Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns and The Newlywed Kitchen

June 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm 67 comments

Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns

In 8th grade, my middle school French class took a trip to Paris. Back then I wasn’t interested in food the way I am now, so I didn’t take advantage of the streetside crepes and Fouchon bakery. Instead I remember how the cobblestone streets felt through the thin soles of my sneakers. The Eiffel Tower electric with lights. The fear I felt in the damp, windless corridors of the skull-lined Catacombs. And the grey parchment paper sky, wisps of clouds and the promise of rain.

Even as the trip unfolded, I knew I was making memories I wouldn’t want to forget. Every evening we’d return to our rickety two-star hotel, with bars on the windows and a spiral staircase that went up and up and up. I’d collapse onto the bed, shoes still laced. Then my friend K- and I would pull out our journals. Neither of us enjoyed updating them, but we both wanted to remember every moment of this adventure. The magic was in the details.

On our last night, we thought it would be fun to exchange journals and see what the other person had written. After all, we’d done all the same things – wouldn’t it be cool to see what each person had taken from the experience?

Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns

I giggled when I read K-’s entries – they were as practical and logical as she was. She’d dutifully recorded all the sights we’d seen and places we’d visited. She listed out every meal, every souvenir (including how much she paid) and the method we traveled. When I handed her journal back, I saw bafflement on her face.

“You wrote about such weird stuff,” she admitted. “How is this going to help you remember anything important?”

Suddenly self conscious, I flipped through the pages. No, I hadn’t listed all the monuments and souvenirs, but the information was in there if you read through it all… I’d written about my failed attempts at conversation with a cheerful woman on the subway (I later found out I’d been talking about fishbones and stars, to her amusement.) The French perception of America I’d observed, from strange fashion posters to chit chat in the park. And most importantly, every emotion, whether good or bad, I’d experienced on our trip.

I simply wrote about what I always notice – the people and the emotional connection around me. It felt more like Paris to me than any arch or shopping complex. To me, that’s what’s important – that’s what I want to remember. To me, everything is personal.

Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns

Like always, food is no exception. When I visit a farmer’s market, I am as interested in the growers themselves as I am in the produce. I always like to strike up conversation with the artisan bread bakers and chocolatiers I meet – doesn’t learning about their hard work and passion make their food taste even better?

Writing these blog posts often feels a lot like writing in a personal journal. And while food is a thread that weaves through everything, I find that I’m often not writing about baked goods at all. It’s about my mother’s smile when the ciabatta sounds hollow inside, and my father holding his fork just so, right before I snap the photo. It’s about the serenity of sprinkling dough with cinnamon sugar, the way everything has quietly become clear. Food is personal, and there’s no separating it from the rest of your life.

The recipe for these Orange-Cinnamon Sticky Buns came from Lorna Yee’s The Newlywed Kitchen. Lorna’s a friend, a fellow blogger, and a Seattle Magazine food writer. I usually don’t accept free products to blog about, but when Lorna asked me to review a copy, I couldn’t resist. I knew I was glad to have accepted when the book arrived at my door, glossy and making me hungry already.

Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns

What I really liked about this book, besides the recipes and vivid photography, was how personal it felt. Every few recipes, the book interviewed famous foodies, describing the story of how they fell in love. Where she met him, what he cooked for her, the role that food plays in their marriage. Besides being incredibly sweet and chock-full of cooking tips, every story made the distant chef feel a little more approachable and the recipe a little more familiar.

Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of food, to tell a story and bring us closer?

The story behind these sticky buns is simple. I remember the fragrance of orange oil left on the zester, and the painted texture of melted butter brushed on dough. My mother coming home and gasping, “Oh, what did you make?” and timing the buns to come out of the oven just as Dad was home. I remember telling him about the sticky glaze: “Walnuts, orange juice, honey, brown sugar, cream, and butter… It’s good stuff.” And his response: a hearty laugh that pushed up his cheeks, and “No, it isn’t!” as he took another bite.

I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything essential.

4th of July Flag Cake

[PS: As we near the 4th of July, I thought I’d remind you guys of the flag cake I made last year! You might have seen this cake floating around the internet or even watched me make it on tv (you don’t even know how nervous I was filming that. You don’t even know.) This one’s the original!]


Oh, I guess I could also talk about the buns themselves. It’s embarrassing how quickly we devoured the whole pan, but can you blame us? The dough itself is wonderful. When I was rolling it out, I was struck by how soft it was, like baby skin. I could see the flecks of orange zest, and the whole sheet of bread was incredibly fragrant. After a layer of butter and thick sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, the dough is rolled and sliced into buns.

The glaze is so sinful but so good. All those bad-for-you ingredients come together in a thick, sticky sauce – nutty and buttery and deep. It’s poured into the pan and the buns are snuggled right on top. Then you pop the pan into the oven the next morning and wake up to a honey and citrus spiced kitchen. You couldn’t ask for more.

Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns
From The Newlywed Kitchen
Makes 14 sticky buns

7 tablespoons butter, room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing the bowl
1/4 cup warm water (105ºF to 115ºF)
3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 egg yolk
2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated orange zest (about 1 medium orange)
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk, room temperature
4 1/4 cups flour, divided

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about 1/2 medium orange)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

To make the dough: Lightly grease a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes.)

Add the remaining sugar, the salt, the remaining butter, egg, egg yolk, orange zest, milk, and 3 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed until combined. Switch to dough hook and continue mixing on low speed, slowly adding the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough looks silky smooth and a bit tacky, but not too sticky. If the dough is too wet, add another tablespoon or two of flour. Continue mixing for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the mixer off, and shape the dough into a ball.

Put the dough in the greased bowl, turning it so that it is completely covered in butter. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough, patting it down lightly around the edge of the bowl so that the dough is not exposed to too much air. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in volume (about 2 hours.) After the dough has risen, punch it down, discard the plastic wrap, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 18 by 9 inches.

To make the filling: brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the dough from one long end, so it forms a cigar-shaped, cinnamon-spiral log. Arrange the log so it rests seam side down, then slice it into 14 equal pieces. [I made 12.]

To make the glaze: Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, just until melted. Pour the glaze into a 13 ¾ by 9 ¾ inch baking pan. [I used a 13 by 9 inch pan and it worked out great.] Arrange the sticky buns in the pan (there should be a little bit of room for them to rise.) Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and bake the sticky buns for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown. [I used a glass pan, and I had to bake for about 40 minutes. If your pan is glass I recommend increasing the temperature to 375, or simply baking longer.] Let the buns cool for 5-10 minutes before turning them out onto a large baking sheet. Let them cool for another 10 minutes before serving. [I ate the buns right away. I didn’t turn them out, just lifted out pieces with a spatula and used a spoon to pour over the glaze. So good!]

To revive a day-old bun, just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Printer-Friendly Version – Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns

Entry filed under: Breads, Breakfast/Brunch. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème Savory and Summery

67 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elissa's Dad  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I love popping in to your site and seeing a new post almost as much as I enjoyed the smell of these buns as I walked in the front door!

  • 2. Camille  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Oh man! These looks so tasty. Nothin like a little citrus twist to switch things up a bit. Gotta try it!

  • 3. Anh  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:13 am

    A new recipe, finally :)

    The buns look beautiful! And your writing is such a joy to read.

    • 4. Elissa  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:22 am

      Anh – I know I should have posted sooner… Just haven’t felt inspired to write between doing the things I have to do this summer. Glad to have finally gotten it up! :) Thanks for sticking with me!

  • 5. Marcella  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I just clicked the link you posted and watched the video of you baking on the news. So cute! The flag cake was a great idea.

  • 6. Indigo  |  June 30, 2010 at 1:04 am

    These look incredible, I definitely want to try this.
    I loved the story about the differences in your journals and I probably would have done the same thing as you, I find people and cultures and little difference between them endlessly fascinating.

  • 7. Stephke  |  June 30, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Hello! My name is Stéphanie and I’m from Belgium (next to France).
    Just to tell you I love your blog! I really love cooking (especially cupcakes => check my blog!) and reading your posts while watching your pics is just perfect!!! You’re a great writer and you always seem mature in your world’s perception… you’re right it’s a bit like your personal journal we can read… but the difference here is you have people to share with! ;)

  • 8. musketnuss  |  June 30, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Those look awesome – I love yeast dough.
    (I also have to tell you again, I love your writing)
    And you were incredible on TV! So professional, but also so likeable.

  • 9. Maddie  |  June 30, 2010 at 3:57 am

    One of my favorite experimentations in the kitchen was the time I made overnight cinnamon rolls. This sounds like an even more exciting version of the same technique; I can’t wait to try it!

    As always, I love your gorgeous writing and photos. The Paris anecdotes were adorable!

  • 10. The Blue-Eyed Bakers  |  June 30, 2010 at 4:03 am

    We’re with you – finding out about where the food comes from and who’s making it and their passion for what they do makes it all the more delicious…! And we’re thrilled you posted something from the Newlywed Kitchen…been eyeing a number of recipes in there…these buns look AMAZING. So jealous of anyone who got to have one! Or more…!

  • 11. Cari  |  June 30, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I just have to say, I can’t wait to read your first novel because I know it’s coming! I usually skim through my food blogs to get a look at the pics and recipes but I always read every word of yours!

  • 12. Emlue  |  June 30, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I haven’t looked at the recipe, as I’ve made over 3 dozen cinnamon rolls prepping for food revue and simply do not have any more space for rolls – even rolls that look like these. But I do always read what you write before you post a recipe, and I have to say your writing really struck a chord. I loved this: “And while food is a thread that weaves through everything, I find that I’m often not writing about baked goods at all. It’s about my mother’s smile when the ciabatta sounds hollow inside, and my father holding his fork just so, right before I snap the photo. It’s about the serenity of sprinkling dough with cinnamon sugar, the way everything has quietly become clear. Food is personal, and there’s no separating it from the rest of your life.” Especially the last line. I think that last line is SO KEY to baking. While I doubt I will remember eating a bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast in a few years, I know that I’ll remember the rhythm I found baking cinnamon rolls, the sleepy calmness I felt getting up at 4 a.m. to bake them, and the love I felt from my mom as she helped me frost them an hour before Food Revue, teaching me that cinnamon rolls aren’t really cinnamon rolls unless they’re coated with frosting. This post really put to words something I’ve just begun feeling about food. So thanks. :) Your blog is great.

  • 13. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  June 30, 2010 at 9:19 am

    These look so unbelievably tasty!! I want to try them now!

  • 14. Maria B.  |  June 30, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Dear Elissa,

    You’re such a wonderful role model to me and other teens. I’ll be entering sophomore year in only two months, and I plan to start a food blog by the time the carefree days of summer are over. Last school year forced me to adjust much to all the extra homework my teachers piled on. I really lacked motivation, especially during the last couple months of school. I really love baking, but never really had the time during school. You basically showed me that maybe, just maybe, I could strike the balance of school and baking, rather than being overwhelmed by just school. During those long nights filled with reading and writing, I would often open my laptop and navigate to your blog, with hope of a new post to motivate me. I’d like to thank you for being such a positive influence in my life, even if it’s only from across a bright screen. Congrats for being on tv. Good luck in college, and keep on baking!

    Maria B.

  • 15. Denise Rambo  |  June 30, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for posting the link to your appearance on TV! You did a FABULOUS job! It was so nice to “see” and “hear” you! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I predict a BIG future for you Elissa!

  • 16. Amy  |  June 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Elissa – You did a wonderful job on the t.v. segment! You didn’t seem nervous at all! Enjoy your summer and best of luck in school~

  • 17. Lauren  |  June 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I love this Elissa. You put everything into your posts – not just the food. Also, I didn’t know you went to Paris! (I’m just waiting to board my flight now). Talk to you soon!

  • 18. Lorna Yee  |  June 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Elissa,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a wonderful blog entry, for trying the cinnamon sticky buns, and for taking such beautiful photographs! I’m honored you’re enjoying the cookbook so much. It was a really personal piece of work and I’m so grateful I got a platform to share how much food means to me and my family.

    (You are super cute on TV and your Flag cake is incredible!)


  • 19. Nicole Braden  |  June 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Wow! I just disocovered your wonderful blog today! I am an interior designer with an interiordesign blog, but I also love cooking! And I love your blog! It is darling!!!!!! The flag cake intimidates though! I’m not sure I could ever make it! It is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing allof your recipes with us! Happy Fourth of July!!!!!!!!!

  • 20. Loll  |  June 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Oh yum Elissa, this looks delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  • 21. melissa  |  July 1, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Elissa, You write really well. I think you will make an excellent journalist. i made sweet rolls yesterday with blueberries, marshmallow fluff and a strawberry butter cream frosting… orange cinnamon and nuts sound delightful… everything is better with cinnamon!

  • 22. Rachel @ Working Out Wellness  |  July 1, 2010 at 4:42 am

    So happy I stumbled upon your site! I’m similar in that everything I “notice” also veers toward the personal. I can’t even imagine that not happening, and I certainly wouldn’t want it any other way. Everything becomes more meaningful when it’s personal, doesn’t it? I don’t think there’s ever too much meaning in the world, whether in little or big things.

    Hopefully, if my husband and I make it to his parents’s house for July 4th, I’ll have that flag cake in hand. I’m really excited about it, but since there’s only the two of us it seems wasteful (or greedy) to make it without other people around to eat. Which is why I probably won’t be making those sticky buns; it really would be embarrassing for me if we ate an entire pan in 24 hours. That’s been known to happen… several times, haha.

  • 23. Nikki  |  July 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Don’t feel bad. Last night in my poor french I told my Grandma I liked her horse instead of her hair. Cheval/ Cheveaux…whatever!

    Your writing is so beautiful. Creativity runs deep, before you even discover it!

  • 24. Making my Mark  |  July 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Yes, food is personal. Some of my most vivid memories are tied to meals at my grandparents table or dessert after a long day.

    This was a beautiful post. Life is seen different through everyone’s eyes because we all have different perceptions of things. I often look at blogging like a diary entry, too. :)

  • 25. Aileen  |  July 1, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Elissa! I just watched you put together the flag cake on tv and it is UH-MAZE-ING! :) You’re a natural on television, and I’m definitely making the flag cake this weekend. Happy 4th!

  • 26. Tracey  |  July 1, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Elissa, your video of the flag cake is amazing! I want to make it for the 4th of July! These cinnamon buns look insanely delicious. Keep being an inspiration!

  • 27. grace  |  July 2, 2010 at 2:15 am

    you’ve strengthened an already-awesome food post with some fantastic commentary. marvelous. :)

  • 28. Georgia  |  July 2, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Wow, those sticky buns are mouthwatering, and your flag cake is very impressive! Beautiful new post, Elissa. You’re always a treat to read, and your photos are inspiring!

  • 29. Sharon  |  July 2, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Another wonderfully crafted post. It makes me feel like I am right there experencing it all first hand. Of course i can hear your dad’s laugh when you told him it was all good stuff in those buns. He has a wonderfully sarcastic laugh. And those buns look super!

  • 30. Sharon  |  July 2, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Just watched the video. In addition to being a great baker, writer and photographer you have amazing stage presence!

  • 31. Shelby  |  July 2, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    What a wonderful blog! I shared about this cake on my blog, thanks for the super cute inspiration! :)

  • 32. Kai  |  July 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Haha! Oh goodness, the journals. They really do reveal what type of person is writing it. =]

    Happy 4th of July!

  • 33. Bonnie Riffle  |  July 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    these rolls look fantastic! I would love to try this recipe. By the way, you did a fantastic job on TV!! I can only imagine how nervous you must have been!!

  • 34. Helen  |  July 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I love the flag cake and the fact it actually looks like the US flag!! I can’t believe you made this on tv, amazing!

  • 35. Morgan  |  July 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Hi! I’m Morgan. I’m 14 years old from Illinois.
    I really appreciated having the video of you making the flag cake. I’m a avid baker and decided to surprise my family with the flag cake for this 4th of July.
    Thanks for this awesome blog!

  • 36. page  |  July 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    the buns look so yummy!!
    and i cant believe you made that cake!!!: )

  • 37. Monique  |  July 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I made these buns on Thursday. They turned out so well that these are my new go to recipe for cinnamon rolls! Excellent.

  • 38. Chris  |  July 4, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    love love love your writing and style….and you are right…it is all about the details and the feeling…and it is personal. I felt like I had been there with you

  • 39. Chess  |  July 4, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I just bought that cookbook for a wedding present for a friend, but after flipping through it, I just want to keep it for myself. It’s simply beautiful, and I just love the stories as well! Love your blog! :-)

  • 40. Swee San  |  July 6, 2010 at 5:48 am

    I tried making with one of some recipes on the net but it didn’t turn out so I’m going to try making with this recipe… It looks great, Elissa :)

  • 41. Jackie  |  July 6, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Baked your Flag Cake recipe this weekend and it was an absolute hit! Love your blog :)

  • 42. ~~Rhonda  |  July 6, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Elissa, I made the flag cake for my family’s celebration of the Fourth. It was a super hit! It will become an Independence Day tradition, I’m sure! I blogged about it here:
    Thank you for sharing the idea! ~~Rhonda :)

  • 43. Melissa  |  July 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Oh, I think it’s so cool that you’ve forgotten your “fear” of yeast doughs! Those are my favorite favorite favorite things to work with. and I also always marvel at the softness and smoothness of the dough… My sister says she’d like to sleep with it! And I am very definitely going to make these for breakfast on Sunday. Last sunday I made your lemon pullapart loaf and it was SO good!
    And your tv show was SOOO cool. I could NEVER have gotten up like that before so many people! Thank you!

  • 44. Celeste  |  July 7, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Hi Elissa, I’m from Brazil and I entered your blog purely following the curiosity to read about a 17-year-old (now 18, I know!) cooker, photographer and writer. This was one of the best things I’ve done later!! the way you write and the pictures you take from the things you cook are absolutely marvelous and heart-touching. I don’t cook (although I love to eat great things like the ones you cook…), I don’t write well and I don’t shoot professionally, but I do enjoy a good writing done by a sensitive person! I wish I had the talent to cook some of your mouthwatering foods….Congratulations and keep bringing good moments to the ones who enjoy a good writing.

  • 45. Ashley  |  July 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I didn’t think I needed another recipe for cinnamon rolls but you’ve convinced me otherwise with your description! Gorgeous photos too of course.

  • 46. Sarah  |  July 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    You had me the moment the words “orange,” “cinnamon,” and “honey” were put together in the same sentence. These look so so good. Though my forays into the world of yeasted baked goods have ended mostly in disaster, I may have to make another expedition for these sticky buns.
    I love that you feel food, and life, so personally. Your stories that begin every post, the small details in your recipes and the presence of your parents in your photos, are what make your blog wonderful and different! I know you hear it a lot, but your writing means a lot to a lot of people. I hope you find time to keep up with this blog in college, if only for the selfish reason that I love turning on my computer to find the words “orange,” “cinnamon,” and “honey” on the screen and smiling in gleeful anticipation of the story and recipe that follow.

  • 47. Charles  |  July 8, 2010 at 9:42 am

    You looked very poised on that tv show. You might have been very nervous, but it was in no way apparent to this viewer!!

  • 48. Sarah  |  July 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Holy cow! You looked and sounded soooooo professional on tv! In fact you were even better than the host! I hate public speaking and really admire how well you did! I love your blog and read it every week.

  • 49. CourtandWhit  |  July 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    That cake is adorable, and the cinna rollls, omg. And that is awesome that you were on TV!!!

  • 50. The Cookin Cutie  |  July 10, 2010 at 5:31 am

    I LOVE this cake! My husband and I got married on the 4th last year and I’m totally going to make this next year! Thanks!

    p.s. I love your blog!

  • 51. Andrea [bella eats]  |  July 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Elissa, After reading this post I knew I had to make these buns! We had family in town for the 4th, and the orange buns graced our table for breakfast before a family BBQ. They were a HUGE hit, and will be added to the repertoire whenever we have company. Thank you for sharing!


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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