Recipe: Junior League of St. Louis Cinnamon Rolls

Long before I was a member of the JLC, I associated the Junior League of my hometown, St. Louis, with one thing: the best cinnamon rolls I’d ever had. I was too young to give much thought to what the Junior League was or why they made those delicious rolls, I was just content to scurry into the kitchen and grab one (okay, maybe two or three) as soon as I heard the oven timer go off and a waft of cinnamon hit my nose. Now being older, perhaps a little wiser, and a member of the Junior League myself, I got curious as to why the JL of St. Louis made cinnamon rolls. What purpose did they serve?

What I found out is that the Junior League of St. Louis began their Cinnamon Rolls fundraiser program in the 1940s but ceased operations in 2004 due to League downsizing. In 2007, a small group of Sustainers decided to revive the Cinnamon Rolls fundraiser and make it a central focus of League activities. Since the program was relaunched, sales have doubled and the League works with a local church and bakery during peak holiday season to keep up with demand.

Not only is the Cinnamon Roll fundraiser program a consistent source of revenue for the League, but it also won the AJLI’s 2011 Award for Fund Development for the successful revival of the fundraiser program. The program helped the League to develop strong, sustainable links with other community organizations and enabled it to more effectively communicate its mission externally. Plus, the program has built stronger relationships between League members of all generations.

–Kristin Z.

Junior League of St. Louis Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (about 1-1/2 packages)
  • 1 egg
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 2/3 to 1/2 cup (about 1 stick) melted butter

Cinnamon Mixture:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon

In a small saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon butter in milk; add sugar and salt.

When mixture is warm, take a glass measuring cup and remove about 1/4 cup.

Dissolve yeast into the liquid in the measuring cup; set aside to foam.

Pour the warmed milk mixture from the pan into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the egg and flour. Use an electric mixer with a pastry hook or paddle, or mix by hand with a wooden spoon.

Add the yeast mixture to the dough. Dough will be sticky. (You may need to add up to 1/2 cup more flour for ease in handling.)

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let dough rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 1 hour).

Meanwhile, prepare a 9-by-13-inch pan by brushing or spreading a small portion of the melted butter.

Punch dough down. Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface, 1/4-inch thick.

Spread on about half of the remaining melted butter and half of the cinnamon mixture.

Cut strips of dough 3 inches wide and 3 inches long. Roll into cigar shaped rolls, 1 inch wide and 3 inches long.

Dip rolls into melted butter and then roll them in cinnamon mixture.

Arrange rolls, seam-side-down, into pan. Rolls should touch each other without being crowded.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes about 30 rolls.

Note: To make lighter rolls, let them rise a second time before baking.