These easy Cinnamon Rolls are made with a soft fluffy dough, a swirl of buttery cinnamon sugar, then baked until golden and topped with cream cheese icing for the best-tasting buns around!
Table of contents
Easy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
The smell of homemade fluffy cinnamon rolls in the morning is the kind of aroma that lets you know it’s going to be a good day!
I usually reserve making them from scratch for a special occasion, but even when I’m just in the mood for no apparent reason, I do skip the store-bought packages and get to baking! They’re easy to make, especially if you’ve never worked with yeast before, but these sweet rolls are decadent and indulgent, so they are definitely an occasional tasty treat!
They make the best Christmas morning or brunch, Thanksgiving or Easter dessert, and birthday breakfast-in-bed pastries! Anything left means the next morning you’re just really lucky!
Freshly baked cinnamon buns are warm and gooey and the kind of thick and fluffy pastry you take a big bite of without a care in the world. You’re nose-deep in delectable cream cheese icing and you can’t wait for more!
For the Dough
- Milk: Yeast thrives in a warm place so we’ll need to make sure that the milk is warmed to 100-110 degrees F. If it’s too hot it’ll kill the yeast, if it’s too cold, it won’t activate it.
- Sugar: This is what feeds the yeast and helps it grow and foam to do what it needs to do for our sticky buns.
Yeast: active dry yeast is what I use. You want to make sure your yeast is still active, so do a little test. If it’s dead, discard it and pick up fresh yeast.
- Eggs: They help to form the dough by binding everything together. The yolk adds richness keeping it nice and moist.
- Butter: Melted butter adds a buttery flavor to the fluffy dough and helps to give it softness and that melt-in-your-mouth quality. I love using unsalted butter.
- Vanilla extract: A warm flavor that enhances the taste of everything around it, making it even more delicious.
- All-purpose flour: Used for the structure of the cinnamon rolls. Making sure to measure it correctly is crucial! Use a kitchen scale or the spoon and level method to make sure you don’t use too much flour.
For the Filling
- Butter: Softened and spreadable butter helps to adhere the cinnamon mixture onto the dough and as it melts in the oven it gives the filling a nice gooey syrupy consistency.
- Flavor: This filling consists of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of salt to round out the flavors. A traditional filling for a classic cinnamon rolls recipe.
For the Cream Cheese Icing
A quick blend of cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream makes the best cream cheese icing which is the perfect sweet and tangy pairing for these cinnamon rolls!
- You can use instant yeast and skip the first 5 minutes of proofing in step 1.
- I prefer to use whole milk for the dough, but you can use 2% or even almond milk if preferred.
- Leave out the nutmeg if you would rather just stick with the cinnamon.
- For the icing, you can substitute milk for heavy cream.
How to Make these Perfect Cinnamon Rolls
This recipe requires just one full rise to get that rich buttery dough nice and fluffy, it’s swirled with a cinnamon sugar filling and then topped with a simple 4-ingredient icing!
Step 1: Proof the yeast by adding warm milk and sugar to a large bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast overtop. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes until it foams.
Step 2: Whisk in the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla and combine well. Then, slowly add the flour and use the dough hook attachment to blend at low speed. The dough should come together in a smooth ball around the attachment.
Step 3: Continue kneading for 5 minutes until smooth and slightly tacky. Place the ball of dough into a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let the dough rise in a warm draft-free area for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
Step 4: Towards the end of the rise time, combine the cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well and set it aside.
Step 5: Grab the dough, and roll it out into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Keep it about ¼ of an inch thick. Spread the butter on the whole surface area and then sprinkle a generous amount of the cinnamon-sugar mixture overtop.
Step 6: Starting with one of the longer sides, roll the dough up tightly into a log. Pinch the seam once it’s rolled up all the way so that it doesn’t unroll.
Step 7: Use a serrated or sharp knife to cut the rolled dough into 1-inch discs. Place the unbaked rolls in a single layer in a greased baking dish and cover them for a second rise while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. They should bulk up a bit more as they wait.
Step 8: Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and then allow the cinnamon rolls to cool for 10 minutes before adding the frosting.
To make the cream cheese icing, mix the softened cream cheese and gradually, the powdered sugar on low speed. Use either the bowl of a stand mixer and paddle attachment or a hand mixer.
Slowly add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and blend on low speed until fully combined.
Beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until the icing is fluffy, scraping down the sides as you go. Once the cinnamon rolls have cooled for about 10 minutes, spread the icing overtop each one.
Then, dive in!
- Test your yeast! I can’t stress this enough. You don’t want to get to the point of wondering why your dough isn’t rising.
- If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add 1 Tablespoon of flour at a time just until it no longer sticks to the bowl.
- Flour the rolling pin just a bit so that it doesn’t stick.
- Bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature well ahead of time so that they are ready when you need them.
- Allow the cinnamon buns to cool before adding the icing otherwise the heat will melt the frosting making it too thin and runny.
- If using instant yeast, the dough will usually rise a bit faster too, so check on it at about 45 minutes.
Other Favorite Frostings!
There is no shortage of ways to glaze a cinnamon bun! You can swap the cream cheese icing for any of the following:
- Maple glaze
- Vanilla icing
- Cinnamon frosting
- Brown butter frosting
- Marshmallow frosting
- Maple cream cheese icing
Absolutely! You can do most of the work the night before and then pop them in the oven in the morning! All you need to do is prepare the rolls up until you place them into the prepared dish. Cover with plastic wrap them and refrigerate them overnight. Bring them to room temperature 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake.
These babies can stay at room temperature for up to 3 days! They’ll be gone long before then, but in case, you can also keep them refrigerated for up to 5 days. Just be sure to cover them in an airtight container.
Simply put them in the microwave. Nothing fancy and it’s the best way to get them nice and soft again.
Cinnamon rolls can be kept frozen for up to 3 months. Be sure to cool them completely, then wrap them tightly. I like to wrap them individually so they don’t freeze together and I can just take out 1 or 2 at a time when needed.
You can! It’ll just take a bit of kneading by hand and it’s smooth sailing after that. Steps 1 and 3 will require a whisk and a wooden spoon. Once you begin forming the dough, you’ll use your hands to knead for about 5-7 minutes until the desired soft and slightly sticky consistency has been reached. Then, continue as directed.
You can also make the icing with a bowl and a whisk!
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
For The Dough
- ¾ cup milk warmed to 100-110° F
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
For the Filling
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Cream Cheese Icing
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Making the Dough
- Add the warm milk and white sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over top and allow it to sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. (see below for instructions without an electric mixer).¾ cup milk, ¼ cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- Add the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk to combine well.2 large eggs, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Slowly add the flour and blend on low speed.3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- Once all of the flour is added, the dough should come together into a smooth ball around the hook attachment. If it is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time just until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl.
- Knead the dough on low speed for 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and tacky. (The dough should be slightly sticky and soft).
- Lightly grease a large bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it in the greased bowl and cover with a towel. Place the dough in a warm place and allow it to rise for about one hour until doubled in size.
- After the dough has risen, place it on a flat, lightly floured surface and roll it into a ¼” thick rectangle. I like to flour the rolling pin slightly so it doesn’t stick.
- Spread softened butter over the rolled out dough.4 tablespoons butter
Making the Cinnamon Filling
- In a small bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and mix well.½ cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the butter.
- Tightly roll the dough into a log and pinch the seam closed so it doesn’t unroll.
- Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the log into 1 inch thick pieces.
- Grease a 13×9 or two 8×8 baking dishes with butter or cooking spray. You can also line them with parchment paper.
- Place the rolls in the pan(s).
- Cover the rolls with a towel and place them on the stovetop to rise while you preheat the oven.
Baking the Rolls
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- When the cinnamon rolls almost completely fill the pan, it’s time to bake!
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and allow them to sit for 10 minutes before frosting.
Making the Icing
- While the cinnamon rolls cool, add the softened cream cheese to a medium mixing (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment).4 ounces cream cheese
- Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed.2 cups powdered sugar
- After the powdered sugar is mixed in, slowly add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and vanilla and blend in on low speed until blended in.2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Then turn the mixer on medium-high speed and beat for about 2 minutes until the icing is fluffy. (scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while blending).
- Spread all of the icing over the cinnamon rolls.