I love cinnamon buns, but homemade buns can be a bit time consuming to make from scratch when the craving hits. I'm not one to run out and buy a cinnamon bun in a situation like this. Instead, I made a batch of Quick and Easy Cinnamon Bun Bread, a yeast bread that tastes just like a cinnamon bun, complete with brown sugar and cinnamon filling, and comes together without kneading, shaping or waiting for the bread to rise! The original will always be a favorite of mine, but for a fall twist I turned it into a Pumpkin Cinnamon Bun Cake.Several things about this recipe immediately grabbed my attention: 1. it comes together fast (no waiting for rising or shaping); 2. it tastes like a cinnamon roll, complete with that wonderful yeasty flavor that comes from, well, yeast; 3. it has pumpkin in it--I give anything baked with pumpkin an A+; 4. she uses a lot of yeast to compensate for the short rising time.
I've now made this three times. The first time I made it exactly to the instructions (doubled so I could make a 9x13 pan). I thought it was really good, but a tad dense. The recipe calls for resting (basically a cold rise) for 15 minutes before putting the cake in a cold oven. I wondered if increasing the resting time from 15 minutes to 30 minutes would result in a cake that was less dense. I also wondered if I could get away with using less yeast; 2 tablespoons (less even, than doubling the original amount) just seemed like so much. I wasn't especially worried about time, so needing to let it rest longer wasn't an issue. And I substituted bread flour for the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. Bread flour has more gluten (that's what's developed when you knead bread--it gives bread it's characteristic chew and softness), and I thought it might be even more yeast-bread like with the substitution.
The second pan was even better than the first pan (if that was even possible). The longer rest time made for a less-dense cake, and I liked the change in texture from the bread flour. And using less yeast worked great. For my third pan I pushed the yeast envelope even more and decreased the amount to just 2 1/4 teaspoons (the amount in a standard packet), and let it rest even longer--45 minutes. Even with this long of a rest the cake was ready in much less time than traditional cinnamon rolls. Oh, and as always, I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, so I used my usual substitution. And I left out the pecans.
Dare I say it was heavenly? I think I will. I'll also say I think I gained 5 pounds from testing the three different pans of cake. All in the name of science, right?
Pumpkin Cinnamon Bun Cake (as I made it. Go here for the original recipe)
for the dough
1/2 cup warm milk (100-110 deg)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
for the filling/topping
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
for the icing
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I like to sift mine)
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream, depending on how thin you want your icing
1. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a medium bowl (I used a 2-cup glass measuring cup), whisk together the warm milk, 1 teaspoon sugar, and yeast. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl combine the flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, and spices; mix well and set aside.
4. In a medium bowl (I used another 2-cup glass measuring cup), whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
5. Add the milk mixture and the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well (the dough should be pretty thick). Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and spread it in an even layer. Cover the pan with paper towels and let rest for 45 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. After the dough has rested, sprinkle the topping evenly over the top and use your fingers to press it down into the dough. Don't be shy here; pressing the topping into the dough gives you that marbly goodness that makes this cake so, so scrumptious. You can also use a knife or spatula to swirl the topping into the dough, but I think fingers work better.
7. Put the pan in a cold oven, set a timer for 30 minutes, and set the oven to 350. Bake until the bread springs back when touched, and the edges are just barely starting to brown, 30-35 minutes. The topping will still be bubbling at the end of cooking; as it cools it will sink down into the craggy top of the cake.
8. While the cake cools whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth. Use a spoon to drizzle the icing over the cake--make sure it sinks down into the craggy top, too. Gracious, this is so good!
Makes 18 servings.