’s fried cinnamon rolls — which cost $2.25 and taste like cinnamon-swirled glazed doughnuts — and the sticky buns ($2.75), cinnamon rolls drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

Sticky buns are also a specialty at McClain’s Bakery, 201 E. Gregory Blvd. McClain’s version costs $2.20 and has a crunchy, caramelized exterior and a soft, cinnamon-spiced interior. If you prefer classic cinnamon rolls, try the six-packs McClain’s Bakery sells in an aluminum pan for $11.99. The compact rolls are rich and dense, with a deliciously thick pool of icing on top.

Cream cheese is the secret ingredient in the icing at Le Monde Bakery, 308 Armour Road in North Kansas City. I like Le Monde’s raisin-studded cinnamon roll ($2.60), with its deep golden exterior and opaque icing.

Instagram-worthy rolls are also served at MeMa’s Old-Fashioned Bakery, with locations in Kansas City, Kan., and the Power & Light District. The bakery’s signature cinnamon rolls ($1.99) are baked in muffin cups, which makes them puff up instead of out. The cupcake-sized rolls are perfect for one person, but those who want to share should consider upgrading to the larger Chateau cinnamon rolls ($2.99), which can easily feed two or three.

If you prefer light and airy rolls, try the ones at Clock Tower Bakery ($2.75). The cafe at 7911 Santa Fe in downtown Overland Park bakes pastries throughout the day, which increases the chances of catching a batch fresh from the oven. I also like Clock Tower Bakery’s orange rolls ($2.75), swirled with zesty marmalade, which are slightly less sweet than their cinnamon counterparts.

Delicate, flaky cinnamon rolls are served at Bloom Baking Co., 15 E. Third St. in the City Market. The bakery makes its cinnamon rolls ($3.95) with layered Danish dough, which makes for a croissant-like texture. Consider them a cross between croissants and cinnamon rolls — no “Cronut”-style name required.