The absolute best cinnamon roll recipe ever! These cinnamon rolls are a family tradition of soft, fluffy, sweet, melt in your mouth goodness. Perfect for fall and the holidays!
I’d like to dedicate these cinnamon rolls to our good friend Maddie Chase, who passed away earlier this month. She had a life long battle with health issues, and was my husband’s favorite patient at Bethesda when we lived in D.C. She leaves her husband, Jason, her brother, and all her family and friends who love them both very much. We will miss Maddie terribly.
Okay, I don’t want to make this too sad, I’m not much of a sad person and neither was Maddie. Onto buns.
Say hello to the fluffiest, softest, most delicious, best cinnamon rolls ever. Ever, ever.
Cinnamon rolls are tradition in this house. I’ve been making them every year from September to January since Brian and I got married in 2011. So my family knows: when the cinnamon rolls come out, it’s officially fall. Even though it’s still 100 degrees, raining all day, and it’s hurricane season down here.
Can you tell I’m a little salty? Fall’s my favorite season and I can’t enjoy it in Miami. Boo.
I can still pretend, though. Crank up the A/C, turn on the fake fireplace, watch Charlie Brown, throw fake leaves everywhere.
Eat fluffy, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls with amazing cream cheese icing drizzled all over it.
I only make cinnamon rolls during the cold season, period. The first time I made cinnamon rolls was in D.C. in early October, it was cold, we just bought chicken wings from our favorite place in Georgetown, and I had made hot chocolate on the stove for the first time ever. I felt like Susie Homemaker…you know, minus the whole chicken wing situation, but still. Susie Homemaker with chicken wings.
During the holidays I make this overnight, just doing the second rise in the pan, covered in plastic wrap, in the fridge overnight. That way we have cinnamon rolls ready for Christmas or Christmas Eve or whatever day we want a little something extra special with breakfast.
We love how sweet (but not too sweet) and flavorful these rolls are with the buttery, sugary filling and light and fluffy dough.
And drowning the rolls in that delicious creamy cream cheese icing. I know I just drizzled it in the photos, but just know that I completely smeared the rolls in a ton of icing before eating them. Because who doesn’t love icing?
Random side note, Brian had sympathy pregnancy cravings of Cinnabon cinnamon rolls when I was pregnant with Greyson. And the only Cinnabon around was in an outlet mall 40 miles away. Those were fun times, haha.
The key to a great cinnamon roll is 95% in the dough. No one wants a tough, hard, dense, cinnamon roll! We want the dough well kneaded, a hint of vanilla incorporated, the shortening giving us mega fluff, and the scalded milk giving us those tender, delicious middles that everyone wants.
I suggest going by the recipe and scalding your milk. Heating your milk til it’s just about to simmer actually helps breakdown the tightly bound proteins in it, making your dough lighter, fluffier, and more tender.
Once your milk is scalded, don’t add your yeast mixture to the bowl until it’s cooled down (around 110-115 degrees F) so you don’t kill the poor yeast. No yeast = no rise.
Also, make sure you’re using good, live yeast. The best way to do this is by proofing your yeast by putting those little guys in some warm (no more than 115 degrees F) water with a little sugar. The sugar feeds the yeast (they love that stuff) and they’ll start to bubble up and make a foamy thing on top of the water in about 10 minutes, and that’s how you know they’re live and ready to go.
Now, I really believe in using a stand mixer to knead your dough, especially when you don’t know what you’re looking for (hello, new bakers!) and a good stand mixer is one of my favorite kitchen investments. I hated making breads because kneading by hand just isn’t in my ministry, you know?
So when you’re kneading (hopefully in your stand mixer) you’re looking for a dough that feels good. It’s soft, it’s supple feeling, it’s literally the nicest thing ever. You will be thinking these things as you touch it.
It isn’t sticky, it is smooth, and when you poke a finger on it, it springs back nicely.
That dough is ready to rise.
When you are ready to roll after it rises, use as much butter and cinnamon sugar as you want. I love a lot of filling, but you may want less. You may even want a little more. Go for it. Just make sure to tightly, tightly, tightly, roll up your cinnamon rolls or you will have a difficult time picking them up and putting them in the pan. Also, use some flavorless dental floss to cut them. Wrap the floss around the roll, and pull to cut so that the rolls don’t get mushed by a knife edge. Boom, nice looking rolls.
As you’re baking, if you notice your cinnamon rolls are getting a little brown too fast, throw some foil on top of that pan! Too brown and they’ll get hard, and we don’t want that, so keep a good eye on those rolls.
Okay, ready to make a new fall/winter/holiday tradition? Let’s gooooooo.
Looking for more cold weather treat traditions? Check out:
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- 1/4 cup warm water, 110-115 degrees F
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 package, 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Brown Sugar Filling:
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
Cream cheese Icing:
- 3 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp milk, more as needed
- In a small bowl, gently stir warm water with yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.
- Pour the milk into a saucepan and place it over over medium-high heat, whisking to ensure the milk doesn't burn at the bottom. The milk will start to steam lightly and bubble around the edges after a minute or two. Once the milk starts to bubble (don't let it boil!) remove it from the heat.
- Put the 1/3 cup of sugar, shortening, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour scalded milk on top and whisk until well combined. Allow to cool until no longer hot, until about 110 degrees F.
- Once the milk mixture has cooled, stir two cups of flour in using the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture and mix until well combined, then mix in the egg and vanilla.
- Mix in 2 more cups of flour until fully combined, then mix in 1-2 tablespoons of flour at a time until the dough is easy to handle. Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface or using the dough hook on a stand mixer on low speed for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl, adding a little extra flour if needed.
- Once the dough is kneaded, place it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Once doubled in size, punch down the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a large rectangle. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick or about 12x18 inch rectangle.
- Spread the softened butter all over the dough, leaving an inch around the edges bare. Mix the brown sugar and ground cinnamon in a mixing bowl until well combined, then sprinkle generously over the butter.
- Roll the dough up tightly, starting at the widest side. Cut the roll of dough into 12 equal pieces and place each piece in a greased 9x13 baking pan or two greased 9 inch pie dish. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place cinnamon rolls in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the cinnamon rolls are cooked through. Cover loosely with foil after about 10-15 minutes to prevent too much browning.
- Once the cinnamon rolls are done, remove from oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
To make the cream cheese icing:
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract until fully combined. Then mix in the milk, adding more as needed until it is somewhat pourable.
- Once the cinnamon rolls have cooled slightly, frost them, serve and enjoy!
- Store frosted cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator covered tightly for 3-4 days and reheat in the microwave.
- To make ahead of time: Cinnamon rolls may be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days. Add the cream cheese icing right before serving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 796 Total Fat: 15g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 42mg Sodium: 240mg Carbohydrates: 184g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 24g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 24g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.