April 16, 2021

Ellen Thompson’s Sticky Buns

Recipe: Ellen Thompson

Designer Candace Thompson has been making her mom’s famous sticky buns for years — now she’s finally sharing her family’s secret recipe.

At H&H, we pride ourselves on knowing a standout sweet treat when we taste one. These deliciously gooey buns were baked by Candace for the team at Lynda Reeves Design Studio, and we were hooked from the first bite. The recipe is from her mom, Ellen, who found it in a magazine in the 1970s and has been tweaking it ever since. So what’s the secret? “They’re less doughy than a cinnamon bun, have more brown sugar — adding to their stickiness — and the pecans bring a nice crunch,” says Candace.

Send your family’s secret recipe to [email protected].



  • 1⁄4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1⁄2 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1⁄4 cup butter
  • 1⁄2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour


  • 1 1⁄4 cups unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1⁄2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


Yield: Makes 24 buns

Make Dough

  1. Dissolve 1 tsp of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until frothy.
  2. In glass bowl or measuring cup, melt butter in microwave. Add milk, remaining sugar and salt. The mixture should be lukewarm (if not, heat slightly in microwave).
  3. In large bowl, beat eggs. Add yeast mixture and butter, sugar and milk mixture and combine well, using electric mixer. (If using stand mixer, mix together eggs, yeast mixture, butter, sugar and milk mixture, and flour. Using knead attachment on low, let machine knead dough for 7 to 10 minutes, until smooth, then skip to step 6.)
  4. Gradually add in 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. With wooden spoon, gradually mix in remaining flour. (The dough may only require 3 1⁄2 cups total.)
  5. While still sticky, knead dough on floured surface, adding more flour as needed. Knead for 7 to 10 minutes, until smooth.
  6. Place dough in large greased bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with damp tea towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, dark place until doubled, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

Make Buns and Proof

  1. Melt 3⁄4 cup of butter in microwave. Pour into 9″ x 13″ baking pan (glass or metal) and grease all sides. Add 3⁄4 cup of brown sugar, spreading evenly throughout butter in pan. Sprinkle with 1⁄2 cup of chopped pecans. Set aside.
  2. In separate bowl, mix remaining 3⁄4 cup of brown sugar with cinnamon. Set aside. In another glass bowl or measuring cup, melt remaining 1⁄2 cup of butter. Set aside.
  3. After dough has risen and doubled in size, punch down. On floured surface, roll into rectangle shape, roughly 16″ h. x 24″ w. Spread melted butter over top, right to edges. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar mixture, then remaining 1⁄2 cup of pecans.
  4. Starting from top, roll dough tightly into long log. Slice with sharp knife, creating roughly 24 buns, each about 1 1⁄4″ wide.
  5. Place buns cut-side down in prepared pan. Covering with damp cloth or plastic wrap, let buns rise again until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Bake Buns

  1. Bake buns in 375°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
  2. Place large piece of aluminum foil about twice the size of pan onto large cutting board or baking sheet. Turn buns out onto foil while still warm.
  3. Using spatula, scrape any remaining butter, sugar and pecans from pan onto buns. Serve and enjoy! The buns will keep in fridge for about a week — just heat up in microwave before eating.

Alex Lukey (Candace’s portrait); James Arthurs (buns)


House & Home April 2021