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Maple and pecan sticky buns

Sat, 17 September, 2022

Gorgeous sticky buns baked upside down, with the maple-pecan topping bubbling at the bottom of the baking tray.

maple pecan sticky buns

Sticky bun bliss

I don’t know about you, but I can never resist a warm sticky bun.

Be it honey buns, cinnamon rolls or, seasonally, hot cross buns, it is simply bliss when ramming warm yeasty dough into my mouth almost to the point of choking, syrupy topping running down my chin and licking the fingers meticulously afterwards.

Apologies for uninhibited imagery but if we can’t describe food and eating experiences in sensory terms, the world must have got very sad and miserable indeed. I command to bake some sticky buns as a remedy and lick our fingers while eating them!

maple and pecan upside down buns

Sticky bun dough

First things first then: the recipe belongs to Yossy Arefi of NYTimes Cooking who seems to be as lovely as her bakes.

Making the dough is quite straightforward though much aided by a standing mixer. The dough is super-sticky so the elbow grease required to knead it by hand is substantial.

And also, because it is so sticky, after the first proof in bulk in the bowl, it needs to be chilled before shaping and processing, similarly to brioche dough which is next to impossible to handle fresh from kneading.

The best approach is to split the job over two days, and mix the dough and give it the first prove on one day, chill it over 24 hours in the fridge, then proceed on the following day with the shaping, filling and topping.

But if you’d like to get it done all in one day, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

sticky bun dough

Sticky bun topping

Either way, prepare the topping and filling while the dough is stashed away in the fridge.

topping and filling

The topping will, confusingly, go at the bottom of a deepish baking tray about 23 x 30cm (9 x 13 inch) in size – no loose bottoms allowed!

The topping is the impossibly sticky and divine mix of butter, brown sugar and maple syrup cooked down slightly with a large pinch of salt. It will lubricate the bottom of the tray, to be encrusted generously with toasted pecan chunks.

topping in tin

You can prepare it all before the dough even emerges from the fridge; if it sets, it will be easier to nestle the buns in.

Sticky bun filling

The filling is classic: soft butter spread all over dough, showered with sugar and spice; in this instance brown sugar with cinnamon and coarsely crushed cardamom seeds.

Don’t use ground cardamom! You’ll miss out on the wonderful bursts of flavour when crunching on shards of cardamom.

Getting ahead of myself here though: before spreading the filling, the dough needs to be rolled out, to a large sheet, 40 x 30cm (16 x 12 inch).

Butter it thoroughly except one long edge rim towards which the sheet will be tightly rolled up and sealed. Then, just like cinnamon rolls or Chelsea buns, cut the log into 12 chunky swirls.

filling and rolling dough

Nestle them into the sticky, pecanned tray and let them prove, covered, for less than an hour – or cold prove it in the fridge until the following day again (delayed gratification!).

proving buns

Sticky bun baking

Baking takes half an hour or so, till it’s all excitingly browning on top and bubbling around the sides (let the buns warm up and puff up if cold stored overnight).

Ten minutes cooling in the tin on a wire rack should make the bubbling abate. Run a palette knife around the edges, get a large tray or board to invert the buns onto and brace: cover the tin with the tray and flip.

baked buns in tin

They should all come out beautifully, the sticky syrup oozing down the dough, saucing the buns, an odd pecan stuck to the tin and dropping out reluctantly.

But even if you have to nudge them off the tin in places, making it a bit messy, don’t worry – the messier, the more gorgeous the eating experience will be…

They will keep very well, since they are covered in syrup, but they will also happily freeze, in a plastic tub perhaps, so you can scrape out every bit of the topping on defrosting.

sticky buns with pecan topping

More bun recipes

Austrian Buchteln, baked jam-filled doughnuts, pull-apart breakfast treats. Buchteln (boogh-telln) are tricky to pronounce for an English speaker, but very easy to eat!

Hot cross buns for your next Easter: wholemeal, with tons of raisins, piped crosses and delicious sticky honey glaze. There’s no better spring breakfast than a buttered hot cross bun.

Pistachio morning buns, a treat for breakfast, with cardamom scent and toasted pistachio and sugar crunch. Made from enriched bread dough on tangzhong milk starter.

upside down buns with maple syrup peca topping

Maple and pecan sticky buns

Servings: 12Time: 1 hour plus rising and chilling


  • For the dough:
  • 15g fresh or 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 240g (1 cup) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 25g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 545g (414 cups) strong bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 114 tsp fine sea salt
  • 113g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • For the topping:
  • 170g (12 cup) maple syrup
  • 100g (12 cup) light brown sugar
  • 85g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 12 tsp fine sea salt
  • 150 g (112 cups) pecan nuts
  • For the filling:
  • 100 g (23 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cardamom seeds
  • 14 fine sea salt
  • 70 g (5 tbsp) unsalted butter, very soft


1. Stir the yeast into the buttermilk in a small bowl, with a pinch of the sugar. Let it stand until it foams up, about 5 minutes.

2. Place the flour, remaining sugar and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. Cut the butter into chunks and toss with the flour.

3. Add the eggs and the buttermilk-yeast mixture and stir to combine. Knead in the standing mixer with a dough hook at medium speed for about 10 minutes (it will take much longer and be harder by hand as the dough is very sticky), until it clears the sides of the bowl.

4. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place to rise, for about 1 hour, until it doubles in volume. Chill it in the fridge for 1 hour afterwards or leave it there for up to 24 hours.

5. When ready to bake, make the topping. Toast the pecans in a dry frying pan until fragrant. Place the maple syrup, sugar, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil (it will foam viciously) and cook for 1 minute.

6. Pour the mix into a baking dish about 23 x 30cm (9 x 13 inch) to cover the bottom. Crumble the toasted pecans evenly over the syrup. Set aside.

7. For the filling, crush the cardamom seeds roughly in a pestle and mortar. Stir with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

8. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it out to a rectangle about 40 x 30cm (16 x 12 inch). Spread the butter over the dough evenly, leaving an unbuttered strip of about 2 cm along the far longer edge. Sprinkle the sugar and spice mix over the butter.

9. From the long end close to you, roll it up into a tight log and seal the seam. Cut it into 12 pieces with a serrated knife. Arrange the pieces, cut side down, in the prepared tin. Cover with a tea towel and let them rise in a warm place for 45 minutes until puffy and just touching. Again, you can place the tray in the fridge instead for up to 24 hours and give them longer to rise when taken out.

10. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

11. Cool the rolls in the tin for 10 minutes, then run a palette knife around the edges. Invert all the rolls onto a tray or a large board, letting the syrup run over the buns. Serve warm; separate and freeze surplus.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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