Monkey in a Tree

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Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
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Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Recipe photo

Were you mystified by this title while you were browsing our recipes? Pull-apart bread (monkey bread) in a tree pan is a festive holiday breakfast. Make it the night before, freeze, then bake in the morning for a hot, cinnamon-y, no-fuss treat. Are you an early riser? Do the whole thing Christmas morning; you'll need just over an hour, start to finish.

Read our blog about these breakfast biscuits, with additional photos, at Flourish.

Monkey in a Tree

star rating (6) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Published: 01/01/2010




  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted, OR 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups Cinnamon-Sugar Plus or your own cinnamon-sugar

Tips from our bakers

  • Can you refrigerate these overnight, rather than freeze? Yes, but they won't bake up as well. Refrigeration slows, but doesn't stop the action of the baking powder, so it very gradually loses its punch overnight. But frozen, the baking powder holds up just fine.
  • If you dip the dough balls in butter, the buns will be stickier and richer. A bath in milk produces a "lighter" bun, both in taste, and calories.


Lightly grease a 12" x 9" paper tree pan. Or grease a 9" x 13" pan, line with parchment, and grease the parchment. Parchment isn't absolutely necessary, but it makes it easier to get the bubbly, sugary buns out of the pan once they're baked.

1) Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

2) Add 2 cups of the cream all at once, then toss and stir the mixture till the dough comes together. If necessary, add additional cream to make the dough cohesive.

3) Gather the dough in your hands and knead it a few times to make sure there are no dry spots.

4) Place the cinnamon sugar in a small, shallow bowl or pan; or in a plastic zip-top bag.

5) Break off pieces of dough about the size of a ping pong ball, or about 1 1/8 ounces. Dip each piece in melted butter or milk, then roll or shake in the cinnamon-sugar to coat.

6) Place the cinnamon-coated dough balls into the pan of your choice in a single layer; they'll be touching one another and, in the tree pan, they'll be quite crowded (which is perfectly OK).

7) You may bake immediately, if you like, for 45 to 50 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven. Or cover the pan with plastic, and place in the freezer overnight, or for up to a week or so. If freezing longer than overnight, and using a paper tree pan, wrap the entire pan in plastic wrap, then in foil.

8) Next day, remove the pan from the freezer, and let the buns rest at room temperature while you preheat your oven to 350°F. The buns don't need to thaw. If you're using a paper tree pan, set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil, to catch any potential drips.

9) If you're baking the buns immediately (not frozen), bake them for 45 to 50 minutes, till the buns in the center are cooked through. You can asses this by taking a toothpick and actually digging into the center bun to take a look; it should look totally baked, not doughy. If the buns have been frozen, bake them for 65 to 70 minutes, testing for doneness as instructed above. Tent them with aluminum foil after 45 minutes of baking.

10) Remove from the oven, and serve immediately, right from the tree pan. If you've baked in a 9" x 13" pan, turn the buns out of the pan onto a serving platter.

11) Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired, right before serving.


  • star rating 07/30/2009
  • New England mom from Boston
  • Very easy to make and a huge hit with my family. Made these for Christmas morning 2008. Made them 3 days ahead, froze, and baked them first thing in the morning. They were very sweet, even without the confectioner's sugar on top (I forgot to add that). I used parchment paper on the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 glass baking dish, which made it very easy to remove the biscuits after baking. My daughter has requested these for her birthday breakfast this weekend, so I am making them again this evening.
  • star rating 02/09/2009
  • Katie from South Carolina, USA
  • This is so delicious! My kids and I love monkey bread, but usually make a yeast version that takes FOREVER to make. This one is just as delicious, maybe even more so, and ready in a fraction of the time! I halved the recipe and used rice flour in place of the cornstarch (didn't have the mellow pastry blend on hand). They turned out great with this substitution. Thanks for such a yummy breakfast treat!
  • star rating 01/09/2009
  • from Spokane, WA
  • Bread was very doughy - did not pull apart. Greased the paper tree pan that I ordered from Kin Arthur and the bread still stuck to the pan. My family didn't even finish the bread.
  • star rating 12/30/2008
  • evangeline from texas
  • This was a good recipe but I was not prepared for it to taste like coffee cake instead of the sticky, gooey monkey bread I am used to. I made it exactly as indicated (and GREATLY appreciated the thorough, step-by-step instructions). Again, it tasted good, but I probably will not make it again since it was essentially a coffee cake.
  • star rating 12/26/2008
  • Sue from Minnesota
  • We enjoyed this recipe Christmas morning. It's EASY, TASTY, and my family loved it. I made a half recipe and baked it in a square glass dish.
  • star rating 12/26/2008
  • Joanne from Framingham, MA
  • While this recipe was very easy and convenient to prepare, the flavor just wasn't as good as expected. I made it in the tree pan for Christmas morning, and while it looked lovely, few people who ate it were impressed with the flavor. I thought it would be really sweet, but the dough was actually pretty bland and not sweet at all. Nice texture, but could have used more flavor. Next time I'll try a yeast-raised Monkey bread recipe...maybe that will have a better taste. I am surprised that we didn't like this recipe very much--I bake a LOT of KAF recipes, and almost all of them are stellar! (The No-Fuss Coffeecake, which we also had on Christmas, is a great example. Deeeeeelicious!)

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