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

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Sticky Buns


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 9×13-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.

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(Recipe adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

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