Small batch cinnamon rolls | for Thom, with love

Small batch cinnamon rolls | for Thom, with love

I’m writing this from a bench outside our rental apartment in Warsaw. Across from me sits an older couple and their anxious, unleashed pup. They’re sharing some sort of starchy roll and the lady is carrying on, speaking heavily with her hands, while the man watches intently, nodding his head like he understands what she’s saying. Maybe he does. Down the street there’s a stir of commotion from the construction workers who are repairing the cathedral right next to the one that looks like something straight out of Hansel and Gretel. And beside me, a pigeon. Gobbling up the crumbly remnants of last night’s feasts. This is where I am right now.

I’ve tried writing this post a thousand times before. Ok, maybe not one thousand times but I have been trying to put this together for the past two weeks. Since we packed our bags and left Paris. No, since it happened. But something always comes up – editing photos, writing postcards, or, you know, the sheer fact that most of our time is devoted to seeing and touching and discovering new things. Our longer stays have come to a temporary halt and we’re pushing through several short, quick trips that are packed with a mere 4 hours of shut eye, wandering off the beaten path, and trying to discover which European city does sushi best (ahem, Berlin is winning). And so, now that I’ve got a spot on a bench – a bench so suitable for writing I’m going to dream about it every time I sit down to draft a post – I’m going to take you back to that moment I’ve tried to reiterate so many times before.

Dough makingRisin'Small batch cinnamon rolls in the makingSmall batch cinnamon rolls in the making

We sat on the pull out sofa of our rental apartment eating salad in our underwear. It was hot, and the clouds and rain and all of the noise that comes with that sort of meteorological situation had just moved into Paris. We shoveled forkfuls of leafy greens and other herbaceous plants into our mouths as we watched the rain pound down on the roof across the courtyard. It splattered hard for a good 20 minutes, but not as hard as we fought the night before. I can’t even remember what it was about – which is an indication it was probably not worth getting nearly as emotionally involved as we did. But couples who have made it past the point where the teeth clenching arguments actually exist but no longer end in I’M LEAVING and instead are met with heavy sighs of GODDAMNIT I CAN’T STAND YOU RIGHT NOW BUT LET’S FIGURE THIS OUT will understand exactly where we were at that particular moment in time.

But this isn’t about the argument. The argument was simply a catalyst to the one moment from this trip I hold deepest in my heart. A moment so full of all of my favorite things I don’t know how it didn’t burst into tiny pieces and scatter across Paris that rainy afternoon.

ProofedReady for the ovenSmall batch cinnamon rolls | for Thom, with love

We sat in silence listening to the rain as it grew heavier and heavier. I thought about grabbing his hand and racing like hell down the spiral staircase to dance in the courtyard like the crazy-in-love people we tend to be, but he looked so comfortable eating his lunch that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And so I made a promise that I would if it was still raining when we finished. It wasn’t, but with every clap of thunder I heard in the distance, I begged the gods to bring it a little bit closer; to precipitate the heaviest of raindrops because I needed it. My six years in the making, empire of love needed it.

While I was waiting I eavesdropped on the couple across the courtyard as they bickered and put away dishes – probably from a meal they made together; maybe from a meal he made for her – and I got so lost in the clanking of bowls and eating utensils that I almost didn’t notice the rain was slowly picking up. And 20 minutes later, after he had succumbed to the comfiness of the hide-a-bed and drifted into what his snoring would indicate was a deep slumber, I woke him with a fat kiss on the forehead, pulled him upright, and threw a pair of shorts in his lap. Without a word, I raced down the spiral staircase and he followed close behind. We danced and splashed in the cobblestone sidewalk puddles and embraced oneanother tightly. In that moment I didn’t care that we said hurtful things the night before, because it wasn’t the first time and it sure as hell wouldn’t be the last. He grabbed my face and kissed me like he meant it. Like he was sorry. And we forgave one another, just like that.

We laughed our way up the stairs, dried off, and collapsed on the couch. I laid there listening to the rhythm of his heart as it pounded through my temple and reverberated through every part of my body. It soothed The Girl Who Never Naps into a two hour dormancy and when I woke, the sun was shining and it was as if it had never even rained. We quickly threw ourselves together and walked up the street, hand in hand, to the nearest bakery. I sipped a glass of cold iced tea as he ate a peanut butter bar, and we talked about how sorry we were. How sometimes this love is so massive it can be suffocating, and we don’t always deal with that in the best way possible. Do we, darling? But friends, this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parts about loving another human being. Sometimes it rains and your love gets drowned out by the torrential downpour of this thing we call life. But after the chaos – when the clouds have cleared and everything has settled – the beauty that remains is so pristine and raw you want to bottle it up and keep it forever. And you realize that despite your differences or mean words or inability to understand that some people are naturally forgetful even though they’re able to retain every morsel of history surrounding the second World War, your love for one another is unparalleled. And at the end of the day, that’s kind of all that matters.

For Thom, with love. All of my love and then some.

Small batch cinnamon rolls | for Thom, with love

Notes: I had success replacing the unbleached flour with white spelt flour – but I’m afraid other whole grain flours may be too heavy (resulting in dense/chewier cinnamon rolls). I’ve used sucanat, brown sugar, and muscovado sugar in this recipe and the muscovado sugar wins, hands down – but you can use whichever you’d like. The vegan butter in the dough can be replaced with any kind of oil, but you cannot use oil for the filling. I trim the ends off my cinnamon rolls (and baked them in ramekins), but feel free to leave them on. If you don’t have a 6″ round pan, bake the cinnamon rolls in a jumbo muffin pan or ramekins.


1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, between 105-108˚F
1 tbsp vegan butter, melted
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
4 tsp cane sugar
Scant 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup unbleached flour

4 tsp vegan butter, room temperature
2-3 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup powdered cane sugar
2 1/2 tsp non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Lightly oil a medium sized mixing bowl; set aside. Add the water to a small bowl and lightly stir in the yeast; add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy (10-15 minutes). If it doesn’t look like this after 10-15 minutes, you need to start over. In another small mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter (make sure it’s warm) and sugar – continue stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Mix in the milk and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, then create a well in the center and add the yeast and butter mixtures. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, then remove from bowl and knead with your hands for 4-5 minutes. Once kneaded, transfer to the prepared mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store in a warm area of your house until doubled (about 45 minutes).

Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Once the dough has doubled, roll (or pat/press – I didn’t have to use my rolling pin) dough into a 5X10″ rectangle. Spread on the butter and top with muscovado sugar (really, as much as you desire) and cinnamon. Starting at the short end, tightly roll the dough then cut into four even pieces. Put rolls in prepared baking pan and let rise for at least an additional 30 minutes (60 is optimal). Once they’ve doubled in size, bake at 375˚F for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool in pan.

To prepare the icing, simply whisk together the sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Once the cinnamon rolls have cooled for 10 minutes, top and serve immediately. Rolls can be kept in an air tight container for up to three days.

Yield: 4 cinnamon rolls


  • Reply Tieghan 9 August 2013 at 7:25 AM


    These look like the best cinnamon rolls ever. Your photos are incredible!

  • Reply Belinda @themoonblushbaker 9 August 2013 at 7:34 AM

    What a beautiful story to go with your scrolls. I am stunned at how you can turn something so simple as cinnamon bread into an artwork. Thank you for making a small batch recipe!

  • Reply Joy// For the Love of Leaves 9 August 2013 at 7:52 AM

    These cinnamon rolls look delicious. And this post was beautifully written! It’s wonderful to hear all the memorable moments you’re experiencing while in Europe!

  • Reply Libby 9 August 2013 at 7:57 AM

    “this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parts about loving another human being.”
    I loved this story because sometimes I feel like, “surely no one has ever experienced this feeling, before.” But then I read stories from other people and it makes me happy to know that the love that I experience in my life right now is something that other people get to feel, too. So thank you for this.
    You’re a really brilliant writer. I appreciated all of this.

  • Reply Mirella 9 August 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Beautiful, romantic story and Paris was the perfect setting! Your writing is gorgeous.

  • Reply Shannalee 9 August 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Damn, girl. This is what writing looks like. Stunning post.

  • Reply The Vegan Cookie Fairy 9 August 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Gorgeous. What a talented writer, cook and baker you are. I always enjoy your blog posts so much. Thanks xoxo

  • Reply Nicole 9 August 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Just beautiful!

  • Reply Rosie 9 August 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Ooooh these look so delicious! I absolutely love cinnamon rolls, they’re the bomb!

  • Reply dixya| food, pleasure, and health 9 August 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Such a beautiful post. I was just upset with my boyfriend over something really simple but seriously the feeling of love and talking through really helps. I would have gone out in the rain too. Lovely recipe, maybe I should try this out esp because it’s small batch.

  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 9 August 2013 at 11:07 AM

    These look absolutely perfect! Lovely recipe!

  • Reply Kasey 9 August 2013 at 11:36 AM

    This is so beautiful! I love your love :) xo

  • Reply Shelly (Cookies and Cups) 9 August 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Cinnamon rolls are a favorite in my house. I cant believe how simple these are!

  • Reply kickpleat 9 August 2013 at 12:28 PM

    I love travelling with the person you love and figuring things out. Lovely post. And the rolls too. I’m now 100% wistful for a long trip.

  • Reply Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes 9 August 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Sweet rolls and ultra sweet post!

  • Reply Alex Caspero (@delishknowledge) 9 August 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Beautiful story, your writing is superb! I love visiting your site- so much more than a foodblog. These rolls look incredible! Thanks for sharing, Alex

  • Reply Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic 9 August 2013 at 7:15 PM

    from my bench to yours, thank you for that.

  • Reply sara forte 9 August 2013 at 7:32 PM

    oooookkkkkk. This is incredible. You’ll reread this a billion times, I’m sure of it. And replay that memory in your mind. SO sweet and so incredibly real. Thanks for sharing this part of you here, I just adore it. I love the messy parts of love, it means it’s alive and that is the best thing. At least as much as I know at this point. love to you, lady.

  • Reply Things I am Going Crazy For This Week - Half Baked Harvest 10 August 2013 at 3:57 AM

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  • Reply Danita Carr 10 August 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I’ve never seen a small batch of anything! Great idea for smaller families. Love your writing!

  • Reply Billy 10 August 2013 at 2:56 PM

    I want to punch you for writing such an awesome post.

  • Reply April 10 August 2013 at 5:44 PM

    My eyes welled with tears of fullness and joy as your story brought me to a similar cathartic moment in Paris with my husband. Love = work. It’s the best.

  • Reply Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) 10 August 2013 at 7:37 PM

    These are just so gorgeous! I also just love the writing of this post.

  • Reply meg 11 August 2013 at 6:16 AM

    just an absolutely beautiful story – makes me ok with not having found that love yet, because if its anything like yours it will be 100% worth it when I do. thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Andrea 11 August 2013 at 7:49 AM

    I love your writing, it’s beautiful! And those rolls look amazing!

  • Reply Melanie @ Just Some Salt and Pepper 12 August 2013 at 9:33 AM

    That was a beautiful story. I really enjoyed reading it. And these cinnamon rolls sound delicious, too!

  • Reply Alison Dulaney 12 August 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Oh these look amazing and I love how you only made a few, when it comes to these little cinnamon bundles of joy!

  • Reply Roanna 12 August 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Beautiful pictures, and lovely writing! :-)

  • Reply Julia 12 August 2013 at 3:02 PM

    wowza.. i just want to curl up in your love for each other. awesome post. we are heading to paris in september.. we have also rented a flat in the latin quarter. i have printed your post to pack:) these cinnamon rolls look pretty freakin’ amazing. instead of vegan butter, could i use coconut oil?

    • Reply Ashlae 12 August 2013 at 11:36 PM

      For the dough, yes. For the filling, no. Enjoy Paris!

  • Reply Nelly 13 August 2013 at 2:03 AM

    What a beautiful post. I feel as though I need a rainstorm to happen and you have just reminded me about all the good stuff when the bad was starting to weigh me down. So thank you.

  • Reply Rachel Cotterill 13 August 2013 at 10:57 AM

    These look delicious. And I love your tribute to love :)

  • Reply Elizabeth 14 August 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Oh! I loved reading this tale of love and rain. To be honest, and I’m not sure why, but I harbor a certain disdain for cinnamon rolls. (**What** is wrong with me?) They seem too saccharine, or maybe I just secretly hate cinnamon? Either way, here they look just perfect. Exactly what I’d want to eat after splashing around in the rain.

  • Reply dessertfortwo 14 August 2013 at 8:14 PM

    Well, you must know that small batch anything is so my bag. I’ve got to make these stat!

  • Reply Simone Anne 15 August 2013 at 10:45 AM

    You are an amazing writer. Seriously. I teared up at my desk this morning just reading this!

  • Reply ThisBakerGirlBlogs 15 August 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Cinnamon rolls are high on my (many) ‘favourites’ list and I eat them all the time, but I’ve never tried to make them before. I’ll have to change that! They look delicious :D
    P.S. Just discovered your blog … I can tell I’ll be spending a lot of time on here! :)

  • Reply Em 16 August 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Made this with coconut oil…it didn’t rise well the first time, maybe because it wasn’t warm enough for the oil to melt, but the second time in the oven with the light on and a plastic bag they got a bit bigger. Then when I baked them they came out perfect! Just taste perfectly sweet and not coconutty. I filled them with nutella instead of cinammon, too.

    • Reply Ashlae 16 August 2013 at 12:54 PM

      Hip hip! But bums about the first batch not rising. Is your yeast fresh? Check the date – that stuff expires within 6 months, usually. Also, make sure the water temperature is between 105-108˚F. This is actually hot, not lukewarm like many sites say is all that’s needed to activate yeast.

  • Reply Jade Sheldon-Burnsed 16 August 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Whenever I read your writing, it inspires me to write. Thank you for being such an inspirational story teller. My husband and I have been together over 6 years and married for a year. I know those moments you describe. We have made a very conscious effort this part year, our first year as husband and wife, to listen and not be so quick to react. I think we are the happiest and closest than we have ever been…

  • Reply sunshine 18 August 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Great post!

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  • Reply Jenny @ BAKE 19 August 2013 at 6:41 AM

    this is so beautifully written, it was a real joy to read!

  • Reply Necole@seriouslysassymama 19 August 2013 at 4:53 PM

    These pictures are stunning. I love cinnamon rolls.

  • Reply Kate 21 August 2013 at 5:37 AM

    How fitting that I find this story, of love, pain, hurting and finally, redemption, after experiencing much the same thing in my own love story. How we can be growling and viciously angry at one another, then reach the moment of peace and forgiveness, and go on to celebrate 11 years of marriage with the same pure love that carried us down the aisle to one another.

    Celebrate with cinnamon rolls, peanut butter bars and a good lesson to file away. I loved this post, in so many ways. Thank you for sharing of your difficult day, and your beautiful rolls.

  • Reply Katie @ Produce on Parade 22 August 2013 at 4:14 PM

    What a lovely life story that many of us can relate to…those that are lucky :) These rolls look absolutely wonderful. With Fall creeping in closer, I’ve been having craving for some delicious vegan cinnamon rolls! Thanks for sharing. The story and the recipe. Your friend at Produce On Parade, Katie.

  • Reply Heidi - Apples Under My Bed 24 August 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Such a beautiful, real talk post. So much truth & love. Oh & thanks for the recipe!
    Heidi xo

  • Reply Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is 25 August 2013 at 5:15 AM

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  • Reply Aimee from AL 25 August 2013 at 8:32 AM

    Just found your blog thanks to How Sweet It Is, and what a gorgeous story. Thank you!

  • Reply emotionalperson 1 September 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Hello! I found your pin on pinterest and followed it to your site. I was not expecting a touching story to go along with it. Most other blogs I see are pretty unoriginal and have a severe lack of artistic writing.

    I had tears pouring when I read your story! Maybe it was because it was beautifully written/ my boyfriend and I are in the same situation/ or I had beautiful, but sad music playing in the background. Either way, keep writing and thanks for the recipie!


  • Reply OH, LADYCAKES 8 November 2013 at 6:25 AM

    […] Thom. The boys would discuss some era in history, and I would ask Ashlae about Hvar, Amsterdam and this post she wrote on a bench in Warsaw. It easily reminds us to appreciate any love so consummate for […]

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  • Reply Brit 20 December 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I’ve just read practically everything you’ve ever written in one gigantic stretch. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For writing and sharing important truths and keeping others close to you still. Thank you. It’s such a strange thing, we’ve had such different walks of life and still I sit here stung-struck after every little story, as if you’ve grabbed something right out of me.

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  • Reply cee 29 December 2013 at 3:53 AM

    Just finished baking (and eating) these beauties and i am in LOVE! This is the best cinnamon roll recipe i have ever made; down to the sugary-vanilla icing. I am confident in saying this will be the only cinnamon roll recipe i will ever bake again.

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  • Reply tatjana 16 February 2014 at 6:56 PM

    …After reading the post, I didn’t even care that there was a recipe at the end. Beautiful.

  • Reply Katie @ Veggie and the Beast 25 February 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I came to this post from your interview on My Darling Lemon Thyme. This is such a beautiful post, from all angles: the story, the photos, and the recipe. Love all your posts.

  • Reply Monica 6 March 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Hi there – I was on the lookout for a small batch recipe for cinnamon rolls so thank you! A quick question…in the instructions, it says to roll the dough starting at the “short” end…I just wanted to make sure that was correct (because I’m obviously thinking the opposite…but I have no experience in cinnamon roll making)? Thank you very much! : )

    • Reply Ashlae 6 March 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Hi Monica –

      Yep! Roll from short end.

      • Reply Monica 8 March 2014 at 9:22 AM

        Thank you so much for answering that! I was looking up typical size of sliced cinnamon rolls! It was great to have your confirmation. And I made my first cinnamon rolls last night using your base recipe and we had them for breakfast today! It came out great! We’re not vegan so I used butter and milk and I filled mine with orange zest and dark chocolate. They were very squishy good. : ) I’m really grateful for your small batch recipe since there are only 3 of us. Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great weekend!

  • Reply Lena 20 July 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Your story has really, truly touched me, to the point of unexpected tears and sighs and smiles. Thank you for all you do.

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  • Reply Carrie 18 December 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Can you make them in advanced and store in the fridge for a couple of days before you bake them? I was thinking about prepping these for Christmas morning.

    • Reply Ashlae 18 December 2014 at 10:01 AM

      Hi Carrie –

      Unfortunately you cannot.

  • Reply AmyW 8 July 2015 at 2:33 PM

    What beautiful post and beautiful writing. :-)

  • Reply Sarah | Well and Full 8 July 2015 at 5:14 PM

    Wow. I got goosebumps reading your words. You are such an eloquent writer, Ashlae. Your love for Thom shines through in every word you wrote. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.

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