Sticky Ginger Buns

updated Dec 15, 2020
Sticky Ginger Buns

These buttery, not-too-sweet, pull-apartable morning buns are bursting with spicy ginger flavor.

Makes12 buns

Prep35 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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ten finished ginger buns sit with sugar on top on a cooling rack
Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

In September 2019, I handed over my cell phone, wallet, pens, and notebook to a friendly volunteer and began a 10-day silent retreat in rural western Massachusetts. There was no speaking, reading, writing, or eye contact allowed, and so I, along with 150 others, meditated 10 hours a day and walked in the woods, trying very hard to think about nothing. On the final day, when the silence was lifted and we could all speak to each other, many people talked about having vivid dreams and visions. I had also experienced this, sort of: I’d been thinking about all the things I couldn’t wait to cook when I got home to Brooklyn.

One of those dream recipes was a cake I wanted to load with ginger, an idea I got from the giant pots of fresh, hot ginger tea the retreat volunteers set out in the evenings. But once I started tinkering, the cake morphed into buns, which allowed me to pack the sweet-hot crystallized ginger into every swirl.

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

These buns start with an enriched dough — a yeasted dough bolstered with milk, eggs, and butter and just a few tablespoons of honey, which feeds the yeast more than it sweetens the dough. The filling is a gooey blend of honey and melted butter, spiced with ground ginger and a hit of cayenne to bring out the ginger’s heat without blasting it. All that gets rolled around a sprinkle of chopped crystallized ginger for texture — I love its sugar-rolled crunch that yields to a chewy, jammy center — then sliced into swirls and tucked into the wells of a buttered muffin tin.

The tin is essential: It’s what allows you, post-bake, to neatly pop out the hot buns so you can toss them in sugar. What you’ve got then is a buttery, not-too-sweet, pull-apartable morning treat with a very unshy take on ginger. It’s just my kind of bun.

Sticky Ginger Buns

These buttery, not-too-sweet, pull-apartable morning buns are bursting with spicy ginger flavor.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Makes 12 buns

Nutritional Info


For the dough:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet

    active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

  • 1 cup

    whole wheat flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground ginger

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons

    (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided

  • 1/2 cup


  • 1 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper

  • 1/3 cup

    finely chopped crystallized ginger

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar


Make the dough:

  1. Cut 1 stick unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes and let sit at room temperature until softened.

  2. Heat 1/2 cup whole milk in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm to the touch. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add 2 tablespoons honey and 1 packet active dry yeast. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 large eggs and beat with a fork to combine.

  3. Add 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on at low speed and until the flour is just incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix it forms a smooth, elastic ball that’s climbing the dough hook, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter one piece at a time, waiting until there are no visible streaks of butter before adding the next piece.

  4. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, make the filling.

Make the filling:

  1. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Transfer 4 tablespoons to a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup honey, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use. Brush a standard 12-well muffin tin generously with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Finely chop 1/3 cup crystallized ginger.

  2. When the dough is ready, gently punch down the dough. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. (Alternatively, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough and filling overnight, then shape the cold rolls the next day.) Roll with a floured rolling pin into a 12x18-inch rectangle with a longer side closer to you. Spread the honey-butter mixture over the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch border on all sides. Sprinkle evenly with the crystallized ginger.

  3. Starting at the bottom, roll up tightly so you have an 18-inch-long roll. Use a sharp knife to trim the ends, then cut the roll crosswise into 12 pieces. Carefully place a piece cut-side-up into each well of the muffin tin. If any of the filling seeps out, fear not! Just scoop it up and spoon it onto the tops of the buns.

  4. Let rise uncovered until puffy and filling the wells completely, 30 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF.

  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the muffin tin on the parchment and bake the rolls for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Meanwhile, place 1 cup granulated sugar in a shallow bowl.

  6. Remove the buns from the oven. Working quickly, immediately remove the hot buns from the muffin tin (run a thin knife around each one to loosen first if needed). Roll completely in the sugar to coat. Serve warm.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: After the dough has completed its first rise, punch it down and refrigerate both the dough and the filling overnight. Then, fill and shape the buns with cold dough, place the shaped buns in the prepared pan, and continue with the second rise.

Storage: Store the buns at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Making the dough by hand: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can make the dough by hand. In a large bowl, combine the yeast-milk mixture with the dry dough ingredients and knead until smooth and elasticky, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, then knead in the room-temperature butter a few pieces at a time, until totally incorporated. Transfer back to the bowl and proceed with the recipe.