Sunday mornings with my dad usually meant one of two things: hot glazed Krispy Kremes, or cinnamon rolls. While Shanghai just got it’s first Krispy Kremes last month, Walker and I were really disappointed. The “hot and fresh” sign was lit, but the doughnuts were neither hot nor fresh.

It got me thinking about those lazy Sunday morning breakfasts. It didn’t matter that the doughnuts were cold and it didn’t matter if we were baking cinnamon rolls out of a tin, they were always finger-licking good. Since we could get doughnuts here – a change from Beijing, where there wasn’t a single doughnut shop to be found – I went looking for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe.

But I decided I didn’t just want to do the classic cream cheese frosting, I wanted to dress up my cinnamon rolls. And that is when I found it – sticky buns dripping in butterscotch, featured in Food & Wine. For me, butterscotch has always been reminiscent of bananas foster, one of my favorite desserts, and so I couldn’t wait to try it over a light-as-air bun.

Butterscotch Sticky Buns
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 12 sticky buns


3/4 cup whole milk
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter—6 tablespoons softened
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves (optional)

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup butterscotch chips (I happened to have a pack on hand, and didn’t have any whiskey, but if you prefer the whiskey, see the original recipe at Food & Wine for the glaze)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Make the Dough: In a glass measuring cup, warm the milk in the microwave until warm, less than 1 minute depending on your microwave. You want it warm enough to cultivate the yeast but not so hot that it is uncomfortable for you to put your finger in. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the warm milk and the yeast. Add the granulated sugar and the 6 tablespoons of softened butter and mix at medium speed until the butter is broken up. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour and salt and mix at low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Let the machine knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl (I smeared on the leftovers from the dish I softened the butter in), cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 12-by-20-inch rectangle. In a small bowl, mix the light brown sugar with the cinnamon. Brush the 2 tablespoons of softened butter over the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Beginning at a long edge, roll up the dough as tightly as possible and pinch the seam. With the seam side down, cut the log into twelve 2-inch pieces with  a serrated knife and set them in the muffin cups cut side up. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.

4. Set the muffin pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the buns are golden brown. If using pecans, toast them for 10 minutes, until fragrant, and then coarsely chop the nuts.

5. Meanwhile, Make the Glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, butterscotch chips, condensed milk, and milk in a double boiler. Simmer over moderate heat until melted through and combined, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from the heat, leaving the double boiler over the steam.

6. Remove the buns. Pour the glaze over the hot buns and sprinkle with the pecans, if using. Let stand until the buns have soaked up some of the glaze and are cool enough to eat, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.

It was pretty darn good – so good I ended up licking my fingers every time I took a bite! My biggest problem was that it made twelve beautiful sticky buns for a household of two, so I ended up giving several of them away. I loved the idea of putting the cinnamon buns in a muffin tin to get them to rise, and glazing them with something other than the traditional cream cheese icing. The butterscotch made the buns feel very grown up, even if the response eating them elicited from me was anything but!