This Cookie Will Crumbl

By Carolyn Considine, age 17, Acalanes Center for Independent Study, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Crumbl Cookies is more marketing phenomenon than cookie. As a culinary experience, it’s a manufactured sugar rush that borrows much from the playbook of Krispy Kreme’s early 2000s stampedes. It offers a Disney-esque round-the-block queue that draws cookie pilgrims into a small pink and white Easy-Bake-Oven-inspired open-concept kitchen. Eggs crack, frosting is piped, and everything smells of sugar and butter — even through an N95 mask. The cookie-baking experience, as much as the nearly 700-calorie cookies themselves, is what’s for sale.

Yet unlike Crumbl’s glazed doughnut predecessor, the main event happens online after customers leave the store to post their Crumbl Reviews. It is a cookie engineered for the influencer age. Actually eating cookies takes a back seat to food photography and online ranking. Patrons snap staged photos of their four to 12 selected cookies, rating each 1 to 10. The company celebrates the “totally Instagrammable!” cuteness of its product, a claim more or less confirmed by the 8.6 million views of #CrumblCookieReview and the 287.3 million views of #CrumblReview on TikTok.

Entering Crumbl feels like a distinctly Apple-store experience of minimalistic white with the addition of millennial pink accents. A contactless iPad ordering counter completes the aesthetic. After 20 minutes in line, in a haze of cookie dough aroma, I approached the tablet with my long-considered order: two Churros, a Double Trouble, a Turtle, an Orange Roll and a Milk Chocolate Chip (their only nonrotating selection). Then more waiting, this time in a roped-off area for observing a performance that combines cookie-spewing modern baking machines with a meticulous assembly-line of frosting and boxing. Every Monday, five new flavors drop. Cookies are almost never repeated, and Crumbl boasts over 170 recipes. Saturday at midnight is particularly busy, offering one final chance to sample limited-edition selections before they disappear, possibly forever.

Yet beneath all of this ingenious manufactured hype, I couldn’t quite look past one glaring contradiction. While my six cookies were indeed a contrast of crisp exterior and gooey interior, they were also easily divisible and revealed no signs of crumbling. Bert might even approve of Ernie eating them in bed. One outcome of this doughy underbake is that beneath each cookie lay a grease ring, grease which clung to my hands and my lips, as well. My #CrumblReview? The only cookie I fully consumed was the satisfyingly melty Milk Chocolate Chip. I’d give it an 8. The Churros’ sugar was overpowering (5), Double Trouble was basically a chocolaty-er chocolate chip (8), Turtle suffered from NutraSweet-like artificiality (3), and Orange Roll was overwhelmed by a sweet cream cheese frosting more Safeway cake than cookie (2).

While these too-big caloric Mack Trucks may refuse to crumble themselves, it is only a matter of time before the online novelty that fuels their flavor-of-the-week mania does.