These homemade sticky buns are such a treat! So gooey & sweet, and you can make them the day before & bake them fresh in the morning!

Fresh baked sticky buns on a white enamel serving tray with blue trim.

Today’s recipe has been on my baking list for what seems like an eternity: Sticky Buns!

I live in what is arguably the sticky bun capital of the world. Here in Pennsylvania Dutch country, sticky buns are a way of life. Walk into any bakery, grocery store, or farmers market and you will find sticky buns that will blow your mind.

When it comes to pastries like this, the Amish and the Mennonites are not messing around, believe me.

And I’ve learned from the best. Working in local bakeries all throughout my teens and twenties taught me everything I ever needed to know about how to make stuff like this. If you don’t believe me, just give my sour cream donuts, apple dumplings, and strawberry rhubarb pie a try. Those little ladies in their sturdy shoes and snow-white bonnets made sure I knew what was up.

This sticky buns recipe was born out of everything I learned from them. There’s soft, buttery yeast dough swirled around warm cinnamon and brown sugar, drenched in a gooey, buttery brown sugar caramel that will make your mouth water.

Nothing is better than waking up to the smell of these beauties baking! Except maybe tearing in, hot cup of coffee in hand.

Sticky buns recipe baked and served on a tray, with a text overlay above that reads "Easy Homemade Sticky Buns."

WHAT ARE STICKY BUNS?

Sticky buns are very similar to cinnamon rolls, with the added bonus of the brown sugar glaze they’re baked in.

It’s a lot like an upside-down cake, in that the caramel goes on the bottom of the pan, the “cake” (or rolls actually) get baked on top, and then while it’s still warm the whole thing gets flipped out onto a platter. This allows the gooey glaze to stream down over the buns, coating them will all its deliciousness.

You can add chopped nuts and/or raisins to the topping, or just leave them plain, in all their god-given glory.

For an out-of-this-world cinnamon roll recipe, click here: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls. For a knock-your-socks-off upside-down cake recipe, click here: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE STICKY BUNS

This baking project has a few different components, so if you’re looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, you’ve come to the right place!

THE DOUGH

We should start with the dough since that is what takes the longest. It’s not at all difficult, but it does need time to rise so it’s best to make this first. That way you can work on the topping and filling while you wait.

Begin by adding sugar to warm water. The water should be lukewarm. If you have a thermometer, aim for 105 degrees F. If not, that’s ok- just make it the temperature of a baby’s bath. Be aware that if the water is too hot it can kill the yeast.

Sprinkle dry active yeast all over the surface of the sweetened water, and allow it to dissolve.

Dissolving yeast in warm water.

After about 5 or 10 minutes, it should look foamy.

Foaming yeast in a glass bowl.

If your yeast doesn’t foam up, it’s probably dead and you should start over. Be sure to check the expiration date on the package.

If it does foam, then you should be good to go onto the next step. Add the buttermilk, oil, egg, and salt to the mixture, and stir until it’s all combined.

Adding buttermilk, oil, and egg to sticky bun dough.

Now it’s time to start adding flour.

It’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how much flour you’re going to need, because this can vary based on a lot of different factors.

Adding flour to sticky bun dough.

Just keep kneading in a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky and it gathers itself into a ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl cleanly. Stop adding flour as soon as it looks like this:

Kneading sticky bun dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.

Now you want to give it a good long knead to really develop the glutens and give the bread that stretchy, elastic texture that’s so delicious. I find that 10 to 15 minutes of kneading usually does the trick. You can know for sure your glutens are well-developed by giving your dough the windowpane test (more on that below).

Once the dough has been kneaded, mist the bowl with non-stick spray, place the dough back in, and cover it with plastic wrap.

Allowing sticky bun dough to rise in an oiled bowl.

Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in volume. In my kitchen, this usually takes about an hour, but again, every environment is different and yours could take more or less time.

THE TOPPING

While you’re waiting for your dough to rise, you can prep the topping. Back in my days working in a bakery, they used to call this stuff “goo.” Lol!

It’s a pretty accurate description but I think “caramel” or “butterscotch” or “brown sugar glaze” sounds a little more appetizing!

All you have to do is put brown sugar, honey, butter, and salt in a little bowl, and heat it gently in the microwave until the butter has melted.

Sticky bun topping in a small white bowl.

Stir it all together, and there’s your goo made.

Pour this into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle on any add-ins you like. At my house, we especially love chopped walnuts, but pecans are a great choice as well. And when we get these at the shore, a lot of times they’ll add raisins too. Which I love, but my husband and kids would probably crucify me if I made ours this way!

THE FILLING

You are also going to need to mix up a little cinnamon and brown sugar action, to fill the rolls with.

Sticky bun filling in a small glass bowl.

Just stir everything together with a fork so there’s cinnamon running evenly all throughout.

HOW TO SHAPE THE ROLLS

Once your dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and get started shaping the rolls.

Sticky bun dough risen to twice its original volume.

First, roll the dough out to a big rectangle. The dimensions of the rectangle are not as important as the thickness. The thinner you roll your dough, the more surface area to spread that yummy cinnamon brown sugar mixture over. And then you’ll have lots of filling spiraling all through.

Once you’ve got it nice and thin (around 1/8-inch), spread softened butter all over the surface. Then top that with the cinnamon brown sugar and spread it all out so it’s an even layer.

Then just roll it all up into a tight log.

Rolling sticky buns into a log.

Cut the log into 12 equal rolls, and nestle them (cut side up) into the gooey brown sugar glaze.

Placing unbaked sticky buns in a glass baking dish, on top of the sticky bun topping.

These will need to rise one more time.

HOW TO BAKE THEM

You can either give them their second rise and bake them right away, OR you can make overnight sticky buns. If you want to go the overnight route, just cover the unbaked sticky buns with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for up to 48 hours, or freeze them for up to 2 weeks.

Unbaked sticky buns in a glass baking dish.

When you’re ready to bake them, allow them to come to room temperature first, then let them rise until they’re doubled in bulk.

Then pop them into the oven and let them do their thing!

The gooey brown sugar topping will melt and bubble, and the rolls will puff up and start to turn golden brown. You’ll know they’re done when they’re set in the middle.

Freshly baked sticky buns, still in the baking dish.

Allow them to cool in the pan for about 20 to 30 minutes, but flip them out onto a serving platter while they’re still warm. This way, the glaze is still melty and it will coat the sticky buns in the most tempting way!

TROUBLESHOOTING

Anything made with yeast is undoubtedly going to be a little trickier, so don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go exactly right the first time!

But please don’t let that intimidate you either. I’m outlining the most common pitfalls of bread making below, so if you look out for these things, you should be able to make these sticky buns no problem!

WHY DOUGH SOMETIMES DOESN’T RISE

There are 2 main reasons why dough sometimes fails to rise:

  1. The yeast has died.
  2. The conditions in your kitchen aren’t optimal for the yeast to thrive.

Sometimes yeast is dead right out of the package. Maybe it was stored in a hot warehouse for too long before it got to your supermarket shelf. Or perhaps it’s just past the expiration date.

Sometimes we accidentally kill our yeast by dissolving it in water that’s too hot. This is pretty common! When dissolving your yeast, aim for the temperature of a baby’s bath. It should really just be lukewarm, or around 105 degrees F.

If your yeast gets foamy and bubbly at first, but then your dough doesn’t rise, it may have something to do with the temperature in your kitchen. Look for a warm place to prove your dough, like near a heat vent or next to the fridge, or on a sunny windowsill.

WHY YEAST BREADS SOMETIMES COME OUT CRUMBLY

This problem can be attributed to not kneading the dough enough.

When we knead dough, it develops glutens in the wheat and creates that elastic texture that is so delicious and satisfying. If you don’t invest enough time in this step, you’ll end up with crumbly instead of stretchy.

Here is a great way to know if your dough has been kneaded long enough:

Pinch off a little piece of dough and using your fingertips, stretch it gently from the center outward. You should be able to pull it tissue-thin without it tearing. It should be so thin you can see the light passing through, just like a windowpane.

Performing the windowpane test on sticky bun dough.

This is called the “windowpane” test, and it works for any kind of yeast dough. The more you know!

HOW LONG WILL STICKY BUNS KEEP?

These sticky buns can be left out at room temperature for a day or so. It’s best to cover them tightly so they don’t get dried out or stale around the edges.

If you still have leftovers after that, just pop them into the fridge. They’ll keep there for another 5 to 7 days.

Overhead image of pecan sticky buns on a distressed wooden table.

CAN YOU FREEZE STICKY BUNS?

Sticky buns freeze beautifully! Wrap them well and they will last in the freezer for a couple of months. Thaw them at room temp or in the refrigerator.

HOW TO REHEAT STICKY BUNS

Nothing beats a warm sticky bun!

These can be warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or you can wrap them loosely in foil and place them in a 170 degrees F oven until heated through.

You can also slice them horizontally, butter the cut sides, and toast them on a skillet over medium-high heat. In my area they call this a “grilled bun” and it is fan-freakin’-tastic!

Close-up image of homemade sticky buns on a white tray with a vintage cake server.

A FEW MORE OF MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST TREATS:

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5 from 1 vote
Fresh baked sticky buns on a white enamel serving tray with blue trim.
Sticky Buns
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
30 mins
Resting Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time
4 hrs
 

These homemade sticky buns are such a treat! So gooey & sweet, and you can make them the day before & bake them fresh in the morning!

Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make sticky buns, pecan sticky buns, sticky buns, sticky buns recipe
Servings: 12
Calories: 456 kcal
Ingredients
For the Dough:
For the Filling:
For the Topping:
  • 1 cup brown sugar (dark or light), loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (half a stick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, walnuts, and/or raisins (optional)
Instructions
To Make the Dough:
  1. Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl, and stir in the sugar. 

  2. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and allow it to dissolve and become foamy. 

  3. Whisk in the oil, buttermilk, egg, and salt until combined. 

  4. Add about 2/3 of the flour, and mix together until combined. 

  5. Continue adding flour a little at a time, while mixing, until the dough pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl and gathers itself into a ball. 

  6. Knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test** (approximately 10 to 15 minutes).

  7. Mist the bowl with non-stick spray, then place the dough back in, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to proof until doubled in volume (approximately 1 hour).  

To Make the Topping:
  1. Place the brown sugar, honey, butter, and salt in a medium bowl and microwave (covered) in 30-second increments (stirring after each), until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.

  2. Pour the glaze into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish, and sprinkle nuts and/or raisins on top (if using).

To Fill and Shape the Buns:
  1. Knead the dough a few times, then roll it out to a large rectangle about 1/8-inch thick.

  2. Smear the softened butter all over the surface of the dough.

  3. Stir the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, then spread the mixture in an even layer over the buttered dough.

  4. Starting with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, roll the dough up into a tight log. 

  5. Cut the log in half, then into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 equal rolls.

  6. Place the rolls (cut side up) in the prepared baking dish, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 48 hours, or freeze for up to 2 weeks (optional; skip to step 8 if desired).

  7. Remove the unbaked sticky buns from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature (approximately 45 minutes). 

  8. Allow the sticky buns to proof until doubled in size (approximately 1 hour).

  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

  10. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the sticky buns until puffed, golden brown around the edges, and set in the middle (approximately 30 to 35 minutes).

  11. Cool the sticky buns for 20 minutes in the pan, then flip them out onto a serving platter and allow to cool completely.

Recipe Notes

*Instant yeast may be substituted.  Rise time may need to be reduced by 10 to 15 minutes.  You'll know your dough is done rising when it has doubled in volume.

**Pinch off a little piece of dough and using your fingertips, stretch it gently from the center outward. You should be able to pull it tissue-thin without it tearing. It should be so thin you can see light passing through it, just like a windowpane.

Nutrition Facts
Sticky Buns
Amount Per Serving
Calories 456 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 35mg12%
Sodium 217mg9%
Potassium 114mg3%
Carbohydrates 80g27%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 43g48%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 264IU5%
Calcium 50mg5%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Overnight sticky buns on a tray with a text overlay above that reads "Overnight Sticky Buns."

Caramel sticky buns on a tray with a text overlay above that reads

Old-fashioned sticky buns recipe on a tray with a text overlay above that reads

Homemade Sticky Buns by BakingAMoment.com

 

Sticky Buns

Homemade Sticky Buns make a Decadent Breakfast Treat!  Sweet Yeast Dough is Enriched with Butter and Eggs, rolled with Cinnamon Sugar, and Baked in a pool of Brown Sugar and Honey Caramel.  Enjoy them with Nuts and Raisins if you like!  These Sticky, Sweet Buns are in the Tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Today, I am honored to be guest posting on one of my favorite baking blogs, Sweet2EatBaking.com!  The author, Lisa, happens to be the designer behind this blog!  I am also proud to say she’s a very good friend of mine.  🙂  I made her these delicious homemade sticky buns, so if you’d like to read all about them and snag the recipe for your files, just click on over to her lovely page and you’ll find it there!  Hope you all enjoy!

 

 

 

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