Denver food truck CinnaBox is taking cinnamon rolls to new heights by embracing the delicious, organic, and local produce sold in the very farmers' markets where the truck parks each week. Fresh strawberries and Palisade peaches from the fruit vendors up the aisle, yerba mate from a Colorado tea company and organic flour are just some of the ways that CinnaBox owners Alexander Del Valle and Samantha Mulholland go out of their way to create something unique in the cinnamon roll world. The soon-to-be newlyweds explain the wild flavors of CinnaBox like this: “It’s like if a pie and a cinnamon roll had a baby.”
Del Valle and Mulholland are the personification of this match made in sugar heaven: Johnson & Whales graduate Del Valle creates the recipes and does marketing while Mulholland, an out-going salesperson at heart, draws in the crowds at their booth or in the food truck.
CinnaBox veers away from predictable cream cheese frosting (in part because of food-truck-specific health code considerations) and instead uses fresh fruits and other ingredients that taste just as good, if not better, and stay fresh longer. "You always have to adjust, to think on your feet, and take everything as it comes," Del Valle explains.
"Food trucks are serious business. People always tell me, 'It's my dream to own a food truck!'" he jokes, "It's never anyone's dream to own a booth, though."
Del Valle says that the Cherry Creek farmers' market demographic has been good for business, but that "surprisingly our best customers have been people our age — twenty-somethings. I feel like it's kind of an interesting product in that way. There was this older man who was like, 'This is better than my grandmas.' That was the biggest compliment in my book — like, wow! And surprisingly to me, our customers are a lot of men, too. I guess anyone who wants the luxury cinnamon roll. It's the top tier of every ingredient category. It's the best of the best."
Those top-tier ingredients mean the indulgent treats also come with a top-tier price tag: a single cinnamon roll is big but costs $7 fresh and $6 on the second day.
Since Del Valle is adamant about using only the freshest organic ingredients, flavors change constantly. "This is a blueberry upside-down cinnamon roll," explains Mulholland, pointing out a purple-topped beauty. "If you look, the pretty side is underneath there." The cinnamon roll is placed in its box upside-down, a step meant to preserve the sugary crunch on the more picturesque underside while keeping the pastry itself from becoming soggy. The most popular flavor? Lemon, with a delectably sweet yet tart frosting with a smooth finish reminiscent of butter.
Other creative rolls include pecan, apple, blueberry, and strawberry-peach, each with that pie-like topping that combines guilty pleasure and harmonious balance. Customers have been responding positively: "We sold out the last three weeks," Del Valle notes.
Del Valle already shows mastery in his cinnamon roll recipes — but a minimalist food truck is only the beginning. The couple's long-term goal is to open a 24-hour, healthy fast-food restaurant. After scouting several restaurant locations that didn't work out, the food truck called their names — and they jumped at the opportunity.
The dynamic young gastronome couple also have a newborn baby on top of it all, but he’s not the one who keeps them up at night. “We’ve stayed up all night baking the cinnamon rolls," MulHolland says, "trying new recipes. It’s the true labor of love.”
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Try the cinnamon-roll-meets-pie innovations for yourself at the Cherry Creek Fresh Market on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at the Stapleton Fresh Market on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.