In today’s post: There aren’t many things better than a soft, fresh cinnamon roll warm from the oven!
Hey, I know it’s January which means a lot of people are trying to eat healthy. But in my neck of the woods, January equals COLD, which makes it the perfect time to bake! I’ve posted a number of different bread and roll recipes before, but one that’s been missing (until today) is cinnamon rolls.
How is it that my site has been missing such a classic recipe? Well, truthfully, it’s because I love raspberry rolls so much that I just don’t make cinnamon rolls quite as often. But my kids prefer cinnamon rolls, so I decided it was time to perfect my recipe.
Why is the the PERFECT cinnamon roll recipe? Well, a couple of reasons:
- We use a dough that’s enriched with butter and egg and sugar so it turns out pillowy soft and just sweet enough – but the dough is still very easy to make and handle. No super sticky mess, I promise.
- I’ve amped up the filling with brown sugar and LOTS of cinnamon, and included a simple trick that will keep the filling from dripping down to the bottom of the pan while baking!
- The frosting is super easy to whip together, but adding cream cheese takes it over the top.
These are GOOD cinnamon rolls.
Now, if you’ve been on my site much before, you’re going to recognize the dough I use for these cinnamon rolls: it’s MY FAVORITE DINNER ROLL dough recipe. This is the same dough I use for dinner rolls, raspberry rolls, garlic breadsticks, and more! It’s a beautiful enriched dough that results in pillowy soft rolls or breadsticks, but doesn’t require any ingredients you might not have on hand or any difficult prep (like heating milk to a certain temperature). You don’t even have to proof your yeast!
You just combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer and get things going. I even have a couple of step by step videos you can watch that will show you EXACTLY how to make this dough, including all my tips for ensuring it turns out amazing.
- If you’d like to see how to mix this dough in a Bosch mixer, visit the Homemade Bread post here
- If you’d like to see how to mix this dough in a KitchenAid mixer, visit the Dinner Rolls post here
Once you’re comfortable making bread dough, you’ll be ready to turn that dough into soft, gooey cinnamon rolls the everyone will love!
If you’re already familiar with making yeast bread, you can skip watching the videos linked above and dive right into this recipe.
Cinnamon rolls VIDEO
Here’s a quick video that shows the process for making these soft, gorgeous cinnamon rolls.
(Note: if the video isn’t showing up below, that means you are using an ad-blocker. Whitelist this site in order to see the video. I know no one likes watching ads, but they allow me to create tons of free content for you. Thanks!)
Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Card
- 1 tablespoon dry active Yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tbsp butter softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter softened, almost melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup butter softened
- 2 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2-4 tbsp milk
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- Place all dough ingredients (except 1/4 cup flour) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low until combined.
- Turn mixer up and knead dough for 5-10 minutes, adding in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour (if you live in a humid climate you may need up to an additional 1/4 cup of flour). Knead until smooth and elastic. See note for more information.
- Turn dough out onto floured surface and form into a ball. Cover loosely with towel and allow to rise 60-90 minutes, until dough has doubled in size. (If you live in a dry climate, spray the dough with nonstick spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap before covering with a towel.)
- Punch dough down. Flour your work surface, then roll dough into a 14x20 inch rectangle.
- Stir together the filling ingredients to create a paste. Gently spread the paste over the dough, using an offset spatula or your fingers. Spread until filling covers the dough except for an inch along the top.
- Starting from the bottom (which should be a long edge), roll the dough up into a log, rolling somewhat tightly. Cut off and discard ends if desired. Mark 12 even slices.
- Using a very sharp knife or a piece of thread, slice log into 12 pieces. Place in lightly greased 9x13 pan.
- Allow dough to rise about 45 minutes until rolls are puffed and touching each other. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake rolls approx 20-22 minutes until tops are golden brown and rolls sound hollow when tapped.
- Beat together frosting ingredients, making sure that butter and cream cheese are softened. Start with 2 tbsp milk and add more as needed to get frosting to desired consistency. I prefer it fluffy and not pourable so when I spread it on top of warm rolls it doesn't completely melt to the bottom of the pan.
- Allow rolls to cool about 10 minutes, then frost and serve. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
Easy Cinnamon Roll Recipe Instructions
Mix up the dough ingredients and knead as directed. Let the dough rise once for 60-90 minutes until nearly doubled in size. Then you’ll start shaping the dough as cinnamon rolls.
Flour your work surface, and then roll out the dough into a large rectangle – about 14 x 20 inches is great. It’s ok to gently pull the dough into shape using your hands as you roll it out. Once the dough is rolled out, it’s time to add the filling!
The BEST Cinnamon Roll Filling
This cinnamon roll filling might be slightly different than other cinnamon roll recipes you’ve tried. Older recipes tend to call for granulated sugar, but using brown sugar instead gives a much richer taste. If you’ve ever tried a Cinnabon cinnamon roll recipe you’ll see it uses brown sugar. It really does make a difference!
The other thing that’s different about the filling in this recipe is how you apply it to the dough. Most cinnamon roll recipes tell you to soften (or melt) butter and spread it on the dough, then to sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the butter. There are two problems with this method:
- If you’re using a healthy amount of cinnamon sugar, a lot of it will fall out as you slice the rolls and place them in a pan
- More of it will ooze down to the bottom of the pan as the rolls bake, leaving you with less filling in each roll.
So I make the filling differently: I soften the butter until it’s nearly melted, then mix the cinnamon and sugar into the butter to create a paste. Then I spread the mixture across the the dough, leaving about an inch along the top uncovered.
NOTE: this method does take a few minutes longer than the melt-and-sprinkle method! When you first start to spread the mixture over your dough it will clump up and be a bit hard to spread. I find it’s easiest to use an offset spatula in my right hand and the fingers of my left hand to gently spread the mixture. After three or four minutes you’ll find it’s adhering to the dough and it gets easier to spread out evenly. Just work gently so you don’t smash the dough. And don’t worry if you don’t get every single spot covered – it’ll work just fine.
Now if you don’t want to mess with spreading the mixture, feel free to melt your butter and sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar over it. Just know that you’ll lose some of the filling during slicing and baking.
Rolling and Slicing Cinnamon Roll Dough
Once the butter/cinnamon/sugar mix is spread across your dough, it’s time to roll it up into a log, starting from the bottom (which should be one of the long ends). Start by rolling the bottom inch or two up, working from one side to the other. Continue to roll a little at a time, working back and forth from side to side (you can see this in the video above). You want the roll to be somewhat tight so that the roll stays circular, so you can gently pull the dough toward you as you roll it up.
When you get all the way to the top, pinch the top edge gently to seal.
Now you’ll have a log that’s about 20 inches long. I like to cut off the very end of each side of the log so that all my rolls are flat on the top and bottom, but that’s personal preference.
Use a knife to mark where you will slice for 12 equal rolls. Then you can either slice the rolls apart with a very sharp knife OR you can use a piece of thread or unflavored dental floss to cut the rolls. I prefer this method because it doesn’t squish the rolls. Pick up one end of the log and slide a piece of thread under it. Then criss cross the thread over the top of the log and pull on each end of the thread the slice through the log. You can see how I do this on the video above.
As you slice 12 even rolls, place them in a greased 9×13 inch pan to rise one more time before baking.
Here’s what they look like before the second rise (plenty of space in between each roll):
And here’s what they look like after the second rise (nice and puffy, rolls are beginning to touch each other). Your second rise will take 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how warm it is in your house.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes until they are lightly brown on top and sound hollow if you tap on them. Baking times vary quite a bit, so you may need to bake yours a little longer or a minute shorter. If you’re unsure whether they are done, you can use a fork to gently pull the two middle rolls apart to see if the dough looks cooked and flaky.
Here they are fresh out of the oven:
While they bake, mix up the cream cheese frosting. The frosting recipe makes a generous amount of frosting – yum!
If you want the frosting to melt into the rolls, wait about 10 minutes after removing the rolls from the oven to frost them, and serve immediately. If you prefer fluffy frosting that stays on top of your rolls, allow the rolls to cool completely before frosting and serving.
The rolls really are best warm, but they taste great cooled as well. Start to finish they take about 3 hours, unless it is cool in your house, in which case they could take up to 4 hours.