I Made Yam-Yam Honey Buns and I See Why This Recipe Won a Pillsbury Contest in 1956

This honey bun recipe was a Pillsbury Bake-Off Winner in the '50s. Does it stand the test of time? I had to find out.

I’m a sucker for a good vintage cookbook and I love bringing an old recipe back to life.

This recipe for Yam-Yam Honey Buns won a $1,000 “Best in Class” prize at the 7th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off back in 1956. I tested this honey bun recipe nearly 70 years later to see if it’s still a winner.

How to Make Yam-Yam Honey Buns

The process for making Yam-Yam Honey Buns is exactly the same as making any other sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. Unlike when Helen V. Zymalski wrote this recipe in 1956, we no longer need to knead the dough by hand. I made the dough and kneaded it in my sturdy stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Once the dough is made, it’s rolled out, filled with butter and brown sugar, rolled up, cut and baked in a pan filled with sticky glaze. Then, after it’s baked, the pan is inverted, helping that gooey honey-nut topping seep into the cracks.

Ingredients

Yam Yam Honey Buns ingredientsAllison Robicelli for Taste of Home

  • 1 can yams in syrup
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, plus an additional 2 tablespoons for brushing
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Honey Nut Topping:

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions

Step 1: Drain yams

Drain the canned yams, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid. Mash up enough yams to equal 1/2 cup; refrigerate or freeze the rest for another use, like a sweet potato casserole.

Step 2: Proof the yeast

Stir the yeast and reserved 1/2 cup yam liquid together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand 5-10 minutes until it becomes foamy and bubbly. Typically yeast is proofed with water and a bit of sugar, but in this case the reserved liquid from the can will do the job of both.

Step 3: Make the dough

Add the mashed yams, 3 tablespoons melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until combined, then add the flour.

Step 4: Knead

Using your mixer’s hook attachment, knead the dough until it turns into a smooth, shiny ball—about 5 minutes. If you’d rather knead the dough by hand, follow these tips.

Step 5: Let dough rise

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and leave it somewhere warm to rise until doubled—about 90 minutes.

FYI: This is how to proof dough when it’s cold in the house.

Step 6: Make honey nut topping

 Yam Yam Honey BunsAllison Robicelli for Taste of Home

While the dough is rising, make the honey nut topping: combine honey, butter, brown sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reaches 235°F (soft ball stage), about 90 seconds. Pour into a greased 13×9-inch pan and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Then set aside.

Step 7: Roll out dough

Rolledout dough for yam Yam Honey BunsAllison Robicelli for Taste of Home

Once the dough has risen, toss it on a well-floured board until coated with flour and no longer sticky. Roll out into a 24×8-inch rectangle (it’s always handy to have a ruler in the kitchen). Brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter; sprinkle with chopped nuts and brown sugar.

Step 8: Shape honey buns

shape the honey bunsAllison Robicelli for Taste of Home

Starting from the bottom, roll the dough up into a log. Cut or “tie-off” with a strong thread into a dozen 2-inch slices. (To tie off slices, place thread under roll and pull ends around, crossing as if to tie in a knot.) You can also use a sharp knife.

Place cut side down onto honey nut topping. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Step 9: Bake

baked honey bunsAllison Robicelli for Taste of Home

Preheat the oven to 375° F, then bake the Yam-Yam Honey Buns for 25-30 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then invert on a serving plate or on a rack over waxed paper. Let stand for 30 seconds before removing the pan.

Here’s What I Thought

Yam Yam Honey BunsAllison Robicelli for Taste of Home

The Yam-Yam Honey Buns are utterly irresistible! In spite of the name, this honey bun recipe doesn’t taste much like yams at all. The recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of mashed yams, leading me to believe that it was added for color, not flavor. If you want more yam flavor, mash up the entire can of yams with just enough of the drained liquid to form a smooth mash, using the 1/2 cup called for in the dough, and adding the rest to the brown sugar-butter filling.

The original recipe uses nuts with a measured hand, but I personally enjoy eating buns utterly covered with sticky nuts. The number of nuts you use will not affect how the recipe works, so add as many as you wish with reckless abandon!

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Allison Robicelli
Allison Robicelli is a James Beard-nominated food and recipe writer, humorist, and the author of four (quite good) books. Her writing credits include the Washington Post, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, Eater, Food52, The Takeout, and other major publications. Before becoming a full-time writer, she spent over a decade as a working chef, and was the co-owner of the acclaimed Robicelli's Bakery in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to food and comedy, she also writes about history, parenting, and cannabis. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, two teenage sons, and four patient cats.