Pie season is here–are you ready?
Instead of making the same old pumpkin or pecan pie this year, shake things up a little and try this twist on classic pecan pie! This Cinnamon Bun Pecan Pie has all the best elements of cinnamon buns in pie form: a swirled cinnamon crust, a sweet, gooey filling with plenty of cinnamon and crunchy pecans, and a generous dollop of a tangy cream cheese topping.
Because time is at a premium around the holidays, this recipe takes some shortcuts and calls for premade pie dough and frosting. If you have extra time, though, feel free to make your own dough and frosting–it will only make the pie better!
Cinnamon Bun Pecan Pie
- Pie dough: enough for 1 9-inch crust
- 2 ounces (4 tbsp) melted butter
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided use
- 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cake and cookie flavoring (optional)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups toasted pecan halves
- 1 cup cream cheese frosting (not “whipped” variety)
Start with dough that is slightly chilled but still pliable. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment or waxed paper until it’s a little less than 1/4-inch thick.
Brush 1 tablespoon of the butter on top of the crust–this is just a thin layer of butter for the cinnamon to stick to. Leave the rest of the melted butter to put in the filling.
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon on top of the crust, and spread it around with your hands. It would be really delicious if we could use cinnamon sugar, but the sugar would leak out and make a mess, and would probably glue the pie to the tin…so just plain cinnamon it is.
Use the edge of the parchment or waxed paper to start rolling the dough over onto itself. Roll it up into a tight spiral.
Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the spiral log into rounds, about 1/2-inch thick. If your dough has become too soft to cut cleanly, or is getting smashed down during the process, refrigerate or freeze it briefly until it is firm enough to cut.
Spray a 9-inch pie tin with nonstick cooking spray, or rub it liberally with butter. Start placing the cinnamon swirl pie pieces in the pan so that they are touching each other. No need to be too precise or worry about a pattern or anything like that!
When you’ve put over half of the pieces in the pie tin, begin to flatten them with your fingers, pressing them down so that they expand and fill all of the gaps. You shouldn’t see any empty space between the pieces! Try to get them all about the same depth.
Once you’ve started the process of pressing them together, you can see where you have gaps in the crust, or areas at the top that need to be filled in. So add the remaining pie rounds, and press everything together until you have a solid crust in an even thickness.
The top will be a little raggedy, so use a sharp paring knife to trim the edges so that they are smooth and even all the way around.
Once the crust is made, place it in the refrigerator to chill while you mix up the filling, and preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
This filling is so easy and fast to make! All you need is one bowl and a whisk. In a large bowl, combine the corn syrup and the brown sugar. Whisk them together until there are no lumps of sugar. The mixture will be thick and sticky.
Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of melted butter and whisk it in. Much like your relatives after a nice turkey dinner, the mixture will loosen up a little bit.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition, until you can’t see any streaks of egg remaining.
Finally, add all the flavorings: the vanilla, the salt, the remaining 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and the cake and cooking flavoring, if you’re using it. Whisk everything well until it’s entirely blended.
Just a quick note about the cake and cooking flavoring: this is a little trick to getting that signature “cookie” or “dough” taste! It’s often used in commercial kitchens, so you will probably recognize the flavor even if you think you’ve never tasted it before. I use it in this pie to reinforce the flavors of cinnamon buns–it just adds a special something that reminds me of warm rolls. However, it is completely optional, and you won’t be missing anything if you decide to skip it. If you are interested in finding it, it’s often found in well-stocked cake or culinary supply stores, or it’s readily available on the internet.
Once all of the filling ingredients are mixed together, place the toasted pecans in the bottom of the pie shell, then carefully pour the liquid filling on top.
Put the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil, to prevent any oven nastiness should it accidentally spill over. Bake the pie in the 375 F oven for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the pie from the oven.The crust should have some color and look cooked by now, although the center of the pie will be completely raw. The problem is that the crust has a tendency to burn before the filling is cooked through, so the solution is to cover it with foil to prevent burning. Tear off strips of aluminum foil and crimp them along the edges, covering the crust. The center of the pie should remain exposed, so it will cook properly.
Reduce the oven’s temperature to 350 F and return the pie to the oven to continue cooking. Cook the pie for an additional 20-25 minutes.
When it is finished, the center of the pie should be puffed and have slight cracks in the surface. When you lightly tap the pie tin, the center should remain steady instead of jiggling. Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack at room temperature.
Once cool, it’s time to frost this bad boy! Remove the lid from the frosting, and microwave it for 20-30 seconds, then stir well. You want to make the frosting runny enough to pour easily from a spoon. If you’re using homemade frosting, thin it out with milk to a consistency that will hold its shape but will drizzle easily.
The way you decorate your pie is up to you. I like a casual look, so I drizzled diagonal lines across the top using a spoon–I wanted it to look random instead of overly polished. You could also place the frosting in a piping bag to drizzle it more precisely. Another idea is to omit this step, and instead drizzle frosting on the pieces once they have been cut and plated. All that matters is that your Cinnamon Bun Pecan Pie ends up with a bit of frosting on top!
This pie is sure to be a hit at your Thanksgiving table. It’s close enough to the classic recipe to please purists, but the fun crust, gooey cinnamon filling, and cream cheese topping will entice those who like to experiment a bit more with their food. The crust is most obvious when the filling is scraped out, or when looking at the back of a slice, like so:
This crust technique is a fun way to dress up your dough, and can be used with just about any pie.
You can store Cinnamon Bun Pecan Pie well-wrapped in the refrigerator, but chances are you won’t have an left after the big day. Who could say no to two great tastes in one dessert?
While enjoying the Cinnamon Bun Pecan Pie, take a moment to check out our Hanukkah Gifts and Christmas nut gifts.
All text and images (c) Elizabeth LaBau