I Tried Dolly Parton’s “World Famous” Cinnamon Bread

loaf of Dolly Parton's cinnamon bread, sliced
Credit: Molly Allen Credit: Molly Allen
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A top queen of country music, Dolly Parton has a few other major career achievements on her list. One of those is having a theme park in Tennessee named after her — Dollywood. Located under an hour from where Dolly Parton is from, the park offers a range of rides, attractions, and delicious dining options. And while you can certainly enjoy a day of fun and then sit down for a savory meal of fried chicken or a pit ham dinner, there’s one stop on the Dollywood map that’s a can’t-miss for curbing a sweet tooth.

The Grist Mill honors the state’s first mill to grind wheat and corn with the power of a water wheel. Cinnamon bread is made on-site, and rumor has it, there’s a constant long line to get your hands on a loaf. With that popularity, we knew we had to put Dolly Parton’s cinnamon bread recipe to the test to see just how delicious it really is. It takes a few steps and a bit of patience, but it certainly is well worth the wait.

Get the recipe: Dolly Parton’s Cinnamon Bread

loaf of Dolly Parton's cinnamon bread, sliced
Credit: Molly Allen Credit: Molly Allen

How to Make Dolly Parton’s Cinnamon Bread

This recipe requires quite a few steps, but each uses simple ingredients.

  1. Combine yeast, warm water, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl. Allow the yeast to activate and become foamy. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together bread flour, salt, and melted butter. Transfer the yeast mixture to the bowl and knead on medium until the dough comes together, five to eight minutes.

  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

  3. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the counter. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a 3×6-inch loaf. Transfer the loaves to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover them with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes to one hour until puffy.

  4. To make the topping, whisk together white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a baking dish. In another baking dish, whisk together melted butter and corn syrup.

  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9×5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Once the loaves are fluffy, score four deep slashes on the top of each.

  6. Dunk each loaf in the butter mixture, and then dip it in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Make sure each loaf is completely coated and the mixture gets in all of the crevices.

  7. Place the loaves in the prepared loaf pans, drizzle with any remaining butter mixture and cinnamon-sugar mixture, and transfer the loaves to the oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Once baked, lift the loaves from the pans and let cool for 15 minutes.

  8. While the loaves cool, make the glaze topping. Whisk together powdered sugar, salt, melted butter, and milk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the warm loaves and serve.

My Honest Review of Dolly Parton’s Cinnamon Bread

I actually made this recipe twice and ended up scrapping the loaves on the first try. There is very little yeast and water in this bread recipe, and it requires warmth in order to thrive. I simply didn’t have the dough rising in a warm enough space (it is winter, after all) in order for it to achieve the proper texture. The second time, however, I left it closer to a heat source which helped. This recipe produces two small loaves, similar to how you would get them at Dollywood. It’s not your typical large, fluffy loaf of cinnamon pull-apart bread. Next time I might consider scoring, topping, and baking the whole loaf as one.

While I do wish they were a bit bigger and puffier, the flavor of these little loaves made up for everything else. It was just like what you would expect from a theme park treat. Every bite is so incredibly flavorful, without being overwhelmingly sweet. The topping makes for a slightly crunchy, chewy exterior — it’s just like the loaf had been deep-fried and then doused in cinnamon sugar, without ever going into a fryer.

loaf of Dolly Parton's cinnamon bread, sliced
Credit: Molly Allen Credit: Molly Allen

Three Tips for Making Dolly Parton’s Cinnamon Bread

  1. Plan ahead for rise time. This isn’t a quick recipe that will be ready in minutes. But it sure is worth the wait. There isn’t much yeast used in this recipe to make the bread dough, and it needs all the rise time it can get for proper texture. Be sure to think ahead and build in plenty of rise time, at least two hours, before you’re hoping to serve this cinnamon bread.

  2. Don’t cut the tops all the way through. Scoring plays a role in creating the proper shape of these loaves. It also doubles as a way to get plenty of delicious cinnamon-sugar filling all over the bread. When scoring, cut deep into the bread dough, but don’t slice all the way to the bottom. You want to be sure the loaf remains intact.

  3. Don’t skip lining the pans. Because of the mixture of butter and corn syrup, lining the loaf pans with parchment paper is absolutely essential to the success of this recipe. Don’t skip lining them with parchment and don’t use cooking spray as an alternative, which is usually an option for many recipes. You’ll end up with a gooey, sticky mess in the pans if you don’t use the parchment paper.