Derby Pie Inspired Cinnamon Rolls

Sometimes I have ideas in my head floating around that never really turn out quite like I expected. This is not one of those things. One of my all time favorite desserts is Derby Pie: a southern mess of chocolate, bourbon, and pecans. Oh my goodness, its amazing. I first tried it when I was in high school working at a horse race track in the clubhouse. The pastry chef there was outstanding and made these mini derby pies. Since then, I have been hooked.


Fast forward 10+ years later and I still get the crazy craving for Derby Pie. I woke up and wanted something that I could make with all the flavors of derby pie but eat for breakfast. I started running through the list: Pancakes, Waffles, Bread (for french-toasting) which all sounded good…. but then I thought of cinnamon rolls. How perfect! I whipped up a batch and it was a match made in heaven. The chocolate was melty, the bourbon was not overpowering, the pecans became glazed in that cinnamon goodness. I absolutely loved every single bite.


Dough — I use whole wheat flour and coconut milk in this recipe, feel free to change for regular milk and white flour if that is what you have on hand. It really won’t make a difference.

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

DSCN1318.jpgCombine flour, yeast and sugar in large bowl. Then add in beaten egg. Mix well for about 1-2 minutes. Combine milk, melted butter, cinnamon, and salt in a separate bowl then add slowly to flour mixture. Mix well for 3-5 minutes until sticky dough forms. Roll into a ball and place in oiled bowl. Roll in oil to coat surface and cover. Let sit covered in a warm place for 2 hours.

DSCN1323.jpgTraditional filling — combine all ingredients except the butter in a bowl and stir to combine

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 3-4 tbsp unsalted butter (for spreading onto the dough)


Derby Pie inspired filling — in a small bowl combine melted butter, bourbon, vanilla, and sugar. Set in refrigerator to re-solidify while rolls rise. (this butter is BOMB on just about anything sweet)

  • traditional filling as above
  • 1-2 ounces good quality semi sweet chocolate, or 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tsp bourbon
  • 3-4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped
  • 1 tsp sugar



Roll out a roughly 12 inch rectangle of dough and spread butter (plain for traditional, vanilla-bourbon for derby pie) over the surface leaving about 1/2 inch border on the sides. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the butter. Roll tightly if making traditional. If you opt for derby pie inspired, sprinkle chocolate and pecans over filling. Roll tightly in a log and pinch the seam closed. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm are for 40 more minutes. At this point you can refrigerate overnight if desired for baking in the morning.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place seam side down and cut dough crosswise into 8 equal slices (about 1 inch slices).  Bake in a buttered dish for 18-20 minutes. These are totally decadent and delicious on their own, but if you like to top with cream cheese, then allow rolls to cool for 5-10 minutes before topping.


While rolls bake, make the topping. If you decide to refrigerate overnight then you can make this ahead of time as well. If you like a more traditional cream cheese ‘icing’ I suggest using this recipe. 

Hope you enjoy these totally yummy cinnamon rolls. If you make them, let me know what you think!

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