The Ultimate Gooey Cinnamon Bun


Do we really have to start talking about goals for 2014? Because I’m still busy eating cinnamon buns in my PJs. I wanted to wrap up the year with something cozy and perfect for sharing and fantastically delicious – something you’ll want to make during your pajama week, or file away for a time when a pan of warm cinnamon bun therapy is called for. I know on January first it will be out with the Toblerone, in with the kale for a lot of you. I like to ring in the first morning of a fresh year with something I swore off in so many past years, to remind myself that it’s not all or nothing-a balancing act of how long can I stay on the unicycle and keep it moving forward before it tips.

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I’ll get to the new year when it gets here, and you can be sure kale will find its way back onto the menu regardless. In the meantime, I have some extra gooey cinnamon buns for you. Someone told me about a month ago that they couldn’t find a cinnamon bun recipe here, and I blamed it on my malfunctioning search and sorely neglected index. But then I couldn’t find one either – in my notes or archives – and realized that I never really have come up with the cinnamon bun of my dreams.

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I realize plenty of you did the overnight thing on Christmas eve, but for some reason I never do this – there’s inevitably a feast before we hang up our stockings, which are of course filled with chocolate the next morning, and then the day unfolds with sweets and snacks and a massive turkey dinner, and adding cinnamon buns to the mix just seems like too much. I like to make cinnamon buns on a day when the morning can be spent in anticipation of their arrival – the rising and the rolling of the dough and the rising again – so that by the time they’re baked you’re good and ready and on your second cup of coffee, and when you inevitably pull apart two or three because they’re just that good, you don’t risk spoiling your dinner.

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Rule #1: they must have goo. My preliminary research – which included looking up such famed cinnamon buns as the Pioneer Woman’s and Joy the Baker’s and all 5 of The Kitchn’s favourite cinnamon roll recipes and not one of the aforementioned, while completely delicious-looking, utilized that delicious buttery syrupy goo in the bottom of the pan. What? Whaaaaaat?

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And so I put the call out – is goo not as big a deal as I think it is? Do folks actually prefer non-goo cinnamon buns? It appears I keep company with a lot of like-minded people. When asked: to goo or not to goo? The answer was unanimous.

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And so we began with goo: brown sugar, butter, Rogers’ golden syrup and enough water to keep the combination from transforming into stickiness that might compromise your dental work after a stint in the oven. The soft, rich dough is rolled out into a rectangle, brushed with butter (you don’t need as much as you think here – truly) then topped with brown sugar and sprinkled with cinnamon. The kind of brown sugar you use makes a difference, surprisingly – the golden brown is lumpier and more difficult to sweep into a smooth covering with your hand than darker brown sugar – sometimes labeled “best brown” – despite the fact that the latter contains more molasses.

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The dough is tacky before its first rise, then perfectly smooth and easy to work with; cut the roll into thirds, then each piece into thirds, with a sharp serrated knife – this is easier than eyeballing 9 slices out of one log of dough.

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Once cut, place them over the goo in your pie plates and let rise again – although the great thing about this recipe is that it makes two pans, so you can bake one and tuck the other away in the freezer for another day. Just let it thaw, then rise as it warms, and it’s ready to go into the oven.

(That is, freeze them unbaked. Or put them in the fridge overnight and bake them in the morning.)

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At the risk of overselling these, my dad popped by for a sample, which I wrapped and sent home with him, and emailed me later that evening to say it had been the best cinnamon bun he had ever eaten. And he takes his cinnamon buns seriously; a few years ago he embarked on a quest for the best cinnamon bun in Calgary, enlisting my help in testing buns from coffee shops to bakeries to IKEA.

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These have, in our humble yet cinnamon bun-experienced opinions, the perfect ratio of dough:filling:goo – not too squidgy or awkward to eat, not teeth-pulling or sickeningly sweet, with a rich, chewy dough that’s even delicious if you wind up with a naked edge. Once they’re deep golden and baked through (pull at the middle one and you’ll see if the dough at the bottom is baked or not), flip the pan over onto a roomy plate while it’s still very warm, and the goo hasn’t had a chance to cool.

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This is just the sort of recipe to have and to get to know and to make over and over for holidays and lazy weekends and friends and family and comfort and joy. May your new year be as delicious.

The Ultimate Gooey Cinnamon Buns


December 30, 2013

  • Makes: Makes 1 1/2 dozen cinnamon buns.



1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup milk, warmed

2 large eggs

5 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. salt


1/2 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup Rogers' golden syrup, corn syrup or honey

1/4 cup water

1 cup pecan halves (optional)


1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon (approximately)


1To make the dough, put the warm water in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, toss it and buy fresh yeast.)

2In a small bowl, mix the warm milk and eggs together with a fork. Add to the yeast mixture along with 3 cups of the flour and the remaining sugar; mix until well blended and sticky. Add the butter, remaining flour and salt and stir or beat with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until you have a soft, sticky dough; knead for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. It will still be slightly tacky. Place back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in bulk.

3Meanwhile, make the goo: combine the butter, brown sugar, syrup and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the butter is melted. Divide between two buttered pie plates, 9-inch cake pans or 8×8-inch pans (or one of each), pouring it over the bottom. If you like, scatter with pecan halves.

4To make the buns, divide the dough in half, shape each into a rough rectangle (this will make it roll out more evenly) and on a lightly floured surface, roll into a rectangle that’s about 10×15-inches (or slightly bigger, even) and about 1/4-inch thick. Brush each piece with half the melted butter and scatter with brown sugar; smooth the sugar to evenly distribute it with your hand. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

5Starting on a long side, roll the dough up into a log, and using a serrated knife, cut it crosswise into thirds. Cut each piece into thirds – this is easier than eyeballing it to get 9 even pieces. Place cut-side-up into the pans, placing one in the middle and the rest around it, or in the case of a square pan, in 3 rows of 3. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another hour, until doubled in bulk. (If you’re making them the night before, cover and place in the fridge for a slow rise; take them out and leave them on the countertop for 1/2 hour or so before baking.)

6When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Put a baking sheet on the rack underneath (to catch any drips) and bake for 30-40 minutes, until deep golden. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, but invert onto a plate while still warm. (If you wait too long and they get stuck in the pan, slide back into a hot oven to rewarm the goo, then try again.) Eat warm.


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41 comments on “The Ultimate Gooey Cinnamon Bun

  1. Cheryl
    December 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Oh yes! I was going to beef on a bun for lunch guests tomorrow. And now it shall be these. You described the anticipation of morning baking so well.

  2. Carol S-B
    December 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I am so happy to see the pecan halves in the gorgeous golden goo. That’s the best way, I tell ya. Also, since they have nuts, they are clearly good for me. So I think I’ll have three.
    Maybe 1 1/2 dozen won’t be enough.
    Back in the days when I had time (hah!) I would make overnight buns, and take them around to ‘first foot’ a few friends.
    Scottish tradition. It’s good luck for the year. Needs to be someone tall, and carrying food (a wish for plenty for the New Year). I’d also bring a candle (warmth and light).
    Ahem. Could one of you be so obliging? 🙂 I promise to put the coffee on!

  3. Korena
    December 30, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Re: goo in cinnamon buns – I wonder if it’s semantics? If you search “sticky buns”, you get nothing but goo, whereas “cinnamon bun” gives you a swirled bun topped with icing. Maybe it’s an American distinction (most of the “sources” seem to be from the US, anyway). I have always called both versions cinnamon buns, and I definitely prefer the goo. My current favorite recipe (from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day using their challah dough) includes a little nutmeg in the cinnamon filling, which is an excellent addition. I think your version will be on my next brunch menu though… Happy New Year Julie!

  4. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    December 31, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Oh good grief. Who could resist these? What a perfect way to start the new year. 🙂

    Happy New Year!

  5. kristy @ she eats
    December 31, 2013 at 8:46 am

    You betcher’ tail feather they should have goo!!! Pinning 🙂 Happy holidays to you and here’s to MORE cinnamon buns!!!

  6. Jeanette
    December 31, 2013 at 10:53 am

    So glad you mentioned Roger’s golden syrup as part of your recipe. That other syrup simply does not cut it when we are talking goo!!!

    My recipe is VERY similar to yours except I add a bit of cooked mashed potato to the dough, making it even softer and more delectable. It is my Mom’s recipe and she called it spudnut dough, quite popular during her time.

  7. Patricia
    December 31, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Those look fantastic, but I’m still in love with the recipe in your Spilling the Beans cookbook!

  8. Julie
    December 31, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I bet you’re right Korena! so much just boils down to semantics!

  9. Lee Anne
    December 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Oh thank you so much for the recipe. It really is hard to find a good cinnamon bun recipe. These remind me of the ones my grandma used to make. I made your chelsy buns 2 weeks ago, and added a little of the ‘goo’. The kids loved them.

  10. Barb
    December 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I love you.

  11. erin
    January 1, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Happy New Year, Julie!

  12. Jaya
    January 1, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    This holiday was the first time I’ve overcome my fear of making cinnamon buns, but I started modest with a non-yeasted dough. Now that I’m on the other side of things, I’m itching to try a slo’do’ and this one looks perfect! Also, I love the pyjama pants picture – way to keep it real!

  13. Leanne
    January 2, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Julie, thanks for the recipe, and Happy New Year. When I was a teenager, I worked in a bakery, and to cut the cinnamon buns, the baker used dental floss. Slide it under the roll and cross over and pull on the top of the roll. I sometimes find this helps my cinnamon roll stay intact. My kids are looking forward to these rolls this weekend!

  14. judy
    January 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Happy New Year Julie!!

    I appreciate your enthusiasm for a special treat but all I crave now is salads and fresh fish etc. My goodness I can’t even face dark chocolate!
    I’ll have to file this away for later in the year.

  15. Tiffany
    January 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    We celebrated New Years Day with your cinnamon rolls. I followed the recipe and they turned out fabulous. Thank you for starting out our year with a wonderful recipe.

  16. Jennifer
    January 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    As a PW cinnamon-bun-worshipper, I feel honour bound to point out she calls for melted butter at the bottom of the pan. You’re right, not gooey, but agreed that attention must be paid to the bottom of the pan. All that said, your post has inspired me to revise our weekly menu to include cinnamon buns for breakfast tomorrow. Mmmmm….

  17. Sheri
    January 17, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    First time making cinnamon buns and I used your recipe. They turned out perfect, extremely tasty and perfect amount of gooey goodness.
    Thank you for posting this recipe 🙂

  18. Sheri
    January 17, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    side note…it is hard to find that extra awesome cinnamon bun in Calgary. My husband and I have tried so many from all over the city and your recipe is what we have been looking for 🙂

  19. Elisabeth
    January 23, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Made these cinnamon buns and they were great. I underbaked them a bit, but will know for next time. Cinnamon buns need goo in my opinion and these were perfect. Thank you.

  20. Joanna
    April 27, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Great recipe, but it doesn’t say when to add the salt to the dough

  21. Erin SR
    June 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I made 2 double batches of this the past weekend and they were loved by one & all! We did one with pecans, 3 with apple slices in the bottom, half with prickly pear syrup (taking up room in the fridge) & half with maple. Awesome! Thanks for taking the fear factor out of yeast, lol. Only issue i had was overnight in the fridge the buns rose & the goo went all over – easy cleanup but sad to lose it :(. Next time i’ll bake them fresh.

  22. Burtine
    December 16, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Thank you. I have been searching for this recipe since I lost mine some time ago. I shall be making several batches for friends and family. Merry Christmas

  23. Emily
    December 31, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Recipe didn’t say when to add salt to the dough and now it’s too late :/ hoping this doesn’t ruin the rolls…

    • Julie
      January 1, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Oh no Emily – sorry about that! Generally I add the salt with the last of the flour – since salt shouldn’t come into direct contact with the yeast, if you can help it! Hope they worked out!

  24. Rebecca
    April 16, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Thanks for this recipe, Julie! I’ve been on a quest for cinnamon buns here in Calgary and I stumbled across your site. I whipped up a batch of these last night and brought them into my office for my friends this morning. They were so easy to make and got rave reviews!

  25. Elimac
    January 10, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Thank you so much for this recipe Julie! I wasn’t totally satisfied with the recipe I had until I found yours. I baked a batch this morning and from now on, your recipe will be THE one my family swears by! Your little tips and recommendations were really useful. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and know-how with all of us out here in the world wide web…!

  26. Lily
    January 19, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you so much Julie fot this amazing recipe! I had a craving for some sticky cinnamon buns this evening and made them. My whole family enjoyed them. As I was scrolling through steps I realized that you’re from Calgary as well! Haha

  27. Kim
    August 26, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I have to tell you that I have spent numerous hours looking for a really GOOD cinnamon bun recipe. I found your recipe and figured “what do I have to lose, I’ll give it a try”. This by far, is the BEST cinnamon bun I’ve ever wrapped my lips around. A huge hit! I have to admit that I haven’t make them in quite awhile, so I’m off to the kitchen to make a batch……..or two!? THANK YOU from a fellow Canadian, living in Minnesota!

    • Julie
      August 28, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      YAY!! So glad to hear it! I think I found cinnamon bun nirvana in these too!

  28. Sarah
    March 29, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Julie,
    I am in the process of making these as we speak. I’m so excited to be able to make some delicious gooey cinnamon buns. I am waiting for the dough to rise and I am a little concerned because the dough seems hard. I wonder if I should toss the dough a try again. Do you know why the dough would be hard or stiff before I kneaded it? Does kneading make it softer?

    • Julie
      April 2, 2017 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Sarah, sorry for the slow reply! The dough shouldn’t be hard or stiff at all.. kneading won’t make it softer as much as smoother. It should be soft and slightly tacky, and when you knead it, it should become more smooth and elastic. Perhaps your yeast is old? how did they turn out?

      • Sarah
        April 5, 2017 at 5:28 pm

        Hi Julie,
        They had great flavour but of course they didn’t rise as well as I would have liked. I agree I think I do need to purchase new yeast. Thank-you for the response, I am not experienced working with dough so it’s good to know what may have caused the problem. I will try again later with new yeast, I am practicing for a cinnamon bun bake off. 🙂

  29. Leslie
    December 25, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    I made these for Christmas morning and they were so delicious! Thanks 🙂

  30. Cynthia
    March 24, 2018 at 10:47 am

    I made these for Christmas as well….haven’t stopped thinking about them since! Making them for Easter- can’t wait!

  31. Shawn
    May 6, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    These are so good. I changed my filling with a salted caramel and put apples and pecans on top, with more caramel of course

  32. Denise
    August 3, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    I love the recipe, thank you so much. Any tips for baking them properly? I found the tops of the rolls were definitely brown and looked done, but when I flipped them over, they were totally raw underneath. I may have allowed them to rise too much maybe (they were enormous!), so perhaps their sheer size was just too much? I tried putting them back into the oven with foil over top and the bottom facing up, but found the already cooked portion just started to over brown. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks again!

  33. Squirl
    August 12, 2018 at 12:05 am

    Hello Julie,
    Are your cinnamon sticky buns similar to the ones they make at the Cinnamon Bear Cafe in Coleman? I nearly died and went to heaven after having one of them. Very chewy coating over a very light bun.

  34. Heather
    December 25, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Made these for the first time. They were a huge hit!

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