This old fashioned sticky buns recipe is pure caramel pecan goodness! Each bite is full of soft dough and delicious brown sugar filling. If you like cinnamon rolls, you will love these incredible sticky buns with flowing caramel and crunchy pecans.
I have had caramel pecan sticky buns on the brain for a while. I have food ideas tucked in the back of my mind that eventually make their way to the cooktop or oven. On Instagram, I was in a Baker's Man Collaboration inspired by the book Baker's Man by Jennifer Moorman. You should definitely add it to your list; it's such a fun read!
Our challenge was to bake something that inspired us from the book.
I chose the sticky caramel buns as my contribution. I chose this because, in most scenes where the baker's man (Elijah) appears, Anna almost always smells the scent of cinnamon. These baked sticky buns always produce the best smell of cinnamon and caramel- which are some of my favorite smells!
I also chose to make a gooey sticky bun recipe because they are some of my husband's very favorite sweets I make. He just loves them!
For more delicious breakfast rolls, try my Pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe with cream cheese frosting or my tasty Raspberry Sweet Rolls. Or how about these yummy strawberry and cream rolls?
Why you'll love it
Comfort food- A warm gooey sticky bun is such a great comfort food. They can be enjoyed for breakfast or a treat any time of the day. I love recipes like this because they’re fun to make at home and can be a special gift for your loved ones. The recipient will be so grateful that you took the time to bring them something homemade.
Mindful of nutrition- While this recipe has all the decadent taste and comforting goodness, it's always a good idea to keep nutrition in mind. I used less sugar and butter, and I also used part whole wheat pastry flour in the dough. Did anyone notice the changes? No. I get so much satisfaction out of that!
Simplicity- Some doughs can be complicated to make, but not this one! It is made with a straight dough method where all ingredients are added at the same time and mixed together.
Whole wheat flour -I used a mixture of these two flours to create the ideal fluffy texture. I used white winter wheat, but you can use red wheat if that's all you have on hand. 100 percent whole wheat recipes can be a bit grainy and nutty tasting, which some people aren't the biggest fans of. A flour mixture is a great way to introduce whole wheat flour without overpowering the baked good.
All-purpose flour- This flour adds structure to your dough and works with whole wheat flour to create fluffy rolls you just love to sink your teeth into. Using all-purpose flour helps mellow out the taste of whole wheat and makes the dough lighter than 100 percent whole wheat would.
Eggs-Eggs add structure to the dough. These caramel pecan rolls use my brioche dough recipe, which calls for three eggs. The number of eggs gives it that classic richness that’s so distinct in brioche.
Milk- Milk is the liquid that binds the dough together. Technically you can use water here, but milk makes for a richer dough and helps the rolls turn a beautiful golden brown.
Active dry yeast- This recipe uses active dry yeast, not instant yeast. With Instant yeast, you can mix it with dry ingredients, but that's not the case for this recipe. Instead, you'll have to proof the yeast first, then mix the yeast mixture into the remaining ingredients.
Brown sugar- You can use dark brown sugar or light brown sugar. The latter will create a lighter-tasting filling because it has less molasses. I chose dark brown sugar for this recipe because it added a deeper flavor.
Butter- The fat in butter keeps the dough moist; in brioche recipes, lots of butter is a must. Butter serves two purposes for these sticky buns. The first is in the dough, and the second is to hold the filling before you roll it up. Unsalted butter is ideal for baking as it allows you to control the amount of salt in the recipe.
Corn syrup- Corn syrups like Karo help make the sticky caramel. It stops the sugar from crystallizing and becoming grainy while baking, so it’s smooth and flowing when you invert your baked rolls.
Vanilla extract- Using flavor extract creates a great base flavor for these sticky buns. Vanilla is a wonderful complement to caramel and brown sugar to create depth.
Pecans- You can use whole or chopped pecans in this recipe. If you're not a fan of pecans, walnuts are a tasty alternative for this recipe; they’re just not traditionally used.
Ground cinnamon-This gives the sticky buns all the delicious cinnamon flavor! For a twist, you can also use pumpkin pie or apple pie spice blends.
How to make old fashioned sticky buns
Prepare the dough
The first step to making sticky buns is to prepare the dough; you'll want to use a stand mixer and dough hook for this recipe. This particular dough is made in a straight dough method. Which means all ingredients are thrown in and mixed together.
I love my Bosch mixer for jobs just like this. It is powerful and efficient!
Make the caramel topping
- Combine the brown sugar mixture in a small bowl. Mix well.
- Spread the mixture in the bottom of your baking pan.
- Sprinkle the pecans evenly on top of the caramel sauce and set aside to cool slightly.
Make the cinnamon sugar mixture
- In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until spreadable paste forms.
Assemble the sticky buns
- Roll the dough out, and form a rectangle about 18x24 inches on a lightly floured surface.
- Spread the cinnamon filling mixture across the dough, leaving a one-inch gap at the bottom. You will need this to crimp the bread closed. Then, roll the dough tightly and pinch it closed.
- Cut into 1 ½-2 inch pieces. A sharp knife or dental floss works best for this. You'll want to avoid pressing down on the blade too much. Otherwise, you'll smash the rolls. Add the rolls to the baking dish with the caramel filling. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees while the rolls are rising. Once the rolls are doubled in size, place them into the oven.
- Bake for about 20 minutes; some ovens may run a little hot or require a couple of extra minutes, so keep a close eye on them. They should just be light golden brown.
- Remove from the pan by running a knife along the edges to ensure no rolls stick to the side when flipped. Invert almost immediately onto a plate and let the buns cool slightly.
These are best served right away while they are warm. Honestly, though, I am not too picky; I will take them any way I can get them! Seriously though, read the book, try these rolls, and your life will be much better! I can promise you that
Proof the yeast- Sometimes, bread turns out less than ideal because the yeast does not bloom correctly. When properly proofed, the bowl of yeast should look light in color and puffy. If the yeast has simply fallen to the bottom of the bowl or done nothing, it did not work and will not make your rolls rise. Aside from old yeast, using too hot or cold liquid may inactivate the yeast. Ideally, your proofing liquid should be lukewarm, around 110 degrees. You can test this with a thermometer if you're unsure. If your yeast doesn't proof correctly at first, always feel free to try again in a different bowl, troubleshooting any issues you may think caused it to fail.
Double-check your ingredients- Some ingredients in this recipe, such as butter, are used multiple times. Be sure at every step you double-check the amount used and the form it should be in (softened, melted butter, etc.)
Take your time- While this recipe is not hard to master, it does require patience and close attention to detail. However, there’s something very soothing about following longer recipes, especially the satisfaction that comes when you bite into the best sticky bun you’ve ever had! Don’t rush the process, and put love into the effort. It’s noticeable!
Be careful! - When you are inverting these sticky buns the caramel is still very hot. You do not want to get this on you, so be careful when you are flipping it over.
FAQ Old Fashioned Sticky Buns
If you'd like to substitute the brown sugar, granulated sugar with molasses is the best alternative while still getting the deep flavor. You can do this by mixing 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses and scaling as needed.
Sticky buns differ from cinnamon rolls because they traditionally add nuts and caramel. A cinnamon roll has a similar cinnamon sugar filling but not a topping that is inverted after baking.
Sticky buns are best enjoyed warm and fresh, but you can store them wrapped in plastic wrap or an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days for the best taste. You can then enjoy them warmed in the microwave or at room temperature.
To soften them up, the best method is to place them into the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Then, if they seem dry, you can wet a paper towel and wrap it around the bottom of the roll to add moisture and microwave for an additional 10-15 seconds.
Of course! If you don't like pecans or cannot have nuts, simply omit them from this recipe.
Old Fashioned Sticky Buns
- 4 tablespoons softened butter
- ⅔ cup brown sugar I like to use dark.
- 2 tablespoons karo syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cups pecans leave them whole like I did, or chop them up
cinnamon roll filling
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¾ cup warm milk
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar or honey
- 4 tablespoons softened butter
Mixing the dough
- Start by activating your yeast. Add the yeast, warm milk, and sugar to your mixing bowl. Mix for a couple of spins. Let this sit for 3-7 minutes.
- Add in the remaining ingredients and mix for 1 minute on medium speed. Check the dough. It should be slightly tacky (sticky), but not too much.
- If you need to add a little more all-purpose flour. Mix on medium speed for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth.
- Cover and let this double. Mine took about 50 minutes.
- While it is rising, prepare the caramel mixture for the bottom of your pan. Mix all ingredients together and spread them in the bottom of your pan. Sprinkle with the pecans and set the pan aside.
- Make the filling mixture as well. I like to mix this in a small bowl and set it aside.
- When the dough is ready, sprinkle the surface with flour and roll your dough into a rectangle that is about 18 inches by 24 inches. Spread evenly with the filling mixture.
- Roll the roll and pinch closed.
- Cut rolls into 1 ½-2 inch pieces. Place them in your prepared caramel pan.
- Cover and allow them to rise until they are doubled.
- Preheat the oven at the end of the rising time to 350 degrees.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.
- I test for doneness by gently pulling up on one of the center rolls. You should be easily able to see if it is done this way.
- Remove from the oven and let it rest for 3 minutes. Then carefully invert it onto a plate or platter. Remember this is very hot!!
- If you need to, run a knife along the edges to remove it.