breakfast, brunch

easy cranberry + walnut sticky buns: happy thanksgiving, Canada!

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

Happy Thanksgiving, my Canadian friends! As it turns out, you win at holidays this weekend, because in America, we’re celebrating a real jerkface; federal holiday and all. I’ve been thinking a lot about our collective Thanksgivings, thanks to this helpful comparison slideshow, and I think you really do it right. American Thanksgiving is, after all, dangerously close to Christmas and Hanukkah, causing us to overeat, overspend, and generally overdo the entire holiday season. It flies right past us in a whirl of dishes, decorations, and dramatic weight gain; it’s a wonder we don’t all walk around with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder once everything has come to a close. Or maybe we do: I think we call it “January.”

I vote to move American Thanksgiving to this weekend. Currently it’s cloudy and chilly here, and my leaves are just starting to don their pretty autumnal outfits, and I could use a few more weeks between holidays. This would give me lots of time to plan menus, parties, gifts, everything. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Plus, bonus: it’s my birthday today, which means Canadian/Revised American Thanksgiving – much like the aforementioned jerkface Columbus Day – would always fall within a few days of my annual depression sorrow wondering where all the time has gone special day.

To start the ball rolling on this, I made you breakfast. I’ve made a Canadian breakfast before, and it seems to bode well (she did graduate, people), so I’m hoping that eventually this snowballs into a holiday change for the States. It’s an easy one – a sticky bun – and make all sorts of versions of this, depending on the season.

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

Cranberries and walnuts seemed befitting the holiday, so that’s what I did: I know most of you are in your kitchens feverishly executing your gigantic (and no doubt wonderful) meals, and some of you have guests in town for the weekend. If this is the case, or if you need a little pick-me-up breakfast the day of, here you are: pick up some puff pastry, dried cranberries, and a few extra walnuts at the store, and I bet you have everything else in your pantry. These take no time and almost no effort, and they come out looking like Williams Sonoma sent them to you in an extremely overpriced box.

With these, it’s all about the prep work, which is minimal: get everything together ahead of time, so once your puff pastry thaws, you can just grab and go. After you’ve assembled everything, it’s a simple step by step:

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

First, spoon the butter into the muffin tin; easy. Throw some nuts over top of that butter: I like to do one intact walnut half on each one, and then I fill in with the smaller pieces.

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

Brush some butter on the pastry sheet…

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

Throw the brown sugar filling over the top, then sprinkle the cranberries on top of that. Now, slice the roll into 6 sections…

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

And prop them up vertically on the butter topping and walnuts. Yes, they WILL look like a disaster waiting to happen. They will not be a disaster, I promise.

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

Because they will do this: the dumb little slices sink right down into the butter and walnuts when everything starts to melt, and they come out perfectly. Let them sit post-bake for a few minutes…

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

And out they go, right onto your parchment lined baking sheet or platter. Whoops: that whole sideways bun thing? It always happens. Not to worry: the caramel holds it all together. No bun left behind.

Another great thing about these is that they self-preserve: the abundant caramel wraps itself around each little bun and encased it in what is basically a hard candy shell. If you can’t eat them all in one sitting, just leave them out on a plate and warm them a bit prior to eating the leftovers; they keep themselves fresh. It’s almost like they know you have better things to do, and they just want to help out.

cranberry walnut sticky buns.

So, Canadians, listen: I adore you. For whatever reason, there are lots of you who read my stuff, and may I say that if all of Canada is as lovely and wonderful as you are, that your country is a magical place that I can’t wait to visit. Happy Thanksgiving, my fair Canadians: have a great weekend. I want to hear/read/see all about it next week, if you wouldn’t mind.



Adapted from a recipe I made on this very space around 2 years ago for a fresh blueberry + pecan sticky bun, which is equally delicious, if slightly messier. That recipe was adapted from an Ina Garten sticky bun, I believe.

Cranberry Walnut Sticky Buns

| makes 12 muffin-sized buns |

for the topping:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
  • 3/4 cup walnut halves

for the rolls:

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, divided

*your cinnamon isn’t the only one out there. Take the time to sniff and taste a few different cinnamon varieties in one place, and you’ll realize that each type carries an entirely different scent, flavor, and heat. I like my Vietnamese cinnamon for this, and it’s one of the strongest out there. Feel free to use your favorite, but the bit of extra kick is nice in these. 

Versatility Alert: you can do whatever you want with these. Don’t like walnuts? Cool: substitute pecans, or just leave then nut-free. Cranberries not your thing? Also fine: any dried fruit works super well in these, or you can experiment with smaller berries like raspberry or blueberries (although they are messier and don’t hold as tightly together.) Leave the fruit out all together if you wish, to make them a simple brown sugar/cinnamon bun. We should talk about the differences in cinnamon sometime, I agree.

Make the filling:

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the 1 1/2 sticks butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Run the motor until everything is smooth and incorporated.

Get out a standard size muffin tin. Place around 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture in each cup. Evenly divide the walnuts over the top, using them to press the butter mixture down a bit and spread it. Set aside.

Make the rolls:

First things first: divide your 1/2 cup brown sugar between 2 bowls, 1/4 cup in each. Do the same with your cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons per bowl.) Whisk together with a fork, breaking up any big sugar chunks as you go, until everything is evenly incorporated. Set aside.

Lay one sheet of the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface, fold lines running vertically (place the other sheet in the refrigerator for safekeeping.) Use your fingers to smooth the fold lines so that everything is sturdy, then use a pastry brush to brush the melted butter over top of the entire pastry sheet.

Sprinkle one bowl of the brown sugar mixture over the pastry sheet, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Press it down lightly with your fingers. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cranberries over the top. Starting from the bottom, roll up the pastry sheet, tucking it tightly in as you go, until you have a big fat worm of a cinnamon bun. Press it down slightly with your hands to seal the edge. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, Cut the roll into 6 even slices (I slice it once down the middle, then go from there, two more slices on each side), holding it steady with your hand as you work.

Place the rolls, pretty side up (only the ends will have a “less pretty” side) in each of the cups as pictured above, lightly pressing them down into the butter mixture. Repeat with the second pastry sheet.

Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 20-22 minutes, checking after around the 18 minute mark. These are easy, but you’re dealing with caramel and metal here, which means they can go burnt in a matter of minutes. Since you can’t see the magic happening, the best way to tell that they’re done is that the upper part (which you can see) is just lightly golden; you’ll also see the caramel bubbling up around it with some force. Take them out right away and transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes, no longer. Unless you never want to see your buns again.

While you’re waiting: get out either a flat platter or a rimless baking sheet (I find the latter to be the easiest to work with.) Tear off a sheet of parchment to cover, then place that parchment over the hot buns. Place the baking sheet over the parchment, and using the oven mitts (STILL HOT) you had out from before, get a good grip on both the muffin tin and the baking sheet.

Do the professional flip motion we have talked about before, flipping your sticky buns securely out of their muffin tin and onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Set it on the counter, give the muffin tin a few good whacks with a spatula or something (STILL FLAMING HOT) and then slowly lift the muffin tin off of the sticky buns. You may see one or two fly out belatedly; just right them and they should be fine. Serve immediately.

Also, clean that muffin tin immediately, because that’s caramel, and you don’t want to be getting out your chisel on a holiday, you know what I mean? At least throw it in the sink under some hot water.

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  • Reply Deb October 12, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Yes, (sigh) it would be nice to have Thanksgiving this weekend. I agree that the holidays are compressed and overly busy. Just so American, we tend to over do with so many things….
    But I’m ok with easing into the “season”. I finally opened my first can of pumpkin this morning and these ethereal Cranberry Walnut Sticky Buns would make my family very happy no matter what the occasion!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Thank you! Deb, i think we have the start of something here: everyone wants thanksgiving earlier! next year: petition. 🙂 I agree: it’s much nicer to ease into the holidays than to rush through them: i always feel like things start off normal, then just move faster and faster until boom: january. earlier thanksgiving means we could all be less burned out on pumpkin come the end of November too. 🙂

  • Reply Monica October 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Oh my – I didn’t think I was so easily swayed but you’ve now got me appreciating the merits of having an early Thanksgiving! I won’t go into the whole “jerkface” holiday… ; )
    Now these sticky buns have me licking my fingers on reflex. There is just the right amount of caramelization on there (i.e., plenty) and I love walnuts and the textures you’ve created. It looks amazing and does sound like the holidays! Happy Thanksgiving to all your Canadian fans! : )

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:22 am

      are we not all sort of craving thanksgiving food right about now? it makes sense; after all, october is a blur of pumpkin and apple action anyway. 🙂
      I’m happy you like them! I’m not always a huge caramel fan, but these get me every time I make them. it’s not an overly sweet thing, so that could be it. I hope the Canadians are in bed sleeping their glorious thanksgivings off: evidently they have two whole days of celebrating, which would knock me out. They really know how to do it right.

  • Reply heather whitbread October 13, 2013 at 12:05 am

    I saw the Happy Thanksgiving Canada on this pin and as a Canadian I just had to check it out! These look so delicious, I will have to try them soon! Though not this weekend as I don’t have puff pastry in either my fridge or my freezer right now – but you’re right about having everything else on hand! I just bought 5 lbs of fresh cranberries at the cranberry festival today and I’m looking forward to using them in the months to come – what doesn’t get used this weekend will get frozen for later use 🙂

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 6:15 am

      Heather, thank you! And a happy belated Canadian Thanksgiving to you; i hope it was delicious.

      And all that talk about the cranberry festival made me equal parts hungry and envious. of COURSE you have cranberry festivals. because canada is a magical place. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup October 13, 2013 at 5:51 am

    Aw, yaaaaaah! Canadians do it right! We turned our heat on for the first time this morning.The leaves have started to turn the most fantastic colours. AND WE HAVE TWO THANKSGIVING MEALS TO ATTEND THIS WEEKEND. It’s just how we do, and we do right.

    I think I’m gunna make these buns over Christmas when my entire family is together for the first time in almost a decade. The Frenchies (every one of ’em), my sister, The Beaucoups, The Ocean Family. I’M SO EXCITED. My wee nieces want to bake with me, so this seems like something we could do together. Maybe it will help them graduate from stuff…

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 6:13 am

      Listen: I’ve learned in the past two years that there are SO MANY things that Canadians do right? it blows the mind, really. You people really have your stuff together. I may ask Feast if there’s any way they would send me abroad (as in, North) to do some “investigative reporting” on how America could improve. I’ll need to stay at your house.

      TWO MEALS. This i remember from your last year’s series of jealousy-inducing facebook posts: it’s unfair, really. tell me more. because we (at least our family) likes to do the big meal followed by a series of leftover meals.

      wait: did i just read that the ENTIRE BEAUCOUP CLAN IS GOING TO BE TOGETHER OVER CHRISTMAS!?! I’m going to lose my mind with joy. please, photos, video, whatever. DOCUMENT THAT CRAP is all i’m saying. baking with wee children is fun, because the whole thing about making different powdering looking things and some liquid into a cake? AMAZING.

  • Reply john@kitchenriffs October 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Happy Birthday! And great Jerkface link! I vote for Thanksgiving in October too – too many holidays too close together at the end of the year. Great idea. And great recipe – this looks incredibly good. Thanks for this.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 6:06 am

      Thanks, John! I got a kick out of that link, too: The Oatmeal has some great stuff. I’m happy to hear i’m not the only one who thinks that American thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah are way too close together! I love all the fall/winter festivities, but they do begin to feel rushed at some point.

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook October 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Happy Birthday! October is a great month to celebrate. My birthday is in December-not a great month to celebrate. And these rolls look totally worth celebrating. I am so ready to start baking, not that I ever stop-but fall baking is like totally different than summer baking. I know you know what I mean!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 6:04 am

      Thank you, Abbe! October is my favorite month, so i’m happy my birthday falls in the midst of it. December, i agree, is rough: i know a few December babies, and they always feel like their birthdays get swept up in the holiday-ness of December. I completely get it: fall baking is WAY different than summer baking. They’re both wonderful, but fall baking is a little magical. No offense to summer baking. 😉

  • Reply Willow October 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    I agree 100% — our Thanksgiving is way too close to the rest of the holidays. There’s simply not enough time for it all. And yet, you seem so to have found time to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving AND our thanksgiving, so hats off to you. I think this means you have super powers. Tasty, tasty super powers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to stock up on puff pastry…

    • Reply Willow October 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm


      • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 5:59 am

        Thank you, Willow! Although i’ll say today i feel every bit of my actual age? so, ugh. 🙂 but i’m sure i’ll snap out of it.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 6:01 am

      It is! And with halloween at the end of October, the middle october for Thanksgiving seems like a good fit. First the joy of thanksgiving, then the darkness of Halloween, then right back to joy! Perfect. 🙂
      Please: these are easy buns, although i’d LOVE to have two whole entire thanksgivings – you know…”for the blog.” *ahem* maybe next year…

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Eating Local in the Lou October 14, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Happy Birthday Shannon and Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians! My hubby has been traveling all over Canada this past month for work. Half joking I asked him to shop for a new place to live if this “jerkface” government stuff continues much longer. Another lovely, lovely recipe that I yearn to devour!

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 5:59 am

      Thank you! and i’ll speak for the Canadians as well, because i’m sure they thank you for the Happy Thanksgiving wishes. Ha! Elizabeth, i’d totally move to Canada right now. I know people: we can stay with them. 🙂 Because, seriously.

  • Reply Ashley October 14, 2013 at 11:15 am

    So January = holiday PTSD = so terrifically right. Nice!

    And these buns. You can fill them with anything and I will be all over their caramel covered goodness in seconds. Plus they’re easy. You’ve got the winning trifecta, milady.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 5:58 am

      TRUE, right? At least i feel a little PTSD in January. 🙂

      And you really can do all sorts of things with the filling: you can make orange rolls, whatever. You could technically use the style (minus the caramel) to play around with a savory bun? I want to, but i feel like that’s maybe a mess waiting to happen. maybe not. someday we’ll see. 🙂

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats October 14, 2013 at 11:53 am

    seriously? I’m salivating. Like, seriously. and I TOTALLY agree about American Tgiving being WAY TOO CLOSE to christmas (Part of my wedding planning actually involves picking a date far enough away from all the holidays/bdays that it will stand on it’s own. I am basically picking our new “anniversary” date that will be celebrated EVERY YEAR. So I must CHOOSE WISELY)

    and i love that oatmeal comic. love.

    And puff pastry? so easy.

    January is for Juicing (they both start with J!) so after Cmas I will wash out my juicer and put it back into use, but until then… EAT ALL THE ROLLS!

    side note, i love your pan.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 5:56 am

      An extra month would be helpful, yes? That’s how my wedding planning was: we got married in December (as we had both our birthdays in october, so add in THOSE holidays to avoid as well) so we ended up getting married smack in the middle of the two holidays: December 8, which fell right between. YOU MUST CHOOSE WISELY…i like our date, but that year, the holidays were a wee bit of a blur.

      i know! i just love the Oatmeal, in general. and that was an extra good one.

      *sigh* our juicers HATE us right now. EAT ALL THE ROLLS.

      that’s the goldtone Wms Sonoma pan! otherwise known as “the pan shannon can’t live without.” I have never had muffins so perfect as i do now with that pan. AND it cleans like a dream.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats October 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve never made a sticky bun before! I love how you made them in a muffin tin. You’re so clever, Shannon. I’m all for moving Thanksgiving…although with global warming, I’m afraid that the earlier we move it, the less chance it’ll be cold and the leaves will be colored.

    • Reply shannon October 15, 2013 at 5:51 am

      SAY WHAT!? sticky buns are so great! and easy, like easier-than-cinnamon-buns easy, which is why I like them so much. I’d love to take credit for the idea, but that’s Ina Garten’s brainchild (or at least i think that’s where i saw the idea originally. Makes sense, though, right? keeps them round, easy to pop out…perfect. 🙂

      Well, and global warming is the only downside to an earlier thanksgiving, so far as i can tell. I know sometimes it’s 90 degrees here in mid-october? so it could be rough. although it’s been pretty warm on actual thanksgiving here a few times too, so at some point, maybe it doesn’t make a difference. You’re right about the leaves, although we have some really pretty ones right now – just starting to turn, but still.

  • Reply Sarah @ The Cook's Life October 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I read this on the day you posted, but I didn’t reply. Happy belated birthday, Shannon!

    Yum, yum, yum! And I just happen to have some puff pastry in the freezer. Homemade, no less! If you haven’t ever made your own puff pastry, you have to try it! I am a convert and I only made my first batch a couple of weeks ago.

    Are these chewy sticky buns, or gooey sticky buns. I am definitely in the gooey camp. And the kid’s braces definitely dictate no sticky, chewy caramel. 🙂

    • Reply shannon October 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      story of my life: read, want to reply, get busy, forget. 🙂 i completely get it. thank you so much!

      i am of the opinion that one should keep puff pastry in the freezer at all times, just in case of “emergency” i.e. these buns, or random acts of puff pastry tart, or whatever. I’m nervous about making it: i tried my hand at danish pastry the other week, and…erm…disaster. like comically disastrous. so you may need to show me, because i’m scared now of anything involving lots of butter and folds.

      these are very gooey sticky buns when very warm, courtesy of all that caramel. i wouldn’t call it the sticky sort of string-like caramel, because it’s mostly butter, which i think gives it a softer feel. eat them warm, because as they cool, it hardens up, causing some stick action. basically i just told you to make SURE you eat them right of the oven. 🙂

  • Reply sara October 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    These sticky buns look SO good – yum! Love the fillings. 🙂

    • Reply shannon October 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Thank you, Sara!

  • Reply Jenny October 21, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Made these last night! SO easy and SO delicious!!! Fabulous recipe!! Thank you so very much for posting this. I think I will be making these all.the.time.

    • Reply shannon October 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Hi Jenny, and thank you! so happy you tried them and liked them: always good to hear that something from here becomes a favorite of someone else’s, for sure.

  • Reply Kimberly October 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Oh, dear lord … I love anything made with puff pastry … and cranberries … and walnuts … so therefore, I am dying over these! They will be making an appearance in our house very soon!

    • Reply shannon October 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      I agree: puff pastry makes everything better. and easier, which is an important part of “better” most days. 🙂 I can’t wait for you to try them! they were fast favorites here, and will definitely be a part of our holiday breakfasts.

  • Reply Katherine November 16, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    There are a lot of things to say here (like I can’t stop staring at the awesome caramelization on those buns!), but I can’t help but discuss how much I love the kind of brush you’re using in the photo. I have one too, and I get such a kick out of it. I kind of wish every recipe called for some kind of brushing stage so that I could use it every day. It makes me feel like a kid.

    • Reply shannon November 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      those buns bedazzle themselves quite nicely, don’t they? it’s not work at all. And i DO love my cartoon-like brush; it’s my favorite, and it is very preschool chic. 🙂

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