Perfect Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
The ultimate tested-till-perfect cinnamon roll recipe for soft, tender cinnamon rolls with a gooey cinnamon filling and delicious cream cheese icing. A few simple tricks are what sets this recipe apart from the pack. You’ll never look back.
Is there anything better than a cinnamon roll hot from the oven? A swirl of soft dough, oozing with buttery brown sugar and cinnamon and thickly gobbled with cream cheese frosting. Done exactly as written, these homemade cinnamon rolls turn out heavenly every time. This is my go-to recipe for Christmas and Easter morning, and many, many mornings in between.
How to make amazing homemade cinnamon rolls.
- Use a stand mixer. The dough is very wet and sticky, won’t form an actual ball, and kneading by hand won’t be possible without adding more flour. More flour will dry out your buns.
- Weigh the flour, as the few extra tablespoons added by scooping compacted flour straight from the bag can also change the final product.
- Use real buttermilk. It tenderizes the dough with an abundance of moist-making phospholipids (far more than in milk or in a buttermilk substitute) and makes the cinnamon buns ultra soft.
- Muster the patience of a SAINT while you wait for them to rise. Because it is a rich dough with egg, butter and buttermilk, it takes quite a bit longer to gain loft than a sandwich loaf. Expect 1 1/2 hours minimum for each rise. This makes a huge difference to the fluffy, tender finished buns as well as the flavour. See notes on overnight option below.
- UNDERSTAND YEAST: I use quick yeast for ease because you don’t need to proof it, but (unlike with most quick/instant yeast recipes) this recipe still incorporates it with the wet ingredients (so you don’t have to separately whisk the flour and yeast = one less dirty bowl) and relies on two rises for fluffiness.Some recipes will ask you to place buns in a very low oven or to use as much as 1 tbsp of yeast. The excess fermentation that results will indeed speed up the rise, but you’ll get a very strong and unpleasant alcohol-y flavour that will completely dominate. Patience is required for best flavour.
- Don’t overbake. The buns around the outside of the pan will be about 190ºF. I use a meat thermometer to check. The middle ones will be at a lower temperature but will continue baking via carry-over cooking once removed from the oven. No sweat if you don’t have a thermometer. As long as they aren’t sticky-doughy, they’re done.
Want to make your cinnamon rolls in advance so you can just pop them in the oven in the morning? You can definitely do it! But to make them as perfect and delicious, use my tricks.
There are two problems with making cinnamon rolls in advance. The first is that even though yeast is still active in the fridge, the dough is such a rich one that the rise is slow. The rolls won’t rise as much overnight as they would on the counter.
The second problem is that cold dough will bake unevenly. The tops will be very dark brown while the middle rolls are still raw and doughy. Gross.
The TRICK is to bring the rolls to room temperature quickly and allow them to finish their second rise in the morning before you bake them. See below.
How to Make Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
- Prepare the dough up until the second rise. After placing the rolls in the pan and covering with a clean towel, transfer them to the fridge.
- In the morning, lift the parchment out of the baking pan and separate the unbaked cinnamon rolls on the counter. Taking them out of the cold pan and separating them massively speeds up the time to get them to room temperature and finish rising.
- Once the rolls are at room temperature and doubled in volume from yesterday (take a pic of them before you refrigerate if you’re unsure), put them back in a parchment-lined baking pan and bake as usual. The time will be the same. Expect an 1 hour on the counter to achieve this.
Can I Freeze Cinnamon Rolls?
Baked cinnamon rolls freeze extremely well. Separate them (unfrosted) and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once firm, pack into airtight storage bags or containers for up to 2 months.
Pop one in the microwave for 20-second intervals, flipping upside down then right-side-up, until warm.
Alternatively, freeze the whole unfrosted pan of baked cinnamon rolls and rewarm in a 300ºF oven, covered tightly with foil, until warmed through (expect about an hour).
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 15.75 ounces all-purpose flour (447 grams or 3 1/2 cups lightly spooned and levelled but highly recommend you weigh)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (Instant, quick-rise or bread machine yeast are all equivalent)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 4 ounces 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup butter softened
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine buttermilk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is warm but not too hot to stick your finger in. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.
- On medium speed, beat in the yeast and salt to combine, then beat in the sugar and egg. Reduce speed to low and beat in the flour. When a sticky dough comes together, switch to the dough hook and knead for about 6 minutes on low speed. It will start as a ball but slacken to a sticky dough that sticks to the bottom and sides of the bowl. It will be very soft. Don't add more flour.
- Cover bowl with a clean towel and let dough rise until fully doubled in volume, about 90 minutes.
- Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.
- Transfer dough to a well-floured work surface. Roll out to a rectangle (aim for a roughly 15" long edge. The closer you make it to a square, the more layers of swirl you'll have). Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 3/4" slices.
- Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper. Arrange the rolls in the pan, putting any smaller ones in the middle and bigger ones in the corners for even baking. Cover with the kitchen towel and let dough rise again until doubled in volume, about 90 minutes.
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Don't overbake. Use a knife to pull apart the middle rolls to make sure it's not still sticky-doughy. The outer buns should register 190ºF while the middle ones remain lower. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.