Soft and gooey cinnamon rolls that put Cinnabon to the test! They’re so easy and you can even prep them overnight which make them a go to for Christmas morning (let’s be honest, any morning!).
These cinnamon rolls are a family favorite. Their gooey centers and cream cheese frosting remind us of Cinnabon, which is never a bad thing around here. The actual dough is very similar to my dinner roll recipe (just with extra butter and sugar!) which means a couple things. First, it’s not overly sweet which I prefer by the time you add the filling and frosting. Second, it means you can easily double the batch and make half as dinner rolls, and the other half sweet. Less work!
Cinnamon Roll FAQ's
What’s so special about these cinnamon rolls?
In addition to the convenience of this also being a great dinner roll base, the filling uses a brown sugar and cinnamon mixture as opposed to a normal cinnamon sugar. I love the rich and warm flavor that this brings out in the filling. There’s also a hint of lemon in the frosting to add a bit of extra tang, which is also what makes them so similar to Cinnabon. The slightly enhanced tartness compliments the sweet filling perfectly.
I’m new to using yeast – any tips?
Yes! Check out my working with yeast guide for some insights and tips!
Can I make this overnight?
Yes! There are two options for an overnight rise.
First, you can make the dough and stick in the fridge overnight to freshly fill and bake the next day.
The second option is to make the dough and form, and place the formed rolls in the fridge overnight. In the morning let the rolls set out for about 45 minutes while you preheat your oven. Forming them in advance can often lead to to some of the filling oozing to the bottom, but for an occasion like Christmas morning where you don’t want to hassle with any mess, it’s worth the small compromise for me.
Can I cut out the first rise if I’m short on time?
Yes! I love to make the dough, let it rise, form the rolls, and then let it rise again before putting in oven – so two rises. I’ve found it makes for a lighter, fluffier roll. However, I’ve cut out the first rise before, and they’ve still been a hit, so do that if you need to and your family will still devour them.
Can I make this into a mini cinnamon roll?
Yes! Mini buns are perfect for brunches and showers, or little kids. I do so by forming my rectangle to be a longer log and shorter width. This will make your swirl tighter and smaller by the time you roll it up. You’ll have one long skinnier log instead of a shorter fat one. Cut the log in 1″ sections, and it’ll make the perfect mini cinnamon rolls!
Can I switch out the cream cheese frosting for an icing?
Of course! If you’re not a cream cheese fan, I suggest this recipe for a basic light icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 TB butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-5 TB milk
Beat all ingredients together.
How to Form
First, I like to roll my dough out into about a 15×26″ rectangle. Then I spread with softened butter, the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture and then roll up. Depending on how large your rectangle is and how big you want your rolls to be will determine which way you should roll up the dough. For less but larger rolls, roll up on the shorter end. For more but smaller rolls, roll up on the long end.
To slice the rolls, you can use a sharp serrated knife or my personal favorite…floss! I know, kind of funny, but this priceless secret I learned from my mom is now the only way I do it! It makes for a cleaner cut. The floss keeps the swirl layers perfectly even. Just cross the ends over and pull tight. It’s magic!
Put these gorgeous swirls on a jelly roll pan or in a large baking pan. Whatever pan you use, just be sure to place them 1-2 inches apart so they have room to grow and rise. Our family hopes you enjoy them as much as we do! Happy baking!
Oh and if you love sweet rolls, try out some of my other favorite variations!
- 2 cups whole milk, lukewarm (about 100° F)
- 1 ½ tbsp instant yeast
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temp
- 2 large eggs
- About 6 cups all purpose flour **see instructions to add correct amount
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ TB ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temp
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp lemon juice, optional for extra tang
Prepare the dough:
- Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the warm milk, yeast, and sugar together. If using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, wait about 10 minutes for the yeast to activate and get foamy.
- Add the first 3 cups of flour, eggs, and salt. Mix on low speed. While mixing, add the butter one tablespoon at a time.
- Slowly add the remaining flour while mixing. Pour your last half cup of flour in slowly, watching the dough. You may add slightly more or less flour as needed. You've added enough flour when the dough is soft, slightly sticky, and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Knead for 8-10 minutes on low-medium speed.
- Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon together.
- Transfer the dough to a clean work surface spread with a thin layer of vegetable oil or sprayed with nonstick spray. Roll out the dough into an even rectangle (about 16x26", or ¼" thick). Spread an even layer of softened butter and generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling.
- Starting from the longer end, gently and tightly roll it up into a log.Cut into 1 inch sections using a strand of floss or sharp serrated knife. Place in a greased jelly roll pan or baking pan, leaving about 1-2 inches in between so the rolls have room to grow.
Rise & Bake:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Loosely cover the rolls and let them rise at room temperature for 30-45 minutes, until risen and puffy. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
- While the rolls bake, make the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, then add remaining ingredients and beat until light and spreadable. Spread the frosting on the warm cinnamon rolls and serve immediately.
- Store airtight at room temperature. To reheat, place a roll in the microwave or to heat up a large batch, place in a 350° F oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until warm.
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp softened butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-5 tbsp milk Beat all ingredients together until smooth.