Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns: From Scratch Sweet Rolls

By La Cuisinière | Baked Goods

Dec 11
Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

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Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns – Homemade sweet rolls are the perfect way to start the holiday season.  At least in this family. 

While this is definitely not a spur of the moment recipe, make sticky buns just once and you are well on your way to opening a breakfast bakery and the start of a family tradition.

Fresh cinnamon rolls instantly become the special breakfast or brunch treat that officially heralds the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday season.

Caramel pecan sticky buns and rolls - proofing, with pecan and without nuts

Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns

Classic Pennsylvania Dutch cinnamon rolls have been part of this family’s culinary repertoire for years.  We judge them all by a few standards – the Penn State stickies to the Sticky Buns from Good-N-Plenty® whether filled with raisins, topped with nuts or just plain.

Our favorite? Homemade ooey-gooey caramel drenched sweet rolls with or without pecans.  Yes, it requires two batches to make everyone happy campers. 

By the way, a pan of Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns makes a wonderful gift for friends and family members!

To borrow and tweak a well known slogan from a certain doughboy… “Nothing says lovin” like  something from Mom’s oven!®”

Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns

Holiday Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns

  • Author: De Ashton
  • Prep Time: 2 hours 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hours 55 mins
  • Yield: 30 rolls 1x
  • Category: Brunch
  • Cuisine: American


Start your own family tradition with these ooey gooey caramel pecan sticky buns and you will receive oodles of thanks.



  • Prepare The Dough
  • 2 packages of active “rapid rise” dry yeast (buy them fresh)
  • 1/2 cup of warm water (115* but I make mine just a little bit warmer as some of the warmth will quickly disappear in a room temperature mixing bowl.
  • 1/2 cup scalded whole milk – allow to cool.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 very fresh, extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter.
  • 4 1/2 cups of Gold Medal® bread flour (or King Arthur® bread flour).
  • Cinnamon Sugar Mixture:
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of very fresh ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons of very soft butter – sometimes I melt it and allow it to cool a little then brush it on the dough.
  • Caramel Topping:
  • While you are rolling out the dough and adding the “filling”, carefully melt 1 stick of unsalted butter in your baking pan. Make sure your butter does not burn.
  • Sprinkle enough light brown sugar (start with 1/3 cup) over the butter and stir to combine well.
  • You want the brown sugar to completely dissolve in the hot melted butter and form the beginnings of a caramel sauce. Spread the sauce evenly across the baking pan and sprinkle about 1 cup of chopped or whole pecans over the caramel. You can add as many nuts as you like – or none at all!
  • Remove the pan from the oven. It is now ready for you to arrange the individually cut rolls (15 to a pan)


  1. Dissolve the yeast in very hot tap water.
  2. Stir until completely dissolved, then add the milk, the granulated sugar, the salt, the eggs (crack them first into a cup to make sure you are not adding tiny bits of shell), the very soft (almost melted) butter and 1/2 of the flour.
  3. Using a stand mixer (like a KitchenAid®), and the “flex-edge®” beater, incorporate all ingredients until the mixture is smooth. The regular beater misses the sides of the bowl and the dough hook just does not works at this stage in the preparation. Using this type of beater cuts down on the total amount of time that the dough is handled resulting in a much lighter and fluffier dough.
  4. Once the mixture is smooth, I replace the spatula like beater blade with the dough hook and add the remaining flour. Mix thoroughly until it comes off the sides of the bowl and the dough hook cleanly and is easy to handle.
  5. You may need to add a little bit more flour (1/4 cup at a time) to get to this stage.
  6. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it on a lightly floured counter top. Knead lightly until the dough ball is smooth. It should not take more than 5 minutes.
  7. Place the dough in a large Pyrex© bowl (I spray the bowl with butter flavored PAM® but you can also rub the inside of the bowl with a stick of soft butter is even tastier), cover with cling wrap and place in a warm spot away from drafts.
  8. *If you do not plan on making the rolls immediately, you can place the tightly sealed bowl in the refrigerator at this point. I do this on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to cut prep time in half.
  9. Allow dough to rise until about doubled in volume.
  10. Punch down the dough and give it about 5 minutes to settle. Separate into two pieces. Each piece will make 15 rolls.
  11. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle (about the size of your pan).
  12. Spread the rectangle of dough with Cinnamon Sugar Mixture ingredients.
  13. Roll the dough starting from the wide side until the seam is on the bottom. Adjust the shape of the roll to match your pan. Cut the dough into 1 inch slices and arrange over the caramel sauce.
  14. Allow the rolls to rise again until doubled in size.
  15. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 or 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  16. Prepare a large cookie sheet. Cut a piece of foil more than large enough to cover your baking pan and the cookie sheet. This will keep the caramel sauce from “escaping”.
  17. After removing the pan from the oven, cover with the foil, then place the cookie sheet on top of the foil. Carefully flip the contents of the baking pan onto the cookie sheet.
  18. Allow the rolls to drop out of the baking pan and the caramel sauce to drip completely through the rolls. It takes about 10 minutes. Raise the baking pan to allow steam to escape.


For a nice change that produces a roll akin to an apple fritter, use Apple Pie Spices instead of just cinnamon in the dry sugar mixture. Coarsely chop a couple large apples and cook in a scant amount of apple juice until just soft. Cool.
Before rolling the dough, spread a layer of the cooked apples bits over the sugar coating.
Instead of spreading whole pecans in the bottom of the pan, chop them fine. I actually prefer finely chopped walnuts when making the “apple rolls”.

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Just a few notes about the ingredients for the Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns…

When you want to put the “sweet” in sweet dough and make your sticky buns (that’s what we call them) irresistible!

 Bakery Emulsions Natural & Artificial Flavor 4oz, Buttery Sweet Dough

Use the freshest ingredients you can find.  By freshest, I mean check the date stamp on the yeast, the flour, the pecans (or walnuts).

I have yeast in the cupboard which was technically considered to still be good according to the date stamp but I purchased yeast packets dated “best before May of 2016”.  That fresh!

Believe me, it makes a world of difference in the results.

Buy farm fresh eggs, the best butter (unsalted) and do not make substitutions (as in using dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar in the caramel sauce).  No skimping allowed and you will be rewarded with tons of compliments.

Why use bread flour instead of all purpose flour?  It does a better job of rising to the occasion!

Bread flour has considerably more protein and gluten content than regular flour and it helps the yeast rise well. 

If sweet dough is never quite sweet enough, add a teaspoon of Buttery Sweet dough flavoring.  

And a few notes about the kitchen gadgets I use…

I’ve baked caramel pecan sticky buns for a long time.  Most of the kitchen gadgets I use are “vintage” models but it goes without saying that new models work just as well.  

My first stand mixer was a Harvest Gold colored Sunbeam Mixmaster similar to this one found on eBay® (not the current Heritage Series® – the original model) with the wide bottom glass bowls by Free King Ware. The mixer came with two bowls. The large bowl is still perfect for making dough rise.

Rolling out the dough on the kitchen counter is the default option.  However, I now make things easier by rolling out the dough on a silicone baking mat with measurements.

 Baking with Natural Yeast: Pancakes, Waffles, Cinnamon Rolls and Muffins Amish Cooking – Cinnamon Rolls and Mixing Bowls Cookbook Bagels, Baguettes, Muffins, Soft Pretzels, Pizzas, Loaves, Cinnamon Rolls

Jaw Dropping Cinnabon® Sized Cinnamon Rolls!

In order to make Cinnabon® sized rolls (my rolls are HUGE – only 15 to a pan), I invested in commercial grade, large and deep rectangular roasting pans whose only purpose (in this kitchen) is to make my sticky buns.  For smaller quantities, consider this silicone baking mold or healthy ceramic bake ware.

Measuring 17 by 12 by 3 inches deep, my cinnamon roll pans can best be compared to lasagna pans. This pan is also ideal in size.

Don’t the handles get in the way? Yes and no. The handles do make it easier to get a firm grip on the pan but I also use them to prop the pan off the rolls once it has been flipped over. My cookie sheets fit perfectly in the space between the handles.

So… foil over the rolls, cookie sheet over the foil and flip!

After a few seconds, the entire pan of rolls has dropped onto the foil and the handles provide just enough space to vent the escaping steam.

These large heavy duty pans allow me to prepare a caramel topping which does not burn during the baking process as well as plenty of room for the rolls to expand during proof time.  Once cooked, the rolls literally fill the pan to the rim.

These are breakfast rolls right?   So instead of cooking bacon for 15 hungry family members, I assigned one cook to prepare two pounds of bacon strips but I crumbled at least a pound of crisp bacon one batch of cinnamon rolls after flipping them out of the pan.   Candied bacon is not unheard of but omit the pecans on that batch of sweet rolls.   Just leave it at gooey caramel and bits of crisp country bacon.

homemade sweet rolls baking in the oven

Homemade sweet rolls baking in the oven. Give them a few more minutes and the finished product is seen in the photo above!

What makes these Caramel Pecan buns sticky?

Most cinnamon buns and even other recipes for sticky buns cover the top of the buns with a caramel sauce or some type of glaze.  Easy enough. 

What makes these slightly different is that you make the caramel sauce in the bottom of the pan before you place the rolls in the pan and wait for them to rise a second time.

This is only a little more time consuming but what you have is a caramel sauce that partially bakes into the roll and creates a thin candy coating when cool.

When you remove the rolls from the oven, the pan is quickly flipped over onto a cookie sheet.  Do not remove the pan immediately.  Prop it up with a spoon to allow the steam to escape and let the sauce drizzle over and between the rolls.

I know what you are thinking.  The photos in this post do not look like the recipe results I just described.  There is a reason.

Make It Now or Bake Later?


I’ve been very disappointed in my attempt to prepare overnight caramel pecan sticky buns.  The dough does not proof correctly after sitting for so many hours.


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This Thanksgiving, I tried to make the caramel pecan sticky buns ahead of time and “transportable”.

According to several reliable sources, it was possible to freeze the prepared rolls and still have fluffy sweet rolls the next morning.

Results? All I can say is that I tried it and did not like the results.


Oh… there was nothing wrong with the taste of the rolls.  


It was partly due to the fact that they were previously frozen, then thawed yet never fully completed that second “rise” (Step 14 in the Instructions).  


I should simply have left the dough overnight in the fridge as I normally do (tightly sealed in the proofing bowl) and baked them the next morning – my normal routine.


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Add to that – not being in my kitchen, not using my pans, cooking in a “state of the art” gas oven controlled by a electrical circuit board in an area where the power fluctuates constantly.  And that day, it fluctuated constantly.

Ever had to “reboot” your range?  In other words, the oven was off by close to 50 degrees at any given time during the cooking phase.


What this means is that for the purpose of full disclosure, I am simply going to have to prepare another batch of Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns.  I doubt anyone in this household will object.

Christmas is just around the corner so I will be making another batch very soon.

More Cinnamon Sweets…

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About the Author

1 Cook, 2 Countries & A Taste For World Cuisines: Cooking A La Mode De Chez Nous - Cuisine d'Hier Et d'Aujourd'hui! For the love of home style cooking and great food. Memories are made of this!

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