Caramelized Sunlight: Honeycomb Honey Buns

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Honey bees are buzzing on a constant search for sweet, alluring nectar. Dancing directions, dipping in an out of flowers, fuzzy thoraxes dusted in pollen, these little liquid-gold diggers bumble back to their home. The hive is a humming complex, both geometric and organic. Within, the nectar collected by the bees is transformed into hexagonal prisms dripping with caramelized sunlight.

Honey has been used by humans for over 10,000 years and been made by bees for tens of millions of years. This ancient sweetener is treasured by many civilizations and its people, young and old. Pollinating one-third of our favorite crops, honeybees are vital to our agriculture (almonds, raspberries, pears, strawberries, cherries, etc). Tragically, honeybee civilizations are in danger due to mysterious colony collapse disorder. Through future research, we can potentially help honey bees preserve and maintain their colonies and hives.

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Hexagonal structure of the hive complex

Scientists have been trying to pinpoint the direct reasons for colony collapse disorder, but a host of environmental and human factors complicate this mystery. What is known is that,

Humankind needs to act quickly to ensure that the ancient pact between flowers and pollinators stays intact, to safeguard out food supply and to protect our environment for generations to come. These efforts will ensure that bees continue to provide pollination and that our diets reman rich in the fruits and vegetables we now take for granted.

~ Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Bees, Scientific America, April 2009 by Diana Cox-Foster and Dennis van Engelsdrop

I’ve come up with this recipe to pay homage to the humble, bumbling honey bee: A hexagonal honeycomb hive of sweet honey buns! A golden saffron honey syrup drips from the buns, reminding us of the flowers that rely on bees for pollination; and poppy seeds and oats scatter the top–just like little buzzing honey bees.

Click on the image below for the full recipe:

The Process:

Honeycomb in a hexagonal jar

 Here, the little hexagonal rolls being brushed with an egg & honey glaze

After you arrange the dough balls with six balls surrounding one in the center, you let them proof into a hexagonal pattern!

As the honey buns bake, periodically brush them with the honey-saffron glaze.

Honeycomb Honey Buns complete with poppy seeds, saffron, and honey glaze!

Honeycomb Honey Buns Recipe:

Honey Syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • a few sprinkles of saffron (flower)
  • teaspoon of poppy seeds
  • teaspoon of oats

Honeycomb Bread

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 white cup + 1 Tbsp for the yeast (they’re hungry)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp)
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 8½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 beaten eggs (3 for the dough and one for the top)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • cooking spray
  1. Heat milk, butter, salt, sugars, honey, and cinnamon in a pot until fully combined
  2. Mix one tablespoon of sugar, warm water, and yeast and let them bloom for ~10 minutes (they should get nice and frothy, give them a mix to help them out)
  3. Allow the milk mixture to cool and add the yeast mixture and stir
  4. In a large bowl, add one-third of the flour at a time and mix with all the wet ingredients–then mix and mix and mix!
  5. At this point, the dough should be very sticky but be peeling off of the sides of the bowl
  6. Cover it with cling film and let is proof for ~1 hour
  7. Once the dough has at least doubled in size, coat a round baking dish, an ice cream scooper, a knife, and then your hands in canola oil or butter (trust me, this is key)
  8. Sprinkle the surface where you will roll the dough with a good layer of flour
  9. This dough is extremely soft and sticky (must be all the honey)
  10. Divide the dough and make small balls that are about 1 inch in diameter
  11. Here’s the fun part: place one sphere of dough in the center of the round baking pan and add six more around the circumference. This will make a hexagonal shape, mimicking the structure of a honeycomb!
  12. Keep arranging the spheres until you get close to the edges of the baking dish
  13. Allow the spheres to rise for another ~15 minutes until they reach the edge of the dish
  14. Combine one egg, 1 teaspoon of water, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of honey and brush on top of the dough balls
  15. For another touch, add a few oats to the centers of the hexagonal dough prisms (they’re like little bees)
  16. Pop the baking dish into the oven for ~15-20 minutes, until the surface is golden brown and the rolls are cooked all the way through!
  17. While the rolls are baking, mix honey, water, saffron, poppy seeds, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a pot and boil until thick
  18. When the rolls are done, paint on the golden, honey syrup and let cool for just a few minutes
  19. Eat them as soon as they’re out of the oven, nice and warm and fluffy!

A few websites for information and ways to help our honey bees:


Ten Things to Help the Honey Bees