Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rum Rolls

A strange tale featuring mythological friends, a newly appointed court jester, Fleischmann’s yeast, a persnickety old gas range, and my Mom’s Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rum Rolls.

Last week, I attended a meeting in my newly appointed role as CTO for the Joseph Campbell Foundation. I’ve been with the JCF for 13 years (as a technologist who also happens to be a mythologist). Here’s me with my new crown and scepter – a happy fool for sure:

The meeting took place at Spillian, a delightful retreat center and inn in Fleischmanns, New York – owned and operated by the inimitable Leigh Melander (a JCF board member) and her husband Mark. Also in attendance was new JCF friend, Liz Maxwell (a gregarious ray of laughter-filled light serving as our marketing and communications consultant).

Built in the early 1880’s by the Fleischmanns Yeast family, who were an extraordinary example of the sprawling, brilliantly-big visioned ambition of the Industrial Revolution, Spillian was part of a 160 acre compound with half a dozen or more mansions. Each of the five siblings from the first generation of Fleischmanns, immigrants from Eastern Europe, had a summer “cottage” here, as did two of the oldest sons. [more]

I visited Spillian last summer for another JCF event (the pictures above are from that trip). Knowing that the house was one of the Fleischmann family estates, I asked Leigh if she’d mind me baking some bread in Spillian’s kitchen. The kitchen is a large white-tiled affair with cold stainless steel countertops and a nice turn-of-the-century vibe. The thought of baking bread with Fleischmann’s yeast in one of the old Fleischmann family homes was just too cool! I confess – I’m kind of a bread baking fanboy.

I made the recipe in the late hours of the evening so that the rolls would be ready for breakfast. It was very late by the time they were ready to bake and when I went to preheat the oven, I discovered to my dismay that the oven was gas-powered. I had no clue how to light it. I vaguely knew something about the need to light the pilot light, but I was terrified that I would accidentally blow up Spillian in the process. So, I did what any self-respecting mythologist would do… consulted the oracle (thanks, Google!). Two Youtube videos later – and the oven was preheating just fine.

The rolls came out quite nicely (especially for a first-time recipe made in a foreign kitchen). They received a warm reception at breakfast and definitely warrant the five-star rating they have earned on the Food Network website. Many thanks to Leigh for her hospitality and generous spirit! If you are looking for a retreat or a place to plan your wedding, I highly recommend learning more about Spillian…

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rum Rolls

These rolls are hearty and light. They are quite different from regular cinnamon rolls since they are made entirely with whole wheat flour. The addition of rum to the glaze complements the wonderfully, nutty taste of the whole wheat.

Prep Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 30 rolls
Author Betsy Oppenneer


For the Dough

  • 2 scant tablespoons (or 2 ¼-ounce packages) active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water about 110 degrees
  • cups warm milk about 110 degrees
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons soy flour optional
  • 5½-6½ cups whole wheat flour

For the Filling

  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • ½ cup raisins optional
  • ½ cup chopped nuts optional

For the Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rum extract
  • 5 tablespoons to 7 heavy cream


  1. In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. Add milk, shortening, honey, eggs, lemon juice, salt, soy flour, and 2 cups whole wheat flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
  2. Gradually add flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough beginsto pull away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
  4. Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide in half. Roll each half with a rolling pin into a 12 by 18-inch rectangle. Brush dough with melted butter, leaving a ½-inch border along one long side of the rectangle free of butter.
  6. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and nuts. Sprinkle evenly over each portion of dough. Roll up into two 18-inch cylinders and pinch the loose edge to the cylinder. Cut into 30 rolls (15 from each cylinder and place cut-side up into two parchment-lined 9 by 13-inch pans. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

  7. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees if using glass pans).
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the rolls reaches 190 degrees.
  9. Leave the rolls in the pan to cool since they benefit from the steam - it makes them softer. Allow the rolls to cool for 15 minutes.
  10. Combine powdered sugar, rum extract, and milk. Mixture should be the consistency of honey (if it isn’t, adjust by adding more cream to thin it or powdered sugar to thicken it). Drizzle over the top of the rolls.

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