These Cinnamon Rolls are simply the best! They’re soft, fluffy and filled with a generous amount of gooey cinnamon sugar filling. Slather the baked rolls with our sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting or drizzle on our simple and sweet icing – they’re incredible both ways. This cinnamon roll recipe is perfect for the holidays or a weekend brunch.
Is there anything better than a homemade cinnamon roll, warm from the oven? Soft, gooey and filled with cinnamon and sugar, these cinnamon rolls are what breakfast dreams are made of. I am so excited for you to try them!
I’ve tested this recipe again and again to get it just right. It’s now tried-and-true perfect and ready to share with you, just in time for the holidays! Even beginners to baking with yeast will have success with this recipe. While it takes some time to make cinnamon rolls from scratch because of the dough rise time, each step is easy to follow.
Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite treats to bake for my family for a special breakfast. My kids devour these and request them often. I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as we do. ♥
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Perfect Yeast Dough: This soft, fluffy, buttery made-from-scratch dough makes the best cinnamon rolls.
- Gooey Cinnamon Roll Filling: Butter, cinnamon and both white and brown sugar make this cinnamon roll filling perfectly sweet and ooey gooey good!
- Two Icing Options: Choose a decadent sweet and tangy cream cheese icing or a simple powdered sugar icing. We love them both!
- Make Ahead Option: I’ve included instructions for how to make the cinnamon rolls the night before and bake them in the morning. This is the perfect way to make freshly baked cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.
Cinnamon Roll Recipe Ingredients
The ingredients are broken down into three parts: what you need for the dough, the cinnamon-sugar filling, and the icing.
Yeast Dough for Cinnamon Rolls
- Whole Milk: Using whole milk creates a rich, flavorful dough. Warm the milk to 105-115° F. This is the ideal temperature to activate the yeast. Don’t combine the yeast with milk that is hotter than 115° F, because doing so could kill the yeast.
- Yeast: The yeast activates when it’s mixed together with the warm milk and a bit of sugar; the active yeast is what makes the dough rise. I usually use instant yeast. Active dry yeast can also be used but may require a longer rise time.
- Granulated Sugar: You’ll mix one teaspoon of sugar in with the milk and yeast to activate the yeast. The rest of the sugar is used to sweeten the dough.
- Salt: Enhances all of the flavors. Don’t skip it! Without salt, the cinnamon rolls will be lacking in flavor.
- Egg: Adds richness to the dough and makes it soft and tender.
- All-Purpose Flour: You can substitute bread flour for chewier cinnamon rolls.
- Butter: Gives the dough rich, buttery flavor and a soft texture.
Cinnamon Roll Filling
- Butter: Let it soften to room temperature so that it spreads easily onto the rolled out dough. The butter helps the cinnamon sugar to stick to the dough. As it melts in the oven with the sugar, it creates a delicious gooey filling.
- Light Brown Sugar: Using a majority of brown sugar in the filling brings a richer, more complex flavor.
- Granulated Sugar: Adds pure sweetness.
- Cinnamon: We’re using a full 1 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon to bring plenty of cinnamon flavor the the cinnamon rolls.
Cream Cheese Frosting or Simple Icing
The cinnamon rolls that you see in the photos in this post are frosted with cream cheese frosting. It’s ultra decadent, and the best combination of sweet and tangy. You’ll find the recipe in the recipe card below. If you want a lighter frosting option, see the notes at the bottom of the recipe card for a simple icing recipe, made with powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. My family loves the cinnamon rolls either way, but most often we prefer the simple icing.
How to Make Cinnamon Rolls
- First, proof the yeast. Combine the warm milk, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand 5 minutes, until the yeast foams or bubbles.
- Then add the remaining sugar, salt, egg and flour. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined. Then mix in the butter.
- Use the mixer with the dough hook attachment to knead the dough for 8 minutes, until it is smooth and only slightly sticky to the touch. If the dough is very sticky, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and fold it a few times to shape it into a rectangle. Then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into an 18×12-inch rectangle.
- In a small bowl, stir together both sugars and the cinnamon for the filling.
- Spread the softened butter out over the rolled out dough. Leave about 1/2-inch on one long edge without butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the buttered dough.
- Working from a long edge, roll the dough up into a log, pinching it closed at the seam.
- Use a sharp knife or flavorless dental floss to cut the dough into 12 equal rolls. Place the rolls in a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls at 350° F, until golden brown on the edges, 20-25 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes and then add the frosting. Serve the cinnamon rolls warm or at room temperature.
Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Tips
- Before beginning the recipe, let the butter (both for the dough and filling) and egg come to room temperature. If you’re making the cream cheese frosting, you’ll also want the cream cheese and butter for the frosting to be softened to room temperature.
- Use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature of the warmed milk before adding the yeast. The milk should be between 105-115° F to activate the yeast.
- Use the spoon and level method to measure the flour. Lightly spoon the flour into your measuring cup and then level off the top. Do not scoop with the measuring cup, since this can pack in too much flour.
- Be careful to not add too much flour to the dough. Start with 3 cups of flour, and if the dough is very sticky mix in 1 tablespoon more at a time until the dough is just slightly sticky. Adding too much flour will give you a tough dough.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the dough together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. When it gets too hard to mix with the spoon, finish mixing it with your hands. Then knead it by hand on a lightly floured work surface.
- If the dough keeps shrinking back when you are rolling it out, let it rest for a few minutes and it will relax. I usually mix together the cinnamon sugar filling while I wait.
Make Ahead Instructions
Cinnamon rolls are a perfect make ahead breakfast! The night before, make the dough, let it rise, roll it out and shape the rolls. Immediately after putting the cut cinnamon rolls in the baking dish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, when you are ready to bake, take the cinnamon rolls out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for 30 minutes while the oven preheats. Then remove the plastic wrap and bake as directed in the recipe.
How to Store
- Leftover cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting should be stored in the refrigerator. They will last for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
- If you frosted the rolls with the simple confectioner’s sugar icing, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- You can also freeze baked cinnamon rolls, either before or after adding the icing. Store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or for an hour or so at room temperature and then gently warm in the oven or microwave before serving.
More Brunch Ideas
Wondering what to serve with your cinnamon rolls? These are some of our favorite special breakfast recipes:
- Breakfast Casserole
- Crustless Quiche
- How to Cook Bacon in the Oven
- Breakfast Potatoes
- Baked French Toast Casserole
For the Dough
- 1 cup warm milk, 105-115° F, whole milk is best
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast*, or one packet
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
For the Filling
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Cream Cheese Frosting*
- 4 ounces brick-style cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups confectioners' sugar, powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- small pinch of salt
Make the Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk, yeast and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Whisk gently. Set aside for 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to bubble and/or foam.
- Add the remaining ⅓ cup sugar, salt, egg and flour. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined. Then mix in the butter pieces on low speed.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until it is smooth and only slightly sticky to the touch, about 8 minutes. The dough is supposed to be slightly sticky, but if it is very sticky you can add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Avoid adding too much flour, because this will make the rolls more dense instead of light and fluffy. The dough should stick to your finger a little bit when you touch it but not be so sticky that you won't be able to roll it out.
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Make the Filling & Shape the Rolls
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and fold it a few times, shaping it into a rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into an 18×12-inch rectangle. If the dough resists rolling out into a large enough rectangle, let it rest for a few minutes and it will relax.
- To make the cinnamon sugar filling, in a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon.
- Spread the 4 tablespoons of softened butter evenly over the rolled out dough, leaving about ½-inch of dough on one long edge without butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the buttered dough.
- Starting with the long edge opposite the edge without cinnamon-sugar, tightly roll up the dough into a log, pinching closed at the seam. Then use a sharp knife or flavorless dental floss to cut the log into 12 equal rolls. Place each roll in a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Cover the rolls with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F.
Bake and Make Frosting
- Bake the cinnamon rolls in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on the edges. Let them cool for 10 minutes before frosting.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese frosting (or use the simple icing recipe in the notes below). Using an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together on medium low speed until creamy, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and salt and beat on medium-low speed until incorporated and frosting is creamy.
- Spread the icing over the cinnamon rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Active dry yeast may be used instead of instant yeast, but may require longer rising time. Let the dough rise until doubled in size for the first rise and 30 minutes to 1 hour for the second rise if using active dry yeast.
- To make a simple icing instead of cream cheese icing: In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. If the icing is too thick, stir in up to one more tablespoon milk. Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.
- To make cinnamon rolls without a stand mixer, you can mix the dough in a large bowl using a wooden spoon. When it becomes too hard to mix with a spoon, switch to mixing with your hands. Then knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured work surface.
- Make Ahead Instructions: You can make the cinnamon rolls the night before and then bake them in the morning. Make the dough, let it rise, roll it out and shape the rolls. Immediately after putting the cut cinnamon rolls in the baking dish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When you are ready to bake, take the cinnamon rolls out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for 30 minutes while the oven preheats. Then remove the plastic wrap and bake as directed in the recipe.
- Storage Instructions: With cream cheese frosting: cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If you frosted the rolls with the simple confectioner’s sugar icing, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Freeze (before or after icing): Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or for an hour or so at room temperature and then gently warm in the oven or microwave before serving.
I am really excited about trying this recipe Kristine. I am especially looking forward to making them ahead, then freezing them to take out and enjoy on Christmas morning. We have tried so many recipes over the years and we just haven’t been successful.
Your recipes are just the best!!
You are going to love them! If you decide to freeze the baked rolls, I recommend freezing them without the icing and then making the icing on Christmas morning. Let the rolls thaw in the fridge overnight, then warm them and add the icing. You can also follow the make ahead instructions to make the rolls the night before and bake them fresh in the morning. 🙂