This feature originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Trek.
Nearly 65 years of UBC alumni remember the pillowy softness and caramelized edges of the UBC cinnamon bun as a quintessential part of their university experience. But where did it all begin?
The UBC cinnamon bun recipe was first perfected by Hungarian Baker Grace Hasz in 1954. Within a few years she went from baking two dozen to a staggering 120 dozen per day as the bun grew in popularity.
Grace baked cinnamon buns for UBC until her retirement in 1971.
She baked by instinct and never wrote the recipe down, though her grandson has recorded his attempts to create the original recipe from memory (ubccinnamonbun.blogspot.ca).
A few things have changed since 1955 – the original recipe used margarine, a holdover from war-time butter shortages, and was said to have so much cinnamon the filling looked black – but the association between UBC and great cinnamon buns has never diminished.
Today’s recipe is still made from scratch every day, using real butter and simple ingredients. Next time you’re craving a cinnamon bun, you’ll find them in most UBC Food Services locations. But go early – they often sell out!
For the crafty home bakers out there, here’s the recipe used in our campus bakery:
UBC Cinnamon Bun Recipe
Yield: 18 large cinnamon buns
3 cups (750mL) milk
6 tbsp (90mL) butter
6 tbsp (90mL) plus 1 tsp (5mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15mL) salt
½ cup (125mL) warm water
2 envelopes active dry yeast
2 large eggs
9 cups (2.25L) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (175mL) melted butter
1¼ cups (300mL)
2 tbsp (30mL) cinnamon
- Scald milk. Stir in butter, 6 tbsp sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm.
- Dissolve remaining 1 tsp sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over water mixture. Let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. Stir.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine lukewarm milk mixture with eggs. Stir in dissolved yeast mixture.
- Add four to five cups of the flour and beat well for 10 minutes. With a wooden spoon, gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
- Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as needed. This is a soft dough!
- Place dough in a well-greased bowl and roll around to grease all sides of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about one hour.
- Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half.
- To fill, roll out each piece of dough into a 9 x 18-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup of melted butter evenly onto each rectangle.
- Combine sugar and cinnamon for filling. Sprinkle onto the rectangles. Roll dough up like a jelly roll, starting from the long side. Cut into 2-inch slices.
- Place remaining ¼ cup of melted butter into the bottom of a 16½ x 11½ x 2½‑inch pan. Arrange slices in the pan and cover loosely with greased wax paper.
- Let rise in pan until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Remove from oven and immediately invert onto a serving tray.
While the UBC Cinnamon Bun has received a lot of attention over the years, there has always been another UBC bakeshop creation with a strong fan-base. We’re talking, of course, about Ponderosa Cake. Our resident baker (alumni UBC colleague) has put together another video to show you just how easy it is to make your own. If you bake some this weekend, be sure to share your photo in the comments. Want to make your own? Follow us on Instagram @alumniUBC for the recipe.