cinnamon buns

Cinnamon Sticky Rolls (Oven or Crock Pot Method)

cinnamon sticky buns christmas
My grandmother had a recipe she (and we) could always count on for family gatherings: Cinnamon Sticky Rolls! This was the recipe I (and all my cousins, aunts, uncles …) looked forward to for 364 days each year.

Note: This post is unusually long because it is part of the Home for the Holidays blogger event & contest.

To jump straight to the recipe, click: Cinnamon Sticky Rolls.

For years (ok, decades) I thought that there was NO way I could ever replicate my Grandma’s sticky rolls. No way. And thank goodness I didn’t have to! Christmas came and went every year, and Grandma’s rolls were something we could all count on. I remember as a young girl lingering in Grandma’s kitchen, but I had already missed the true excitement: the kneading of the dough, the hours of rising and covering and baking. Nothing to see here … move along.

All I distinctly remember from those Christmas mornings was that I and my younger cousins were relegated to being served the “hard” parts of Grandma’s rolls — the crispy outsides. The coveted insides (the yummy soft rolls) were fought over by the older generations, and there were certainly none left for us young-uns! Not that we complained (much), since the outer (crunchy) rolls were still awesome, it’s just that in comparison to the supreme deliciousness of those inner rolls …. (ok, I apologize … I am seriously digressing into family issues/rolls.).

To hear my radio interview with Shirley (GlutenFreeEasily) about gluten-free holiday baking & more on my Grandma’s Cinnamon Sticky Buns, click here for the podcast!

Back to the point: to me these rolls were up there with every other Christmas tradition. Of course we would always have Grandma’s rolls! It was unthinkable to contemplate the possibility that Christmas could occur without them! … I know, I understand. This sounds really bad. Christmas isn’t about rolls!!?! What were we thinking!?? Agreed. But you know what? Looking back at my Christmas memories (what Shirley’s “Home for the Holidays, gluten-free style” is all about!), my Grandma’s cinnamon sticky rolls were IT! I was with my extended family (which only happened once or twice a year), and we all congregated Christmas morning to share the ritual pecking order of who got the soft, gooey insides of Grandma’s cinnamon sticky rolls. That was our tradition.

So when Shirley asked each of us GF bloggers to think of what recipe meant the holidays to us — of course this recipe was my choice. Christmas couldn’t really be Christmas without Grandma’s rolls. Except that Christmas somehow happened without those rolls when Grandma got sick, and after she passed away. Christmas took on a totally different taste to us all, though. You see, Grandma didn’t exactly leave a recipe for her famous rolls, and no one in the family had a clue how to start over. So we all made due on memories, which frankly, didn’t cut it.

About that same time, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, so I was obviously out of the “how to recreate Grandma’s rolls” loop. It was just another in my long line of emotion-laden foods that I could expect to never enjoy again. It was also another reason for my multi-year food depression which marked my first several years post-CD-diagnosis.

At some point (a story for a different day), I parted the curtain of my despair and determined to recreate the most important of my family’s recipes. Of course, Grandma’s rolls were a major challenge, considering that none of us even had a glutenous recipe starting point–just the vivid memory of the taste of those amazing rolls, as you closed your eyes and slowly savored the unmistakable flavors of Christmas….

This is where my mother stepped in again, as the amazing inspiration she has always been for me. She was also a cinnamon roll addict (weren’t we all?!) and she challenged me to figure out how to replicate Grandma’s rolls, but to do it gluten-free. So we worked and worked (the taste-tests were brutal! :P) until we achieved sweet success!

A few years later now, I have taken Grandma’s recipe to a new level. I think she would approve, and I know that once tasted, anyone would prefer this method: the Crock Pot. Seems antiquated, I know, but here’s the beauty of these rolls — there are no crunchy outsides! That’s right! No need to fight for your hierarchy in the family or your right to the soft centers — all can enjoy soft, melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon sticky rolls! It’s like socialism in a cinnamon roll! (odd metaphor, I know!) It’s really all about equality. That’s it. Just delicious gluten-free equality. And that’s got to be part of the Christmas message.

And now, without further ado, onto my most delicious holiday memory:Cinnamon Sticky Rolls!

Grandma’s Cinnamon Sticky Rolls

bun ingredients:

crumble ingredients:

icing ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. melted butter or Earth Balance® Buttery Sticks
  • 1/2 cup dark karo syrup (or pure maple syrup or agave nectar)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)


In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, except yeast.  Cut the shortening into small pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a dough paddle attachment on an electric mixer or a pastry cutter by hand.

In a smaller bowl, stir together the liquid ingredients until combined.  Slowly add liquid mixture to the dry ingredient bowl and mix with the paddle attachment.  Add in the yeast, mixing on medium-high until smooth.  The dough will be very wet.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping ingredients and distribute in the bottom of an oiled 8 x 8 or 9 inch round pan OR in the bottom of a large crock pot.

If using oven method, preheat oven to 200º F, then turn off.

Liberally dust a clean counter or pastry mat and your hands with gfJules™ Flour.  Turn the dough out onto the well-floured surface and gently pat into a rectangle shape, about 1/4 inch thick.

Melt the butter and mix with remaining crumble ingredients. Spread on top of the dough.

Cut the dough in half, leaving two approximately equal squares of dough. Slowly roll the dough from one end to the other so that the crumble mixture is spiraled inside itself. Repeat for the other half of the dough, so that you have two long logs of rolled dough. Slice each log with a knife to form approximately 8-12 rolls in total.

oven method:

Lay each roll onto the topping-lined pan, spiral-side down. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper and place inside the warmed oven for 25 minutes to rise.

After rising, remove the parchment paper and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Turn oven up to 350º F (static) or 325º F (convection).

When oven has come to temperature, bake for approximately 25 minutes (remove the foil after 15 minutes). The rolls will be light brown and have risen nicely. Turn the oven off and open the oven door to let the rolls cool slowly for about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and turn upside-down on a plate for another 5 minutes. The rolls will drop onto the plate and the pan can be removed.


 crock pot method:

Lay each roll on top of the toppings in the crock pot, spiral-side down. Cover with the lid and let the rolls rise on the low setting for 30 minutes.

After rising, turn to high setting and bake for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted into the rolls comes out clean. (Depending on the temperature of your crock pot, it may take a bit longer, but the good news is that it is hard to overcook them inside the crock pot.) Turn crock pot bowl upside-down on a plate; the rolls will drop onto the plate and the bowl can be removed.

(This method is particularly helpful if you make the rolls and let the crock pot do the work for you so that they are ready after church or a last minute holiday shopping trip!)

Serve warm, but be sure to grab a roll for yourself before they’re all gone!

Yields 8-12 rolls, depending on how small you cut them.

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