Old Timey Butter Roll Dessert


One of the things I enjoy doing above all others on Southern plate is taking those lost and nearly-lost recipes of days gone by and posting them in hopes of bringing them back from the brink of extinction. This is especially important to me in preserving our food heritage because our most cherished recipes were never written down, instead passed from cook to cook by showing them along with instructions like “you take a little bit of this and little bit of that”.

Well of course, that hardly works nowadays when cooks are thousands of miles apart or perhaps precious Granny has passed on and taken the recipe with her. I don’t even know if my great grandmother ever followed a single written recipe in her life, I’d be surprised if she ever did. She didn’t get to go too far in school and I know that writing a recipe would have been a difficult task to attend to for her. Instead, it was a bit of this and a bit of that, humming along as she took whatever she had in the pantry and whipped up a little supper.

Some of our most beloved dishes begin with flour. Biscuits, milk gravy, chicken and dumplings, and today’s recipe: Butter Rolls. I wish I could say I’d grown up eating butter rolls but the truth is I had this dessert for the first time about ten years ago. We were having supper over at Grandmama’s house (her slow cooked pork roast) and as soon as we walked in the door I honed in on an indescribably delicious smell wafting at me from her oven. “Grandmama, what is that?”

“Oh, I just made us some butter rolls for dessert”. She said it with a wave of her hand, dismissing it as nothing special.

I was confused. Rolls for dessert? I thought she had taken rolls and slathered them with butter and was heating them up in the oven. It smelled so different though, vanilla and sweetness and butter. I hardly ate any supper waiting on them. As soon as she pulled the pan out of the oven I was beside her helping – you know, in case she forgot to get me one out first! I stuck my fork into it and was hooked. “Grandmma, you have GOT to get me this recipe”

“Well now t’ain’t really no recipe, I just make ’em like Mama did. You take you a little bit of biscuit dough and put you a little bit of butter on it and then just sprinkle you a little bit of sugar and make you up a sauce and then you bake it.”

For five years, I had no idea how to make a butter roll.

Everytime I asked Grandmama she’d just make them again for me, but they were always in the oven by the time I showed up at her house, baking. I would say “Grandmama, you have got to give me that recipe” and off she’d go again into her “t’ain’t really no recipe, you just take a little bit of…”


Finally, Mama and I hit pay dirt when Mama found a few recipes for butter roll in some brittle church cookbooks. We tried them out and this one was the winner – just like Grandmamas. After having made it according to the recipe, I can now understand Grandmama’s instructions fully – it really is that simple. But I think y’all are going to need a recipe just like me in order to get you started. After you give this a go, feel free to use your favorite biscuit dough or even experiment with canned biscuits. It’s really easy and fuss free.

By the way, like so many of my other dessert recipes on southern plate, you can use splenda in this one. Just remember that the key to cutting down on the artificially sweetened taste is to use just a hair less than the recipe calls for (remove one or two tablespoons per cup) and be sure you don’t pack it. Splenda should be measured out light and fluffy.

Still wondering just what a butter roll is? Think more in line with cinnamon rolls, only without so much cinnamon and baked in a rich homemade custard sauce- that stays just runny enough to be considered kind of a custard gravy of sorts. Oh Lawd, you need to make these. I have a favor to ask as well, since this is a nearly forgotten recipe of days gone by, help me bring it back again so it won’t be lost to future generations. If you enjoy it, please pass the recipe on.

I’ll send out a printer friendly version of it later this week to my email subscribers to make that a little easier!

You’ll need: Milk, Sugar, Self Rising Flour*, Vanilla, Shortening, Cinnamon, and some butter at room temperature.

There are two sticks of butter pictured here but you only need one. They were friends and hated to be separated just yet.

*To make your own self rising flour, see my FAQ page.

Eventually I promise I’m going to get around to doing a tutorial on my canisters… I made them myself but I don’t know where you can get the letters because I had a friend do those up for me so that is what I’m hesitant about because I can’t bring you A.B.C. steps to having canisters just like mine, I can only bring you A. and B.

Place your flour in a large mixing bowl along with shortening.

Cut shortening in with fork…

until combined well, like this.

I use a lot of both plain and self rising flour at my house and have been known to dump whatever I grabbed first into my flour canister when it got empty. Sometimes I lose track of what is in there and need to know if it’s plain or self rising. There is an easy fix. Dip your finger into the flour and lick it. If it tastes salty, it is self rising. If it tastes bland, it is plain. I have to do this at least once a week but I’m perfectly alright with that because I decided long ago that being disorganized was just part of my charm. ~grins~

Pour in your milk.


Spray your pan

You don’t have to do this but I was in the mood.

Put you some flour on a clean counter top or wherever you feel like doing this.

I’m using my kitchen island that I love so much that the nice man in Tennessee made me.

You can use whatever biscuit dough is your favorite or just go by this recipe. This one is gonna hold up a little better in our sauce cause it’s a little dryer.

Press it together to form a ball.

Then pat  it out with your hands a bit

Roll it out into a rectangle type object.

Notice I didn’t get too particular here. This is an old fashioned dessert and I figure Granny was busy with kids underfoot and hungry folks marching in the door.

Back in those days folks cooked their food, not built a shrine to it.

I imagine if I were to go back in time and show up in her kitchen and say “Wait, Lela! Let me get a picture…oh can you make it a little prettier first?” I’da probably ended up with a big wad of dough thrown right at my head – and rightfully so.

Now we’re gonna smear our butter on the rolled out biscuit dough.

All y’all who are on the real butter bandwagon need to give me my gold star today :)

and generously sprinkle all of our sugar over it.

Then comes the cinnamon, just a hint.

The dough and sauce mixed together  with the butter and vanilla are going to have the most lovely flavor on their own!

Now roll that up.

Cut it in about one inch slices (one inch-ish).

Remember, this is old fashioned food. It’s not supposed to look a certain way, it’s just supposed to taste good.

All sliced up and ready for the party in my baking pan!

There ya go.

In a saucepan, pour milk and sugar.

Add your vanilla.

Stir that over low to medium heat until the milk is hot and the sugar is dissolved.

(that’s supposed to be a teaspoon of vanilla there, I’m generous ~giggle~)

They’re ready for their nice warm bath now

Pour milk sauce over your butter rolls.

Oh my.

I hope you’ve tasted the sauce by now.

If you haven’t go ahead, I won’t look. ~covers eyes and grins~

Bake at 350 for about thirty to forty minutes, until lightly browned on top.

Place rolls on plates to serve and…

Spoon more sauce on them. Enjoy real old fashioned goodness, from Granny’s kitchen to yours.

Old Timey Butter Roll Dessert
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
For the Butter Rolls
  • 2 Cups Self Rising Flour
  • ½ Cup Shortening
  • ½ Cup Milk
  • 1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, softened (course you can use margarine, don’t make no special trips to the store!)
  • ¼ Cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Milk Sauce
  • 2 Cups milk
  • ⅔ Cups Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Cut shortening into flour really well with a fork. Stir in milk.
  2. On a floured surface, dump out dough and press together with your hands to form a ball.
  3. Roll out into a rectangle (about 7×10 in size). Spread softened butter over dough and then sprinkle ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon over top. Roll it up like a jelly roll and press it together lightly.
  4. Cut into nine slices about one inch thick each. Place into a lightly greased 8×8 baking dish.
  5. In medium sauce pot, combine all milk sauce ingredients. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to bubble lightly. Pour over rolls in pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until rolls are lightly browned on top.
  7. Allow to sit for a few minutes once it is done for the rolls to soak up more sauce. After you put each roll on a plate, spoon more sauce over it.

At the end of a matter ask,

“What will I learn from this to make me better?”

– Mary Anne Radmacher. Submit your quote here.


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  1. EMMA says

    Christy, my mother use to make cinnnamon rolls just like these butter rolls and they were so good. with the cinnamon and milk that made a sauce to spoon over the rolls. She [assed the recipe to use girls ( 4 0f us ). I make them all the time for my family.
    Wonderful web-site, great recipes. Please keep up the good work.
    I enjoy reading your stories about yoour cooking and your family.

  2. Theresa W says

    Christy, Thank you for this recipe. I can’t wait to make it! Have been looking for this for a long time and I love the illustrations. My angel Grandmother always made this for me and it was my absolute favorite desert. (She never had a recipe either and I was not smart enough to learn how it make it when she was living :( ) Haven’t had it for more years than I want to say!

  3. FilmNoirFan says

    I have never heard of butter rolls until today when my co-worker mentioned it. She had never heard of them either until she found them on the internet. I believe it was this site that she found because she mentioned it being an old southern recipe.

    I’ve been making homemade cinnamon rolls lately which takes about 8 hours. After my co-worker makes another batch of butter rolls to let me try them, I’ll give it a go too.

  4. antonia shorter says

    im so excited to have this recipe, i reallycan’t wait to use it im a little afraid of how it might turn out because im a really good cook but i can’t make a biscuit to save my life. so im gonna say good luck to myself i hope it turn out good.

  5. Ron L. says

    Wow! Great recipes! To Antonia Shorter: For a quick dessert, I substituted the dough part with Pillsbury “Seamless” Crescent Rolls. I used all the other ingredients as directed. They were absolutely wonderful. So, if you can’t make a biscuit to save your life, save your effort, You will have to adjust a little b/c the roll of crescent dough is smaller than the recipe above. You will have to use more than one roll of dough and estimate for larger batches. I may experiment with nutmeg as Lema Self mentioned, but add a little with the cinnamon. Thanks Christy Jordan. I will try your dough, but I woke up this morning with the thought of making butter rolls with the crescent dough, but I didn’t have a recipe until I found this site.

    • Hope says

      My Mom made Butter rolls all the time. She raised 8 children and had to really stretch the food. I have seen her just mix the same ingredience you have in your Butter Rolls. Then she would just roll out the dough and place it on top of the sauce in a deep pan place it in the oven and cut it after it was done. I wish she was alive today . There are sooo many Receipts that I wish I had written down. My Grandmother ( we called Big Mamma ) cooked Squash Blooms and they were really good. I can not find a Reciept for this and they cooked Coca fried pies. I am sure these are either Southern or Native American. I still cook Fry Bread with Apples. Thanks for the trip down memory lane

  6. Susan N says

    Thanks for sharing Christy. It was a family fave too. I bet your grandmas all made what we called bread pudding too……….and it was made with the leftover biscuits. I never see it with biscuits anywhere written but for sure, we had biscuits so that was our bread and that was our bread pudding too……and it was the best.
    Another old south one, sweet potato cobbler. Make that one too Christy.
    It will become a fall favorite.

  7. Summer says

    My grandmother, who passed away last year, made a form of these. It was always a big hit with our entire family & I am fortunate to have watched her make it many times, that I can also. I am now the only person who can make it, but hope to soon get my siblings & cousins interested in making & keeping the family recipe. I will have to try this form & compare but I’m sure its as delicious. Thank you for this post.

  8. Peggy Williams says

    My grandmother made Butter Roll Dessert and she always did her dough like yours up to rolling it into a roll – she varied by taking the whole roll and circling a pudding pan and pinching the ends together – then she took a knife, cut slits in the top of the roll and covered it with sweet milk to bake – they were soooo good – I was checking to see if anyone on the internet did them *lol* – glad I found yours but it’s a bit different but would have the same taste……… thanks for posting it.

      • Shirley Lowry says

        I have looked for this recipe for years. My dear mother would make this just for me because she knew how excited I would be when I came to see her and smelled that wonderful aroma as I came into the house. After she was unable to cook, I asked her for the recipe and she would say “oh you take a little of this and that” and put the sauce on top then bake it in the pan. She had a special pan that she used for only that recipe. I always thought she would be around to tell me all the “this and that” ingredients so I could write them down. However, I let the time go by and never got the instructions but I can still taste that delicious Apple Butter Roll as she called it. So thanks for posting this and I will keep this recipe so I can make it for my seven grands and hopefully they will love it as much as I did and have memories to remember of their Mimi’s Apple Butter Roll.

  9. PBrooks says

    My first time to post a review, but my mother made butter rolls, too. I had totally forgotten about them, so I thank you for posting this. Your description of what your grandmother would say also reminds me of home. I will cook these soon.

  10. Janet says

    Hey Christy,
    I am a great big fan of yours. You are so refreshing in the land of food snobs these days. When I read your blog, I go back to the days of cooking with my sweet mother. Those were the good old days cause she taught me everything. She did something a little different… She would cook blackberries, blueberries or muscadines, in water and sugar until she had a really sweet tart liquid. She would bake them without the milk sauce. Then, after she brought the rolls out of the oven, she would pour this sweet flavorful, fruity juice over the rolls. It would sizzle and soak into the rolls and be just wonderful! Everyone loved my moms butterrolls! Thanks again for taking me home……keep it up girl!!!

  11. Tiffany says

    Thanks for this great recipe! I’m making these to take to a bible study tonight because I made them for the first time last week and fell in LOVE!! What a great story to go along with them.

  12. Judy says

    Oh my goodness, Christy. I can’t THANK YOU enough for this recipe!

    My husband has talked about something his Mom made for as long as we’ve been married – 40 YEARS!

    I have tried to find the recipe to surprise him with – both from his Mom who doesn’t remember and from every cookbook, website, magazine I get my hands on.

    This has to be it! He kept telling that she poured milk over it. Now that I see there’s sugar added to it, it makes more sense to me.

    I enjoy your Southern Plate always but I am overjoyed that I can finally
    recreate a childhood memory for my husband.

    Thank you.

  13. says

    I wish I could reach into my screen and pluck those butter rolls right out! Thanks for this old-timey recipe Christy…

    And thanks for being so unpretentious. “Back in those days folks cooked their food, not built a shrine to it.” Oh, I love this remark!!!!


  14. Marica Webster says

    I was sooo happy to finally find this post. A lady at a meat and 3 from my home town would make these once per week in the 90’s. Ever since she passed away i couldn’t find them anywhere. I hope they taste as good as i remember.

  15. Delia Dupree says

    so thrilled to see this. My mother in law made it. She liked to add apple juice for part of the milk occasionally.. this is an awesome , “old Fashioned dessert” the best kind really

  16. Ami says

    Thank you so much for posting! We were traveling and stopped at a little country buffet in Ardmore, TN called ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’. My husband tried a dish and said it was the best dessert you had ever had in his life! When we asked the server what it was and carried on about how wonderful it tasted! The server laughed and answered pretty much as your grandmother did “well it ain’t nothing but a sweet butter roll. Biscuit dough, milk, sugar and butter.” Needless to say, I have been browsing the internet looking for the recipe ever since! One lady commented, her mother just made it in a loaf and baked it in a deep pan. The restaurant had it in a loaf, so I will be trying it that way first. I am so happy I found this recipe. Thanks again for posting!

  17. Roxanne Brown says

    My grandmother made butter rolls but she used a little nutmeg instead of cinnamon. She also made chocolate butter rolls by sprinkling cocoa on the butter and sugar then adding cocoa to the milk bath. Delicious and I’m so glad to have a recipe. My Mamaw never wrote a recipe down and now she’s gone.

  18. V Schow says

    My mom used to make a blackberry butter roll…instead of the milk sauce she would cook a pan of blackberries with water until she had cooked the juice out and then strained over fine sieve or cheesecloth…you want to catch all the little seeds and just have juice. Then put juice in pan with sugar and cook unti warm and blended. Then pour over rolls and bake….my sister always wanted this instead of birthday cake…YUMMMMMMM

  19. Felecia says

    My Grandmother also made this delicious dessert which was and ccontinues to be my favorite. Thank God, y Grandmother is still with us at age 94 but cannot remember the recipe anymore. No one else is the family has been able to make it like she did I’m going to talk with her and see if this is like her recipe. .Thanks for sharing!

  20. Debbie Moore says

    Hey! I made these tonight for my family. My 10 year old Katie helped me. They were super easy and really good! My husband said they tasted like the Carnival cruise desert “Bitter and Blanc” a yummy bread pudding they serve. This is going to be a family favorite. Thanks Christy!

  21. Sans Basic says

    My Great Aunt use to make Butter Rolls for us as kids. If there was left over dough, she made biscuit puddings, rice puddings or butter rolls. She would roll out the dough and cut out circles using the top of a drinking glass. She would cut a hefty square of butter and place in th center of each circle of dough. She would then seal the dough around the square of butter by pinching it closed. The pinched bottom of each round was placed in a pan. When the pan was full, she would then pour the mixture atop and bake the Butter Roll. She only used white sugar to sprinkle on the dough, no nutmeg or cinnamon as I have seen in some recipes. The dessert was a sweet buttery treat that I miss.

  22. Eva says

    My momma made these without the sauce, she would do them just like bread dough cinnamon rolls, butter the rolled out biscuit dough, and add the sugar and cinnamon and always raisins, bake in a hot oven so the butter and sugar would run down in the bottom of the pan and caramalize. The local store has a commercial variety of these called two bite cinnamon rolls, without the raisins, but not as gooey and tasty as my momma’s.

  23. Patsy Holt says

    Hey Christy, Thank you for this recipe and all of your recipes! I live in FL, now, but was born in Athens, Alabama. I love your recipes, stories and quotes. They say “you can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl,” and it is true in my case. I grew up with southern cooking and that is the way I cook. I bought your “Come Home to Supper book and was telling a friend I would love to cook everything in it and she said she would be willing to eat it. Ha! That is saying a lot for her because she is a Yankee. Ha! Anyway, I was just checking to see if you had a butter roll recipe and you do. My Mom used to make it. She made it like you, but did not add cinnamon or nutmeg. I made it, too, but it has been a while, so I plan to make it this weekend. It is better in cool weather and it was a toasty 97 degrees here with a real feel of 106 degrees. I don’t like cooking in this heat, but maybe I will crank the A/C down and make it anyway. My Mom passed away 10 years ago this month. She was a wonderful lady. We still have relatives in Athens. She did not cook by a recipe, and I have been able to come close to re-creating some of her recipes. But I cannot make my biscuits taste like her’s! have your first recipe book on my Kindle, but plan to buy a hard copy. I read your new one like a book. I could not put it down. Your stories take me back home! Thanks!

  24. Stacy A. Ferguson says

    My Nana (born in 1896) was famous for her apple flip. Biscuit dough rolled out, then apples that have been put thru a metal hand-cranked grinder, cinnamon….roll up and cut like cinnamon rolls and place in casserole pan….pour over each with a sugar-coated bath and bake. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. So old fashioned and delicious. VERY MUCH LIKE YOUR BUTTER TOLL RECIPE

  25. Sherri says

    My Grandmother made butter rolls often for dessert and they were always my favorite. I am the only member of the family who makes them. I have never had anyone who didn’t love them. My grandmother rolled out her dough and cut little spuares and with the butter and sugar, closed them up and put the ‘pillows’ seam side down in a buttered baking dish. They pop up and cook in the sugar-water. I can’t wait to try milk instead of water. Thanks for keeping these recipes alive.

  26. Anthony says

    Hello Christy,

    Great finding your grandmama’s recipe and how you enjoy it to this day. I grew up eating a variation of this prepared by my grandmother and have very fond memories of her and her comfort food. She was also one who didn’t use recipes and her food would always be consistently wonderful.

    I make this using the canned crescent rolls when I don’t have the time to make the biscuit dough. I just separate the triangles, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar and a little “dollop” of butter, then roll them up and place them in the pan. Turns out great!

  27. Tina says

    Growing up we always asked for butter roll as our birthday cake. Mother has a green bowl that she makes a well with flour and hand works the shortening and milk together with the flour. She makes 3 long rolls that fit into a 9 x 13 and uses nutmeg instead of cinnamon. I’ve watched her make it so many times, I will not be able to make a butter roll without that green bowl since there is not a recipe to go by. So many butter roll memories of mom and home.

  28. Melinda says

    I have made this many, many times. My children love this. I have started adding sweetened, diced apples to it before it is rolled. It is the closest thing that I have to my grandmother’s coveted apple roll. Thanks for posting this recipe. It has made many happy people including me!

  29. Peggy Williams says

    My grandmother made butter rolls – Instead of cutting them into rolls as you do, she always rolled her dough out- spread the butter, sugar and a bit of “nutmeg” – she rolled hers as a jellyroll……….. circled it inside a round pan, pinched it together and took a knife and cut slits around the dough at intervals – then proceeded to pour her milk mixture over as you do – rich, goood!!! Had it on my mind and looked this up – time to cook one for my grandkids – 😉 Merry Christmas!

  30. Jayson in Oklahoma says

    This post is so lovely. I love the fact that so many people, like Christy are preserving the recipes of our grandmothers and great grandmothers. So much can be learned from that generation just by observing how they lived. Most came from nothing, and grew up with no running water or electricity. It’s amazing to imagine all the changes they saw in their lifetimes.

    This recipe sounds very good. It makes me think it might be like a bread pudding with the sauce or like cinnamon roll cake. Can’t wait to try it Christy!

      • Jayson in Oklahoma says

        Christy: After I read your post I called my Grandmother and was telling her about your recipe, and she said, oh yeah she makes those and her grandmother used to make them. When my grandmother was a child she said her grandmother would make them with fresh churned butter and milk from their cow. Can you imagine how wonderful that would be!? My grandmother had never made them for me though. She said her sister always asks her to make them when she visits. She uses pie pastry and nutmeg but the premise is exactly the same. I made them today and they are wonderful. Such a neat recipe and so good. Thanks for sharing!

  31. Annette Crossley says

    Hi there Christy, how are you doing? So happy and thrilled to see all of your wonderful recipes, just cannot wait to try them. But, my focus today is on your Old Timey Butter Roll. Wow! Ihave been looking for the recipe since my Grandmother[Big Mama] and Auntie[Lily] passed. This was their specialty. To make a long story short, Christy, you have saved the day. Thanks, Forever Grateful Christy !

  32. Nancy Eddy says

    My mom made this using canned biscuits. She rolled them out singly, put the butter, vanilla, and sugar on them, rolled them up and cut them in half, placing them in the dish on the cut end. Then, she put milk over the entire thing and baked it. I still make mine this way.

  33. Joyce Wagner says

    This recipe is just like my mother used to make, except she cut out individual biscuits instead of doing the long roll. My daughter remembers her grandmother baking butter rolls (which she loved) and asked me recently to make some for her. Unfortunately my mother never wrote down the recipe. I’ve looked all over online and today I found your recipe. Now I have a guide and can recreate the butter rolls from a recipe instead of guessing the proportion of ingredients. My daughter will be so happy when I make these for her. Thanks, Christy!

  34. Jennifer Smith says

    Hello Christy,
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My mother used to make a dessert she called a butter roll that was a little different but oh so delicious. She used her recipe for pie crust dough in place of the biscuits. Rolled out thinly, slathered in butter, sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar and left in a whole log. she baked this with a milk mixture using evaporated milk (she said for extra richness) sugar and vanilla. It was quickly gobbled down by her happy family. I’m going to make your version and a copy cat of Mama’s for an up coming family gathering. Hope Mama likes them both!
    Best wishes,
    Jennifer Smith

  35. Erica says

    Thank you for this…while this isn’t exactly what my grandmother used to do it is close enough to give me an idea where to start. She made something very similar to this with either a chocolate sauce with butter, sugar, and cocoa rolled inside the rolls or with apple sauce with butter, cinnamon, and sugar inside the rolls. She called them dumplings though. I have yet to find a recipe similar to what she did and unfortunately she passed away before I could get her to teach me how. And of course… like a true southern lady, she didn’t have the recipe written down anywhere. So again… Thank you! I think this gives me the basics on the roll part and I can play around with the sauces to try to make what she used to. :)


  1. […] These are much richer and sweeter and more delicious than the name implies. I got this recipe from Southern Plate (I love that website!), and like every recipe of Christy’s that I try, it turned out […]

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