These mini sticky buns are perfectly portioned, soft, fluffy bites of caramel pecan goodness. Rich in flavor and made with whole wheat flour, this recipe is perfect for a lazy weekend at home.
I swear, almost overnight, everything has turned upside down. While we are making so many adjustments to life as we know it, I am doing everything I can to stay optimistic. One of those things was I decided to make an upside-down baked good to celebrate my world being turned upside down! So, here are my mini sticky buns. Not only are they a fun celebration of what we are experiencing right now, but they are also exceptionally good!
Sticky buns are like cinnamon rolls taken to the next level with the delicious addition of gooey caramel and pecan topping. They melt in your mouth, have a tender, fluffy dough, and are deliciously sweet. You can enjoy them for breakfast or as a treat any time of the day.
Why you'll love it
Perfectly portioned - One of the best things about these mini sticky buns is that they're baked in muffin cups, making them much easier to serve than a traditional sticky buns recipe. This is good news for anyone trying to keep from enjoying too many and for anyone wanting to make sure the sticky buns don't disappear too fast.
Classic flavor - Each sticky bun is loaded with the luscious caramel pecan flavor we all know and love. These bites are overflowing with deliciousness and begging you to make them again and again. They're perfect for feeding your family or serving guests. You just can't get enough of them!
Whole wheat health benefits - This recipe uses whole wheat flour, which carries several extra health benefits, including zinc, vitamin B, and fiber. My family loves using white wheat, but you can make these sticky buns with anything from red wheat to spelt to rye or even kamut.
Whole Wheat Flour-I love using white winter wheat in my baked goods because it's finer and more mild tasting than red wheat. Wheat flour has many nutritional benefits and adds a great nutty flavor that goes so well in these rolls. This is an excellent place to start if you're on the fence about trying whole wheat flour. If you prefer, you can also use 100 % all-purpose flour in this recipe.
All-Purpose Flour- I love using a blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour is lighter than whole wheat flour but combined, they make a delicious and nutritious fluffy dough!
Salt- Salt is essential even in sweet baked goods. It elevates the flavors and balances the sweetness of the sugar. So if you've had bland-tasting bready baked goods, it could be from not using enough salt in the dough; it really makes a difference!
Eggs- Eggs add a rich taste to the dough and help provide structure.
Milk- Milk is used in the dough because it adds more flavor than water and helps give it a soft crumb. The sugar in the milk also aids in providing the sticky bun with a nice golden brown color.
Active Dry Yeast- This recipe uses active dry yeast, not instant yeast. You'll need to activate the yeast before adding it to the dough. Activating the yeast is very easy to do; just be sure not to overheat the milk because if it's too hot, it will kill the yeast, and the yeast mixture will not foam.
Brown Sugar- Brown sugar adds a delicious depth of flavor that can't be beaten! I used dark brown sugar in both the caramel and the filling. You can use light brown sugar, too, though. In a pinch, you can use granulated sugar for this sticky bun recipe or make your own brown sugar by adding 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar and mixing until well combined.
Butter - Butter adds not only delicious flavor to bread, but also helps create tender dough.
Ground Cinnamon-Besides caramel, these mini sticky buns get their flavor from cinnamon. Cinnamon and brown sugar are such a winning combination!
Corn syrup-To keep the caramel smooth, I like to add corn syrup while cooking. It helps to stop the caramel from crystallizing and becoming grainy.
Vanilla Extract- This flavor adds an excellent undertone to the recipe. Vanilla and caramel go hand in hand to make the yummy flavors shine. If you need a substitute, butterscotch or maple will work too.
Pecans- For this recipe, you can choose chopped pecans, whole pecans, or a mix! If you do not eat nuts, feel free to leave them out and just enjoy the sticky caramel topping.
How to make mini sticky buns
Prepare the dough
This dough is made with a straight dough method, which is just as simple as it sounds.
Starts by activating the yeast. To do this, add the milk, yeast, and sugar to your bowl. Give it a quick mix and let it sit for about 3-5 minutes. Next, add in the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough is smooth.
Cover and allow the bread to double at room temperature, or use the proof setting on your oven.
Make the caramel
- To make your caramel pecan mixture, add butter, brown sugar, and Karo corn syrup to a pan. Heat over medium-low heat and bring to a boil. It should thicken up and be able to coat the back of a spoon.
Add caramel and pecans to the muffin cups
- Remove the caramel from the heat and divide it between the muffin cups. This will come out to about 2 tablespoons per muffin cup.
- Next, add your pecans on top of the caramel. I did several with whole pecans but wound up switching to chopped for the rest. No reason other than aesthetics!
- Set the muffin pan aside to cool while you make the filling.
Make the cinnamon filling
- Now, you'll make the cinnamon sugar filling for your rolls. Mix the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl until it's a thick paste.
Assemble the sticky buns
- Roll out the dough, and on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle about 18 x 24 inches.
- 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 ½-3/4 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 muffin tin on top of the caramel filling and pecans. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees while the rolls are rising. Once the rolls are doubled in size, place them into the oven.
- Place cut cinnamon rolls on top of the caramel pecan mix in the muffin tins. This is where the dough will rise again. Once it has doubled in size, it will be time to put the sticky buns in the oven.
Bake the sticky buns
- Bake the mini sticky buns for 15 minutes until lightly golden brown.
- They are pretty big- just the way we like them! Once they have finished baking, invert them by turning over the muffin tin onto a baking sheet. You might have a little caramel left in the bottom of the tin. Simply spoon it out onto the sticky bun.
- Here is your finished product. They are so good y'all! These went so fast in our house, as they always do!!
Read the recipe carefully-These sticky buns are super easy to make but have multiple steps. Be sure you read each step carefully and pay close attention to the notes about the ingredients and the form they should be in. For example, melted butter vs. softened butter.
Use an offset spatula- To make your filling smooth, an offset spatula can be super helpful. They allow you to spread the cinnamon sugar filling into an even layer easily.
Proof the yeast- If activating yeast intimidates you, don’t let it! It’s very easy to do. Once you do it a few times, you’ll be a pro. Be sure that your milk is warmed adequately but is not boiling hot. You’re shooting for around 110 degrees. Too hot or too cold will cause the yeast to not activate properly. If your active dry yeast is a bit older, it may take a little extra time. Usually, it happens within 5 minutes, but I’ve had it take nearly 10. Both produced a good rise ultimately, but sometimes a variety of factors can influence how quickly it happens.
Be sure to remove the sticky buns from the pan as soon as they come out of the oven. If the caramel hardens, it will be so hard to get them out!
FAQ- Mini Sticky Buns
Store leftover mini sticky buns in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days for the best taste and texture.
Brown sugar adds a rich caramel flavor that takes baked goods to the next level. Especially in recipes with strong spices like cinnamon, brown sugar is sweet and flavorful and can make those deep flavors shine.
Honey buns are sticky buns are similar, but the main difference comes down to their sticky topping. Honey buns are mostly the same; instead of a caramel topping, they have a honey-based topping.
For this recipe, I recommend using a standard muffin tin. Mini muffin pans would work but make very small sticky buns, and the dough might spill over the baking pan, making them look less appetizing.
Mini Sticky Buns
- ¾ cup warm milk
- 2 ½ 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
Caramel pecan mixture
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 ⅓ cups brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons karo syrup
- 1 teapsoon vanilla
- 1 ¼ cup chopped pecans
Cinnamon roll filling
- 4 tablespoons softened butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 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 this is rising, prepare the caramel mixture. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and cook it over medium heat, stirring frequently until it comes to a low boil. Let it boil for about 1-2 minutes.
- Spray the muffin tins with pan release, or butter with softened butter.
- Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, this is almost 2 tablespoons of caramel per tin. Sprinkle with the pecans. Set this aside until you are ready.
- Next, prepare the filling. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- When the dough is ready, sprinkle the surface with flour and roll your dough into a rectangle that is about 12 inches by 24 inches. Spread evenly with the filling mixture.
- Roll the roll and pinch closed.
- Cut into 24 pieces. Place each piece in a muffin tin over the caramel.
- Cover and let the rolls rise until they are doubled. Mine took about 45 minutes.
- When it is almost done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the doubled rolls into the oven.
- Keep an eye on these to ensure the caramel doesn't spill over, you may need to put a pan underneath.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes. They will bake quickly since they are so small.
- Carefully remove them from the oven and invert them onto a baking sheet. If there is caramel left in the tins, simply spoon it out while it is still warm and spread it on the sticky buns.
- They are done!