Pixelated Crumb

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here on Pixelated Crumb this year. It’s not that I’m not cooking, baking, and eating, and it’s not that I haven’t been itching to share fabulous, seasonal recipes. It’s just been…well, it’s been an interesting year.

I found out that I was pregnant in early February and at just about the same time, my appetite went a bit haywire. I didn’t really want to look at food, let alone take pictures and write about food. I was basically in a semi-permanent state of always feeling a little awful (sometimes just straight up awful) and so unbearably tired. Foods that I had loved suddenly repulsed me. I got through the first 12 weeks knowing it would get better and that it would all be worth it.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

But when I went in for my first ultrasound at 12 1/2 weeks, the doctor, after reviewing the sonogram the technician had just taken, came in the room and told us how very sorry he was. I couldn’t understand what he could possibly be talking about. Why would he be sorry? This was such a happy thing! New life! Soft baby skin and tiny little toes! It took a while for the news to sink in. Despite the fact that my body had kept carrying on being pregnant, the baby simply had not developed.

Over the past several months, I have written this blog post over and over in my head. I have gone over and over what I had to say, but it would fill a chapter in a book to say everything I wanted to say: how I declined a D&C and took meds that forced a miscarriage, how I had to take two rounds of the medicine for it to finally kick in, how intensely painful it was, how my parents drove eight hours to be with me, how I stared at pregnant women and couples with newborn babies with anger and resentment deep in my heart, how guilty and ashamed I felt for that anger and resentment, how kind and supportive my friends and family were, how I felt betrayed by my body, how responsible I felt no matter how many times the doctor and midwives told me that nothing I had done had caused this to happen, how my coworkers who didn’t even know why I was out of work for a week brought me flowers, how it took so much longer than I thought it would to recover, how I got macarons and Jeni’s ice cream in the mail from great friends, and how I never felt closer to and more in love with Joseph.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I certainly knew that a miscarriage was no picnic, but I never imagined how incredibly painful – both physically and emotionally – it would be. I felt like I had lost a part of myself and had to live with that aching loss every day. In the days and weeks following the miscarriage, I began to wonder if I would ever even want to try again. I was terrified of the thought of having to go through that again. I heard stories of women who, after two, three, four, even five miscarriages, went on to have healthy babies, but instead of finding these stories encouraging, I was horrified. Going through that once was hard enough, the idea of going through it multiple times was more than I could bear.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Our culture has this strange thing about miscarriages. It’s a bit of a taboo topic, and I don’t think it’s commonly known how common it is. You’re not really “supposed” to tell people you’re pregnant until you’ve gotten through the first, less predictable trimester all because you might have a miscarriage. Then, if you do miscarry, you don’t tell anyone about it, and you’re expected to go on with your life while this heavy loss weighs down your soul. I had told a few people that I was pregnant, and yes, it was very hard to share the news, but I don’t know how I could have gotten through the next few months without having them to lean on. Still, I kept it mostly to myself and every time someone asked me how I was, all I could think was, “I had a miscarriage. I lost my baby.” Instead I would reply, “Fine. Kind of tired. How are you?”

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I thought bitterly about this unspoken burden, and swore that if I did ever get pregnant again, I would be so vocal about it, I would be screaming it from the rooftops. But instead I was quieter. I was so afraid of what might happen. We told our immediate family and a couple of close friends. Then I started to tell more and more people, but would often add on, “yeah, well, I had a miscarriage last April,” almost as a disclaimer. Who knows what might happen?

Now, at 20 weeks pregnant, I’m more afraid of the lack of sleep I’m going to get and how we’re going to pay for college. Sure, anything could still happen, but I’m feeling confident. I’m less tired, I feel stronger, I’m enjoying all the wonderful fall foods, and most of all, I am so excited to meet my baby girl in the spring.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Since I’ve been gone so long, I wanted to share something especially warm, comforting, and evocative of all that fall has to offer. And since I’ve got a bun in the oven, cinnamon buns just seemed fitting. The pumpkin in these cinnamon rolls is on the milder side, but with just the right blend of spices and of course some heavenly cream cheese frosting slathered on top. The recipe makes quite a number of cinnamon rolls so you can serve it to a crowd, or, do what we did and drop half of them off with friends. You can do most of the work the night before so that in the morning, all you have to do is roll out of bed, pop these in the oven, count your blessings, and indulge in some sweet, hot pumpkin cinnamon rolls straight out of the oven.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


For the Dough:

  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, to be divided
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
  • 3 1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 1/4 cup (packed) (50 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2/3 cups (160 grams) canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • Oil for coating rising bowl

For the Filling:

  • 3/4 cup (packed, 145 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons (5 grams) ground cinnamon

For the Glaze:

  • 4 ounces (115 grams) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk or buttermilk
  • 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • Few drops vanilla extract


Make the dough:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and brown it by cooking for a few more minutes over medium heat. It will start to sizzle a lot and then take on a nutty flavor as little golden bits form at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly (conversely you can just melt the better and use it without browning it).
  2. Combine the warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a little foamy. If it’s not, you might have some bad yeast and should start again with a new yeast.
  3. In the bottom of the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Add just 1/4 cup (or two-thirds of; leave the rest for assembly) of your browned butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix until combined. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.
  4. Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place; it should just about double.
  5. While the dough is rising, line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan and the paper.

Assemble buns:

  1. Scoop the dough onto a very well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush the reserved melted/browned butter over dough. Stir together remaining filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. Don't worry about some of the filling spilling out at the ends.
  2. With a sharp serrated knife, without using any pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 1-inch sections. When a soft dough like this is rolled, it may well grow a little longer.
  3. Divide the buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.
  4. If you’re doing this ahead of time, you can now put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, leave them out for an hour to warm up and finish rising.
  5. 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, you can make the glaze. Beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for, either thick enough to ice or thin enough to drizzle.

Bake the buns:

  1. Remove the plastic and bake buns for 25 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer pans to wire cooling racks and drizzle/schmear with cream cheese glaze, and enjoy.