And the Winner Is...

About a month ago, I announced a fantastic contest regarding my new book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Dessertsin which entrants could share the secret life of their favorite baked good, telling me a good story and sharing a recipe for a sweet with significance in their life. 

I was prepared for some tasty treats. But I wasn't prepared for how moving the stories would be! 

From funny tales of cookies that looked like cow pies but charmed classrooms full of children to anecdotes about cakes that almost won contests to a touching tale about a son who bonded with his mostly quiet dad over a decadent cheesecake recipe, these stories made me laugh and cry (not always at the same time!). 

But there was one story that really stuck with me and my crack team of judges, and so we've crowned it the winner! Here's the delightful story by Julia Ross of cinnamon rolls that left a legacy, and a recipe! 

Almost Great Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls

My Great Grandma was 5'0" tall but had the tightest grip you would ever feel. Instead of a hug she would pinch you on the bum and on a good day you wouldn't have a bruise. The woman could bake a mean cinnamon roll which was famous through out our immediate and extended family but would not divulge her recipe to ANYONE! She would not even allow you to be in her house when she was baking her rolls. My sister and I spent time plotting a way to peek through the windows while she was baking we feared the "pinch" too much (the one she gave when you were in trouble was worse than the one you got when you weren't).

Great Grandma passed away suddenly one morning after talking to Grandma on Sunday morning like they always did. She still had the phone in her hand. She left us a lot of memories and sentimental items but the cinnamon roll recipe was no where to be found. That woman took it to her grave. We made a great discovery in her freezer last pan of the rolls. It was time to dissect these great little things and try to figure out their secret.

My sister and I snuck the rolls out of the house and separated them so we could began working on the recipes. Making a batch and then comparing the finished product to one of Great Grandma's rolls. We tweaked and tweaked at recipes until we found a roll that came out almost the same. This is the recipe we came up with but I really think it was the love she put into the rolls was the key element she took to her grave.

Cinnamon Roll

Almost Great Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls



  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c butter melted, cooled ( must be butter )
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c cake flour
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)


  1. Put warm milk in bowl of stand mixer and stir in sugar until dissolved. Add yeast and set aside. Mix flours and salt in a seperate bowl. Once yeast mixture starts to foam add melted butter and extracts. Hand whisk in the eggs.
  2. Add half the flour and mix on low/medium with the dough hook. Keep adding flour until the dough forms a ball and is only slightly tacky. Turn mixer to knead the dough for 3 - 5 minutes until smooth.
  3. Place dough in greased bowl and cover. Place in warm place to rise until double, about an hour. Punch down and let rest for 10 minutes.



  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 t cinnamon (fresh ground if possible)


  1. Mix sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll half dough into a rectangle and brush with half of the melted butter then sprinkle with half of the sugars. Roll up from long side and seal seams. Cut into 12 pieces (dental floss works well for this) Repeat with 2nd half of dough.
  2. Place rolls in 2 round baking dished and let rise for about 20 minutes (should be about doubled). Then into the oven at 375 for 20 -25 minutes.


  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 c butter
  • 3 t vanilla extract
  • 8 cup powdered sugar


  1. Put 1/2 cup of butter in a pan and allow to brown and cool a bit. Place cream cheese, 1/2 c butter and vanilla in stand mixer bowl and beat until almost combined.Add browned butter and mix until creamy. Add powdered sugar a little at a time until soft / medium consistency (remember the warm rolls will melt the icing a bit).Heavily coat the tops of the warm rolls with the icing.
  2. EAT!!! I would tell you how to store them but there won't be any left :) Grandma used to sprinkle tops with chopped pecans sometimes too!

Thank you to everyone who entered for all of your great stories, and for supporting my book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts!