Review: After Trying Panera's New CinnaTops There Was One Clear Winner

Assorted CinnaTop Varieties
Assorted CinnaTop Varieties - Monika Sudakov/Daily Meal

Among the many changes to the menu at Panera in 2024 is the introduction of a new line of treats known as CinnaTops. These extravagant delicacies showcase Panera's classic cinnamon rolls by topping them with indulgent goodies that are sure to satisfy every sweet tooth. Varieties include Candy Cookie, Choco Chipper Cookie, and Fudgy Brownie, with each being more decadent than the last. These limited-edition summer treats are available at stores nationwide, beginning at $4.79 per snack, while supplies last.

While these CinnaTops may not quite resemble a classic cinnamon roll recipe, they certainly piqued my curiosity, which is why I ran out to obtain a sample of each one as fast as I could. I couldn't wait to see which variety I liked best, thinking if cinnamon rolls are good, ones topped with cookies or a brownie must be even better. In a heroic sacrifice worthy of a food-loving gladiator, I carefully indulged in each of these treats, considering aroma, texture, flavor, and overall quality. I compared them to one another so that you don't have to. Read on to find out which CinnaTop treat reigns supreme.

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Choco Chipper Cookie CinnaTop

Choco Chipper Cookie CinnaTop
Choco Chipper Cookie CinnaTop - Monika Sudakov/Daily Meal

At the bottom of my list of CinnaTop treats is the Choco Chipper Cookie variety. This features a classic cinnamon roll topped with icing, chocolate chipper chunks, and a garnish of sea salt and chocolate drizzle. Each treat has 740 calories, 29 grams of fat, 680 milligrams of sodium, 66 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

The aroma of this treat was dominated by the cinnamon roll, which foretold the chocolate chipper cookie chunks being something of an afterthought. In terms of the texture, even when heated, I found this treat to be dry. Without a coffee chaser, the texture of this CinnaTop was hard to swallow. The cinnamon roll was on the chewy side, rather than flaky, and the cookie was crumbly. I also felt that the assembly of the cookies on top of the cinnamon roll was clunky, as the chunks do not adhere to the icing. To eat the two together, you have to make a concerted effort to take a big enough bite so that the cookie doesn't fall off the cinnamon roll.

Where this CinnaTop was most underwhelming was in taste. The cinnamon roll was great, loaded with fresh cinnamon and not overly sweet, but the chocolate chipper cookie was just okay. There was nothing special about it, and it did not add anything to the cinnamon roll. I was hoping for more of a harmonious blend of flavors that enhanced both.

Candy Cookie CinnaTop

Candy Cookie CinnaTop
Candy Cookie CinnaTop - Monika Sudakov/Daily Meal

The Candy Cookie CinnaTop was marginally better, particularly in the texture department. This treat features candy cookie chunks, candy pieces, and a garnish of icing drizzle. The aroma was still dominated by the cinnamon, but slightly less aggressively so. The texture was notably more tender, with the cinnamon roll having a flaky, moist mouthfeel that yielded delicately to my fork without any resistance. Though the cookie chunks and candy pieces fell off this CinnaTop as well, I was less distracted by this since I could more easily retrieve them with the cinnamon-sugar filled roll.

As far as flavor goes, the unctuous cinnamon roll was once again dynamite, with many rich cinnamon notes. The flavors were markedly more well-balanced between the roll and the candy cookie chunks and pieces, even if the latter were on the sweet side -- almost cloyingly so. That said, the sweetness varied depending on how many of the cookie pieces you got in any given bite, as the cookie itself was not particularly sugary. Each of these treats contains 860 calories, 31 grams of fat, 570 milligrams of sodium, 85 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.

Fudgy Brownie CinnaTop

Fudgy Brownie CinnaTop
Fudgy Brownie CinnaTop - Monika Sudakov/Daily Meal

Coming in first on my list as the best CinnaTop offering is the Fudgy Brownie variety. This treat is exactly what it says it is: a cinnamon roll topped with a decadent, chocolatey brownie broken into chunks. This offering contains 790 calories, 27 grams of fat, 460 milligrams of sodium, 81 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

Where this treat worked notably better than the others was in terms of texture. The cinnamon roll base was tender and well-layered, and the brownie chunks were moist and gooey. Though the brownie chunks still felt like they didn't necessarily adhere to the creamy and sticky icing, the brownie was fudgy enough that when you dug a fork into both, they melded together quite well. The aroma of this combo was the most copacetic, with the cinnamon and chocolate fusing like a warm cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

As far as taste goes, if you love chocolate and cinnamon rolls, this treat is your jam. Though it is quite sweet, the bittersweet cocoa cuts through the sugar, helping to moderate it. Overall, if I were to purchase a CinnaTop again, this is the one I would buy. That said, the whole line felt a bit unimaginative to me. While the idea is a great way of maximizing extra cinnamon rolls and sweet treats, I'm not sure that the combination of the two makes either inherently better.

How We Ranked Panera's New CinnaTops

Assorted CinnaTops and coffee
Assorted CinnaTops and coffee - Monika Sudakov/Daily Meal

I purchased the CinnaTops on the same day, from two different Panera locations. They are sold as-is, but I decided to bring them home and warm them before sampling to give me the best possible quality. While I was tempted to toss them on the grill (grilling is a dynamite way to reheat cinnamon rolls), I decided this would change the flavor too much, so I popped them in the microwave for a minute.

I tasted each cinnamon roll in succession, absorbing the smells, mouthfeel, flavor, and considering the overall success of each treat. While I was assessing the individual components, I was more interested in how each CinnaTop worked as a whole. I will note that my impression of the Choco Chipper Cookie variety may have been affected by how long the treat had been sitting at the Panera I purchased it from. That said, considering they were all bought within an hour of each other, this should not have made as distinct a difference in texture as it seemed to. It is my hope that this ranking will help you determine which of these summer duos will best fit your tastes.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal.