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Cooking with Steph: Liberace's Sticky Buns

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I interviewed the fantastic Frank DeCaro for the paper. He used to be on The Daily Show, and now he has his own show on Sirius Satellite Radio. His latest project, though, is The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, a collection of recipes from stiff stars. Here's the story!

I loved talking to Frank about all the old stars and their specialty noms, especially when he started raving about Liberace's Sticky Buns.

I mean, how could you not?

Frank ate nine as soon as they came out of the oven when he made them, he said. Respect. Today, I stared at the recipe for 10 minutes. I obviously had to have Liberace's buns in my life immediately. I'm a thorough journo, y'all.

They're basically doctored crescent rolls, which is just fine by me. I could live on crescent roll alone.

Lib's recipe called for raisins. I thought about leaving them out entirely, because, well... honestly, I've just never heard someone say, "OH, GOOD, THIS HAS RAISINS." You know? But this wasn't about me. This was about a young man named Wladziu Valentino Liberace who liked his raisins golden and shiny.

First step? Soak them in rum. CLASSIC.

I tried a couple from the bowl. You guys, I have to tell you. Raisins soaked in rum are (hic) DELIGHTFUL. Who knew shriveled grapes just needed a little spicy hooch?

Next, since this is a recipe committed to heart health and weight control, I melted two sticks of butter.

Then, because we are interested only in clean, responsible living that is not reckless in any way, I added a cup and a half of brown sugar to the bubbling butter.


Next, it started to get real Liberace up in here. The array of spices is nutbar! He calls (from beyond the grave) for nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger -- GINGER! -- and cloves. I was elated. Finally, I could use the untouched bottle of cloves on my spice rack. Earlier this month, I swear to you, I Googled "what do cloves go in" and "uses for cloves" and "cloves expiration date" because I honestly had no idea what they were doing in my kitchen. The answer, it turns out, is Liberace's Sticky Buns.

One problem.

My cloves were whole. I figured people would appreciate biting into a whole clove even less than they'd appreciate a fist of raisins. I tried to be resourceful, but here's a pro tip:

You can't use a garlic press on cloves.

Ok, so, no cloves. I think Lib would understand. He would just light a 45th scented candle on the baby grand and say something like, "You must dare to dream in color, child!"

Next, the crescent rolls. Apparently, there was a run on Liberace's Sticky Buns at Publix tonight, because I only saw the MEGA BIG GIANT FLUFFY THIGH CELLULITE-MAKING CRESCENT ROLLS, which I'm pretty sure they didn't have in the 1970s since people weren't totally size-obsessed back then (at least not in polite company). I had to buy the little cans of regular rolls, six instead of three. This meant instead of just rolling out the log of dough, I had to use something called "spatial reasoning" to connect them. I spread out the parchment paper, which kept curling and curling until I held it down with a full bottle of Shiraz and an onion in a produce bag.

I connected the rolls of dough in one slender strip, and it was longer than Alligator Alley. "Self," I said. "This doesn't look right." Then I stepped back, held up two small cans together and rubbed both brain cells against each other. A-HA.


Next, I put syrup and pecans in the bottom of each muffin tin. Then, I spread the syrup mixture and the Drunk Uncle Raisins on the dough and rolled it up.

Then, Liberace advised, I was to cut the roll into 1-inch slices. This required something called "skills of estimation." I made the first slices way, way too big. There was no way I'd get 24 buns out of this. I made a note to adjust. Then, I said "&;%*^*#^(#&8;^%*#^$*#!!!" because I realized I completely forgot to put pecans inside.

I repeated the process two more times using "spatial reasoning" and "skills of estimation" and "portion allotment" and "pecan putting in" to try to get them right. My third and final roll looked as if it had been injecting human grown hormone for the past four bodybuilding seasons. But somehow, I got 24. It was the magic of Liberace! Better than Christmas!

You'll notice I had to buy those crappy foil tins at the store, because as you may have gleaned during our time together, I'm not the kind of person who owns more than one muffin tin.

They went in for 15 minutes at 325. This gave me a chance to have a butt-sit and read some more of Frank's book, including Edith Head's Chicken Casa Ladera! I worship Edith Head. Grace Kelly's clothes in Rear Window pretty much made me believe in love. The least I could do was read about Edith's penchant for chicken livers.

Back in the kitchen, things had not yet reached their crescendo. Liberace would not simply wedge the sticky buns out of the tin and into the GladWare. No. Liberace, in true form, demands you FLIP THE PAN SWIFTLY, rendering the tops of each bun oozy with butter goo and adorned adorably with a smattering of pecans. I had visions of the entire set of 24 rolls flying onto the kitchen floor, and me Swiffering butter out of the grout at 4 a.m.



If that's not sexy, I don't know what is.

All in all, they are delicious. They didn't all cook evenly, probably because my fine cookware cost $3.99 and came with "COMPLIMENTARY CUPCAKE WRAPPERS." And despite the rum's best efforts, the raisins are still kind of... depressing, in context. They're just a depressing food item, am I right? It's like, you can dress it up in glitter all day long, but a raisin is a raisin.

Word, Lib?

Oh, never mind.


  1. Interesting blog, and I'm thinking the raisin prep step could be a real break-through for those of us on weight-loss plans. Maybe all that fruit we're supposed to eat would taste a whole lot better soaked in rum....