Sticky Buns

The cinnamon roll vs sticky bun debate rages on…

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If you missed the Cinnamon Roll post and prefer your rolls of cinnamon to be simply glazed instead of sticky and gooey, then head on back to that post here.  I assure you that you will not be disappointed.  If you did catch it then you must have been anxiously awaiting these. Without further ado, I leave in you in goods with my husband…

As a kid wandering the mall with my dad and brother we would often follow our noses to the T.J. Cinnamons that was somewhere off to the side somewhere between the food court and Sears.  My dad, being the one buying the cinnamon bun, always chose the pecan sticky bun version.  To me, that’s just what a cinnamon roll is supposed to be.  (Hence, the debate with my lovely wife because she doesn’t see it that way.)  Anyway, when I finally conquered making the perfect cinnamon roll, the next step was to figure out how to make them into what I remembered as a kid.

Today’s recipe is very similar to the Cinnamon Roll one.  Make the dough.  Make the filling.  Roll it up.  Slice it using the nifty thread method.  When you run out of steps on that recipe there is only one more to make them sticky buns.  That would be the topping.

Although it’s really sort of a bottoming.  You actually make the sticky caramel layer with the pecans in it on the bottom of the pan as you bake the sticky buns.  It’s a lot like an upside down cake.  When you’re all done baking them you just flip them over and dig in with the sticky stuff now magically on the top.  The picture shown below is the topping as a bottoming all completely showing off its killer photographic texture.  Don’t worry, it looks a bit different once it’s been baked.

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Tina pushed me away from the keyboard for a moment:  Aren’t these fun pinwheels gorgeous?  This is what they look like before they get a chance to rise.

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This is what the cinnamon buns look like after they’ve risen.  The rolls that were previously separated are now shoulder to shoulder and looking a bit more crowded in the pan but there is still a little space in the corners.  Not for long.

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As the buns press up against each other as they bake and the topping cooks in the bottom of the pan, you get a sort of high pressure situation under them.  The result is that several of them may actually pop the center of their spirals out.  See the one on the corner in the picture below?  Don’t worry though, even if the pushed out spirals burn a little, I found it doesn’t mess up the flavor.

To avoid making a mess if this happens to you, it’s good to have a little bit of extra vertical space that’s still inside the pan.  I recommend a 3 inch deep pan.  If you don’t have one that’s that deep I recommend putting a cookie sheet under the pan to help reduce the chances of having to clean your oven.

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Yup, there are cinnamon buns under all that crazy caramel pecan goodness.  Tina took this shot about 10 minutes after I pulled them out of the oven and flipped them over.  Over time, some of the topping will seep down into all of the crevices.  That helps to make the cinnamon rolls seem even more gooey-tacular than the Cinnamon Roll version.

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I can’t even stand it…  Seriously, is that not sticky bun perfection?!  Well, perfect if you ignore that it’s a little crooked anyway.  🙂

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To end the debate of cinnamon buns versus sticky buns… they are in fact slightly different but they are both awesome.  I prefer the sticky bun and Tina prefers the cinnamon bun.  Here’s a close up shot of the moist, squishy inside.  It’s still warm, but we couldn’t wait to dig our forks in it.  Just look at all those layers!

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Sticky Buns Recipe
(Makes 12 sticky buns)

Dough Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups warm milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (equivalent to 1 stick)
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 4 and 3/4 cups flour (roughly 20 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 egg

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (equivalent to 1/2 stick)
  • (optional) 1/2 cup raisins
  • (optional) 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Topping Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

Glaze Ingredients (Optional)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon very hot water
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened

Dough Instructions

  1. Set up a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
  2. Into the bowl of the stand mixer, add the warm milk, warm water, softened butter, and yeast.
  3. With the mixer running slowly, add the flour, sugar, salt, cardamon and the egg.  (I use speed 2 on my Kitchen Aid.)
  4. Let the mixer run until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl if needed.
  5. Once all the flour is incorporated, turn the mixer up to a medium speed.  (I use speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid.)
  6. Let the stand mixer knead the dough for roughly 5 minutes.
  7. Use cooking spray to oil a large bowl.
  8. Transfer the dough from the mixer bowl into the oiled bowl.  Shape it into a ball as well as you can.  It may be sticky and very soft so a perfect ball isn’t required.
  9. Cover the bowl with the dough in it with plastic wrap.
  10. Place the bowl somewhere warm to rise for around 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
  11. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

Topping Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the 3/4 cup of brown sugar and the heavy cream.
  2. Coarsely chop the pecans.

Sticky Bun Instructions

  1. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
  2. Pour the topping liquid into the greased pan.  It will be pretty thick so make sure you spread it evenly with a spatula so it covers the whole bottom of the pan.
  3. Sprinkle the liquid with the chopped pecans.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  (Optional, if you are using pecans and/or raisins in your filling, mix them into the sugar mixture at this time.)
  5. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is roughly 21 x 17 inches.  The exact size isn’t important.  The goal is to get the appropriate thickness and to be as close to an actual rectangle as possible.
  6. Brush the dough generously with melted butter.  (You should have some butter left, you will use it later.)
  7. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough and spread it around with your hands until it is an even coating all over the dough.
  8. Starting with the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up.  I recommend doing this toward yourself as I’ve had better luck making an even roll that way.
  9. Position so the seam is facing down and press the ends of the roll gently toward the center of the roll.  This should result in a roll that is roughly 18 inches long and is a consistent thickness.
  10. Use a knife to gently mark the roll where you will cut it into 12 slices.  The pattern I found works pretty well is to mark the middle of the roll, then mark each half in half again, and then to finally mark each quarter into thirds.  Each mark should be roughly 1 and 1/2 inches apart.
  11. Gently slide a piece of thread (I made mine about 18″ long) under the roll to where it lines up with one of your slice marks.  Cross the thread over the top of the roll and pull the two sides until the thread comes through the roll.  If done correctly, you will have a nearly perfect and unsquished slice of the roll.
  12. Repeat the cutting process placing cut rolls into the baking pan leaving a gap between them if possible.
  13. Once all the rolls are in the pan, brush the tops of them with the remaining melted butter.
  14. Let them rise in the pan for roughly 40 minutes or until doubled in size.  (They should be touching each other a little at this point regardless of whether you succeeded in leaving gaps between them before.)
  15. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  16. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  17. Place a cookie sheet over the top of the pan with the hot sticky buns and holding the two pans together tightly, carefully flip the whole thing over.
  18. You should now have 12 sticky buns on a cookie sheet with all of the pecan caramel on the top.
  19. (Optional) Spread glaze (see instructions below) over the top of the rolls.  Yes, glaze is totally allowed even on Sticky Buns!
  20. Serve warm.

Glaze Instructions (Optional)

  1. Put the powdered sugar into a medium bowl.
  2. Add the maple syrup but don’t stir yet.
  3. Add the softened cream cheese but don’t stir yet.
  4. Add the very hot water.
  5. Whisk until smooth.

Inspired by



38 Hats

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  1. It’s a shame, but I’ve never actually made sticky buns! They look amazing–almost better than cinnamon rolls, if I dare say so myself…the gooey topping is what gets me 🙂

    1. Tina says:

      Haha… you can say that. That gooey topping is pretty amazing and I’m thinking it’s even kinda healthy because the pecans are a great source of protein. 😉

  2. Yum! Love sticky buns 🙂

    1. Tina says:

      You and me both! 🙂

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