Snacks & Treats

Fun and Festive Cinnamon Bun Tree

Nov 29, 2016

Let’s face it — the holidays are just one long excuse to bake cinnamon buns. Those cold, leisurely mornings allow the time to putter and wait for dough to rise, and on especially festive days, it’s tradition in many households to assemble cinnamon buns the night before, then slide them into the oven as the coffee brews.

So if you’re going to make cinnamon buns, why not arrange them in the shape of a Christmas tree? Cut a roll of dough in 12 pieces and you have just the right number to assemble an edible tree — one that could be decorated with glacé fruit, candied cherries, pearl sugar, straight-up candies, or splattered with a simple icing drizzle or dusted with snowy icing sugar.

Two completed cinnamon bun trees with icing drizzled over top

It’s a fun project to do with the kids, especially when it’s cold outside; there’s the added bonus of feeding the yeast and watching it rise (science!), punching the dough down, rolling and sprinkling and rolling again, all with a delicious reward at the end. It’s perfect for holiday brunches, breakfast in bed, or even to bake for teachers on the last day of school, or as a party gift. What host wouldn’t love some freshly baked cinnamon buns at the ready for breakfast the morning after?

This recipe is easily doubled if you have a large crowd to feed. They can be kept plain, studded with raisins, dried cranberries or chopped pecans, or if you want to add a special festive touch, drop small spoonfuls of Seville orange marmalade or all-fruit mincemeat over the filling before you roll them up.

You'll Also Love: One Dough, Five Cookies

Cinnamon Bun Christmas Tree

If you want to make these the night before, assemble them to the point of arranging the slices on the baking sheet, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove them from the oven first thing in the morning, and let them warm up a bit on the countertop while the oven heats.


  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk, warmed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt


  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade or fruit mincemeat (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Drizzle (optional):

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp orange juice or milk

Put the warm water in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, toss it and buy fresh yeast.)

You'll Also Love: Cinnamon Sticky Biscuits

Add the milk, egg, flour, butter, salt and remaining sugar to the yeast and stir by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until the dough comes together. Continue to knead with your dough hook or by hand on the countertop until the dough is smooth and elastic — it should be slightly tacky, but not overly sticky. Cover and let rest for an hour, or until doubled in bulk. (At this point, you could refrigerate the dough overnight and continue assembling the buns the next morning.)

The dough rolled out, brushed with melted butter then scattered with brown sugar and drops of marmalade

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter and scatter with brown sugar; smooth the sugar to evenly distribute it, and if you’re using it, drop the marmalade or mincemeat in small spoonfuls evenly overtop — don’t worry about spreading it out. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

12 cinnamon buns laid out in the shape of a Christmas tree on a baking sheet, ready to be put in the oven

Starting on a long side, roll the dough up into a log. Using a serrated knife, cut it crosswise into quarters. Cut each piece into thirds — this is easier than eyeballing it to get 12 even pieces. Arrange the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet starting with one at the top for the tip of the tree, then two underneath, then three, then four — and the two left over go on the bottom to make the trunk. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another hour.

The final product: a cinnamon bun Christmas tree drizzled with icing on a backing tray; the cinnamon bus Christmas tree just before drizzling with a whisk and bowl of icing in the corner

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the buns are deep golden. Let cool for a few minutes before drizzling with icing. To make the drizzle, stir enough orange juice into the sugar to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle overtop. Makes 12 buns.

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.