Whole Wheat Cardamom and Fig Sticky Buns with Salted Caramel Topping

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  12 sticky buns
Prep Time:  35 minutes Cook Time:  30 minutes

Whole Wheat Cardamom and Fig Sticky Buns with Salted Caramel Topping

These sticky buns combine the best of all flavors—they’re gently spiced, lightly salted, and nicely sweet from the fig filling and caramel topping. They’re great with tea, for an after school snack, and perfect for a Jewish holiday brunch. They are best the day they are made, but if you want to work ahead, you can let the dough rise the night before and make them for a special breakfast or brunch. Both the filling and the topping call for lightly toasted, freshly ground cardamom—so easy to do, and so much more aromatic than pre-ground bottled; just remember to make enough for both the filling and the topping, so you only need to do it once.


Sticky Buns:

1 tablespoon (9 grams) active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons (6 grams) instant yeast

¼ cup warm water (see Kitchen Tip)

¼ cup honey

2 cups (260 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more if needed

1¾ cups (250 grams) whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt

1 cup soy milk, vanilla preferred

2 teaspoons fig vinegar or cider vinegar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons green, fragrant olive oil


Salted Caramel Topping:

⅔ cup (138 grams) packed light brown sugar

¼ cup (54 grams) coconut oil, softened

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1 tablespoon (16 grams) vanilla bean paste

½ teaspoon toasted, freshly ground cardamom (see Kitchen Tip)

½ teaspoon sea salt, for sprinkling



2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted

½ teaspoon toasted, freshly ground cardamom (see Kitchen Tip)

½ cup fig jam or fig spread

1 cup dried soft California figs, minced, stems removed


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, warm water, and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Let stand for about 1 minute, until it foams. Add the flour and salt and mix at low speed to incorporate. Add the milk, the remaining honey, the vinegar, egg, and oil, and mix until the honey has been integrated.
  2. Knead for 5 to 6 minutes at low speed.The dough should be tacky, but not sticky, largely clearing the side of the bowl, but sticking to the bottom just a little. If the dough is too dry, add a little water, and if it’s too wet, add a little flour, a few teaspoons at a time. Remove the dough from the mixer and form it into a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with a floured kitchen towel. Let stand undisturbed in a warm spot for 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size. The time will depend upon the warmth of your kitchen.
  3. Make the topping: Spray a 9- by 13-inch pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray. In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, coconut oil, corn syrup, vanilla bean paste, and cardamom, and mix well. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan, and spread it into an even layer, and set aside.
  4. When the dough has risen, lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the dough into a ¼-inch thick, 12- by 20-inch rectangle. Position the rectangle so that one of the long sides is closest to you. Spread the coconut oil over the dough and then the fig jam, distributing it evenly and leaving a margin of about an inch or so uncovered on the long edges. Sprinkle the cardamom and minced fig evenly over the top.
  5. With both hands, grasp the edge of the dough closest to you and roll it up tightly, jelly roll-style, into a 20-inch roll. Press the ends with the palms of your hands to square them off a little and even out the thickness of the roll if needed. The evened-out roll will be about 19 inches long. Then, using a serrated knife, cut the roll crosswise into 12 even rounds about 1½ to 1⅔ inches thick. Place the buns into the pan on top of the Salted Caramel Topping, not quite touching each other.
  6. Spray a 12-inch by 16-inch piece of plastic wrap with nonstick vegetable oil spray and cover the pan of buns tightly. Let the them rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they’re touching each other. If they rise a little too much and start to spiral upward, just press the spiral down gently with a floured finger. (If you don’t get them now, they will pop up even more in the oven.)
  7. Shortly before you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the dough has risen fully, remove the plastic, and bake on the center rack of the oven for about 30 minutes (see Kitchen Tips).
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes. With oven mitts, place a large cooling rack (large enough to more than cover the pan) on top of the still-warm pan. With one hand firmly on the rack and the other firmly on the bottom of the pan, gently flip it over, so that the bottom of the pan is on top. Remove the pan—the Salted Caramel Topping will be on top now—and sprinkle the buns with sea salt. Let stand on the rack for about 5 minutes to cool thoroughly. Separate the buns, place on a large platter, and serve.

Kitchen Tips

  1. The water for your yeast mixture should be between 85° and 95°F. Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it and get it started eating and bubbling, but if the water is too warm, you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
  2. To toast spices, pour the whole seeds into a frying pan or cast-iron skillet and set over medium heat. Toast for 10 to 20 seconds, or up to 1 minute, until fragrant. Watch carefully so the spices do not burn.
  3. To grind cardamom, you will need to remove the seeds from the whole pods. Place the cardamom pods on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a large chef’s knife (being careful not to have the blade face you), gently press on the pods. The seeds will start popping out. Scoop up the seeds and grind them in a spice grinder or perfectly clean coffee grinder. Discard the pods. If you wish you can toast the pods first, or toast the whole seeds once you have removed them from the pods, according to the instructions in Kitchen Tip 1.
  4. If you would like to do part of the prep for these muffins ahead of time, you can prepare the dough up to its second rise, cover it with oiled plastic wrap (as in Step 7) and let it rise in the refrigerator for up to 18 hours. If so, when you are ready to bake, remove it from the refrigerator and leave the plastic on. Let stand at room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours, until the dough has risen, is puffy, and the buns have spread and are touching. Then bake as directed in Step 8.
  5. These buns should be baked on the center rack of the oven. If you put them on the the bottom rack or on a stone (as you would with many yeast breads) the topping might easily overcook, which would make them too chewy or brittle.

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