Monkey Bread

September 10, 2001.

I was returning from a birthday visit to my daughter’s freshman dorm. We had dropped her off at college in August.

There was a full spectrum of empty nest emotions; joy at the prospect of an amazing experience for her, pride in her academics and independent spirit in going hundreds of miles from home, fear for her safety, and the intense loneliness of missing her.


It had only been a month, but I’d been preparing for the separation for a very long time. Much like myself decades before, she would leave and never really return home. There would be visits, summers, holidays, but still.

Her 18th birthday was the day before, and I didn’t want her to spend it alone. She was settling in with an assigned roommate that she didn’t know. monkey-bread

Instead of a birthday cake, I brought Monkey Bread.

It was a family favorite, a recipe with simple ingredients and child-friendly, hands-on preparation.

Their role, even as toddlers, was to coat the biscuit pieces in large bowls of cinnamon and sugar, while I prepared the melted butter mixture to pour over top.

No matter the mess, it always came out perfect. There was sticky-fingered satisfaction as we pulled the warm pieces from the loaf.

I wanted to recreate a bit of that simple joy for her birthday. It seemed to work for both of us.

I returned home, still sad, but happy for the warm moment and cinnamon infused memory.

The next morning, I was back at my job, watching in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed in New York City.

The feelings are real, the memories poignant.

Fifteen years ago today.


Monkey Bread

Using 4 cans of raw biscuit dough, cut each biscuit into 4 pieces. Coat with a dry mixture of 2/3 cup sugar and 1 TBS. cinnamon. Drop coated pieces loosely into ungreased Bundt pan.

Melt  1  1/4 sticks butter in saucepan.  Blend in  1 TBS. cinnamon, 1  1/2 cups sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour hot mixture on top of biscuits. (Do not stir.)

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Turn out onto platter to cool.


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41 Responses to Monkey Bread

  1. i remember this day so clearly…i was teaching my university students…it was a hard day…your story resonates on many levels for me…hard to believe it’s been 15 years…dance life goes fast! i can almost smell your wonderful baking Van…sending you joy!

  2. Sawsan says:

    Happy birthday to your daughter.
    And thank you for today’s dessert recipe.

    That tragedy cannot be forgotten.

  3. Brenda says:

    I was working as a telemarketer when it happened. I had no idea what was going on until I called into someone’s home. The person on the other end told me. I sat in shock. My colleagues were receiving the same news on their phones. The call center was shut down shortly thereafter. I’ll never forget the shock and grief of that moment.

    • I was working at a hotel when coverage came on the lobby TV at breakfast. Folks abandoned their room, businessman hastily rented cars to get back to NY when air traffic was halted, buildings taller than 4 stories were evacuated. A nightmare we all re-live today. Thanks for sharing, Brenda.

  4. 15 years ago. Seems like yesterday. Wonderful post Van. That moment of separation from our children is equally painful.

  5. My youngest daughter’s birthday is also today, September 11. She was turning 12 on the day the towers fell. I had just arrived at work and settled in at my desk when an associate ran into my office exclaiming the a plane had just gone into a building in NYC. I thought he was just making things up until I clicked my computer to the internet. May something so horrendous never happen again – but I fear that may be a false hope. It’s a very unsettled world we live in today.

    (PS – your daughter was only 17 when she entered college? Mine was, too, but she attended school here in Buffalo and was able to commute. Still, I worried every single day about her walk from class to her car in the parking ramp, especially after evening classes. So glad my kids are all grown now.)

    • Happy Birthday to your daughter, and so many others, who share their day with this tragic event, CM. Yep, she turned 18 a month after starting college. She was tested for readiness to start 1st grade at 5, very near the cutoff date for private school at the time. We do live in an unsettled world, the worries are real. Thanks for sharing. 💘

  6. Thanks for the sweet recipe, Van. My daughter is going to have a fit when I make that with my grandson. 🙂 I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. It had such a profound impact on my life. I thought perhaps this year I would retire it from my “about” page, but it contributed to who I am today (to who many of us are) and I decided against it. It’s not going to be forgotten anytime soon. ❤

  7. LaVagabonde says:

    That bread looks divine. An interesting birthday cake for sure. 🎂

  8. This day, we are all connected by that horror. But, we are also all connected, by the love and support that followed.

  9. This day brings up so many raw emotions in us. It unites us in many ways and forces us to realize our vulnerabilities and our willingness to sacrifice for others..

  10. What a memory. Very poignant indeed. That monkey bread looks divine Van. I can imagine the sticky satisfaction 🙂

  11. Such vivid memories Van! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Bun Karyudo says:

    I’ve read a number of different posts today with people’s clear recollections of what they were doing that day. I think yours may be one of the most poignant, though, because the events of 9/11 came on the heels of such a happy and emotional weekend for you.

  13. I don’t think those memories will ever leave us.

  14. lbeth1950 says:

    None of us ever forgets that day.

  15. It just all seems like a bad dream until the day comes around, and I watch the videos again that are posted on FB and YouTube, and I get that twisting, sick feeling in my stomach. I felt the same way when I awakened every morning the weeks and months after my mother died when I was 11. It all seemed like a bad dream until I realized that she was indeed gone, and I got that twisting, sick feeling in my stomach. That eventually went away at some point, but I don’t think the 9/11 twisting, sick feeling ever will…

    • I used to sit mesmerized when they would re-broadcast the Today show footage, every year. I would go to that dark place, feel the same sick symptoms you mention.💔 A few years ago, I talked myself out of watching. Now I remember it in a different way. Thanks for sharing, AGMA.

  16. joey says:

    I haven’t made monkey bread in ages. Maybe we’ll do that this weekend.

    I like how you altered the focus and put the emphasis on the sweet.

  17. nimi naren says:

    Beautiful post but painful memories of that day…

  18. New York Wedding Band says:

    Nice post!

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