The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The Ovens of Imhoffhaven: Cincinnati Schnecken

tabasco's picture

The Ovens of Imhoffhaven: Cincinnati Schnecken

In the last few years I have been researching online and at the library for an authentic Schnecken recipe in the Cincinnati style.  Our local Schnecken, or sweet roll similar to a cinnamon roll or sticky bun (but not), was popularized here by German bakeries in the mid twentieth century and sold by The Virginia Bakery and other local establishments around the holidays.  Most recently I have seen renditions of the confection sold by Buskens Bakery, Frieda's, The Cincinnati Cookie Company and a few others. Being a relative newcomer to the Queen City, I have only tasted the Busken Bakery version. 

Cookbooks, including the Settlement Cookbook published by a Milwaukee woman, and William Greenberg's New York bakery cookbook, present a wide range of iterations of this sweet concoction.  Some recipes appear similar to rulache, others to sticky buns, and still others to pecan rolls. Some are baked in cupcake pans, others in cake pans.   Our local Schnecken is distinct in that it is a glowing buttery sweet 'yellow' dough filled with a pinch of cinnamon, white sugar, and butter and shaped in to a spiral roll, sliced, and placed on a melty white sugar butter mixture.  It is most often baked  in an 8 x 4 loaf pan and reversed out of the pan upon being baked.  There isn't much cinnamon,  only a few raisins, no nuts, and its final form is golden colored, very gooey, and flattened into a rectangle loaf.

The other day I came across the traditional Virginia Bakery recipe for Schnecken in the "Virginia Bakery Remembered" book.  While I have made several other versions of generic schnecken and spiral cinnamon rolls, including those by Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson, Bradley Ogden, Reinhardt, and some posted on TFL, none are quite like our local  recipe.  I confess though that I have not yet made this version and I am a little apprehensive about it.  And while this version has a host of loyal devotees, I was caught off guard and you will be too when you note that it calls for margarine for the gooey layer and the 'yellow' dough recipe calls for one cup of vegetable shortening.  Oh, my!  Well, we shall see.  I plan to make these for New Years and I will report back with photos.


Schnecken  Cincinnati Style  (edited and adapted by me from the schnecken recipe found in the book "Virginia Bakery Remembered".)  

Homemade Schnecken can take some time.  Consider making your ‘yellow dough’ the day before or well ahead and refrigerating or freezing until needed.  Then defrost or leave the dough at room temperature for an hour or so until pliable.  For the original recipe, how to 'do ahead' much of the schnecken making, and additional hints on how to make your Schnecken in true ‘Virginia Bakery’ fashion, consult  Tom Thie and Cynthia Beischel's notes in "Virginia Bakery Remembered" found in your public library or through  Amazon (check VBR's  "Look Inside" feature for the schnecken chapter) here:  


 ‘Yellow Dough  1  12 oz. piece  (see below or page 109 of “VBR” for the recipe) 

Schnecken Butter

3 oz. unsalted butter

3 oz. margarine

Mix together and spread evenly over bottom of an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan.  Cincinnati style  ‘schnecken’  are shaped in a loaf/bread pan as opposed to a square, round, cupcake, or 9 x 13 inch pan.)

The Schnecken

3 oz. melted butter

12 oz. ‘yellow dough’

½ cup + 1 T sugar

¼ t. cinnamon

1 T. golden raisins (presoaked in water for a few hours and drained.)

Egg  wash (one egg whisked with equal amount of water)


 Flour your work surface and your 12 oz. portion of yellow dough.  Roll dough into a 4 X 18 inch rectangle.  Brush off flour and reroll, squaring corners.  Wash bottom 1” edge of dough lightly with egg wash and spread remainder of dough with melted butter.  Combine cinnamon and sugar and spread over the buttered portion only.  Scatter the raisins over same  area.

Roll up dough starting with 4” top side and seal with egg wash at the bottom.  Keep the roll tight and edges straight.  Cut the roll into 3 equal pieces and place in pan, spiral side up, as for sticky buns.

Let your dough proof, covered with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel until ready to bake.  Rolls will double in size and fill the pan.  Proofing may take 45 minutes or more.

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place your filled pan into a  hot oven on middle rack on a cookie sheet to collect any drippings.  After baking for 20 minutes, open the oven door and flatten the surface of the schnecken with a spatula, gently pressing dough back into pan.  After 15 or 20 more minutes you may need to flatten dough again to make a level loaf.  When the schnecken are golden brown on top the rolls are done.  (You can use personal preference on doneness.)  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Then turn the Schnecken out of the pan.  Delicious served warm.

Yellow Dough Recipe

This recipe yields about 6 ½ pounds of dough and can be made ahead.  For convenience it can be divided into nine pieces (approximately 12 oz. each),  wrapped securely and refrigerated or frozen for future use in sweet rolls and coffee cakes.  Additional instructions on making Yellow Dough can be found on page 109 of “ VBR” or online.


2 cups warm water

3 envelopes instant dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour 

Bloom yeast in warm water for 5 minutes.  Add flour and mix well.  Cover bowl and let rise until mixture is doubled.  This could be one to two hours. 


1 ¼ cup sugar

4 tsp. salt

1 cup vegetable shortening

4 oz. salted butter (1 stick) softened

½ cup egg yolks

1  cup cool milk

1 cup cool water

9 cups flour (try 3 cups winter/pastry flour if available and 6 cups all purpose flour) 

Mix all ingredients to form a soft dough which should be quite sticky, i.e., soft, pliable and moist.  If dough makes a tight ball add a little more water.  Divide into 9  12 ounce portions and wrap and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature when you are ready to make your schnecken.


Next week I'll report on my Schnecken and have photos too!  Happy New Year!




marslizard's picture

I've lived in the Cincinnati area since 1980 and remember enjoying schnecken from the Virginia Bakery. Their bread ends were a real treat too.  IMO Busken's doesn't do justice to the schnecken. I imagine there is is very little to no butter in the schnecken baked there today. Probably just a matter of economics. I am thankful that you provided this recipe. I will try it but will use all butter instead of the margarine. Happy New Year!


tabasco's picture

New Year Greetings to you too!

I don't frequent Buskens much so I can't say/won't say what I think about their schnecken, but I did read that they bought the rights to the Schnecken Recipe from Virginia Bakery and the Thie family (where they used the greeting "The Schnecken Beckons!"--so cute).   It certainly could be that Busken's altered the recipe to suit their needs.  If you get a hold of the  book about the Virginia Bakery (I recommend the library because Amazon is selling it for $99.00 and it's not that good!) where I found their recipe, the authors devote a whole chapter to schnecken and talk about the use of margarine in the recipe.  They don't really say why they used vegetable shortening in the "yellow dough" but I imagine it probably had something to do with budget like you say.  Maybe some people like that taste.

I think the Cincinnati Cookie Co. is probably selling the kind of schnecken you (and I) would like.  I think the owner said she uses all Plugra butter in it and if I'm going to eat that much butter it better be the best!   

And of course, everyone seems to like her schnecken version with bacon, which isn't strickly traditional Cincinnati schnecken but certainly could be soon since it's so popular!  Her schnecken is sold at the Findlay Market.  I'm going to try to bake a bacon version someday too.

This evening I'm making a half recipe of the "yellow dough" for the schnecken and right now I have a 'sausage en croute' in the oven for football snacking later.

Happy New year to you too!  J.


Queen City Cookies's picture
Queen City Cookies

Thanks so much for this article. I love seeing people fall in love with Schnecken. We've 10 different kinds now -- beyond our award-winning bacon schnecken, our newest is bourbon bacon and blueberry vanilla.

Just a bit of clarification...the name of our company is Queen City Cookies....not the Cincinnati Cookie Company. And, yes, we do use Plugra butter -- it makes all the difference! Come visit us and try all of our schnecken - our newest location is 1662 Blue Rock Street in Northside!


tabasco's picture

So sorry, peggy.  My bad on the bakery name.  The minute I posted I realized I got the name wrong and didn't get back to correct it to QCC.  Thanks for clarifying.  I am glad you found your way to The Fresh Loaf and I hope you share some of your supreme baking skills with the talented members here.  (I'm sorry if I am transgressing TFL rules here talking about a bakery but this bakery is truly a unique enterprise and something TFL members could really appreciate.)  And I signed up to receive your beautiful blog updates here  in case anyone else is interested in knowing more about these unique bakery creations.

The new schnecken introductions sound quite yum! and I can't wait to get over to your new store.   I first became interested in QCC in the very beginning when you were making authentic Springerle and even talked to you on the phone about them.  Now I see you have branched out to a wide array a sweet treats. 

Schnecken recipes have been fun to experiment with.  I confess I made the 'yellow dough' recipe from the Virginia Bakery cookbook that I wrote about in my first post and baked it up and forgot to take photos for my records.  I think it was missing more than just the Plugra butter and I have to say I think I can cross off that schnecken iteration.  Not a success in the least.  My kids wouldn't eat it and I threw out the extra dough.  Back to square one on my Cincinnati Schnecken research.

Now it's Hot Cross Bun season and I may move on to experimenting with a recipe for a really excellent HCB.  I've made some that were pretty good but none that made me swoon.  This time I'll take some pics.




Queen City Cookies's picture
Queen City Cookies

That sounds awesome! Love those. Photos please!!!!