Saturday 29 September 2012

University of Alberta Tuck Shop Cinnamon Buns

One of the reasons we moved back to Canada was so that my husband, Kay, could take up a job at the University of Alberta. The UAlberta campus is a gorgeous one with campuses downtown and around the city. The main campus is a beautiful collection of old and modern buildings, with grassy quads and the river valley offering up plenty of green space to soothe the soul. 

But as you are all well aware, nothing soothes this old soul as much as a nice, sweet treat (or two... or three) So when Bryan, my friendly University of Alberta email guy sent me an email telling me all about the famous UAlberta Tuck Shop cinnamon buns... well, there was going to be no stopping me from tasting, and then testing out the recipe. Off I headed to the Tuck Shop tent, which, incidentally, is open during the Alumni Week at UAlberta with my 'official' cinnamon bun taste tester Aditi and my friends Diane and Andrea

I'll be honest, these are really, really good and addictive buns and actually even a teeny weeny better than my usual recipe (you can imagine how much pain I am in, admitting that, haha) I never understood what Kay usually meant by gooey and sticky buns, as my usual recipe, while very good, was more 'bready' and ocasionally on the dry side. They are still pretty good though and I use that recipe for roll dough all the time to make plain rolls. 

These on the other hand epitomised gooey and sticky. Maybe it was because the buns were not rolled out and cut, instead were coated in a margarine and cinnamon sugar mixture before being bakes that gave them that soft, almost creamy, stickiness. I am not sure, but the one thing I do know is that this recipe is my new go-to recipe for cinnamon buns. 

Andrea, Diane, me and Aditi, goofing around at the photo booth in the tuck shop tent
Anyway, seeing as its my birthday today, I felt that I should treat you all by posting this recipe :)

The original recipe, as you will see, uses margarine. Now I know that there has been a bit of a backlash against margarine, with more people choosing to use natural butter instead. In any other situation I would have used butter myself, but I decided to follow the original recipe here, so I used margarine. I did feel that if I had used butter the texture of these buns would have been a little less gooey than it was, but I am going to have to test out that theory (soon, haha) If you choose to use butter, use lightly salted butter. 

There's something very sensual and stress relieving about stretching out the dough and dipping it in the margarine/ cinnamon sugar mixture, and I used a fair bit of margarine when doing this. I thought that the buns would be greasy, but they actually absorbed the margarine when baking, and the result was a much lighter, fluffier bun. 

University of Alberta Tuck Shop Cinnamon Buns

I also deviated a little from the recipe, and added a light glaze to these buns when they came out of the oven. The glaze was nothing more than some left over margarine, sugar and cinnamon, but it added a soft shine, and another level of stickiness to these buns. I haven't included this in the recipe, but feel free to do the same, if you have any of these ingredients left over.

The original recipe is here at the University of Alberta History Trails. Some old pictures and some nice links are here. And here's a video demonstration of a young (dagnabit, when did university students get SO young!!) student making the buns. PS - He uses butter. 

University of Alberta Tuck Shop Cinnamon Buns

In the picture above, you'll only see two buns. Basically, I made this recipe late at night and after the step where I knotted and placed the buns in the baking tray, I put them in the fridge to proof and rise overnight, and baked them for breakfast the next morning. But I was too impatient to wait for said breakfast, so I took out two buns and baked them up as a late night treat for Kay and me... they were definitely worth the sugar cramps that night :)

University of Alberta Tuck Shop Cinnamon Buns

This recipe is a version developed by the Tuck Shop’s own Mrs. Kerr for use in home kitchens. Rewritten by me, but with no huge changes, except that I split this recipe in half, as I did not want that much sugar around the house :-)

Adapted with permission.  

Bun Dough

Yeast Mixture: 

1 package instant yeast (½ tablespoon/ roughly 8 gms) 
¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar  


1 cup boiling water
1½ tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 + 1¾ cups all purpose flour + ¾ cup extra
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Cinnamon Sugar Coating

¼ cup margarine, increase as required
½ cup white sugar, increase as required
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, increase as required


To make the yeast mixture, soften 1 package instant yeast (usually about ½ tablespoon) in ¼ cup warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let this mixture set until the yeast is dissolved (about 10 minutes)

 Meanwhile, in a large bowl place the 1 cup boiling water, and add the margarine, salt and sugar.

Let the margarine melt and the mixture cool a bit, and then add 1 cup all purpose or plain flour.

Beat this mixture hard until very smooth and creamy (about 5 minutes), then add the softened yeast mixture, 2 medium eggs and  1¾ cups more flour.

Continue beating until the dough is very smooth, adding a little more flour, if required (it should be a very soft dough - NB: I used up almost all of my extra ¾ cup to make it into a workable texture, and its still a very sticky dough). Cover and let stand in a warm place to rise until the dough is doubled in bulk (about 1 hour.)

When dough is rising:

In a flat pan melt ¼ cup margarine, set aside to cool. In a flat dish mix ½ cup white sugar and ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Keep aside. 

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Turn the raised dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Let the dough set 5 to 10 minutes to "firm up". Cut the dough into pieces about the size of an orange.

Dip each piece of dough first into the melted margarine, then coat it well in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Stretch the dough piece until it is 4 to 5 inches long and form it into a simple knot.

Place the knots side by side in an oiled baking pan (be sure the pan is 2" deep and allow a 3" square for each bun.) Let the finished buns rise for about 45 minutes. Bake at 375 C for 30 minutes.

This recipe makes 8 - 10 good-sized buns.


Ideally, an electric mixer is needed for this recipe as it requires a lot of beating (I used my dough hooks to beat the flour). If the dough is too soft to handle, add a bit more flour. However, the less flour used the better the buns. 

The student in the video uses butter (how very modern... ancient... modern!) but I went with the original recipe that uses margarine. You can certainly use butter if you wish. I will be using butter the next time I make it, but wanted to stick to the recipe this time round.  

The original tuck shop cinnamon buns


  1. I'm very pleased to have discovered your blog today. I was a student at the U of A from 1999 to 2005 living in the HUB mall. I haven't been back to Edmonton since graduating, but when I do come back to visit I'd love to get one of these cinnamon buns :)

    1. Hi Samuel, welcome :) Love your blog, was laughing out loud at your post on how to take the worst pictures... I love living in Edmonton, and I hang out at Hub all the time. Maybe you should try and make your own cinnamon buns, after all, its really that easy :)

  2. Many many happy returns of the day Michelle!!! And these are lovely looking buns..This version is new to me & glad I was introduced to it..Goes to my 'must taste' list!!
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

    1. Thanks so much Prats. You should definitely try these, I loved them, and its one recipe I know I'll be making lots and lots. And the smell when these are baking is just divine. Let me know how you like them.

  3. Thanks for a very interesting article with very appetizing photographs. I think that this important source will also be very useful for students from everywhere.


I love hearing back from my friends and readers. Please let me know how you liked this post, and if you would consider making this recipe, or have already made it. Please take a moment to post pictures on my Facebook page, if you do happen to take a couple :)

Please note, that due to the enormous amount of spam comments I've been getting, I am re-enabling comment moderation. Your comment will be visible on approval. Apologies in advance.