Delicious old-fashioned monkey bread recipe from the 1960s, step-by-step with photos

A piece of old-fashioned monkey bread

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Where did the first old-fashioned monkey bread recipe first come from?

Monkey bread, also known as sticky bread or pull-apart bread, is a sweet, gooey treat that seems to have originated in the United States.

The dish is usually made by rolling small balls of dough in a sugary mixture, layering them in a pan, and baking them until golden brown. The finished product can be pulled apart and enjoyed warm — straight from the oven is the best!

Its origins are uncertain, but it is believed monkey bread was popularized in the 1950s and 1960s after it caught on in the US as a fad in Hollywood (we even found a 1966 article referencing this — see it below!).

Some sources suggest that the original how-to may have been created by American “housewives” looking for new ways to use leftover biscuits or dinner rolls, while others confidently assert that it was invented by bakers looking for a fun way to serve bread that went beyond the usual slice-and-serve.

Pecans and cinnamon from a sweet monkey bread coffee cake loaf

And then there are people who speculate that monkey bread was inspired specifically by aranygaluska, a traditional Hungarian pastry that uses yeasted bread in a similar pull-apart configuration.

As we have learned over the years, culinary influence and inspiration can happen in many different ways. This old-fashioned recipe could be one that was brought by immigrants, or it simply may be a recipe that was adapted by a local commercial baker or family homemaker.

ALSO SEE: Cinnamon crescent: An easy & delicious coffee cake ring recipe (1968)

Even today, there are many different variations possible. For instance, you can change the nuts, pour on caramel sauce after it’s cooked, sprinkle in a little nutmeg, drizzle on some maple syrup (in place of the corn syrup) — or serve a less-sweetened version alongside some jam, marmalade or lemon curd.

Want to go for a savory pull-apart bread? Season it instead with flavored salts, seeds and spices — or even take a shortcut by sprinkling the buttered balls with some dry soup mix (like in these dip recipes).

You don’t even have to use ball shapes! In the 60s & 70s, a popular version used thin buttered yeast dough that had been cut into diamond shapes with a cookie cutter. The diamonds were neatly stacked sideways into a ring pan with a slight offset, and the result was a petal-like loaf. Here’s what one of those looked like in a photo from 1968:

Petal bread like monkey bread loaf (1968)

Regardless of its origins, this sort of pull-apart bread (also called pluck-it bread, bubble loaf, cobblestone bread, or tear-apart loaf) has become known as a warm and welcoming comfort food, and it is often served as a special treat at breakfast or as a dessert.

Our deliciously old-fashioned monkey bread recipe — essentially a cinnamon-pecan coffee cake — can be made with your favorite biscuit recipe, one made with biscuit mix, or you can also try making it with uncooked brown-and-serve rolls or refrigerated ready-to-bake biscuits.

Old-fashioned monkey bread recipe ingredients

The ingredients for this tasty cinnamon-pecan pull-apart coffee cake are simple enough: biscuit dough, sugar, cinnamon, chopped nuts, melted butter, and corn syrup.

Monkey bread ingredients

Starting to make old-fashioned monkey bread from scratch

Starting to make old-fashioned monkey bread

Cinnamon sugar mixture

A ring pan is recommended so heat can flow through the center, making sure that the innermost pieces of bread get as well-cooked as the rest of the coffee cake.

Cinnamon sugar mixture for monkey bread recipe

Preparing the monkey bread pan with sugar mixture

Preparing the monkey bread pan with sugar mixture

Starting to make a monkey bread coffee cake ring

Starting to make a monkey bread coffee cake ring

Monkey bread recipe ball of dough

Monkey bread recipe ball of dough

Monkey bread dough balls in a bowl

Monkey bread dough balls in a bowl

First layer of monkey bread dough

First layer of monkey bread dough

Filling the pan

Filling the pan for this old-fashioned monkey bread recipe

Pouring sweet corn syrup on the coffee cake

Pouring sweet corn syrup on the monkey bread

YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS: Pecan ‘pizza’ coffee cake (1968)

Piece of old-fashioned monkey bread from scratch

Piece of old-fashioned monkey bread

Finished loaf using our old-fashioned monkey bread recipe

Finished loaf of old-fashioned monkey bread

Monkey bread coffee cake ring

Monkey bread coffee cake ring

Pull off a few pieces of this coffee cake!

Old fashioned cinnamony monkey bread on a plate

Have you tried monkey bread? (1966)

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) February 9, 1966

Monkey Bread is one of “The Things” in Hollywood and Beverly Hills right now.

If you haven’t heard of it, bought it (like at the Farmer’s Market), eaten, made or served Monkey Bread within the last two weeks, you are definitely not in the gastronomical swim.

What is it? Where did it come from? How did it get the name? To each of these questions, there are several answers.

Side-view of baked monkey bread cake

Basically, Monkey Bread is made up of 2 or 3 layers of small light rolls or biscuits, each section slathered with butter and then packed together and baked in an angel cake pan, a ring mold. or a bread pan.

It’s always served warm in the loaf, which is happily pulled apart at the table and eaten in fragrant, steamy, hot little hunks with more butter!

Originally the idea came, some say, from Louisiana. Not at all, others shriek, Tennessee! “[Silent movie actress] Zasu Pitts brought it back after a visit to friends in Nashville!”

Close-up of delicious monkey bread

Why is monkey bread called monkey bread?

As for the name, “It’s eaten as a monkey might!” That’s one explanation. More widely-accepted is the theory that it was dubbed originally Monkeying-Around Bread. “Because monkeying-around is what it takes.” So says Ken Johnson, who is by day a post office official; at night, a dinner party caterer for the movie mogul set.

The Monkey Bread which he and his partner, Mary Louise Gresham, provided for a lavish dinner party was an airy ring, homemade of a yeast dough, light as brioche.

But when pressed for time, which is often, they make Monkey Bread from brown-and-serve rolls or ready-to-bake refrigerated biscuits.

ALSO TRY: Vintage velvet crumb cake: A classic cake recipe from 1952 that’s good for breakfast & dessert

The inspiration: Old-fashioned monkey bread recipe from 1965

chatterbox coffee cake

Variation #1: Basic old-fashioned monkey bread recipe (1966)

Provide yourself with 24 uncooked brown-and-serve rolls/buns or refrigerated ready-to-bake biscuits. (Cloverleaf rolls are particularly good, but other shapes will do. Do not use crusty rolls.)

Break or cut each bun into 3 or pieces. Slather the inside of a ring mold or angel cake pan with softened butter. Roll each piece of bun into very soft or melted butter, covering all the surfaces.

Fit pieces closely and neatly together, lining the pan on the bottom, then making several layers. There should not be any holes between the pieces. Fit them as if you were building a stone wall. Bake in a hot oven (about 425 degrees) about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Variation #2: Sweet classic monkey bread (1966)

Follow the recipe above for pull-apart monkey bread, but after rolling the pieces in butter, sprinkle heavily or roll in brown sugar (light or dark) and, if desired, in crushed cornflakes. Sprinkle top with sugar, cinnamon, and cornflakes.

Old-fashioned monkey bread recipes

Old fashioned monkey bread recipe

Yield: 16 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


  • Rolled biscuit dough, made with 4 cups flour or biscuit mix
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/3 cup melted butter (or margarine)
  • 1/3 cup Karo corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup (for drizzle after baked)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare your favorite rolled biscuit dough using 4 cups flour or biscuit mix OR use a tube of refrigerated ready-to-bake biscuits.
  3. Form the dough into 1-inch balls.
  4. Mix 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  5. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mixture on bottom of greased 9 or 10-inch solid tube pan.
  6. Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts to remaining sugar mixture.
  7. Dip half the dough in 1/3 cup melted butter.
  8. Place them on the bottom of pan, just touching.
  9. Sprinkle with half the nut mixture.
  10. Repeat for the second layer.
  11. Drizzle 1/3 cup light corn syrup over dough.
  12. Bake in 350 F oven for 1 hour. Remove from pan at once and invert. Drizzle 1/4 cup corn syrup over top.
  13. Break into spicy “conversation pieces” and serve warm.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 298Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 180mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 5g

Click Americana offers approximate nutrition information as a general reference only, and we make no warranties regarding its accuracy. Please make any necessary calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional if you have dietary concerns.

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Delicious old-fashioned monkey bread recipe from the 1960s, step-by-step

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. Do NOT use the 2 piece Angel Food pan … the liquid WILL ooze out. I let my classroom students cut Biscuits in to 4ths.

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