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These big, soft Homemade Cinnamon Rolls are made with a rich, easy yeast dough and generous amount of cinnamon, sugar, and butter swirled in the middle. Then they are topped in a simple vanilla icing for the most amazing breakfast treat of your life!
Nothing says “I love you” like a special breakfast. Some of our other favorites are Pecan Sticky Buns, homemade Crepes, Cowboy Quiche, and Sour Cream Coffee Cake (another must make if you love cinnamon-forward treats!).
The BEST Cinnamon Roll Recipe
When it comes to cinnamon rolls, my checklist looks something like this:
Ooey-gooey? Check and double check.
These cinnamon rolls check all the boxes and then some. The dough is sweet and so soft. And the filling is cinnamon-sugar perfection with a couple of extra additions that will make these the best cinnamon rolls you have ever had. Using a mix of brown sugar AND granulated sugar in the filling gives a more interesting flavor and the cornstarch lends a silky texture that helps keep the filling soft and smooth.
I have made dozens and dozens of batches of cinnamon rolls and held off posting thiss recipe for YEARS in my quest to find the BEST cinnamon roll recipe. It feels like I have tried every version under the sun, from Cinnabon copycat recipes to shortcut no-yeast cinnamon roll recipes. But this version is the one I keep coming back to time and time again because of it’s ease, simplicity, and because they are just so darn incredible!
I decided to share my cinnamon roll recipe to represent Kansas in my American Eats series where I’m sharing the foods that each state is known for, one state at a time. It’s not because cinnamon rolls are from Kansas (I don’t actually know where they originated), but because the first thing anybody from Kansas has mentioned to me when I’ve asked them what food best represents their state is the combination of cinnamon rolls and chili, served together.
Apparently this trend started in the 1960’s, when many schools in the midwest would serve chili and cinnamon rolls for hot lunch and it was the highlight of the week for the kids.
This wasn’t too surprising for me since I grew up in neighboring Nebraska, where chili and cinnamon rolls is also a thing. It’s the sweet & spicy combination that makes these two foods the perfect cold weather comfort food pairing.
Now whether you actually eat them together – scooping up chili with pieces of cinnamon roll to pop in your mouth – or just have the cinnamon roll as dessert right after finishing a bowl of chili (my personal preference) – it’s totally up to you.
Making cinnamon rolls is easier than you think
I say this is an easy cinnamon roll recipe because even though it involves yeast and a rise time, the actual amount of work and know-how that goes into making these cinnamon rolls is minimal. The dough takes all of 10 minutes to whip up in a stand mixer that does the kneading for you. Even if you have never worked with a yeast dough before, these cinnamon rolls aren’t that hard to make and have them turn out incredible.
Then after letting the dough sit on the counter to rise for an hour or so, it takes another 10 minutes of work to roll it out, spread it with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, then roll them up and slice them.
It takes a little patience to make cinnamon rolls, but it’s mostly hands-off time. I’ve made other cinnamon rolls that are described as easy because they are one-hour cinnamon rolls or no-yeast cinnamon rolls, but none of them seem any easier aside from taking a little bit less time. And while some of them are decent, none of them compare to these big, soft, classic cinnamon rolls. The trade-off of waiting an extra hour for the dough to proof is well worth it.
Cinnamon roll icing
When it comes to topping your cinnamon rolls, there are a few different ways to go. A lot of people love cream cheese icing, which makes extra decadent cinnamon rolls and can be a good way to go.
But after multiple rounds of recipe testing, I came to the realization that most of the cream cheese icing I tried had an overpowering flavor of cream cheese that took away from the actual cinnamon roll itself. I found that I prefer a simple vanilla icing with only a tiny amount (just 2 ounces) of cream cheese instead of a full brick like in most cream cheese frosting.
Ingredients in cinnamon rolls
- Flour: I found that bread flour makes the best cinnamon rolls because it gives them a chewier texture that I love. But if all-purpose flour is all you have, it totally works in this recipe just as well. Start by adding the smaller amount of flour when kneading the dough, then add more flour as needed to get a nice, smooth dough.
- Granulated sugar: You will use a little in the dough itself, plus more in the filling.
- Brown sugar: The rich flavor of brown sugar and cinnamon makes this the cinnamon roll filling extra special.
- Butter: I use salted butter in almost all of my baking. If you only have unsalted butter on hand, just add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the recipe for each 1/2 cup of butter.
- Yeast: You can make cinnamon rolls with active dry yeast or instant yeast. If using instant yeast, go ahead and skip the proofing process where you combine the yeast with warm water and sugar and let it rest until foamy.
- Eggs: Adding eggs to bread dough enriches it and gives it great texture and flavor.
- Buttermilk: The buttermilk in the dough tenderizes it, but can be substituted with regular milk if you don’t have buttermilk on hand.
- Cinnamon: A necessary ingredient when making cinnamon rolls.
- Cornstarch: I add cornstarch to my cinnamon roll filling because it gives a wonderful silky texture that my recipe testers loved.
- Heavy cream: For the icing so it’s spreadable and soft.
- Vanilla extract
How to make cinnamon rolls
- Proof the yeast. In a large bowl, combine warm water, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and yeast. Mix well, and then let it sit for 5 minutes while the yeast proofs and becomes foamy. If using instant yeast, you can skip this step and just add add the warm water, sugar, and yeast with the other ingredients in Step 2.
- Mix dough ingredients with some of the flour. Add in the remaining sugar, eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Mix well using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon, then add in another cup of flour and mix again. I find this easiest to do with a stand mixer using the beater attachment but it can be done by hand.
- Knead. Switch to the dough hook, then add in another 2 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on medium-low speed. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl after kneading for a few minutes. If not, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, kneading it in to create a very soft dough. Don’t add the additional flour if you don’t really need it! Too much flour can make for dense, dry cinnamon rolls instead of light, soft, fluffy ones. But things like humidity can affect doughs like this, so use your best judgment.
- Rise. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and then let it rise at room temperature for about 1 hour until it’s doubled in size. While the dough is rising, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small bowl for the filling and then set it aside. Spray a clean surface with cooking spray. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and then set it aside. You could use a 9×13-inch baking dish instead, but the rolls will squish together more.
- Roll out and shape rolls. Turn out the dough onto a clean surface and roll it out into a 14″x18″ rectangle with a rolling pin . Spread the softened butter over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the top. Sprinkle with the filling mixture, then roll the dough into a tight log starting from one of the long sides and pinching the ends together.
- Slice & rise. Cut the log of cinnamon roll dough into 12 cinnamon rolls either using a sharp knife or a piece of floss or string. My favorite method is to slide a piece of string under the rolled up dough to the center, then cross the ends of the string together and pull tight to make a clean cut. Repeat cutting the segments of dough in half until you have 12 cinnamon rolls. Place the rolls cut-side up onto the prepared baking sheet, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise for 30-45 minutes.
- Bake the rolls. When there are about 15 minutes left, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Once the rolls have risen, transfer the baking pan to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top and cooked through. Do not overbake!
- Make the frosting. While the cinnamon rolls bake, beat the butter and cream cheese in a bowl for about 2 minutes until creamy and combined. Add in half of the powdered sugar, and mix until combined. Add in the remaining powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla. Beat until light and creamy.
- Frost while warm. When the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven, let them rest for 3-5 minutes, then frost generously with the frosting you made while the cinnamon rolls are still warm. It will partially melt down into and over the cinnamon rolls, making them extra gooey and wonderful.
Overnight cinnamon rolls
You can easily make these cinnamon rolls in advance by kneading, rising, and rolling out the dough the night before. After shaping the cinnamon rolls and placing them on the baking sheet, instead of letting them rise right away, cover them with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight.
The night morning, let them rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until puffy, then bake like normal and frost.
How long are cinnamon rolls good for?
If you keep them properly stored in an airtight container, you can expect them to last about 3 days and still taste great. After that, they tend to dry out and become stale.
Cinnamon roll french toast
However, the BEST way to use up cinnamon rolls if they are starting to go stale is to make cinnamon roll french toast! Just scrape off the frosting (save it in a separate bowl), then slice each cinnamon roll in half horizontally. Make an egg mixture following my french toast recipe, then dip each piece of sliced cinnamon roll in it on both sides and fry in a little butter on both sides. Heat up the frosting in the microwave until it can be stirred and drizzled over the french toast.
I will purposely reserve 4 of the cinnamon rolls without frosting sometimes knowing that I’m going to make cinnamon roll french toast a few days later, just to save myself the bother of scraping off the frosting. It’s SO good!
More Sweet Brunch Recipes
- Strawberries and Cream Cheese Sheet Cake
- Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
- 30 Minute Cinnamon Sugar Knots
- Cinnamon Roll Cake
- Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns
- Knotted Orange Sweet Rolls
- Macadamia Nut Sticky Buns
- Glazed Apple Fritter Yeast Bread
- 2/3 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 4-4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, combine the warm water, 1-2 teaspoons of the sugar, and the yeast. Mix well, then let sit for 5 minutes while the yeast proofs and becomes foamy.
- Add remaining sugar, eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Mix well, then add another cup of flour and mix again. I find this easiest to do with a stand mixer using the beater attachment but it can be done by hand.
- Switch to the dough hook, then add another 2 cups of flour. Knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl after kneading for a few minutes. If not, add remaining 1/2 cup of flour, kneading in to create a very soft dough. Do not add the additional flour if it isn't needed as too much flour can make for dense, dry cinnamon rolls instead of light, soft, fluffy ones.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size. While the dough is rising, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon for the filling and set aside.
- Spray a clean surface with cooking spray. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
- Turn out dough and use a rolling pin to roll out into a 14"x18" rectangle. Spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle with the filling mixture, then roll up the dough into a tight log from one of the long sides, pinching the ends together.
- Slice into 12 cinnamon rolls using string or floss. Place cut-side up on baking sheet, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 30-45 minutes.
- When there are 15 minutes left, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once the rolls have risen, bake them for 20-24 minutes until golden brown on top and cooked through. Do not overbake or the cinnamon rolls will be dry.
- While the cinnamon rolls bake, make the frosting by combining the butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beating well until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes. Add half of the powdered sugar, mixing until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla, beating until light and creamy.
- When the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven, let them rest for 3-5 minutes, then frost with the frosting while the cinnamon rolls are still warm so that it can partially melt down into and over the cinnamon rolls.
- Storage instructions: These cinnamon rolls are best eaten the day they are made. But they will keep for about 3 days in an airtight container on the counter. Stale cinnamon rolls can be sliced in half horizontally and dipped in an egg batter to make amazing cinnamon roll french toast.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1099Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 355mgCarbohydrates: 226gFiber: 2gSugar: 187gProtein: 8g
Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Oregon • Puerto Rico • South Carolina • South Dakota • Texas