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Cinnamon Rolls & Sticky Buns: One Versatile Recipe

Cinnamon roll vs cinnamon bun. What’s the difference?

Cinnamon roll vs. cinnamon bun

What’s the difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns? Both delicious treats are made from the same dough and filled with delicious cinnamon goodness, but it’s the frosting versus the sticky glaze that sets them apart. 

In this post,  I’ll show you how to make both cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns. I’m sharing my favorite sweet dough recipe that works perfectly for making all kinds of cinnamon roll treats. 

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When I had my bakery, we sold both cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.  Although we had signs with the item names, customers often ordered them by calling them sweet rolls, honey buns, and cinnamon buns. This got me thinking: is the naming of these delicious treats a regional thing? Here’s what I discovered…

Cinnamon Roll vs. Cinnamon Bun

The main difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns lies in their finishing touches.

Cinnamon rolls start from sweet dough, then get rolled with a cinnamon sugar filling, and generously spread with cream cheese frosting over the top. (think Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls)

Cinnamon buns are often found in Europe and are thinner than the traditional North American cinnamon roll. They are either iced with a simple powdered sugar glaze or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Sticky buns,  are slices of rolled sweet dough filled with cinnamon filling and have a sticky glaze that coats the top of the buns. This glaze is usually made from brown sugar, butter, and sometimes pecans or other nuts. 

cinnamon roll vs cinnamon bun

How to make cinnamon rolls and sticky buns from the same dough

Did you know that you can use the same dough to create both cinnamon rolls and sticky buns? The base of both cinnamon rolls and sticky buns is an enriched dough. 

 Enriched dough is different from bread dough, it contains additional ingredients such as butter, sugar, and eggs, and it makes the best sweet rolls!

Frost these sweet rolls with cinnamon roll icing, drizzle them with powdered sugar glaze, or bake them in caramel sauce and pecans for a gooey sticky bun.

One tender dough, two delicious treats!

Professional bakers know that it’s a huge time saver to be able to make multiple items from one recipe.  I love this delicious cinnamon roll dough for making classic cinnamon rolls and caramel pecan sticky buns.

They both start with delectable swirls of dough and cinnamon filling, but the toppings set them apart.

I like to top cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing and sticky buns with luscious caramel and toasted pecans. 

You can’t go wrong with either one. They both offer a similar level of sticky-sweet comfort!

PRO TIP💡You can split the batch and make a few cinnamon rolls and a few sticky buns. Its an easy way to have more variety with minimal effort! (see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for instructions) 

I like to use these 4 inch silicone cake pans for making the sticky buns. 

Cinnamon roll vs. cinnamon bun

Ingredients for making buttery dough for cinnamon rolls

  • Active dry yeast: Helps the dough rise and gives it a fluffy texture.
  • Warm water and warm milk: Activates the yeast and creates the right environment for dough fermentation.
  • Granulated sugar: Feeds the yeast, aiding in fermentation and adding sweetness to the dough.
  • Unsalted butter: Adds flavor and richness to the dough. (make sure it’s softened)
  • Salt: Enhances the flavor of the dough.
  • Large eggs: Provide moisture to the dough.(but also slow the rise time)
  • All-purpose flour: Creates a softer and more tender texture than bread flour in this recipe

Cinnamon roll vs. cinnamon bun

For the Sticky Bun Filling

  • Brown sugar: Sweetens the filling and creates a gooey caramel when baked.
  • Ground cinnamon: Try using Vietnamese cinnamon for a powerful cinnamon flavor.
  • Butter: Enhances the caramelization process
  • Corn Syrup: The secret ingredient for the perfect sticky consistency!

Here’s what you need for cream cheese icing

  • Powdered sugar: Adds sweetness and helps to thicken the icing.
  • Heavy cream: helps to achieve the perfect consistency, but feel free to substitute whole milk.
  • Cream cheese: adds a tangy and creamy flavor to the icing.
  • Vanilla: Just a splash enhances the flavor of the icing

​This cinnamon roll icing is perfect if you are looking for a rich vanilla flavor, made without cream cheese. 

Equipment you need for making cinnamon rolls and sticky buns

  • Stand mixer or Electric mixer– Use a stand mixer or an electric mixer with the dough hook attachments 
  • Large bowl– You’ll need a large mixing bowl for proofing the dough.
  • Baking dish– This is a good choice for cinnamon rolls or a full batch of sticky buns
  • 4 in cake pan- Perfect for jumbo sticky buns. (They hold a more generous amount of dough)

Let’s make the best cinnamon rolls and sticky buns

The first step is to make the yeasted dough

  1. Scald the whole milk and let it cool before adding the yeast and sugar. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the eggs and vanilla along with the yeast mixture.
  3. Add the all-purpose flour and salt and knead the dough blending at low speed until the flour is incorporated, then at medium speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and you achieve that perfect soft dough consistency.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and let it rest until doubled in size. (about 45-60 minutes)

The next step is to roll the dough

  1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface
  2. Roll into a rectangle (about 14 inches wide x 18 inches tall)
  3. Spread with softened butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar
  4. Roll into a tight spiral
  5. Slice the log of dough into 12 equal size pieces 

Finally, it’s time to decide: Cinnamon roll vs sticky bun

Cinnamon rolls- Place the sliced cinnamon rolls on a baking sheet or into a buttered casserole dish, proof, bake, and frost with Cinnamon Roll Icing.

Sticky buns– Apply a generous amount of Sticky Bun Filling (with optional nuts) onto the base of the cake or muffin pan. Position the cinnamon roll on top. . Let it proof and then bake. Once baked, promptly flip it over to let the caramel glaze cover the cinnamon bun.

The full recipe and step-by-step instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the post. 

cinnamon roll vs cinnamon bun

Cinnamon Rolls and Pecan Sticky Buns

This is the best cinnamon roll dough for making classic cinnamon rolls and caramel pecan sticky buns.
Prep Time 3 hours
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 1 packet Active dry yeast
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 ea Eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups All-purpose flour

Cinnamon Filling

  • 1/2 cup Unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Cinnamon

Sticky Bun Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp Brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla

Cinnamon Roll Glaze

  • 1 cup Powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp Water start with 2, add more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla

Instructions
 

To Make the Dough

  • In a microwave-safe container, heat the milk for about 2 min, or until it starts to steam. Allow it to cool until it feels lukewarm(about 80-100 degrees F).
  • In a small bowl, combine the active dry yeast, milk, and 1 Tbsp of the sugar measurement. Mix well and set aside.
  • Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, add the eggs, vanilla, salt, remaining sugar, and butter. Mix to combine, then add the milk and yeast mixture. Add in the all-purpose flour and mix until a sticky dough forms.
  • Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rise for about an hour in a warm place until it doubles in size.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangular shape. Spread the unsalted butter over the dough, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space around the edges. Mix the cinnamon roll filling and sprinkle it over the butter.
  • Roll up the dough tightly, starting from the long edge, and pinch the seam to seal.

To Make Cinnamon Rolls

  • Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and place them in a greased baking dish. Let the rolls rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before icing or frosting.

To Frost Cinnamon Rolls

    To Make Sticky Buns

    • I like to make one batch of dough and make half cinnamon rolls, and half sticky buns. If you want to make a full batch of sticky buns, you'll need to double the sticky sauce recipe.
    • Mix the sticky bun sauce by combining the brown sugar, melted butter, corn syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small bowl.
    • Place sticky bun sauce in the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish, sprinkle thew chopped pecans over the sticky sauceand place 4 cinnamon rolls on top. If baking individually, use jumbo muffin pans or 4-inch cake pans. Place about 2 Tbsp sticky sauce on the bottom and top with 1 Tbsp chopped pecans. Top with a slice of cinnamon roll dough. Let the sticky buns proof for another 30-45 minutes and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes. Invert the pan to allow the sticky sauce to coat the cinnamon roll. Spoon any remaining sticky sauce or pecans over the top or the sticky buns.
    • Mix the cinnamon roll glaze by combining the powdered sugar, water, and vanilla and mixing until smooth. Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls while they are still warm.
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

     Whether you prefer the creamy richness of a cinnamon roll or the sticky-sweet indulgence of a cinnamon bun, one thing’s for sure—you’re in for a treat either way! And with this easy homemade cinnamon roll recipe, you’ll be a breakfast hero in no time!

    Ready to do more with your cinnamon rolls? Check out my other posts on the same topic:

    And remember, if you have any questions or just want to share your cinnamon roll success story, drop a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

    Recipe Rating




    Krysta

    Wednesday 20th of March 2024

    Recipe is missing amounts for the sticky bun sauce ingredients.

    Better Baker

    Wednesday 20th of March 2024

    I've just updated the recipe. Thank you for letting me know!

    Yvonne

    Wednesday 20th of March 2024

    We use instant yeast. What would do differently? Thank you!

    Better Baker

    Wednesday 20th of March 2024

    Instant yeast will work fine too, however you don't need to activate it in the liquid if you don't want to .