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There is nothing better than pillowy soft, gooey-in-the-middle, smothered in cream cheese frosting, homemade cinnamon roll. These perfect cinnamon rolls taste even BETTER than Cinnabon.
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Let’s set the scene. I’m 11 years old, at the mall leaving The Limited Too with my mom. She just bought me the coolest bedazzled dress and glitter flared jeans (which I will wear together obvi). We’re walking towards Macy’s when the enticing scent of fresh baked Cinnabon wafts over. I have to have one. So I beg my mom.
My mom is the BEST, so the two of us get one for dinner. The perfect day: a new outfit for my 6th grade dance and a Cinnabon–truly is there anything better than this?
And the only thing better than a warm Cinnabon is a warm HOMEMADE cinnamon roll with a gooey center and luscious cream cheese icing.
Ingredients for homemade cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon rolls are one of those magical confections that taste like they have a million ingredients in them but actually call for basic pantry staples you probably already have on hand. Here’s your grocery list for these homemade cinnamon rolls:
All Purpose Flour: All purpose flour is perfect for creating a pillowy soft, tender, slightly bready dough. I’ve also had success making these with bread flour, but I find bread flour makes them a bit chewier!
Granulated Sugar: You’ll need a little granulated sugar to active the yeast and also to sweeten your dough slightly!
Instant Yeast: We usually use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise for these homemade cinnamon rolls, but any rapid instant yeast will work here! You can also use regular active yeast and double the rise times!
Butter: You’ll need butter for both the cinnamon roll dough and the cream cheese frosting. We prefer using unsalted butter so you can control how much salty is going into your baked goods! That being said, if all you have on hand is salted butter that will work totally fine too!
Milk: Any kind of milk will work in this recipe, but for a super soft, buttery dough we recommend using whole milk!
Eggs: These homemade cinnamon rolls are an enriched dough, meaning the recipe calls for eggs. The eggs will give your dough a soft structure!
Cinnamon: UH DUH. You’ll need cinnamon for the cinnamon sugar filling! Sometimes when I’m feeling spicy, I put 1 teaspoon in the dough too!
Brown Sugar: Brown sugar is the perfect, caramel-y, soft sugar to use for your cinnamon sugar filling. You can feel free to use light brown sugar or dark brown sugar, but you we do not recommend subbing it out for granulated sugar–it won’t melt in the same way!
Cream Cheese: In my opinion it’s not a cinnamon roll if its not absolutely smothered in cream cheese frosting. It’s imperative that you use room temperature cream cheese to get that nice creamy, smooth consistency.
Powdered Sugar: You’ll need powdered sugar to sweeten and thicken your cream cheese frosting.
How to make homemade cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon rolls are a more involved process than your standard chocolate chip cookie or muffin recipe…I get it. It can seem a little daunting. But luckily we’ve broken everything down for you so you’ll be a homemade cinnamon roll baking pro!
Cinnamon rolls require making three components (dough, cinnamon sugar, and cream cheese frosting) and this homemade cinnamon roll recipe needs 2 rises so you’ll have to be a little patient too. But isn’t that the fun in baked goods sometimes? Cinnamon rolls are a special treat and all that extra work and love makes them even more delicious.
Make the cinnamon roll dough and knead f0r 10 minutes until it passes the window pane test.
Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
Roll out the dough, spread with the filling, and roll up!
Slice the cinnamon rolls into 12 equal pieces and place in a pan.
Let the rolls rise for another hour.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Finally, Top with cream cheese icing. Lick the spoon (obviously), and dive into your gooey homemade cinnamon rolls!
How to know when to stop kneading your cinnamon roll dough
If you watch any baking shows (looking at you, The Great British Bake Off), you’ve maybe heard of “the windowpane test.” This is the easiest and simplest way to test if your dough has developed enough gluten (bonds in the dough that will give it that nice dough-y, cinnamon roll texture).
Rip off a small piece of dough and place it between your fingers, gently spreading your fingers apart to stretch out the dough. If the dough can stretch out and get translucent (I like to hold it up to a window and see that light passes through it), you’ve kneaded it long enough and you can shape it and place it in a bowl to rise. If the dough rips and will not stretch out you’ll need to knead your dough more. Place the piece of dough back with the rest of it and knead the dough for a few more minutes (1 or 2 should do it!) and repeat the test until your dough passes with flying colors!
Tips for baking with yeast for beginners
Now I know that cinnamon rolls can feel a little intimidating. Homemade dough, multiple rises, proofing…I get it. But believe me when I tell you that it is so so SO worth it for a gooey homemade cinnamon roll hot from the oven. Plus, once you get the hang of baking with yeast, it’s not so hard! Plus you’ll get the dreamiest, soft, slightly bready dough that tastes worthy of a bakery in no time. Who knew homemade could be so easy?
Make sure your yeast is fresh: There is NOTHING worse than going through all the kneading and steps of cinnamon roll baking and then coming back to your dough after its first rise and finding it flat. It’s happened to me before and it’s truly soul crushing. You don’t have to activate instant yeast, but
Let the dough have its full rise time: Yeasted dough requires some extra time and planning but it’s so worth it for homemade cinnamon rolls. Make sure you give the dough the full rise time for the ultimate soft and fluffy dough. If you try to rush the process you can end up with sad, dense rolls.
Tips for the perfect homemade cinnamon rolls
If you’re new to yeasted dough, follow the recipe closely, trust the process, and keep at it!
Use high quality ingredients: You saw the shopping list–cinnamon rolls use just a few, basic ingredients, so their quality will really shine through in the finished product. Use good butter, real cream cheese and high quality cinnamon!
Don’t over bake them: I think we can all agree that the best part of a cinnamon roll is the gooey, slightly under baked center. It’s a fine line between over baked and too doughy, so keep an eye on them in the last 10 minutes of baking and remember that they will continue to bake as they cool!
Eat them warm: Cinnamon rolls are best hot from the oven (duh.), but don’t worry if you have leftovers that you want to enjoy later. Simply pop your cinnamon roll in the microwave for 20 seconds to get it gooey and warm again!
How to store these cinnamon rolls so they stay pillowy soft and fluffy
In the unlikely scenario that these cinnamon rolls aren’t inhaled on the spot, you can absolutely store these for later! Here are our top tips for storing these homemade cinnamon rolls so they stay pillowy soft for days!
Underbake the rolls slightly: This is the cardinal rule of cinnamon roll baking. The best part about homemade cinnamon rolls is that slightly underbaked doughy center. This will also help the rolls stay moist and soft if you’re storing them!
Only frost the cinnamon rolls you’re planning on eating: Frosting can get a little weird when it goes through a bunch of temperature changes. I find these cinnamon rolls keep best unfrosted so they don’t get soggy. Simply keep the frosting in a container in the fridge and frost your cinnamon roll when you’re ready to eat it!
Store in an airtight container or tightly wrapped: This will help seal out any air and keep your homemade cinnamon rolls soft!
Heat up before eating: Cinnamon rolls are always best ooey gooey and warm. Simply pop your cinnamon roll in the microwave for 30 seconds or in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes to heat it back up to that fresh baked warmth!
Happy cinnamon roll baking! And more importantly, happy cinnamon roll eating 🙂
In a large bowl combine 2 cups of the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl. Mix to combine.
In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the milk and butter for 30 seconds until warm and the butter is mostly melted. The mixture should be warm, but not hot. If it is too hot, make sure to let it cool before adding to the yeast to prevent killing the yeast. Add the warm milk and butter to the flour mixture.
Add the egg.
Beat on low speed, gradually increasing to high until completely combined, about 2 minutes.
Scrape down the bowl and add 1 more cup of flour, beating until combined. Add the remaining cup of flour in a little at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and you can stretch a piece of dough out between your fingers without it breaking. This means the gluten has developed and your dough will be pillowy soft.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Once the dough has risen, roll it out into a long rectangle about 18 x 12 inches on a well floured surface.
Spread the butter for the filling all the way to the edge of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the butter, pressing it down to stick to the butter.
From the long end, roll the dough away from you into a tight roll, sealing the bottom edge down by pinching the dough together.
Use floss or a very sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 even rolls. Place the rolls in a 9 x 13 inch pan lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with a dish cloth and allow to rise for another hour until doubled in size and puffed up.
Bake the cinnamon rolls at 350°F for 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and no longer doughy. Allow to cool.
While the rolls cool, make the cream cheese frosting. In a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, milk, salt, and vanilla extract.Beat on low speed, gradually increasing to high until light and fluffy. Spread the icing evenly over the 12 rolls. Enjoy warm!
Keywords: homemade cinnamon rolls
If you would like to make the cinnamon rolls the day before, you can make the dough as directed through step 11 (cutting out the rolls and placing them in the pan), but instead of letting the rolls have their second rise, cover them and place them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, take the rolls out of the fridge and leave on the counter for an hour to warm up and double in size before baking as directed!