So it’s been a while! The photography season is starting to pick back up,finally, so I have less time to devote to food these days. But yesterday, after getting home at 8pm and eating for the first time that day, I had a hankering to make something. And that something was cinnamon buns! Light, fluffy, cinnamony and sweet with two frostings, a simple glaze and mocha buttercream.

Buttercream just makes everything better, doesn’t it? And it’s so simple to make, and you can even do it by hand if your butter is soft enough.

Anyway. You need to make a basic yeasted dough for this recipe. Use active dry yeast, not instant rise, and let the dough rise either in the fridge overnight or in the oven with boiling water in a pan set below the dough. You can’t fail!

There are three parts to this recipe: basic dough, cinnamon-sugar interior, and icing. Below is all three.


Basic Yeasted Dough adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Honest Pretzels.

Makes 12-14 cinnamon buns, but you can freeze the dough for future use if you don’t want to make that many.

  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups minus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Sprinkle the yeast, sugar, and one tablespoon of the butter into the lukewarm water and give it a stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes while you prepare everything else.
  2. Grease a medium-large bowl with the remaining butter and set it aside.
  3. In another bowl, stand mixer, or food processor, prepare the dough:
  4. Sift the flour and salt together and stir it. Slowly pour it the water-yeast mixture 1/4 cup at a time. Use the dough hook attachment with a stand mixer, or turn on the food processor on a low speed. If working by hand, mix as much as you can with a wooden spoon and then use your hands to knead the dough from then on.
  5. Let the dough come together into a solid mass and let it rest for one minute.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 – 3 minutes. If it gets sticky, sprinkle on a bit more flour and work it in. The dough should be smooth and matte by the time you’re done.
  7. Put the dough into the greased bowl and let it rise in the oven with hot water on the bottom rack, for one hour.

After it’s doubled in size, slice the dough in half and roll each piece out. Here’s where you have two choices: a very spirally cinnamon bun, or a very fluffy one.

If you want lots of spirals, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 12″ long, and about 1/4″ thick. The thin dough makes it easy to have lots of spirals and layers to the bun, but it’s not as soft and fluffy.

If you want really fluffy cinnamon buns, roll the dough out to 12″ long and 6″ across, and about 1/2″ – 1″ thick. The thicker you leave the dough, the fluffier it’ll bake, but it’s harder to make tight spirals.


Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture

This is pretty easy. You can wing it if you like and add something like ginger, or nutmeg or allspice, instead of just regular sugar and cinnamon.

Anyway, melt about 3 tablespoons butter and brush it out onto the prepared rolled dough.

Mix together: 2 tablespoons white sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle this liberally on top of the spread butter, and roll the dough up as tightly as you can without squishing it.

Slice the dough roll into 6 equal buns, and repeat with the other dough. Let the buns rise for 45 minutes (in a humid oven again is your choice).



Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a baking dish and stand the buns up tightly in the dish. Brush the buns with melted (salted) butter and bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until golden brown.


Mocha Buttercream

This buttercream is made with instant coffee, and is just barely chocolatey and coffee…-ey.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Cream the butter until soft and fluffy. This is easiest with beaters or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, but it’s possible to do by hand with a wooden spoon and whisk.
  2. Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 a cup of the icing sugar onto the creamed butter and beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until all combined.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, and remaining icing sugar to the butter and beat till smooth.
  5. Add the coffee bit by bit. Start with 1/2 tablespoon and increase to taste. My balance is equal parts cocoa and coffee: 2 tablespoons.
  6. You can refrigerate the buttercream, but if you do you need to re-heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds before it becomes spreadable again, otherwise it’ll solidify into butter again.

Basic Glaze

This is just icing sugar and milk, and it’s pretty much the same as you get in the Pillsbury cinnamon bun packages.
Whisk together 1 cup icing sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. Add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon until you reach your desired consistency.

And that’s it! It’s a lengthy process, about 3 hours, but it’s mostly just waiting. Find some show to marathon or go for a walk while the dough is rising and you won’t even notice the length of time.

Good luck!