This cinnamon roll recipe almost did me in. They were so good with their buttery, cinnamon-filled layers and gooey cream cheese frosting that I just couldn’t stop eating them. And since I tested this cinnamon roll recipe several times over the course of a few weeks, my diet was probably 50% cinnamon roll there for a while. 😅 But hey, it was worth the sacrifice. (#sarcasm) After all the hard work and dedication of eating cinnamon roll after cinnamon roll, I’m now ready to teach you how to make the absolute best homemade cinnamon rolls ever. Your Saturday mornings will never be the same.
These incredible homemade cinnamon rolls have a super fluffing and soft brioche-like dough that is slightly sweet. The dough is slathered with a mixture of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar, then rolled up and sliced into perfect little pinwheels. They bake up fluffy and cloud-like and then are topped with the most deliciously sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. They’re cinnamon roll perfection!
Ingredients for Cinnamon Rolls
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own homemade cinnamon rolls:
- Yeast: Yeast is what gives these cinnamon rolls their airy, fluffy texture. You can use active dry yeast, instant yeast, or bread machine yeast for this recipe.
- Sugar: We use regular granulated sugar in the cinnamon roll dough, brown sugar to make the filling, and powdered sugar in the cream cheese icing. Make no mistake, this is a sweet treat!
- Flour: Regular all-purpose flour is the base for the soft and fluffy cinnamon roll dough.
- Salt: Adding a little salt to the dough really makes the flavor pop instead of being a bland, floury flavor.
- Butter: Butter is used to help keep the dough tender, to make the rich cinnamon-sugar swirl filling, and to soften the cream cheese icing.
- Milk: Milk also helps tenderize the dough, keeping it super soft and moist. We also add just a touch to the cream cheese frosting to help it whip up nice and soft without being too thick.
- Cinnamon: There is no shortage of cinnamon in these cinnamon rolls! We use a full tablespoon in the filling, which gives the rolls a warm and cozy flavor.
- Cream Cheese: The tangy flavor of cream cheese in the frosting helps balance the sweet and rich flavor of the cinnamon rolls.
- Vanilla: A splash of vanilla extract gives the frosting more flavor and richness.
Make Them Ahead
I know, not everyone wants to bake a full-blown batch of cinnamon rolls first thing in the morning. If you’re more of a night owl or prefer to do the majority of the work the night before, simply prepare the cinnamon rolls as directed below and as soon as they’re cut and in the baking dish cover them with plastic and refrigerate. They’ll rise slowly while they refrigerate overnight. The next morning, take them out of the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature while the oven preheats, then bake as usual!
How to Store Cinnamon Rolls
The un-frosted baked cinnamon rolls can stay at room temperature for about two days. Frosted cinnamon rolls can be kept in the refrigerator for about four days. And since these little cinnamon bombs are super rich, you can also freeze them for later! Just pull apart each roll, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freeze until solid (about two hours). Then wrap each one tightly and place in a freezer bag. The frozen cinnamon rolls can be thawed at room temperature for about 30 minutes before enjoying.
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
- 1/2 cup hot water (100-110ºF) ($0.00)
- 2 tsp dry yeast* ($0.20)
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar ($0.04)
- 2 Tbsp salted butter, melted ($0.25)
- 1/3 cup whole milk ($0.16)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (more or less as needed) ($0.38)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
Cream Cheese Icing
- 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature ($1.10)
- 2 Tbsp salted butter, room temperature ($0.25)
- 1 Tbsp whole milk ($0.03)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract ($0.30)
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar ($0.54)
- Stir together the hot water, yeast, and sugar until the yeast is mostly dissolved. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes, or until a thick layer of foam develops on the surface.
- Once the yeast is activated (as indicated by the foam on top), whisk in the milk and melted butter.
- In a separate large bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour and the salt. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the flour and stir until smooth.
- Begin adding more flour, ½ cup at a time, until a sticky ball of dough forms and it becomes difficult to stir with a spoon. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Knead the dough for 3 minutes, adding a small amount of flour as you go to prevent the dough from sticking. After kneading for a couple of minutes, the dough should be very soft, fairly smooth, and just slightly tacky. Do not over-knead the dough or add too much flour, as this will make the dough stiff. You'll use about 2 cups of flour total from the beginning in the bowl to the end of kneading.
- Place the kneaded dough back into the mixing bowl and cover loosely with plastic. Let the dough rise for one hour, or until it's double in size.
- Punch the dough down to deflate, then scrape it out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out into an 8×13-inch rectangle, sprinkling with flour as you go to prevent sticking.
- To make the filling, stir together the room-temperature butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until it forms a smooth paste. Spread the paste over the dough from edge to edge.
- Roll the dough up (long side toward long side) to create a 13-inch long log. Do not roll tightly, or this will make the center of your cinnamon rolls pop up while baking. Slice the roll into 9 pieces, about 1.5 inches wide each.
- Place the slices into a greased 9×9-inch baking dish (or a round pie dish). Let rise for 10-15 minutes as you preheat the oven to 350ºF. The rolls will rise quite a bit in the oven, so don't worry if they're still quite small after 10 minutes of rising.
- Once the oven is preheated, bake the cinnamon rolls for 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top.
- To make the icing, beat together the room-temperature cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Begin stirring in the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, until it is all incorporated.
- After the cinnamon rolls have baked, let them cool for 5-10 minutes before spreading the cream cheese icing on top. Enjoy warm or wait until cooled, then dig in!
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How to Make Cinnamon Rolls – Step by Step Photos
Stir together ½ cup hot water, 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, and 2 tsp yeast. Let the mixture sit until a thick froth forms on the top of the liquid (about 5 minutes). If it does not become frothy, your yeast has likely expired and your dough will not rise.
Melt 2 Tbsp of salted butter and stir it into the yeast water along with ⅓ cup whole milk. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup all-purpose flour and ½ tsp salt. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and stir until well combined. Continue to add flour, about ½ cup at a time, until it forms a sticky ball and becomes difficult to stir with a spoon.
When the dough forms a ball in the bowl and you can no longer stir it with a spoon, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for only about three minutes, adding a little flour as you go to keep it from sticking to your hands. After about three minutes you should have a very soft ball of dough that is slightly tacky and you will have used about 2 cups of flour total (in the bowl and while kneading).
Shape the dough into a ball and place it back into the mixing bowl. Loosely cover it with plastic and let it rise for one hour, or until doubled in size (pictured above after rising). Punch the dough down to deflate and turn it out onto a floured surface.
Roll the dough out into an 8×13-inch rectangle, sprinkling with flour as you go to prevent it from sticking.
Mix together 6 Tbsp softened butter, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, and ⅛ tsp salt. Spread the mixture onto the rectangle of dough, spreading it from edge to edge.
Roll the dough up into a 13-inch long roll (long side toward long side), making sure not to roll tightly (this makes the center of the cinnamon rolls pop up while baking). Slice the roll into nine pieces. I find a serrated knife works best for this because you can slice horizontally without using so much downward pressure that it squishes the roll.
Place the sliced cinnamon rolls into a greased 9×9-inch baking dish. Let them rise for 10-15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350ºF. They should have risen just enough to be touching each other when they go into the oven (pictured above). They will rise quite a bit more as they bake.
Bake the cinnamon rolls for 30 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown on top and the filling is bubbling up through the top.
While the cinnamon rolls are baking, prepare the cream cheese icing. Beat together 4oz. room-temperature cream cheese, 2 Tbsp room-temperature butter, 1 Tbsp whole milk, and ½ tsp vanilla extract. Once those ingredients are fully combined, stir in 1.5 cups of powdered sugar. It’s best to add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time to prevent it from flying everywhere as you stir. After the cinnamon rolls have baked, let them cool for about 10 minutes before adding the icing so it doesn’t completely melt into the rolls.
Enjoy the soft, fluffy, buttery, cinnamon-licious homemade cinnamon rolls warm, or wait until completely cool to devour! (My vote is to enjoy while still slightly warm!)