These sticky Chelsea Buns are a cottage country staple! This Muskoka cottage country favourite is made as a fun pull apart loaf and is quick and easy, too!
There are two kinds of Chelsea Buns. There’s the traditional British style, which are sweet rolls with a bit of a sugary glaze and studded with currants. I’m sure they’re very good, but these aren’t those kind of Chelsea buns.
These are the kind of extra sticky Chelsea Buns that you’ll find in small bakeries and Farmer’s Markets all over cottage country in the central Ontario regions of Muskoka, Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes.
Quick or Rapid-Rise Instant Yeast – Starting with quick/rapid-rise instant yeast means you can be enjoying these delicious buns in no time, as you can skip the typical first rising period. Simply mix the dough, let rest a short 10-minutes, then shape and let rise to doubled before baking. Quick/rapid-rise yeast also doesn’t need proofing in water, so you can add it directly to the bowl with the flour.
If you only have active-dry or regular instant yeast, see the notes in the recipe card below for how to adapt this recipe for regular yeast.
Maraschino Cherries – This is the traditional topping for this style of Chelsea Buns. You only need a few. Also note that as this is an upside-down loaf, you will be adding the cherries to the bottom of the pan to start. Once baked and inverted, they will end up as the topping. If you don’t have or want to use cherries, you can simply omit.
Pecans – Again, halved pecans are another common topping and again, they actually start out on the bottom of the pan, so they end up on top of the loaf. Be sure to put the pretty top of the pecan facing down, so they end up facing up :) If you want a nut-free loaf, simply omit.
Raisins – Raisins always seem to be a bit divisive. I love them and I love them and always include them in my buns. That said, they are easily omitted if you are not a fan.
You will also need – All-purpose flour, white sugar, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.
This is a visual summary of some of the steps to make these Chelsea Buns. Always refer to the complete instructions in the Recipe Card below.
These easy Chelsea Buns use some of the brown sugar/butter/cinnamon filling mixture to make the sticky topping. Simply add some to your loaf pan and mix with a couple of tablespoons of water. You’ll also add your cherries and pecans to the bottom of the loaf pan. As the pan will be inverted after baking, the cherries and pecans will end up on top of your loaf and the sticky mixture will turn to syrup and bath your buns in sticky goodness.
It’s helpful to make use of a measuring tape to make sure your buns end up the same size. I like to trim off about 1/2-inch from both ends of the rolled log of dough, as it usually thin and with little filling anyway. Then measure and mark out your dough, cutting into 8 even slices (usually around 1 1/2 inches wide-ish).
Love Chelsea Buns? Check out my round loaf Muskoka Chelsea Buns as well, which are made with regular Active Dry yeast.
- You can use this same recipe to make a round-shaped pan of pull apart sticky chelsea buns. Simply cut your rolled up log of dough into 12 pieces instead of 8 and place them into a round cake pan (somewhere around 9-inch is about right). The resulting buns will not be as high as the ones you get from the loaf-shape. You could use a springform pan, but unless your springform pan is super tight, the butter may leak out as they bake.
- I always bake these on top of a baking sheet, just to be sure to catch any bubble-overs from the hot butter and sugar mixture that fills these buns.
- Be sure to invert the buns while still quite warm. I like to let them sit in the pan for about 5 minutes, then invert. Be sure to run a knife around the edges before flipping, to ensure they come out without any sticking.
- Chelsea buns are best on the day they are baked, but will keep reasonably well another day, well wrapped, at room temperature.
- Chelsea buns freeze beautifully!
Get the Recipe: Cottage Country Sticky Chelsea Buns Loaf
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups (325 - 390 g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1/4 cup (45 g) white granulated sugar
- 1 tsp (5 tsp) fine salt
- 2 1/4 tsp (6 g) quick or rapid-rise yeast, *see Note below for using instant or active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
- 1/4 cup (61 ml) whole milk
- 2 Tbsp (28 g) butter
- 1 large (large) egg
- 6 Tbsp (84 g) butter, cold, cut into 6 pieces
- 1 cup (220 g) brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp (2 tsp) cinnamon
- 2/3 cup (158 ml) raisins, optional
- 6-8 pecan halves
- 6-8 Maraschino cherries, whole
- Combine 2 1/2 cups of the all purpose flour, the white sugar, salt and quick-rise yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the kneading hook. In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the water, milk and 2 Tbsp. butter until just warm to the touch (about 105F). Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, then add egg and mix in until well combined, scraping down the bowl as needed to combine the flour. Start adding more flour, in small increments, mixing in well before adding more. Continue adding flour until you have a moist dough that wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl of the mixer. Dough will look a bit sticky at this point. Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Form into a ball, cover with a clean tea towel and let rest 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling by stirring together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the 6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into cubes. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, rub or cut the butter into the brown sugar until you have an even, crumbly mixture. Place 1/3 cup of brown sugar mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan. Add 2 Tbsp. water and stir together to make a sauce (may be a bit lumpy, but not to worry. The lumps are butter and that will melt). Place the halved cherries and pecans (good side down) on top of the sauce.
- Once dough has rested, roll into a 9 x 14-inch rectangle. Spread the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough, then sprinkle raisins on top, if using. Starting from the long side, roll up jelly roll style, trying not to pull or stretch the dough too much as you roll (aim for a gentle push. This prevents the dough spirals from exploding upwards when they cook). Pinch the seam together and place on a cutting board, seam side down. Cut into 8 even slices (*I like to cut 1/2-inch off each end and then measure the remaining, divide by 8 and then pre-mark the dough lightly with the edge of the knife. You could wing it, but that never works out well for me well when I do that.). The slices will probably be 1 1/2-inches wide-ish. Place the slices cut side up in the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes, or until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Once the rolls have doubled, place loaf pan on top of a baking sheet (to catch any bubble-overs) and bake for about 35 minutes. Check at the 30 minute mark and cover loosely with foil the top is at risk of getting too brown. Remove from oven. Allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then invert onto a cooling rack with a piece of parchment paper on top, to catch the syrup. To avoid a gummy dough, allow to cool almost completely before pulling off that first piece (I know it's hard to resist, but remember you can always warm it back up a bit with a few seconds in the microwave later).
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!
This recipe looks close to my Mother’s although she spread the butter, brown sugar and raisins separately on the dough. She would warm up the pan on the stove to melt the butter and brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. My question is, why did she put a tsp. or so of vinegar in the bottom of the pan with the sugar and butter.
Hi Debbi, adding vinegar is quite common in butter tarts, so it’s maybe your Mom was just following that practice. In butter tarts, the vinegar contributes to a chemical reaction that helps with lift while the filling bakes. I’m not sure it would perform the same way with Chelsea buns though. Maybe it’s just an addition of an acidic flavour note to counter the richness of the butter and brown sugar.
I can’t wait to try this recipe! My grandmother, many many many years ago, made the absolute best chelsea buns…she lived in Gravenhurst, ON, and baking breads, chelsea buns were her specialty….her chelsea buns were famous…literally!
I wish I knew her recipe, but will try this one and will see if just as good!!!
Do enjoy, Janet! Things are rarely as good as grandma’s, but I think it will come close :)
Holy smokes! This recipe is easy and wonderful. Freezes beautifully. Thanks Jennifer you’ve made a lot of people very happy.
I’m so glad to hear, Anarie! Thanks so much :)
Hi Jennifer, I’ve been making your Chelsea buns since you first posted the recipe. Still our favourite Christmas treat.I have never managed to tuck any away in the freeze but I would like to this year. What is the best way to warm them out of the freezer?
I can’t wait to try these, they look just like the ones we used to get from Haliburton.
My only question is about the size of the pan, I couldn’t find the dimensions. I recall that the Haliburton buns were about 3”x3”. I can’t imagine my loaf pan holding 8-3”x3” buns, but maybe my pan is smaller than most loaf pans.
Hi Cindy, Chelsea buns come in all shapes and sizes :) This version is loaf-shape, so the buns are about 2×2, but 3-4 inches high. I have another version, made in a round pan, that are shorter and wider – https://www.seasonsandsuppers.ca/muskoka-chelsea-buns/ Just depends how you prefer them. Both are great, so enjoy!
On a very cold winter’s day my sis asked for Chelsea Buns. I found your recipe and cooked up these beauties! I didnt know they were from cottage country. Originally probably from England I assume. We are in south central Ontario. I made the dough in my bread machine. I may use the dough recipe for many other “buns”. They turned out great! Lovely soft, airy semi-sweet.
So glad you enjoyed them! I feel like this type of Chelsea Buns is uniquely Canadian. The Brits have a Chelsea bun, but it is different. I think this is a mash up between the British version and sticky buns. In any event, yes, you can use this dough for any sweet bun!
I can’t wait to try these. We used to get these from a small bakery in “a little blink and your through it” place called Carnarvon on Hwy 35 just out of Minden. You used to have to put your order in the week before in order to get any. Brings back such great memories.
Hi Deb and yes, I know Carnarvon :) I don’t think there is a bakery there anymore, unless of course I’ve missed it. There is a very nice restaurant/craft brewery there these days though, if you are ever driving through. Do enjoy the Chelsea buns :)
I have been on the hunt for a Chelsea bun recipe that would replicate the Chelsea buns I had when I was growing up in the 60’s. Every summer we would go to my Grandpa’s cottage in Beaverton on Lake Simcoe. Every Sunday after church we would stop at the bakery on main street for bread and of course Chelsea Buns. We would then go back to the cottage, slice them in half and put them on a tin plate to toast them in the oven, then we would butter them and devour. Could never find a bun recipe that had a topping that did not get brittle or stick to your teeth. These Chelsea Buns you have posted look exactly what I have been looking for. I look forward to trying them out today.
Hi LuAnn and so glad you found it. I think this is exactly what you are looking for. Trust me. I’m from Muskoka, born and raised, so I’ve eaten a lot of Chelsea Buns :) Enjoy!
These turned out wonderful!! What a great recipe. Thank you so much! I weigh I could post pictures of how beautiful they turned out.
So glad to hear, Shannon :) Thanks!
I grew up in the Beaches area of East Toronto and these were a stand-out favourite at The Blue Bonnet Bakery on the Kingston Road at Kingswood Road. I came from a family of 5 kids and we all had a standing account which we were responsible to maintaining and paying on-time. I work in a shoe store two door down and I would eat a whole Chelsea Bun for lunch, simply sliced with lots of butter on each slice. This recipe worked beautifully and filled our Vancouver condo with warm fresh memories of the 60’s and 70’s in Toronto. Thanks for sharing and brightening a cool, wet day in Vancouver.
So glad to hear, Paul :) These do tend to evoke memories for a lot of people and that’s always a great addition for the food experience! Thanks.
This recipe really brings back memories of when I was a younger me. I’m talking about the mid 1960’s. We lived in North York at about Bathurst And Steeles Ave. Many Jewish bakeries there then and we would often pick up yummy bagels and of course Chelsea buns made just this way. My mom would sometimes on the weekend slice them and warm them up in butter in the fry pan for a decadent breakfast. Oh how wonderful they were. Thanks for the memories and the recipe. Think I’ll try them the next time the kids come by for breakfast.
So glad to hear, Anne :) And yes, a wonderful special breakfast treat!
Eyed this receipe when you first posted it! Brings back memories & hoped that this would revive pleasant smells & tastes. Oh, ya!!
Only change would be to use more maraschino cherries!
Thanks Irene and more cherries is always a good idea ;)
This recipe turned out perfectly and was delicious. What is the best method to store the Chelsea buns?
So glad to hear, Jacqueline :) I just store mine in an airtight container. They are best in the first 24 hours, but still quite edible on the second day. They also freeze well.
I would love to try this recipe but have never made anything with yeast. My mother used to make Chelsea buns and they were excellent. During these times I could only get traditional dry yeast and I cannot find your notes regarding different yeast types. Could you tell me how much to use and are the instructions any different from above?
Hi Candy and no worries. The “note” is actually at the bottom of the instructions. Just go ahead and use your traditional yeast. After you warm the milk/water mixture and making sure that it’s only just warm (Make sure it’s not too hot, or it will kill the yeast. It should be just lukewarm – about 110F, if you have a thermometer), add the traditional yeast to that mixture and let stand a few minutes before adding to the flour mixture. Also, the second rise period will be longer with the traditional yeast, but that should be the only other change. Enjoy!
This was a lovely recipe, thank you for posting it!
My dad always made Chelsea buns for Christmas morning when we were kids. He had his own version with walnuts and raisins. I decided to make them for my parents this year for when I went to see them, following this recipe, and they were a hit!
I always have people split on the “raisins in bread” thing, so next year when I make them, I’ll probably make one with chopped pecans inside instead of raisins!
So glad you enjoyed them and yes, raisins are always divisive. I think they’re nice without anything added, too. Thanks!
I fondly remember the buns from Don’s in Bala and would love to try this recipe but I am confused about the yeasts.
You seem to be referring to 3 different ones: quick rise, instant and active dry. I use a bread machine yeast. Can you tell me which one of the 3 it is?
And if I use it should I use a double rise for best results?
I thought I would use the dough cycle on my machine, remove the dough, rest it, roll it and make the final rise in the loaf pan.
Hi Donald, bread machine yeast is instant yeast so yes, a double rise would be good. Your plan sounds perfect! Enjoy :)
Back in the 60’s, early 70’s there was a bakery on Flint Ave. in Bancroft ON that made fabulous Chelsea buns that were often sold out within hours of the store opening. With that bakery long gone I have always wanted to make a Chelsea bun myself. Finding your recipe was just the incentive I needed.
We are not great fans of Maraschino cherries so I omitted them and rather than pecan halves I used pecan pieces and conservatively spread them over the brown sugar/cinnamon sauce in the bottom of the 9″x5″ pan. I used Sultana raisins but next time I’ll try the Thompson variety. The buns turned out great and were a big hit around here. Thanks.
January 1, 2019
So glad you rediscovered them, Paul. They are still on regular offer in bakeries here in Muskoka :) Your version sounds lovely. Thanks!
Hi Paul, You are not alone. Long ago we had a cottage on Baptiste Lake and would make regular runs to Bancroft just for Chelsea Buns. We had to buy a few since we’d usually eat one on the way home. Nothing has come close and I’ve tried every bun out there. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Finding this recipe and your comment made my day.
I, for the life of me, cannot find whole milk anywhere in my general area. Is there a suggested substitution for it?
Hi Miranda, I have a feeling you may be looking for the wrong thing. Whole milk is simply 3% (or sometimes 3.5%) milk, which you should be able to find in just about any grocery store. In the unlikely event that you can’t, you could substitute 2% milk. Hope that helps!