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A farmhouse favorite, these light and fluffy, buttery, homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting (or a special caramel frosting) are a decadent morning treat! Grab your coffee or gingerbread latte and get cozy, because this convenient, make-ahead breakfast is truly the best cinnamon roll recipe ever!

Overhead shot of a pan of the best cinnamon roll recipe ever
Table of Contents
  1. Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
  2. Is there a difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns?
  3. Cinnamon Rolls Ingredients
  4. How to Make Cinnamon Rolls from Scratch
  5. Cinnamon Roll Icing
  6. Make Ahead – Overnight Cinnamon Rolls​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  7. Storage
  8. Tips for the Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe
  9. Farmhouse Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

For years, our neighbors have been bringing us a warm tray of homemade cinnamon rolls every Christmas. They’re a treat that we always look forward to, so why not make them myself? With an easy cinnamon roll recipe like this, we can have our favorite morning buns anytime a craving strikes — not just on Christmas!

I consulted my neighbor (a professional baker!), to find out the scoop on her perfect cinnamon rolls. Today I’m sharing all of the details, the tips, and the tricks so that you can sink your teeth into these warm, soft, moist and gooey treats, too!

Proofing cinnamon roll dough in a warm place
My favorite warm spot in my office for proofing the cinnamon roll dough!

What are traditional cinnamon rolls?

Cinnamon rolls are sweet rolls that are popular in both North America and Northern Europe. The sweet, rich dough is shaped into a flat rectangle, topped with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, rolled into a cylinder, and sliced into individual rolls. The rolls bake in a pan and are finished with a simple icing. In America, we typically enjoy them for breakfast or brunch — preferably with a hot cup of coffee or tea!​​​​​​​

Process shot showing how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch

Is there a difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns?

The terms “cinnamon rolls” and “cinnamon buns” are often used interchangeably; however, “rolls” and “buns” are technically two different foods. This is a helpful article that outlines the differences between these breakfast treats.

In short, sticky buns (or “cinnamon buns”) begin with a caramel glaze at the bottom of the pan, and pecans are usually added for crunch. By contrast, rolls are placed directly into a baking dish (no sticky glaze necessary), and a cream cheese icing is spread on top after baking. Cinnamon rolls don’t usually contain nuts.

Again, the terms cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns are often used interchangeably, so if you slip and call these cinnamon buns, that’s fine too!

Cinnamon roll recipe process shot for second rise

Cinnamon Rolls Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Bread flour: you can sub with all-purpose flour, but the bread flour is our preference because its higher protein content yields a higher rise.
  • Instant or “rapid-rise” yeast: helps the dough rise. If you only have active dry yeast on hand (rather than instant yeast) see this article for helpful instructions on making that substitute.
  • Granulated sugar: sweetens the dough.
  • Salt: balances the sweetness in the rolls and enhances the other flavors.
  • Whole milk: gives the bread a rich, velvety texture. Low-fat milk will also work, but the whole milk yields the best flavor and texture.
  • Shortening: creates super soft dough with a light, fluffy texture. I use these sticks of Crisco brand shortening.
  • Egg: gives the dough structure and flavor.
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon, and salted butter: for the filling in your rolls.
  • Powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla extract: for the cream cheese icing.
Spreading cream cheese frosting on top of cinnamon rolls

How to Make Cinnamon Rolls from Scratch

From start to finish, it takes about 4 hours to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. While the dough needs plenty of time to rise, the actual process is really quite easy! Best of all, they can be assembled in advance and then left to chill in the fridge overnight. Bake them off in the morning, slather them with cream cheese frosting, and you’ll soon see why these sweet rolls are worth the wait. They’re soft, moist, gooey and oh-so-cinnamony!

  1. Make the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can stir by hand in a large mixing bowl with a bit more elbow grease!).
  2. Set it in a warm place to “proof” (i.e., rise) for a couple of hours until it’s doubled in size.
  3. Roll out the dough, slather it with softened butter, and sprinkle copious amounts of brown sugar and cinnamon on top.
  4. Roll the dough into a cylinder, slice into equal rounds, and arrange the pieces in baking dish.
  5. Set the pan back in a cozy warm spot to rise and puff up for another hour or so.
  6. Bake the rolls, and then slather them in frosting!
Hands serving a pan of cinnamon rolls on a Christmas table

How to Know When Cinnamon Rolls are Done

The rolls are ready when they’re a dark golden brown on top. If you gently touch inside between two of the rolls, the dough should be cooked through and flaky — not wet, sticky, or raw.

Fluffy cinnamon roll on a plate with cream cheese frosting

Cinnamon Roll Icing

Cinnamon rolls can be iced in a variety of ways. Some folks use a simple combination of milk and confectioners’ sugar. Here, I’ve shown a thick, rich, cream cheese frosting, which is a classic way to top the buns. It’s just like those decadent treats that you can buy at Cinnabon!

Caramel Icing for Cinnamon Rolls

My neighbor, Mrs. Peachey, who consulted with me on preparing these Christmas cinnamon rolls, uses a less-traditional (but equally delicious) caramel icing on her rolls. If you’d like to give her recipe a try, I’ve included it in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post. Both frostings yield unbelievably delicious morning buns, so pick your favorite!

Close up side shot of a dish of the best cinnamon roll recipe

Make Ahead – Overnight Cinnamon Rolls​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

You don’t need to rest the dough overnight; however, this make-ahead option can be very convenient for early morning cinnamon rolls! To prepare the dough in advance, arrange the cinnamon rolls in the pan, but do not allow them to rise for the second time. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove the dish from the fridge and let the rolls rest in a warm spot for at least 90-120 minutes, or until they’re puffy. Remove the cover and bake according to the recipe instructions.

Square overhead image of a white dish full of the best homemade cinnamon rolls

Storage

Store the baked cinnamon rolls at room temperature for 1-2 days or wrapped tightly in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They are best enjoyed warm, straight from the oven, as they tend to get dry if they sit out for too long.

To keep them longer, you can freeze the baked cinnamon rolls (with or without frosting) for up to 2 months. Just make sure they’re wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or reheat directly from frozen.

How to Reheat

To reheat cinnamon rolls, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pan of rolls in the oven and heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes (or closer to 30 minutes for frozen rolls). You can also reheat individual cinnamon rolls in the microwave for 15-30 seconds.

Table of Christmas cinnamon rolls with coffee

Tips for the Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

  • I prefer bread flour in this recipe, which has a bit more protein and yields a slightly higher rise. All-purpose flour will work in a pinch, though.
  • Properly measure the flour. Always spoon and level the flour — do not scoop it out of the package. Incorrectly measuring the flour will result in dense, hard rolls.
  • I prefer shortening in this dough. The shortening creates super-soft cinnamon rolls with a light, fluffy texture. That said, you can substitute with unsalted butter if necessary.
  • Rise in a warm spot. If your dough isn’t rising, check the temperature of your kitchen. Ideally, you want to find a spot that’s about 75°F, but this doesn’t have to be exact.
  • Use a glass or ceramic baking dish. I find that dark metal pans and cast iron skillets cause the bottoms and sides of the rolls to burn more easily.
  • Bake in the center of the oven to prevent excessive browning on the top or bottom of your rolls. You can cover the rolls loosely with foil if they start to get too dark on top before they’re done baking.
Side shot of traditional cinnamon rolls on a table
Square overhead image of a white dish full of the best homemade cinnamon rolls

Farmhouse Cinnamon Rolls

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Inactive Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 10 rolls
Calories 423 kcal
These easy homemade cinnamon rolls are a cozy breakfast treat. Prep the dough ahead and bake them in the morning!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CINNAMON ROLL DOUGH

  • 2 ¾ cups bread flour, or more as needed (you can sub with all-purpose flour)
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) instant or "rapid-rise" yeast
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 1 large egg

FOR THE FILLING

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup salted butter, softened at room temperature

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING FOR CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

ALTERNATE OPTION: CARAMEL ICING FOR CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 ¾ – 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

FOR THE DOUGH

  • In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine milk and shortening. Warm in 5-second increments in the microwave (or on the stovetop), just until the mixture is lukewarm (about 110°F) and the shortening is starting to melt. If the liquid gets hotter than 110°F, just let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to cool. You want it to feel like warm bath water.
  • Pour the warm milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Use the paddle attachment on the stand mixer to mix on low speed (or medium-low) until combined.
  • Add the egg; mix until a soft dough comes together. Add more flour (1-2 tablespoons at a time), if necessary, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It should be slightly sticky, but not sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Switch to the dough hook attachment on the stand mixer. Knead the dough for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl; turn the dough so that it’s greased on all sides. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
    Proofing cinnamon roll dough in a warm place

FOR THE FILLING

  • Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a long rectangular shape about 8 inches x 14 inches.
  • Spread softened butter on top. Make sure that the butter is very soft so that it's easy to spread. I like to use my fingers for this step!
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture over top.
    Sprinkling brown sugar and cinnamon on top of cinnamon roll dough
  • Starting on one of the long sides, roll up the dough into a tight cylinder; pinch lightly to seal the seam.
    Process shot showing how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch
  • Slice into 8-10 even rounds. Some folks like to use dental floss or thread, rather than a serrated knife, to slice the individual rolls. Transfer the pieces, cut-side up, to a greased 9-inch round cake pan, deep pie plate, or 9-inch square baking dish.
    Cinnamon roll recipe process shot for second rise
  • Cover and let rise in a warm spot until puffy, about 1 hour. Remove cover.

TO BAKE THE ROLLS

  • Bake the cinnamon rolls uncovered in a 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden brown and the insides are cooked through. If the tops start to get too dark before the dough is fully cooked, tent loosely with foil. Transfer to a wire cooling rack; prepare the cream cheese frosting or the caramel glaze (whichever you prefer).

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • Use a whisk or electric mixer to combine all of the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. It should be quite thick. Spread about ½ cup of the frosting on top of the warm buns. Let the buns cool for about 10 more minutes. Slather the remaining glaze on the warm buns; serve immediately.
    Spreading cream cheese frosting on top of cinnamon rolls

(ALTERNATIVE) CARAMEL ICING

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add confectioners sugar until the icing reaches a thick but spreadable consistency. Spread on the warm buns.

Notes

If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can prepare the dough by hand. Simply use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients as instructed, then knead the dough by hand on a well-floured surface for 5 minutes.
To prepare the dough in advance, arrange the cinnamon rolls in the pan, but do not allow them to rise for the second time. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove the dish from the fridge and rest in a warm spot for 90-120 minutes (or longer, if necessary), until the rolls are puffy. Remove cover and bake according to the recipe instructions.
  • I prefer bread flour in this recipe, which has a bit more protein and yields a slightly higher rise. All-purpose flour will work in a pinch, though.
  • Properly measure the flour. Always spoon and level the flour — do not scoop it out of the package. Incorrectly measuring the flour will result in dense, hard rolls.
  • I prefer shortening in this dough. The shortening creates super-soft cinnamon rolls with a light, fluffy texture. That said, you can substitute with unsalted butter if necessary.
  • Rise in a warm spot. If your dough isn’t rising, check the temperature of your kitchen. Ideally, you want to find a spot that’s about 75°F, but this doesn’t have to be exact.
  • Use a glass or ceramic baking dish. I find that dark metal pans and cast iron skillets cause the bottoms and sides of the rolls to burn more easily.
  • Bake in the center of the oven to prevent excessive browning on the top or bottom of your rolls. You can cover the rolls loosely with foil if they start to get too dark on top before they’re done baking.

Nutrition

Serving: 1rollCalories: 423kcalCarbohydrates: 67gProtein: 6gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 330mgPotassium: 107mgFiber: 1gSugar: 40gVitamin A: 348IUCalcium: 68mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: Christmas Cinnamon Rolls, Cinnamon Roll Recipe, Cinnamon Rolls, Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, Traditional Cinnamon Rolls
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in December, 2020. The photos were updated in December, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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