Cinnamon Buns


Okay, this is crazy. My mom has been making biscuits from the 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook since I was a kid. Some mornings these fresh biscuits would fill the kitchen with that welcoming baking aroma and what’s better than slathered butter dripping off a biscuit sandwich.

So I started making these biscuits, too, from the same 1950 Betty Crocker Cookbook (my mom gifted me one she found at a flea market years ago — she says her copy has some pages torn out by baby-me). The book is always on my shelf and I know to go to page 67 to find the recipe.

But turn to page 68. You’ll find a slew of variations for this dough. Cinnamon Buns is one of them. I never look at that recipe, I just make the dough and follow my memory of how cinnamon buns come about. Easy! And great. This batch I didn’t bake as long as I usually do. So they are a bit paler, but oh-so soft. Either way. Perfect.


These are soooo good!

Betty Crocker Biscuit Dough for Cinnamon Buns

2 cups AP flour

2  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter (cold)

3/4 cup milk

Cinnamon Bun additional ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons softened room temp butter

1 tablespoon cinnamon & 2 tablespoons sugar, combined

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk the dough dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter until it’s broken into small pieces (I use a pastry cutter). Add the milk. Use a fork to whisk dough together until you can knead it. Knead it just enough to get it to stay together in one ball.

Dust a clean work surface lightly with flour. Roll out dough until about 12 X 12-inch or 12  X 9-inch (about an 1/8-inch thick).

To make the cinnamon buns: Spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough to cover in a thin film. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly. Roll from one end (the longer end is best) into a as-tight-as-you-can-roll jelly roll.

Cut 1/2-inch or 1-inch slices from the roll. Place slices cut side up, next to each other touching, on a silpat or parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool completely.

For the Glaze:

1 tablespoon softened room temp butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

hot water

In a medium mixing bowl press out the butter with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix until the butter is blended into small pieces with the sugar. Add the vanilla and mix. Run the kitchen faucet until water is very hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of hot water to the mixture and stir rapidly with a spoon to combine to smooth. If frosting seems too thick, add a little more hot water until it becomes the right consistency for drizzling. Add water just a very little at a time— even just drops. (If it becomes too thin, let sit for a while — it will thicken on its own. Or add a little more powdered sugar.)

When buns are cooled, rallying them together on a serving tray, touching. Drizzle glaze on top in a zigzag motion. Eat.



Marcella Hazan’s Walnut Cake

Hazan's walnut cake

Hazan’s walnut cake

I once met Marcella Hazan at a book signing in NYC. She was with her husband Victor Hazan. I was a loyal fan of Marcella and also a fan of Victor Hazan’s book on Italian wines.

Marcella was signing her new book, Marcella Cucina, for a long line of book buyers. I already had a 2-volume paperback copy of Marcella’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, a wonderful guide to classic Italian cooking with lots of regional specialties you can’t find in other books. Her recipes were appetizing, reliable, enlightening, and tasty. Those books spent a lot of time in my kitchen.

I told Marcella, as she signed her new book for me, that I cooked with her often in my kitchen. She looked at me with a smirk and said, “Really? Am I any good?” The comment threw me. I said Yes, of course. She had no reply, handed me my book and I moved on to make way for the next person in line. What was that all about? I couldn’t figure it out. But it made me (unconsciously) put aside her books for years.

Until recently. Once again, thumbing thru the pages of The Classic Italian Cookbook, I was drawn to so many recipes. And this walnut cake is one of them.

butter and sugar creamed

butter and sugar creamed

I tweaked it some from her original recipe. Switched out the lemon zest for orange zest. Shortened the baking time by 10 minutes. Added orange extract and a vanilla icing swirled over the top of the cake.

The cake has more walnuts in it than batter. I used a nut grinder to get large walnut crumbs with some small walnuts chunks.

ground walnuts

ground walnuts

batter and walnuts

batter and walnuts

The batter is dense and a bit stiff. You need to press it into the greased and lightly floured pan.

walnut batter

walnut batter

It bakes up dense and chewy and richly dark.

baked walnut cake

baked walnut cake

It’s not too sweet and makes me think it would make a great breakfast cake.  But I opted to add a sweet vanilla glaze on top. The combination of cake and icing is way too irresistible and, therefore, don’t expect this cake to be around for more than a day. Chew, chew, yum, yum.

walnut cake w vanilla icing

walnut cake w vanilla icing

Walnut-Orange Cake w Vanilla Glaze

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for the pan

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons rum

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

zest from 1 large orange

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

2 cups shelled walnuts, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a hand or stand mixer until creamy and smooth. Add the egg, rum, and extract. Beat well to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Stir in the walnuts.

Butter a 9-inch spring-form pan and place a circle of parchment at the bottom. Butter parchment circle and dust pan with flour, tapping out excess. Spoon in the batter and press batter to evenly fill pan. Bake for about 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool slightly, then while cake is still warm run a knife along the edges where it touches pan and remove the sides of the pan. Let cake cool completely before icing the top.

Vanilla Glaze:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

5-6 tablespoons very hot water, as needed

Smooth the butter in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix together with butter using a spoon. Drizzle a little hot water on the mixture and stir vigorously to make the icing into a not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency. If too thin add more sugar. Too thick add more hot water.