A farmhouse favorite, these decadent homemade Cinnamon Rolls are a special morning treat! Whether you serve them for Christmas brunch or just a lazy Sunday morning, you'll love the convenience of this easy make-ahead recipe. No one can resist the light and fluffy dough, the gooey, buttery brown sugar and cinnamon filling, or the thick, rich, cream cheese frosting. Grab your coffee and get cozy...this is truly the best cinnamon roll recipe ever!
Homemade 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!
Is there a difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns?
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 the rolls for breakfast or brunch -- preferably with a hot cup of coffee or tea!
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, cinnamon 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!
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 of making these homemade cinnamon rolls is really quite easy! Best of all, they can be completely 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!
Ingredients for Easy Cinnamon Rolls
- Bread flour (or sub with all-purpose flour)
- Instant or rapid-rise yeast
- Whole milk
- Brown sugar
- Confectioners' sugar
- Cream cheese
- Vanilla extract
Step 1: Make Dough
Prepare the dough in a stand mixer or by hand.
Step 2: First Rise
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours.
Step 3: Fill
Roll dough into a rectangle about 8 inches by 14 inches. Spread softened butter on top (I do this with my fingers!), then sprinkle with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Step 4: Cut
Roll up the dough into a tight cylinder, then slice into 8-10 rounds. Arrange the pieces in a greased 9-inch round cake pan or a 9-inch square baking dish.
Step 5: Second Rise
Cover the dish and let the buns rise in a warm spot until puffy; about 1 hour.
Step 6: Bake
Bake the cinnamon rolls in a 350 degree F oven until golden brown and cooked through; about 25-35 minutes.
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.
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! Below, I've also included a recipe for Mrs. Peachey's caramel icing. Either option yields unbelievably delicious morning buns, so pick your favorite.
Cream Cheese Frosting for Cinnamon Rolls
For the cream cheese icing, use an electric mixer or a whisk to combine the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla extract until thick and smooth. Spread the icing on the warm rolls. It will melt slightly, soften and become a little bit gooey!
Caramel Icing for Cinnamon Rolls
My neighbor, Mrs. Peachey, who consulted with me on preparing the best cinnamon roll recipe ever, uses a less-traditional (but equally delicious) caramel icing on her cinnamon rolls. If you'd like to give her recipe a try, here's what you'll need:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup milk
- 1¾ - 2 cups confectioners sugar
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.
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 oven and rest in a warm spot for 60-90 minutes. Remove cover and bake according to the recipe instructions.
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 Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
To reheat cinnamon rolls, preheat the oven to 350 degrees 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.
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 works fine, too!
- 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 degrees 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.
More Breakfast Treats You'll Love
- Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread
- Christmas Stollen
- Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
- Old-Fashioned Donuts
- Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- Blueberry Scones
- Amish Friendship Bread
Farmhouse Cinnamon Rolls
FOR THE 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
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE DOUGH:
- In a large bowl, 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 degrees F) and the shortening is melted. If the liquid gets hotter than 110 degrees 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 and stir. Add the egg; mix until a soft dough comes together. Add more flour (1 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. Knead for 5 minutes.
- Transfer 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.
FOR THE FILLING:
- Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough into a long rectangular shape about 8 inches x 14 inches. Spread softened butter on top. Sprinkle with the brown sugar mixture. Starting on one of the long sides, roll up the dough into a tight cylinder; pinch lightly to seal the seam. Slice into 8-10 even rounds. Transfer the pieces, cut-side up, to a greased 9-inch round cake pan or 9-inch square baking dish.
- Cover and let rise in a warm spot until puffy, about 1 hour. Remove cover.
- Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25-35 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 glaze.
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 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 glaze on top of the warm buns. Let the buns cool for about 10 more minutes. Spread the remaining glaze on the warm buns and serve.