These rolls are very special for a number of reasons. The dough is exceptionally tender and very tasty. I made these when I was a girl and in my early married years. Making them this week and eating them, I remembered just how delicious they are. The texture is above and beyond even the best store-bought rolls. I promise you these are so good! A recipe appears at the end of this post.

Heartfelt thanks to cousins Ruth Ann O’Connell, Elaine O’Connell Watkins, Tim O’Connell and Carol O’Connell Meeker for sending their mother’s recipe for Butterhorn Rolls. Their mother Rosemary was my father’s oldest niece. Soon after my parents were married my mother worked with the local 4-H Girls and Rosemary Strohbehn was one of the teenage girls in the group. Rosemary and my mother Josephine had a special bond.

Ruth Ann wrote about the rolls in an e-mail. “Did you know that one of your Mom’s recipes was an almost weekly taste treat in our home? Aunt Josephine was a 4-H leader when our Mom was a teenager and Butterhorn Rolls was one of the recipes they made together.”

Ruth Ann continued, “Almost every Saturday our Mom would make a batch of these rolls. Some of the dough would be made into buns. Hamburgers and fresh buns were a Saturday night tradition. Some of the dough would be turned into a breakfast ring or sweet rolls for Sunday morning. Or sometimes made into twists and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for Sunday dinner.”

Rosemary Baking Kolaches c1938

In this picture Ruth Ann’s mother Rosemary is taking a batch of sweet rolls, “kolaches” from the oven, almost certainly made using this same sweet roll dough.

Ruth Ann attached a picture of her mother’s handwritten recipe. She had written Aunt Josephine in the upper-right corner.

Butterhorn Rolls Side 1

She also sent a version of the recipe she had typed.

Butterhorn Rolls Typed

Some adjustments were made through the years. For example, the amount of salt was deemed on the high side. Food trends come and go. For a time margarine was used and eggs were in disfavor.

My brother Rod Mitchell, who is expert in these matters, reminded me that this is a basic sweet roll dough recipe, rich and tender. Butter and eggs are a must if you want to replicate the original.

But listen to comments from Ruth Ann’s brothers and sisters on their mother’s rolls and you will know the exact ingredients are less important and family love more important when it comes to rolls and food memories.

From Ruth Ann’s sister Carol: “The fragrance of homemade dough filling the house was as sweet as the taste of the finished rolls. “


This is the raised dough when the aroma starts to fill the warm kitchen

And from Tim: “I recall that Mom would set out the card on the kitchen counter on Saturday morning, but knew the recipe so well that she didn’t actually read the card while she prepared the dough.”

I think it was Elaine who wrote: “Yes, the Saturday night hamburger buns and Sunday morning sweet rolls are one of the treasured memories of my childhood.”

All of them graciously thanked Aunt Josephine, my mother.

The pictured recipes from Rosemary and her children make a large amount as readers can tell from the e-mail correspondence comments.

When I consulted my brother Rod, searching for our mother Josephine’s original recipe, he said this recipe was very similar to one that appeared in the old Betty Crocker Cookbook. This makes fewer rolls. That was what I wanted for my baking trial. He and I put the recipe together that appears at the end of this post. (To make it easier for you to print it out.) Anyone can easily double it.

It begins with scalded milk, first little bubbles and then the skin forms. Watch closely.


The dough is easy to stir up, taking only a few minutes.

Here are the wedges cut after the dough is punched down and rolled out into a circle. (I’m not so good at even wedges)


Then roll each wedge starting at the wide end.


Here’s the finished product. So light, tender, and buttery tasting.


Via Rosemary Strohbehn O’Connell
In consultation with Rod Mitchell

1 package dry yeast
¼ cup warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar

¾ cup milk, scalded and cooled
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
¼ cup butter softened
3-31/2 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar. Stir with toothpick and set aside.

Combine scalded, cooled milk with butter, sugar, salt, slightly beaten egg, yeast mixture and about two cups flour. Stir together to make a batter.

Add remaining flour – kneading in the last of the flour.

Knead dough until smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary.

Put into a greased bowl, cover with a towel, set in a warm place and let raise until doubled in bulk, about 1 and ½ hour.

Punch dough down. Form into rolls.

For Butterhorns, roll out dough into circle. Spread dough with softened butter. Cut into 16 wedges. Roll each section from the wide end.

Place in pan and let raise about ½ hour. Brush melted butter atop the rolls.

Bake 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Note: Ruth Ann thoughtfully sent this information at the time of my mother’s birthday and near Mother’s Day in honor of our mothers. It has taken me a few weeks to gather information, consult with my brother, the most accomplished cook in the family, and find time to bake the rolls. I thank my cousins very much for the recipe, pictures and their comments. It was a very nice Mother’s Day present!!!

Oh, and one more thing. No wonder I never think the hamburger buns I buy, no matter how expensive, or what bakery are ever any good. My standard is clearly, this dough made into buns which my mother often did just as Rosemary’s children describe. Only Ellen’s Bakery here in my area comes close.

Hope you try these rolls. I’m glad I did. If you don’t wish to cut wedges and roll into butterhorn shape, simple roll into small balls in your hands and place three in a greased muffin tin. You have cloverleaf rolls. Enjoy.

Next Easter we’ll make kolaches, or maybe at Christmas.


  1. Reta Dahlen

    Nice job, Paulette, of pulling together the many contributors of this culinary memory! I really enjoyed the picture of Rosemary sliding the rolls into the oven. I think one of my “cook’s helper’s” job might have been watching that scum form on the heating milk which had to be hot, but not too hot.

  2. Nancy

    A lovely memory, Paulette. I cherish the handwritten recipes that I have of my mother’s.
    I have tried cinnamon rolls in the past, but they come out tough. Can you offer some kneeding advice?

  3. Ruth Ann

    Thanks, Paulette, for our 15 minutes of fame! Also very glad to have the benefit of your collaboration with Rod for the version that yields a smaller quantity.

  4. Susan King

    Your story reminds me of baking w/my Mom and those 4-H days. I just added yeast to the grocery list and think a great project while I am here with the Grandkids! They’ll get into this! Thanks, Paulette


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