A step-by-step guide to making Thiago Silva's internet-famous cinnamon roll doughnut
Photos: Meghan Uno/Tasting Table
Cinnamon Roll Doughnut

If there's a chef in New York right now who can challenge the old adage "timing is everything," it's Thiago Silva.

In December, he left his position as the executive pastry chef of EMM Group, where he oversaw dessert creation and implementation at NYC's The General, La Cenita and Catch for the past six years. His time is now filled with awaiting the birth of his second child and fixing up his house in Queens—not building elaborate celebration cakes or cookie buckets. So the timing couldn't be weirder for one of his former fantastical creations to go viral.

The dessert is his cinnamon roll doughnut (see the recipe).

Over the course of one week, the doughnut—which you can still get on Catch's dessert menu served with pumpkin ice cream, spiced rum sabayon and cranberry pomegranate sauce—was featured on The Huffington Post, Thrillist, Delish, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed and countless other sites. After an enthusiastic tasting on morning food show The Chew, even more coverage followed.

"It's kind of crazy," Silva says. "I'm home not doing anything, and this came outta nowhere. I didn't push this dessert out, so the media attention happened organically."

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This isn't the first time Silva's taken nostalgic childhood favorites to professional heights. He's made Apple Jax Pop Tarts, S'Mores Pizza and "The Anytime Waffle Tower," which layers gluten-free waffles with maple, milk chocolate and raspberry ice creams, smothered in chocolate ganache, raspberry jam and toasted almonds in a presentation more sundae-like than brunch worthy.

And then there's the doughnut. "If you can take two classic American pastries that everyone knows and loves, and come up with a way to combine them at a professional level, it's fun," he says. Rather than wrap an already-baked cinnamon roll inside raw doughnut dough, Silva mastered both pastry recipes and his frying technique so that the raw cinnamon roll bakes on the inside while the doughnut fries on the outside. Cut into it horizontally, and the bun oozes now-warm cream cheese icing.

While he soaks in time with his family and gets ready for his next professional step, Silva's having fun with the attention his creation is getting right now, with more videos, interviews and articles already on their way. "This is our generation's way of rewarding someone for their new idea or concept," he says. "But on my end, I just love creating cool new products and sweet memories for people."

Find Catch here, or in our DINE app.

  • Chef Thiago Silva, formerly of Catch and other restaurants in New York City, developed this cinnamon roll-doughnut hybrid. Glazed with a cream cheese frosting, these doughnuts expose a full cinnamon roll when the top is removed.

  • The dough has a long mixing time to ensure proper gluten development. At the end of the process, cold butter is mixed in for a rich dough.

  • Chef Silva checks to see if the finished dough has reached "window stage," where the dough can be stretched until translucent without tearing.

  • While the dough rests, brown sugar and cinnamon are cooked down with butter to make the cinnamon roll filling.

  • The finished product has the consistency of caramel but needs to cool to room temperature, when it will take on the consistency of peanut butter.

  • After it's divided into thirds, the dough is rolled out into thin sheets: one for the cinnamon rolls and two for the layers of the doughnuts.

  • The cinnamon-brown sugar mixture is spread evenly onto one sheet of dough in a square shape before being trimmed and rolled tightly into a log.

  • The cinnamon roll log is cut into 12 half-inch disks to fit in the middle of the doughnuts.

  • One sheet of dough is laid out and topped with the cinnamon rolls before being enclosed within the final layer of dough.

  • Using the rounded top side of a 2¾-inch circle cutter, the doughs are sealed, pushing out any air around the cinnamon rolls before being cut out with a 3-inch plain circle cutter.

  • After a final proof, the doughnuts are fried low and slow at 275 degrees, so their inner cinnamon rolls cook through.

  • Finally, the doughnuts are glazed with a rich and tangy cream cheese frosting before being served.

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