All those who answered “Cinnabon” may now feel free to go over to YouTube to watch that video of that kite surfer being slammed into that building again. (Ow). I mean where — geographically, historically — do cinnamon buns come from?
As with so man of these things, it’s hard to say. Food historians like to argue the Greeks and Romans, but then they always argue that don’t they? Honestly I sometimes think there’s a food historian out there who’d claim the Macedonians invented the first haggis spring roll. In truth there’s very scant evidence that the Greeks and Romans cooked with cinnamon (they mostly burned it as incense), much less rolled it up in dough sheets and covered it with icing. Nope, to find a true cinnamon bun, we need to look much later on the culinary timeline, to a period when not only cinnamon, but things like butter and especially sugar were commonplace. That puts us in the Age of Exploration at the earliest, more likely the colonial period, when sugar production in the Caribbean was at its height and widely available to the masses. Let’s say around the mid-1700’s.
This was also the time when Northern European bakers had truly mastered super-rich, butter-infused yeast doughs. They were shaped into buns by the French (brioche) and fried in oil by the Dutch (doughnuts). Thus it seems only natural that in time they were combined with cinnamon sugar and rolled up and sliced, as they were by the Germans, Swedes and English who invented Schneken, kanelbulle and Chelsea buns, respectively…all of them antecedents to what we in North American now know as the cinnamon roll.