Wildflower Honey–Caramel Buns with a light cream cheese icing are tender and decadent

Cheryl Day
Treasury of Southern Baking
"Cheryl Day's Treasure of Southern Baking" includes a recipe for Wildflower Caramel Honey Buns. (Courtesy of Artisan Books)

About the recipe

All yeasted doughs will require a portion of your day to prepare and bake. On average, you’ll need to allow up to four hours to mix and proof your dough. You can bake these buns the same day you make them or refrigerate the unbaked buns overnight and bake them first thing the next day — the scent of cinnamon buns baking in the morning is as comforting as it gets. Covered with a honey caramel goo and then a light cream cheese icing, they are tender and decadent. Decorate them with edible wildflowers, if you like.

Excerpted from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021.

Makes 12 buns

Ingredients

For the dough

2¾ cups (344 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup (94 g) cake flour (not self-rising)

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (83 g) granulated sugar

2½ teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 large (50 g) egg

¾ cup (177 ml) water

¼ cup (59 ml) buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the caramel topping

8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 g) unsalted butter

1 cup (200 g) packed light brown sugar

¼ cup (59 ml) wildflower honey (or substitute tupelo or orange blossom honey)

3 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling

1¼ cups (250 g) packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter

For the Cream Cheese Icing

6 ounces (170 g) cream cheese, at room temperature

8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups (375 g) confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Special equipment

Candy thermometer

Instructions

To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine both flours, the sugar, yeast, salt, and cardamom and mix on low speed for 2 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the egg, water, buttermilk, vanilla, and butter and beat until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and is only slightly sticky. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 7 minutes, or until the dough is silky and supple.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn the dough gently to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the caramel topping: In a medium saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, honey, water, and vanilla and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, and cook until it registers 220°F (105°C) on the thermometer.

Pour the caramel into a 9-by-13-by-2-inch (23 by 33 by 5 cm) baking dish, spreading it evenly with a heatproof spatula. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

To prepare the filling: In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat; remove from the heat.

To assemble the buns: Remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and, using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough into an 18-by-9-inch (46 by 23 cm) rectangle, about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Don’t overwork the dough, or it will become tough.

Using a pastry brush, brush the dough evenly from edge to edge with the melted butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the dough and press it lightly into the melted butter.

Beginning with a long side, roll the dough up like a jelly roll, keeping the roll as tight and uniform as possible. Pinch the seam to seal the dough and turn the dough seam side down.

Using a bench cutter or a sharp knife, trim off the ragged ends of the roll (about ½ inch/1.5 cm) and discard. Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and arrange the buns in the caramel-coated baking dish in four rows of 3 buns each.

Cover the baking dish loosely with plastic wrap and allow the buns to rise in a warm, draft-free place until they have doubled in size and are touching one another, about 1 hour. (At this point, you can cover the rolls with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight before baking.)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Slip a foil-lined baking sheet onto the lower oven rack to catch any drips.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking dish halfway through for even baking, until they are a deep golden brown and the caramel is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let the buns cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. (Caution: Do not serve the buns straight out of the oven—the caramel will be dangerously hot.)

Invert the buns onto a large serving platter. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the icing: In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), combine the cream cheese and butter and beat on medium-low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt, mixing until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the icing is super light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Smear the icing over the tops of the buns.

Serve warm.

The buns can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 day.