Ready to Roll

By Heather Larson | Photo © Sustain | Shutterstock

MY MOTHER WAS A TERRIBLE COOK. Yet every Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, the sweet, spicy smell of cinnamon wafted up the stairs into my bedroom. I couldn’t wait to dig into one of her yummy cinnamon rolls. I always wondered why she kept her baking expertise hidden for the rest of the year. Many years later I caught her in the act of smacking open the can of refrigerated dough. When my palate matured, I sought out tender homemade rolls with swirls of piquant cinnamon throughout and a flavorful frosting on top with a little dripping down the sides.

For those who appreciate a good scratch-made cinnamon roll as much as I do, I’ve collected a list of bakeries where you can buy multiples for the holidays.

The Cookie Jar
Fairbanks, Alaska

While filming Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” host Guy Fieri discovered the secret ingredient in the cinnamon roll dough at The Cookie Jar is potato flakes. Owner Gloria Burcell says she adds the flakes to make the dough moist. Besides the plain variety, cinnamon buns here also come filled with strawberries, mixed berries or blueberries. The bakery’s cinnamon roll wreath does double duty for the holiday, serving as a decoration and a tasty breakfast dish. Order the buns with raisins and extra glaze if you like.

Kyra’s Bake Shop
Lake Oswego, Oregon

A baker who has won Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” an unprecedented four times knows her stuff, especially with gluten-free pastries. At the age of 20, Kyra Bussanich was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and eliminated gluten from her diet in order to cope. Not wanting to give up desserts forever, she experimented with different flours until she found a gluten-free combination that was even tastier than traditional wheat flour.

In both her gourmet cupcakes and cinnamon rolls (her second most popular seller), she uses a combination of potato starch, millet flour, tapioca starch and cornstarch. These ooey-gooey delights come sans raisins and nuts. For large orders, give the shop four day’s notice.

Geraldine’s Bake Shoppe
Ammon, Idaho

When you walk into this bakery near Idaho Falls, you’re likely to meet the owners, Jay or Merry Bungard or one of their seven children, many of whom work there. Bungard uses Saigon cinnamon, the best he can buy. This gives the rolls a strong, spicy flavor.

Still that’s not the top-secret ingredient. The hush-hush component is in the frosting, and Bungard swears it’s not cream cheese. The soft, sweet dough has customers raving in online reviews, calling the rolls airy and light.

Geraldine’s opens at 12:01 a.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to accommodate busy customers.

Black Diamond Bakery
Black Diamond, Washington

If you like the heartiness of whole wheat, shop for your cinnamon rolls at this iconic Northwest bakery, built in 1902. They regularly bake whole-wheat apple rolls in three varieties: plain, with a white glaze or with a cream cheese frosting. My daughter became addicted to these when we took her to the bakery as a child, and her enthusiasm for them has never waned. She and I both prefer the frosted ones because the burst of sweetness balances well with the nutty, pronounced wheat taste.

They also sell a half-pound variety and a six-pack of regular sized rolls with caramel glaze and your choice of either pecans or walnuts.

Get there early before they run out, especially on the weekends when area bicyclists often stop en masse for some sugary fuel.