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Tropical Cinnamon Buns

I’m melding my love for cinnamon rolls, macadamia nuts and coconut in this Tropical Cinnamon Buns recipe. Thank you to C&H® Sugar for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. Now, let’s go to paradise!

Half eaten cinnamon bun on a plate

Ok, before you scream where’s the cinnamon!! Hear me out, this tropical twist to the classic cinnamon rolls will blow your mind so far away, you won’t even miss the cinnamon anymore.

These buns are filled with a creamy macadamia nut and coconut filling, drizzled with a delicious coconut sauce, and baked to soft perfection, all sweetened with the help of C&H® Sugar.

C&H® Sugar is a household name that needs no introduction. It’s not just for sweetening your morning coffee, baking cookies, or making frosting. We use it for cooking, sauces and brines, anything that needs a little sweet magic. You won’t find me without it in my pantry!

How to make homemade cinnamon buns with a tropical twist

There are 3 elements to these tropical cinnamon buns:

  • The bread dough – I use a super soft milk bread dough for these buns.
  • The cream filling is loaded with ground macadamia nuts and coconut shreds for that tropical flavor.
  • The coconut sauce replaces the cream cheese frosting that I would normally use on the classic version.

The cinnamon roll dough

This cinnamon roll dough is a yeast dough, so you will need to have a little bit of patience through a few steps.

Making cinnamon bun dough

Making the bread dough (Photos 1 – 4)

  1. Bloom the yeast in a mixture of warm cream, milk and C&H® Granulated Sugar. The mixture should be warm but not too hot, take care not to kill the yeast. Ideal temperature is about 110°F.
  2. Mix with flour and salt to make the bread dough.
  3. Form a ball and place the dough into an oiled bowl.
  4. you’ll need to let the dough rise until at least double in size.

It is helpful if you have a stand mixer to make this dough. However, you can certainly make it by hand, mix the dough with a spatula or wooden spoon.

The tropical cinnamon roll filling

For the cream filling, you will need a food processor to grind up the macadamia nuts, then you can use the same food processor, without washing it out, to mix together the filling.

Just like with my classic cinnamon roll filling, I prefer to use C&H® Golden Brown Sugar to give my tropical cream filling more depth and complexity. You could also use C&H® Dark Brown Sugar for even more molasses flavor.

Making cinnamon bun filling in a food processor

Making the creamy tropical filling (Photos 5 – 10)

  1. Add unsalted butter with C&H® Golden Brown Sugar to the food processor.
  2. Process until creamy.
  3. Add the ground macadamia nuts, coconut, flour and salt.
  4. Cream together again.
  5. Add egg and vanilla extract.
  6. Process until everything is incorporated and creamy.

This cream filling will need to stay in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two to firm up a bit before getting spread onto the bread.

How to assemble tropical cinnamon buns

When your bread dough has doubled in size and ready to be rolled out, get out your rolling pin and some extra flour for rolling.

Assembling cinnamon rolls

How to roll cinnamon buns (Photos 11 – 14)

  1. Roll the dough to about 20”x13” and dollop the cream filling on top.
  2. Then spread the filling out evenly with a spatula leaving an inch of infilled dough on the top.
  3. Roll the dough up starting at the bottom, longer edge.
  4. You may need to stretch the roll out a bit if some parts are thicker than others. Divide it into 12 equal portions.
  5. Place the rolls into a buttered baking dish.
  6. Allow them to double in size again. (You should make the coconut sauce while waiting in this step or just after you have made the filling and put it in the fridge)
  7. Bake until golden brown.
A collage showing unbaked rolls, and baked rolls

Second rise and baked rolls (Photos 15 – 17)

The coconut sauce

This coconut sauce is made with a whole can of coconut milk, thickened with cornstarch, much like this Haupia (coconut pudding) but not as thick.

Pouring coconut sauce over baked rolls

Be sure to use canned coconut milk for a creamier sauce. Coconut milk from the carton won’t taste the same since it is much more diluted. Go for canned coconut cream to make your sauce even richer.

Tips for perfectly soft cinnamon rolls

  • The bread dough is very soft and sticky when it first comes out from the mixing bowl. Try not to add too much flour when handling it. Adding too much flour can dry out the dough. After the first rise, it will be less sticky and easier to handle.
  • A trick you can use to keep the dough from sticking without adding too much flour is to oil your work surface and your hands.
  • This recipe calls for heavy cream and whole milk in the bread dough for the higher fat content which results in a softer dough.
  • You don’t need to knead this dough for an extended period of time. Kneading helps develop gluten, which gives bread its structure and chewiness, but less gluten makes it more tender.

Storing and making ahead

Storing leftover rolls

The rolls can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. These will fit in the glass baking dish with the lid on. If you don’t have a lid to your baking dish, you can transfer them to a different container for storage, or wrap them up tightly in plastic individually.

If you’re planning to keep them for longer, store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. They can be reheated in the microwave in about 20 – 30 seconds.

What to do with leftover coconut sauce

The recipe for the coconut sauce makes almost 2 cups of syrup and you may not use it all on these tropical cinnamon buns. Refrigerate leftovers in a jar, and serve it up for brunch with pancakes or coconut french toast bake.

Making ahead

  • The dough can be made 2 – 3 days ahead and allow to rise slowly under refrigeration. When ready to use, let it come to room temperature before rolling.
  • The filling can be made the day before. Since it is made with egg, I don’t recommend making it too many days ahead of time.
  • The coconut sauce can be made a week in advance.

Phew! Thanks for sticking through this long post with me, but I always want to make sure you have all the information you need to hopefully make the recipe perfect the first time. Make them even better with C&H® Sugar, your one stop shop for all your sugar needs!

Top view of tropical cinnamon buns in a baking dish and plates

More recipes with a tropical twist

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!

Baker’s Tip: This recipe can be completed within 1 day: start making the dough in the morning and by the afternoon you’ll have fresh rolls. Or you can make it over the course of 2 days: make the dough and form the rolls on day 1, let the rolls rise overnight in the fridge, on their second rise, and bake the next morning (day 2) to have fresh rolls for breakfast.
Pouring coconut sauce over baked rolls

Tropical Cinnamon Buns

I’m melding my love for cinnamon rolls, macadamia nuts and coconut in this Tropical Cinnamon Buns recipe. Now, let’s go to paradise!
5 from 2 votes
Print Rate
Course: Bread, Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Hawaiian
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Resting Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 12 buns
Calories: 600kcal
Author: Trang




  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream (240 g)
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk (240 g)
  • ½ Cup C&H® Granulated Sugar (90 g)
  • 2 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 4 Cup All-purpose Flour (520 g)
  • Additional flour for rolling
  • Melted butter for baking dish


  • 1 Cup Macadamia Nut (roasted, unsalted, 141 g)
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut (80 g)
  • 1 Tablespoon All-purpose Flour
  • A Pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 4 oz Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
  • ¾ Cup C&H® Golden Brown Sugar (lightly packed, 132 g)
  • 1 Large Egg
  • ½ Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Coconut Sauce

  • 1 Can Coconut Milk (13.5 oz)
  • Cup C&H® Golden Brown Sugar (lightly packed, 62 g)
  • A Pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch


Make the bread dough

  • Add cream, milk and C&H® Granulated Sugar to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the stand mixer bowl and allow the mixture to cool down to below 110°F, check with a thermometer.
  • Sprinkle active dry yeast over the top of the milk mixture, stir and let it bloom for about 20 minutes. The mixture should visibly puff up.
  • Sift the flour and stir in the salt. Add flour to the liquid mixture and knead with the dough hook on low speed until everything is incorporated and a wet dough forms.
  • Scrape the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead a few times to form a ball. Place the dough ball into an oiled large bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise in a warm spot until double in size, about 2 hours.

Make the filling

  • Make the filling while waiting for the bread to rise. Chop up the macadamia nut in a food processor, remove the ground nuts and mix it with shredded coconut, flour and salt in a small bowl.
  • In the same food processor, mix the softened butter and C&H® Golden Brown Sugar until creamy. Add the nut mixture back into the food processor and mix again until incorporated.
  • Beat the egg with the vanilla extract in a small bowl, and pour it into the food processor, process until everything is incorporated and creamy.
  • Remove the cream filling from the food processor, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Make the coconut sauce

  • Whisk the cornstarch with about ¼ cup of room temperature coconut milk until completely dissolved. Set aside.
  • Add the remaining coconut milk to a small saucepan along with C&H® Golden Brown Sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture starts to simmer.
  • Drizzle the cornstarch mixture into the simmering coconut milk, stirring constantly. Continue to cook for another 2 - 3 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool. The sauce will thicken further as it cools.

Assemble the buns

  • Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush it all over your baking dish and set aside.
  • When the dough is ready, dump it out onto a floured countertop. Roll and stretch it out to a rectangle 20”x13” with the longer edge facing you.
  • Take the cream filling out of the refrigerator and add dollops of the filling over the top of the dough. Use a spatula to spread it as evenly as possible over the surface of the dough, leaving about an inch untouched at the top.
  • Roll the dough up starting from the bottom edge closest to you. When you get to the end, tuck the seam under. If the roll looks uneven, lift it up and stretch it out to make the entire roll about the same diameter. At this point, the roll could stretch out to about 23” - 24”.
  • Divide the roll into 12 equal portions with a serrated knife. Place them into the buttered 9”x13” baking dish and allow them to rise for another hour until double in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Take the rolls out of the oven, use a knife to separate them and drizzle coconut sauce over the hot rolls. Serve warm.


  • You can also use C&H® Dark Brown Sugar for even a deeper flavor and more molasses taste in the filling and sauce.
  • The dough can be made without a stand mixer, just mix the flour into the liquid with a spatula or wooden spoon and knead by hand.
  • This dough is very soft and sticky when it first comes out from the mixing bowl. Try not to add too much flour when handling it. After the first rise, it will be less sticky and easier to handle.
  • After you roll up the dough with the filling inside, some parts of the roll may seem thicker than others. You can gently lift it and stretch it out to make the entire roll as even as possible. It’s okay if the roll stretches out longer.
  • You can use a ruler to measure while rolling and cutting, but if you don’t have one long enough, just eyeball it and cut the roll into 12 portions as evenly as possible.
  • You may not use all of the coconut sauce, store leftovers in the refrigerator and use on pancakes.


Serving: 177g | Calories: 600kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @WildWildWhisk or tag #WildWildWhisk!

A tropical cinnamon bun on a plate


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  1. Juliette
    July 19, 2020 /

    5 stars
    Made them last weekend…super yummmy. My husband likes them better than traditional cinnamon rolls!

    July 13, 2020 /

    so delicious. dough is not too sweet and not to heavy. I could eat them all!

    • Trang
      July 13, 2020 /

      Thanks for your feedback Narda, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed these 🙂

  3. Marie
    February 27, 2020 /

    5 stars
    Wow! These are so soft and perfect and that coconut sauce – divine!

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