Grandmas, Cranberries & Cinnamon Rolls

Reposted May 2022 in tribute to my grandmothers for Mother’s Day.

It is still dark in the house. The warmth of the fire crackling in the fireplace and the delicate lights on the Christmas tree spark memories of my youth. Cinnamon and vanilla scents wafting from my oven kindle the comforting nostalgia growing inside of me.

As a child, we would spend a quiet Christmas Eve with my paternal grandparents. Fire in the fireplace and a lovingly prepared meal greeted us. They loved us so much and loved to lavish us with special gifts and treats as only grandparent can.

Christmas morning would take us over the river and through the woods (or down the street) to the other grandmother’s house. The quiet and meekness of Christmas Eve was replaced with raucous laughter, food frenzies, games, and spontaneous trips to the beach. Grama Sandy would be singing Christmas carols in her rich, contra alto voice, as she prepared the Christmas feast for us. Aromas of her cinnamon rolls, with sometimes more than twenty of us waiting for them to come out of the oven, built anticipation of the day to come.  

I was very blessed to have both of my grandmothers well into adulthood. They were as different as could be, but their love of Jesus and their families united them like sisters. I don’t remember my tiny little Gram B ever singing. I don’t remember robust Grama Sandy ever NOT singing (My secret dream is to be able to sing as beautifully as her).

Gram B was quiet and kept her opinions to herself. She kept a beautiful home, towels folded just so, sheets ironed, widows and orphans fed and cared for. Grama Sandy conducted a symphony of her seven children who always brought strays and wafts home with them, for which I am grateful, because I married one of them. She impacted every single person who entered her home.

Both grandmas instilled in me the joy of serving as a means of worshiping the One who gives us every good and perfect gift. 

Psalms 103:17 (NIV)

But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children

Because of their amazing cooking, I am a food snob. I make almost everything from scratch. There are two exceptions; Gram B’s cranberry relish and Grama Sandy’s cinnamon rolls. The best kind of gifts are the ones that don’t wear out and that you can share. Today I am going to share the timeless gift of Gram’s cinnamon rolls, and tomorrow you will be blessed to receive the recipe for Gram B’s cranberry relish and a tribute to this special lady. 

Turn on your favorite Christmas music and sing along with Grandma Sandy while embarking on this sentimental journey with me. I believe Gram would choose Andrea Bochelli or Josh Groban and harmonize with them all day long. I never saw Gram Sandy measure anything. She baked from her heart as much as she did from her memory. She made do with what she had available and improvised whenever necessary. So, add your own flavor or twist to this recipe, and make it your own.

Grandma Sandy’s Cinfull Cinnamon Rolls

1 package Bridgford frozen bread dough

(3 loaves; each loaf makes 8 rolls)

1 cup or so of brown sugar for each loaf

3 Tablespoons or so of cinnamon for each loaf

1 cube of butter or so for each loaf

About 1 Tbsp vanilla or other flavoring


  • Let bread dough thaw on a cutting board 
  • In the bottom of the pan cut enough butter so you have about one chunk every inch
  • Sprinkle with plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar
  • Shake some vanilla over all this and set pan aside
  • Smash bread dough flat so you have a rectangle 
  • Spread a little butter on the surface 
  • Sprinkle cinnamon & brown sugar, nuts, raisins or any thing else on that. 
  • Start rolling & stretching until your loaf is completely rolled
  • Slice in half, then in half again, then in half again until you have eight even rolls
  • Place on top of cinnamon & sugar in pan 
  • Spray sides of pan with cooking spray
  • Let rise until light & fluffy (I usually let them rise over-night and bake in the morning before everyone gets up, so they wake up to the smell of baking cinnamon rolls and coffee).
  • Bake at 325* for about 30 min (The middle roll should kind of thump when you tap it, and they all should be a golden brown)
  • Immediately turn over onto prepared platter or plate, scraping all of the caramelized sugar and cinnamon syrup onto the rolls.
  • Eat up!

Feel free to make your own bread dough if you don’t want to use the frozen bread dough. I just run out of time and energy by Christmas Eve when I make Cinnamon rolls for the entire neighborhood. I also have found this method to be consistent even when I am off my baking game.

What is your favorite family holiday tradition or grandma memory?


Published by Keri Willis

My name is Keri Willis. I am a semi-retired educator. I spent a great deal of my career working with adults with developmental disabilities and many years in elementary education, in the classroom and as an administrator. My main ministry now is coordinating the women’s ministry for our church in San Diego, CA. I have been married thirty-four years and have two grown and married children. I now have a head of full grey hair and good ideas. I believe we are created to use our gifts and to be creative. That comes in many forms for me. I love to woodwork and use power tools, design, decorate, garden, and create new recipes. And I love to write. One major lesson I have learned in my writing journey is that I need to be still and listen to hear God’s voice before I am prepared to put into words the message he has instilled in my heart. This has been much easier since I am no longer working full time, but it is so easy to get distracted and not listen, which almost always ends with an empty page in the form of writer’s block. While I have written many articles for newsletters and local newspapers, I did not consider myself a writer until I self-published my first book, Teapots and Power Tools. The idea emerged as I was working on a project in my garage. I had worship music playing, power tools out and saw dust flying. I glanced up and saw my delicate teapot sitting on my router table. The message was clear. Sometimes we are using the power tools God gives us and sometimes he just wants us to be still and have tea with him. The book became the foundation for a women’s retreat, and then my amazing niece helped me work through publishing it on Create Space (now KDP). At least five other projects are in different stages of production. I joined hope*writers to help motivate me and keep me focused and accountable. I am still trying to figure out the whole website and blog thing. That is my next goal for myself; that and finish writing at least one of my projects! Teapots and Power Tools: Effectively using the tools God has equipped you with, while taking time to “Be Still and Know That He is God”

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