On February 25th 2024, a group of experts assembled to empirically conclude, once and for all, where Oxford’s best cinnamon bun could be found. Denoting ourselves ‘the panel’, the cinnamon buns were assessed on their looks, taste, and weighed for their value for money (pound per 100g). Our contenders were few but mighty: Missing Bean, Columbia Coffee Roasters, Barefoot, Hamblin, and Paperboat. These are a mix of Oxford staples and maybe some spots you might not have considered. Here are our findings…


First up, we have Hamblin Bakery. These cinnamon buns were purchased from the newly-opened kiosk located in the Covered Market, convenient for a trust work break sweet treat. Do beware, as the kiosk is only open Thursday-Sunday. The bun came in at £3, meaning it cost £3.22 per 100g. This was the most expensive for value for money, but was inexpensive for the cost per singular bun. The Hamblin bun scored extremely highly on looks: a 4.14 on average. Its coiled twist and glossy sheen entranced, with the light stickiness being playful, without coming off as artificial. In regards to taste, the cinnamon was subtle, allowing other flavours to come through: delicate fruitiness, and an earthy undertone we attributed to the stone-ground flour. On taste, the Hamblin bun scored a respectable 4.07. This was a strong start, with the bun scoring an 8.21 rating overall. 

Missing Bean

Just around the corner from the Covered Market is the ever-reliable Missing Bean. Their bun is somewhat pie-like, a stout base mushrooming out to a cinnamon glaze-covered top of concentric circles. Despite my musings, the panel remained unconvinced by its look, resulting in a score of 3.43. On taste, things only went downhill for the Missing Bean. The lovely cinnamon glaze had tragically not seeped down into the rest of the bun. As a result, the body of the bun desperately lacked moisture. My soaring expectations suffered a sharp fall. Furthermore, the bun came out second most expensive, at £3.17 per 100g. The taste of the Missing Bean’s bun was 2.79, resulting in a 6.42 score overall. 


Before we start, I have a confession to make. Your humble author approaches this test extremely biased in favour of the Barefoot cinnamon buns. I ate these almost every day in Trinity 2023, and thus they are tangled with the nostalgia of summer, memories of sunshine and not really doing all that much except for eating bun after bun. In the interests of conducting a fair assessment, the opinions of the rest of the panel were depended upon to counteract this favouritism. We had two Barefoot buns to compare, and they differed in size, so the average of the two came out at £1.98 per 100g. This was the second most inexpensive in our survey, although this will vary based on the exact bun you purchase. The looks of the bun did let us down, scoring a mediocre 3. The bun was slightly browned, and potentially overbaked, and the icing was not as voluptuous as I remember it being. Cutting into the bun, however, revealed a beautiful cross-section, layers of luscious dough swirlied with sweet and warm cinnamon. This was a wholly satisfying bun to indulge in, peeling away each layer. This bun scored the highest on taste, receiving 4.43. Overall, that resulted in 7.43, ranking second overall. I do maintain that if we had got the buns on a different day, then the looks score would have been higher, but beware your author’s bias here!

Paperboat Cafe

Paperboat Cafe was a latecomer to the test, a suggestion of one of our panel. Despite living in south Oxford, I had never been to this charming little cafe on Folly Bridge. Their cinnamon buns were less buns, but more like slices, generously drenched in an oozy, gooey, cream cheese-esque icing. It was distinctly salty, and that proved a matter of contention among some members of the panel. One panel member attempted to discount it by definition: “this isn’t a bun, let alone a cinnamon bun!”. For another member, it was pure perfection. Bear in mind that this member does put salt on her Hall cake, so take that opinion with, well… Due to the sheer heft of the icing, the Paperboat bun was the least expensive of the test, being £1.91 per 100g. All were enticed by its appearance, scoring the highest overall on looks with 4.21. Opinions wildly diverged from here, with panel members alternating between 1 and 5 ratings. This averaged out to a 7 overall, with taste being 2.79. Definitely one for an acquired palette!

Columbia Coffee Roasters

Finally, we reachColumbia Coffee Roasters. This bun stands astute, topped with crunchy golden sugar. The sugar caramelised slightly to create a subtly nutty taste. The textural experience was not practical to consume, and the distinctly bready look put some of the panel off. Despite its height, the light and fluffy dough meant it cost £2.48 per 100g, putting it right in the middle of our survey on cost. Sadly, it was the bready texture and the lack of flavour apart from the sugar that meant it scored the lowest across the test at 2.71 for taste. Overall, this was the second-lowest score overall at 6.55, although I personally am a champion of the breadiness. If you are a similar fan of honey on plain bread, this is the cinnamon bun for you!


Our undisputed winner was the Hamblin bun. The combination of the rose-like bun, and the sophisticated, delicate flavour won over the panel entirely. The cinnamon bun is a wondrous beast: so simple and yet, as our test proved, so difficult to perfect. As any home baker will attest, there is magic in a warm cinnamon bun. The Hamblin cinnamon bun is the closest you can get to that fresh-out-of-the-oven, pull-apart, melt-in-your-mouth joy. There were clear personal preferences towards Barefoot and Paperboat, so take those recommendations if they appeal to you. We did intend to test the Skogen Kitchen bun, which one can acquire from the Horsebox cafe, but these were sadly not in stock on the Sunday we ventured there. Please do correct me if we have missed your favourite cinnamon bun. The panel will reconvene for round two!