Sticky Buns

Am I the only one who finds that it takes an immeasurable amount of willpower to walk through the mall without being pulled into the cinnamon roll shop? I kind of think I’m not the only one. Am I right? It’s nearly irresistible with that intoxicating aroma that acts as some sort of gravitational pull. I know that my nose can smell all of the butter… the sugar… the cinnamon… the icing. So much crazy goodness. So hard to walk away. Luckily, I started making homemade cinnamon rolls about five year ago and realized that I could make my kitchen smell just as good as those mall shops. Since I started on the homemade band wagon, I also discovered a cream cheese cinnamon roll recipe that I love, and I regularly bounce back and forth between the two recipes. However, something was missing from my recipe rotation. That something? The cinnamon roll’s tawdry cousin… the sticky bun.

Much like those that love the limelight and enjoy grabbing attention, the sticky bun has to be different. While the cinnamon roll bakes up nice and fluffy with a perfect cinnamon swirl and awaits its final glaze like an obedient little soldier, the sticky bun marches to the beat of its own drum. Its drum of choice? A thick, pecan-studded, caramel glaze. The sticky buns sit in a bath of the pecan glaze, and once baked, are flipped over. Thus, the bottoms become the top, and top is a thick layer of a pecan glaze that grows stickier by the minute as the buns cool. It’s rich, it’s decadent, it’s sinful, and it’s a fun change of pace. I’m usually a cinnamon roll girl, but once every while, a sticky bun just hits the spot.

Here in Pittsburgh, there is a local diner restaurant chain called Eat n’ Park; I’m almost certain I’ve mentioned them here before. Along with their dinners, you receive two dinner rolls – one a “regular”, powdered dinner roll, and the other, a sticky bun. It’s always such a nice surprise to get to enjoy a pseudo dessert with dinner. In the event you want to get dessert, too… well, there are sticky buns for that! Eat n’ Park is famous for their Grilled Stickies a la Mode – sticky buns topped with vanilla ice cream. Now, a good Pittsburgh girl couldn’t make sticky buns without throwing a big heap of homemade vanilla ice cream on top and remembering the good ol’ days. Those early days in high school when my friends and I would get dropped off at the movies, and then walk to Eat n’ Park for a bite to eat afterwards. Then, we’d take turns using the pay phone (gasp!) to call our parents to tell them we were ready to be picked up.

These sticky buns can easily be made on the same day you want to eat them, or you can prepare the buns ahead of time and refrigerate for a couple of days before you bake them. They’re perfect for breakfast when you have houseguests and they’re also an awesome choice for brunch, dessert, or anytime you feel like something a little different. If you’re in the mood for something classic and timeless, and something that wants to be the center of your appetite… then you know it’s time for a sticky bun.

Two years ago: Buttermilk Biscuits
Three years ago: Cobb Salad
Four years ago: Herbed-Baked Eggs

Sticky Buns

Yield: 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller sticky buns

Prep Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes


For the Dough:
6½ tablespoon granulated sugar
5½ tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3½ cups bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk

For the Cinnamon Sugar:
6½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Caramel Glaze:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans


1. Cream together the sugar, shortening, and salt on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and lemon extract until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

2. Meanwhile, make the Caramel Glaze: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt, and cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract, and continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

3. Mist the counter or a pastry mat with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough (use it all!), and roll the dough up with the long side facing you, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces for larger buns; or 12 to 16 pieces each for smaller buns.

4. Coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking panes with sides at least 1½ inches high with a ¼-inch layer of the caramel glaze. (Note: I made 8 large sticky buns, used a 9x13-inch pan, and all of the caramel glaze.) Sprinkle on the pecans. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, evenly spaced throughout the pan. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

5. Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, r until the pieces have grown into one anther and have nearly doubled in size. (Note: Instead of the second rise, you can place the shaped buns in the refrigerate for up to 2 days, pulling the pan(s) out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof at room temperature.)

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust the oven rack to the lowest shelf.

7. Bake the sticky buns for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove them by flipping them over onto another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

(Recipe adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice)


51 Responses to “Sticky Buns”

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on May 29, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I am all about the stickiest & gooey-est cinnamon buns. These have me drooling!


  2. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious on May 29, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Wow, these look deadly! If I could wake up to this, getting up at 4:45 AM would never be a problem.


  3. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on May 29, 2012 at 3:24 am

    What’s a pay phone?? (Haha) these look amazing! I’m a huge sucker for cinnamon and sticky buns. They are one thing I can never refuse…


  4. madge @ vegetariancasserolequeen on May 29, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Ice cream on sticky buns??? I’m a Pennsylvanian, but this is news (great news!) to me.

    Speaking of pay phones. I was travelling this weekend and I actually saw…wait for it…a BANK OF PAY PHONES at a rest top in South Carolina. I should have taken a picture.


  5. Katrina on May 29, 2012 at 6:49 am

    These look sooo sticky! A must for sticky buns. Awesome.


  6. Maria Alice on May 29, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Thank you for the recipe but i want to know if it is possible to change shortening for butter in the dough


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Hi Maria, Yes, you can use butter (unsalted, at room temperature) in place of the vegetable shortening.


  7. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on May 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Mmmm that cinnamon flavour and oozing caramel glaze are to die for! These look incredibly delicious, and you are definitely not alone in experiencing the temptations for the cinnamon bun stores.


  8. Jennifer on May 29, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I hate to admit this, but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a sticky bun before. Now I feel like I should make this recipe just so I can try one. They look amazing!


  9. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on May 29, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Oh yum! I haven’t had sticky buns since my Grandma would make them when I was a kid. What a wonderful recipe!!


  10. Ali B on May 29, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I’m so glad you posted this recipe! My family has a farm in Pennsylvania and we’d always pick up a pack of sticky buns from the Farmer Martin’s every time we went out. Are these technically supposed to be for dessert? Because we always ate them for breakfast. They are not the same as cinnamon rolls, and I’m so glad to have found a recipe to make at home!!


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Hi Ali, I eat them for breakfast, snacks, and dessert. No rules, as far as I’m concerned 🙂


  11. Martha in KS on May 29, 2012 at 9:40 am

    For those like me who are “yeast killers”, I’ve found that refrigerated crescent & pizza dough can be used to make pretty good cinnamon rolls. The corn syrup is the secret to keeping the glaze gooey.


  12. Maria on May 29, 2012 at 9:56 am

    These look SO much better than my oatmeal:)


  13. Catalina @ Cake with Love on May 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I am so happy that you have posted this recipe, I love sticky buns, and when topped with ice cream it looks like a dream of mine came true!


  14. Jessica@AKitchenAddiction on May 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Pretty sure that these could help me get up in the morning!


  15. Victoria @ The Pursuit of Hippieness on May 29, 2012 at 10:46 am

    My FAVORITE smell- next to freshly brewed coffee- when I walk around NYC in the early morning is cinnamon buns. Heavenly.

    These might need to make an appearance in my kitchen, pronto.


  16. Stephanie on May 29, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Yum! I’ve been craving Cinnabon for about six months, but haven’t been able to find one around me. It means I’ll have to visit one the next time I’m on the east coast..

    Also, was watching a movie this weekend where I saw a payphone in the middle of Brooklyn! Can’t remember the last time I saw a payphone anywhere!


  17. Nancy @ CouponClippingCook on May 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Wow. these sticky buns looked so delicious and then I saw that you put ice cream over the top. that sealed the deal for sure. Looks amazing.


  18. Lauren at Keep It Sweet on May 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    A restaurant that gives you a sticky bun with your meal?! I love that! And I have never tried a sticky bun topped with ice cream but I’m pretty sure it would be a piece of heaven.


  19. Maura @ My Healthy 'Ohana on May 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Oh, I miss good sticky buns…we used to get ours from the Amish at the Reading Terminal Market and they were just the best!! Yours look amazing 🙂


  20. Candice on May 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Yum! I love sticky buns and these look amazing!


  21. Elizabeth @Mango_Queen on May 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Ooooh your buns look amazing! I meant your Sticky Buns, of course! I’ve make this often and cannot agree with you more. These are hard to resist. Thanks for sharing the recipe 🙂


  22. Diana @ a girl, a dog & an oven on May 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Yum! These look amazing!!

    I have the same memories if Eat N Park. Love the smilie cookies!



  23. Mi Vida en un Dulce on May 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    You are right, the cinnamon aroma is something that we cannot resist. I remember that at Miami Airport there was a cinnamon roll shop, so each time I traveled to the US (Miami is the main entrance for most of the LA countries), that smell makes me stay there.
    The same happens on the malls, I don’t know, between the cinnamon and cookies smell.
    This recipe is amazing, I’m just imagine me eating…it’s really mouth-watering…


  24. Jamie | My Baking Addiction on May 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I’m with you on being drawn to the mall cinnamon rolls as well as the hot pretzels slathered in melted butter! The sticky rolls look and sound just perfect!


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Oh gosh, the pretzels! Very rarely can I go through an entire mall trip (or outlet shopping) without getting one!


  25. Coleens Recipes on May 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    My husband would jump up and down for these.


  26. Jen @ Savory SImple on May 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    They look gorgeous!


  27. Melissa @ Bless This Mess on May 30, 2012 at 12:21 am

    You had me at sticky. *sigh*


  28. Tracey on May 30, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I’m usually not a huge fan of sticky buns because they’re swimming in pecans, but yours look amazing! I love that you added a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, that’s my kind of breakfast 🙂


  29. Tina From Pa on May 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Okay, this recipe makes me want to run to my kitchen and make these right now! How about this for a blast from the past? ( You will get this being a Burgh girl) Calling my dad from the pay phone to pick me up in front of Joseph Horne’s !WOW !How fun !


    • Michelle on May 31st, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Haha! I totally remember Joseph Horne’s! Love it!


  30. Debra Kapellakis on May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am



  31. DB-The Foodie Stuntman on May 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I think my wife wants to make these…


  32. colleen @ Secrets fromthe Cookie Princess on June 1, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Perfect! Ahh, Eat N Park…18 high schoolers piled into 3 cars after a Friday night football game to eat dessert and french fries and drink copious amounts of soda. If only I had that metabolism again.


  33. Traci on June 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I made these last night and brought them into the office. Both my kids and my co-workers said they were delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


  34. Katie on July 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I made these for breakfast and it is one of the best things I have ever tasted. Thank you for posting this recipe. My 2 year old Emma declared them delicious!


  35. Nancy on July 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Having moved away from western PA years ago, I rarely get to an Eat ‘n Park to enjoy their Sticky Buns. I love anything that even looks like a cinnamon roll so when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I repinned it right away! I made these today and they are WONDERFUL! My husband loved them! I made the dough in my bread machine and used mostly all purpose flour as I was almost out of bread flour. I made 24 smaller rolls and baked them all in a 13×9 pan for 30 minutes. I will definitely be making these again soon! Thanks for giving us a little taste of “home”.


  36. Margaret on December 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    These look amazing and I’m looking forward to trying these! Quick question… I noticed that you don’t “proof” the yeast by mixing it first with warm milk and then adding it to the flour, etc… like you would when making other yeasty doughs. I’m new at yeast doughs so I’m just a little concerned and a bit afraid to waste all those ingredients. Will the dough definitely rise even if not proofed beforehand?

    Thanks so much!


    • Michelle on December 18th, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Margaret, When you use active dry yeast, it must be proofed in warm liquid to activate it. However, when using instant yeast, you can just whisk it into the dry ingredients; no need to proof it first. This recipe uses the instant yeast, which is why you don’t need to combine it with a warm liquid first.


      • Margaret on December 18th, 2012 at 11:29 pm

        Ohhh… I just learned something new! 🙂 Thanks so much for the quick reply and for clearing that up for me. Now I’m anxious to try out this recipe!!


  37. Stephanie on January 30, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Thanks for posting the recipe! I don’t have a bread maker or a dough hook attachment and so if i knead the dough by hand, should I be aiming for a pass on the window pane test? Thanks!


    • Michelle on January 30th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Stephanie, I double-checked the original dough recipe from Peter Reinhart because he mentions the windowpane test often, but he didn’t for this one. Just if you knead by hand to knead for 12 to 15 minutes, until the dough is supple and tacky, but not sticky. Hope that helps!


      • Stephanie on January 30th, 2013 at 8:10 pm

        Thanks Michelle!


  38. Mel on March 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I was looking for the recipt from the people that did the Renissance Faire in So Cal. Best sticky buns I have ever eaten. But these also look good, so I will give it a try.


  39. Duby on June 25, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    im a huge fan of your blog — like HUGE !!!! i had an idea and wanted to know what you thought. Id like to make your Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls Recipe (sans cream cheese because i dont have any right now 😉 ) So basically – make cinnamon buns, but then use the caramel glaze to create a sticky bun instead of the classic cinnamon roll.

    Would this work? I dont see why it wouldnt but i wanted to get your professional opinion.


    • Michelle on June 25th, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Duby, Thank you! I think you could definitely do this! Let me know how they taste 🙂


      • Duby on June 26th, 2013 at 12:15 pm

        hi Michelle,
        it worked out great !!! i had a small issue that the buns in the middle were sunken in and raw. The outer buns were perfect but the inside ones werent. Im wondering if i squeezed too many in one pan? They were golden brown on top so i figured they were baked enough. Hmm… they definitely tasted great, i’ll just have to practice again to get it perfect.

        Thanks for your awesome blog !!!!


  40. Heidelind on March 6, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I started these last night to have ready for breakfast this morning. A little treat for my husband who would be shoveling snow all morning. Holy cow! These are ridiculously amazing. And dangerous:) As I took them out of the pan I thought to myself “Oh-oh. What was I thinking making these!” Also, you inspired to to buy The Bakers Apprentice. Great book. So glad you brought my attention to it:)


  41. Hafsa Illyas on April 2, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Hi Michelle love this recipe looks absolutely perfect for breakfast, would you be able to tell me the measurements in grams? Because I know size of cups differ thank you 🙂


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