- 2½ cups warm water (105° to 115°F)
- About 2 packages (½ ounce total) active plain dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
- 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus ¹⁄³ cup flour for rolling out the dough
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, plus 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1. Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl, add the yeast, and stir until it dissolves. Stir in the vanilla and salt, then stir in the cake mix and the 5 cups of flour until well combined. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, place it in a warm place, and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, make a caramel sauce: Place the brown sugar, 16 tablespoons of butter, and the corn syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the brown sugar dissolves, then stir in the pecans. Divide the caramel sauce between two 13 by 9–inch metal baking pans and set the pans aside.
3. After an hour, uncover the dough and punch it down with your fist. Divide the dough in half. Use half of the remaining ¹⁄³ cup of flour to dust a large work surface and flour a rolling pin. Roll one half of the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 18 inches and about ¼ inch thick. Brush the rectangle of dough with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Stir the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle half of this over the melted butter on the rectangle of dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll the dough rectangle up like a jelly roll.
4. Using a floured knife, cut the roll of dough crosswise into roughly 1-inch-thick slices; the log will make about 15 slices. Arrange the slices of dough cut-side-down and side by side on top of the caramel mixture in one of the baking pans.
5. Using the remaining flour, dust the work surface again and roll out the remaining dough into a 12 by 18–inch rectangle. Brush the rectangle of dough with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter, sprinkle the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture on top, then roll up the dough and cut it into 1-inch-thick slices. Arrange the rolls in the second baking pan. Cover each baking pan with a kitchen towel, place the pans in a warm place, and let the rolls rise for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
7. Place the baking pans in the oven side by side and bake the rolls until they spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 28 to 32 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of the rolls and then invert them onto a rectangular serving platter. Serve the rolls warm.