Sugar Bun Memory

Amanda’s post on making cinnamon buns reminded me of the time I made my first batch of sweet sugar buns. This was before I’d started making bread regularly and I was relatively inexperienced with yeast based products.

My Dad, then a spritely 84 year old, had bought me a pack of Allan’s Sugar Buns. Made by a Toronto bakery, it was the only purveyor (I knew of) selling authentic Jamaican style sugar (pronounced shu-gah) buns.  Fresh from the oven, the buns were warm, soft and gooey with a mildly sweet, slightly crunchy sugar glaze. It was a basic sweet bun with no adornment. No frosting, no raisins or nuts, with hardly an embellishment of spice. It was GOOD.

My Dad and I had an inane discussion on the making of the glaze.  Inexperienced bakers both, we pontificated on whether the sugar wash was added before or after baking. My Dad claimed after.  I said before.  Neither of us had a clue.

Jamaican style Sugar Bun – Allan’s Pastry Shop

Inspired, I looked for recipes on how to make Jamaican style Sugar Buns. Not surprisingly, there were none. I did find a recipe for Cinnamon Buns in Peter Reinharts’ Artisan Breads book. 

He described it as an All-Purpose Sweet Dough, versatile enough to make everything from sticky buns to fruit-filled pastries. I liked the part where he said it had ‘less work and fewer calories.’ Being an American baker, he compensated by including instructions for a fondant glaze and cream cheese frosting.  For my version, I opted for a craisin and nut filling with a simple sugar glaze made with brown sugar, water and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Peter’s recipe was a retard one.  Hey, I’m not being rude.  It’s a bread baking term meaning the dough rests overnight in the fridge.  The cooler temperature inhibits or retards, the yeast and allows for deeper flavor development. 

Unfortunately for me, I wanted to taste the buns right away.  Luckily, the recipe made twice as much dough as I had baking pans to cook them. I divided the batch into two, stored one in the fridge and baked the other.

Later, as the buns cooled on a wire rack, I contemplated the sorry array of irregularly sized buns.   They smelled great but lacked the uniformity of well shaped buns. One in particular, a smallish runt stood apart. It volunteered for a taste test.  It was GOOD! It had all the yumminess of a sugar bun with the added bonus of fruit, nuts and a zesty finish.  Delicious.

By the way, my Dad was right.  The sugar wash is added after baking. Experience or no, father always knows best 🙂


  1. I really liked reading about the sugar buns and the nice memory attached to them. Two things I want to say: firstly that when I worked in a bakery as a teenager, the sugar wash was always added after the buns came out of the oven, whilst hot. Secondly they look SO delicious and I would certainly gobble up 1 or 2, or more of them. It makes me think that I should add some variations to my, now successful, cinnamon bun recipe. Perhaps walnuts chopped, or sultanas, currants or dried fruit? Thanks for the inspiration, Sandy; this is great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A favorite of mine is candied citron with semi-sweet chocolate chips. It’s a bit unusual but quite nice.
      I’m glad you liked the post Amanda. You have a way of triggering topics to write about – Thanks for that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The pleasure was mine, Sandy. I also find interacting with the blogger community is a great way to find an idea and then piggy back the idea into a whole new original post.


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