Hello and welcome to the wide wide world of cinnamon roll love.
Seriously, say hello to big, fluffy PERFECT cinnamon rolls packed with a cinnamon brown sugar filling and glazed with a vanilla cream cheese glaze that drips into the middle and soaks every single bite.
Descriptive, yes. Delicious, absolutely.
Healthy? Not so much. But sometimes you need something a little indulgent for moments in your life that require a little something special.
The trick to keeping the cinnamon rolls soft and fluffy is bread flour. Yep that’s right. The one and only. The rolls really won’t be the same otherwise.
Do I think they could they compete with Cinnabon’s famous cinnabon recipe? 100%.
So, let me tell you more about this sweet fluffy cinnamon roll recipe because it’s one you’ll never, ever forget.
I first published this recipe back in May of 2017. I had been making this glorious cinnamon roll recipe for years and wanted to share it with all of you.
Years later, these cinnamon rolls are one of the most popular recipes on Ambitious Kitchen and today I’m bringing it back to remind you of how delicious they are, but also share a few extra tips and tricks, plus a video tutorial of me making them (at the end of the post).
The very first time I baked them up was for Easter brunch while Tony was still in baseball. His parents were in town and he lived with 5 other guys. I prepped the dough the night before, kneading it by hand and mixing the dough with an old wooden spoon. It was perfection. The next morning I popped the rolls in the oven and they rose like cinnamon roll mountains: glorious, beautiful and finished off with a sweet vanilla cream cheese icing. The most beautiful brunch pastry you’d ever see.
The guys dug in immediately and said they were some of the best cinnamon rolls they’d ever had. I knew from that point forward that I’d make this recipe at every special occasion and holiday. Now I make them every Christmas morning for brunch — it’s such a fun tradition and everyone always looks forward to my famous cinnamon rolls.
Ingredients in cinnamon rolls
This cinnamon roll recipe doesn’t require a ton of ingredients, but it does require love, patience and dedication to the true recipe — meaning don’t deter from the original! These are called the best cinnamon rolls for a reason, and that requires following the recipe as instructed. Here’s what you’ll need to make the best cinnamon rolls:
- Milk: I recommend 2% or whole milk, but know that almond milk will also work (I’ve tried it!) See my tips below for ensuring your milk is at the right temperature.
- Granulated sugar: this is used to sweeten the cinnamon rolls and to help activate the yeast.
- Quick rise yeast: use quick rise or instant yeast in this recipe to help the cinnamon rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but the cinnamon rolls may take slightly longer to rise. Scroll down to get tips for using yeast in this recipe!
- Butter: the one and only. I prefer to use salted butter but unsalted is great too. You’ll need it for the dough, filling and icing.
- Egg + egg yolk: this recipe calls for 1 egg and 1 egg yolk for the perfect texture and rich consistency in the dough.
- Bread flour: to help keep these cinnamon rolls soft and fluffy, we’re using bread flour, which has a higher protein level to help lighten the cinnamon roll texture. The higher amounts of protein help to produce more gluten, which gives cinnamon roll their chewy, soft texture you know and love.
- Brown sugar: personally, I love using dark brown sugar for more robust molasses sweet flavor in those cinnamon swirls, but light brown sugar will work!
- Cinnamon: YUM.
- Salt: cinnamon rolls made without salt tastes very plain and in addition, salt also helps to control yeast in cinnamon roll recipes so don’t skip it.
- For the icing: the icing is truly unforgettable too! Just cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.
YES PLEASE. Cinnabon, you’ve got nothing on these rolls.
Which yeast is best for cinnamon rolls + how to know when yeast is activated
I can understand why it may be confusing to know if your yeast is activated. First, it’s important to know that there are two types of yeast to choose from. The first is an active dry yeast, which must be dissolved in liquid, or also what’s known as being “proofed” before it’s added to the rest of the dough ingredients.
The second type of yeast is instant yeast, also known as quick rise yeast (this is the brand I use and love!) and also what we are using for this cinnamon roll recipe. It can be added to the dough without any ‘proofing’ required, so you don’t need to sit and watch the yeast to make sure it bubbles. However, I still like to dissolve it in a little bit of milk and sugar to help get it started.
Tips for making the best cinnamon rolls
- Don’t overheat your milk. It should be between 105-115 degrees F. Anything hotter is likely to kill the yeast, which means the cinnamon rolls will not rise. A simple tip is to dip your finger in the milk — it should feel warm similar to warm bath water but not HOT. If you warmed it up too much, simply wait a few minutes until it cools down enough to touch.
- Make sure to use room temperature butter for the filling: a lot of recipes call for using melted butter in the filling, but that will cause the filling to leak out before baking. Room temperature butter is best!
- Rub the brown sugar into the butter: after you spread out the softened butter, it’s important to rub the brown sugar into the butter and dough so that it’s well combined. Please refer to the video!
- Use a room temperature egg in the dough: if you use a cold egg, there’s a chance it could affect the yeast or mix with the melted butter and cause it to coagulate. To bring your eggs to room temperature simply place them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
- Use bread flour: bread flour is available at most grocery stores and it makes ALL the difference in achieving softer, fluffy, perfect cinnamon rolls. JUST TRUST ME.
- Make sure you flour your work surface and the rolling pin: this is to prevent the cinnamon rolls from sticking the the surface or to the rolling pin.
Tools you’ll need to make cinnamon rolls from scratch
Here are some kitchen tools I recommend that will help make this cinnamon roll recipe a success:
- Stand mixer. You’ll want to use the dough hook on your stand mixer to easily knead the dough before rolling it out. Don’t have a stand mixer? No worries! You can also knead the dough by hand.
- Wooden spoon. I recommend mixing your dough together with a wooden spoon.
- Rolling pin. For rolling out that beautiful dough. Pro tip: if you don’t have a rolling pin you can also flour up a wine bottle!
- Serrated knife. Using a serrated knife will help you cut the cinnamon rolls out after you roll the dough up. You can also use floss.
- 9×9 inch pan. I recommend using a 9×9 inch baking pan or 9-inch circular pan so that the cinnamon rolls fit well and bake properly.
How to make overnight cinnamon rolls
After rolling the cinnamon rolls up, cut them as directed, arrange in pan lined with parchment paper, cover well with plastic wrap then place in fridge overnight. When you are ready to bake, bring the cinnamon rolls to room temperature and let them rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking as directed.
How to freeze cinnamon rolls
To freeze before baking: the dough should be frozen after the first rise (once they are rolled up with the filling in and cut). Place into a pan and cover well, then place in freezer. When you are ready to bake, let the dough thaw in the fridge — preferably overnight, then put in a warm spot for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking to activate the second rise. Bake cinnamon rolls as directed.
To freeze after baking: allow the cinnamon rolls to come to room temperature after baking, then you can choose to either freeze the entire pan, making sure they are well wrapped or covered in an airtight container, or you can choose to freeze individual cinnamon rolls. When ready to eat, defrost the cinnamon rolls at room temperature, then warm in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or you can warm them up individually in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (once defrosted). I prefer to freeze them before they are iced, and then frost them when ready to eat. The icing is also freezer-friendly!
Watch me make this cinnamon roll recipe
I hope you get a chance to try out this cinnamon roll recipe! They are truly a family favorite. Make them, keep them in your family for generations to come, and share a sweet surprise with someone special in your life. Don’t forget to rate the recipe below!
The Best Cinnamon Rolls You'll Ever Eat
The BEST cinnamon rolls in the WORLD. Big, fluffy, soft and absolutely delicious. You'll never go back to any other recipe once you try this one! This cinnamon roll recipe includes options to make them overnight or ahead of time and even freeze them.
- For the dough:
- ¾ cup warm milk (whole milk or 2% preferred) (110 degrees F)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons quick rise or active yeast (1/4-ounce package yeast)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- For the filling:
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar (light brown sugar also works)
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- For the cream cheese frosting:
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Warm milk to around 110 degrees F. I like to do this by placing milk in a microwave safe bowl and microwaving it for 40-45 seconds. It should be like warm bath water. Transfer warm milk to the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Add in sugar, egg, egg yolk and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Next stir in flour and salt with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form.
Place dough hook on stand mixer and knead dough on medium speed for 8 minutes. Dough should form into a nice ball and be slightly sticky. If it's TOO sticky (meaning it's sticking to the bottom of the mixer, add in 2 tablespoons more bread flour.) If you don’t want to use an electric mixer, you can use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on a well-floured surface.
Transfer dough ball to a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Allow dough to rise for 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size. This may more or less time depending the humidity and temperature in your home.
- After dough has doubled in size, transfer dough to a well-floured surface and roll out into a 14x9 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough, leaving a ¼ inch margin at the far side of the dough.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Use your hands to sprinkle mixture over the buttered dough, then rub the brown sugar mixture into the butter.
Tightly roll dough up, starting from the 9-inch side and place seam side down making sure to seal the edges of the dough as best you can. You will probably need to cut off about an inch off the ends of the dough as the ends won’t be as full of cinnamon sugar as we’d want it to be.
- Cut into 1 inch sections with a serrated knife or floss. You should get 9 large pieces.
Place cinnamon rolls in a greased 9x9 inch baking pan or round 9 inch cake pan. (I also recommend lining the pan with parchment paper as well, in case any of the filling ends up leaking out.) Cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel and let rise again for 30-45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and towel and bake cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes or until just slightly golden brown on the edges. You want to underbake them a little so they stay soft in the middle, that’s why we want them just slightly golden brown. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before frosting. Makes 9 cinnamon rolls.
To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread over cinnamon rolls and serve immediately. Enjoy!
To make overnight cinnamon rolls:
After placing rolls into the greased pan (after the first rise), simply cover, place overnight in the fridge and then bake them in the morning as directed. I like to bring my cinnamon rolls to room temperature first by leaving them on the counter for 30-45 minutes before baking (this is known as the second rise).
Check the blog post for instructions on how to freeze cinnamon rolls, plus additional tips and tricks!
More brunch treats you’ll love
If you make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment below and rate the recipe — I really appreciate it! xo.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen Photography: Sarah Fennel