Award-winning Homemade Cinnamon Rolls have been a family tradition passed down from baker to baker; I’m proud to share my recipe for the best made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting you’ll ever taste.
If I had known how easy homemade cinnamon rolls with icing were to make years ago, I might have opened up a bakery serving up hot, freshly baked sweet rolls just like Cinnabon. Amazingly, this recipe is as close as I’ve tasted to the popular chain. In my opinion, they’re even better.
If you like your cinnamon rolls gooey, rich, and drowning in cream cheese icing with just a hint of buttermilk, this recipe is the one you need. This is a cinnamon roll recipe made with yeast, but don’t let that intimidate you. You can do this! Besides, I’ll walk you through the whole process.
Need Homemade Cinnamon Buns for all your friends? You're gonna be so popular! Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What you need to get started making Homemade Cinnamon Rolls:
First things first. Baking endeavors always go smoothly with a little advance preparation and the right equipment.
- Baking dish: One 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan, glass, ceramic, or metal.
- Active Dry Yeast: Fleischmann’s, Red Star, Bob’s Red Mill, or Saf are all good brands. Just make sure the yeast is fresh and hasn’t expired. Can you use instant yeast? Yes you can. Keep reading--I'll show you how to tell if yeast is good.
- Good cinnamon: I bake with ground Vietnamese cinnamon. It's sweeter, more aromatic, and more potent than the Indonesian (regular) cinnamon that is found in grocery stores.
- Bench scraper: My bench scraper (also known as a dough cutter) is perfect for working with dough, but it’s just as handy to use it to quickly clear flour or food scraps off a work surface.
- Stand Mixer: I love my KitchenAid, and I bet you can’t live without yours, either.
- Work Surface: Not mandatory, but I love this silicone pastry mat for rolling out dough, and generally makes life easier. I store it rolled around my rolling pan and wrapped in a kitchen towel when not in use.
- Rolling Pin: I bought my rolling pin at E. Dehillerin in Paris in 2008. You can get one that looks just like it on Amazon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
Things to keep in mind when making Homemade Cinnamon Rolls:
- Yeast: Cinnamon rolls with yeast are wonderful as long as your yeast is still active. Proofing is a way to test the yeast, and it’s really easy. Pour the packets of yeast into 1/4 cup lukewarm (90-110 degrees) water. At the end of 5-10 minutes, the yeast should have produced a foamy layer on the surface. If it does, it can be used immediately. Keep in mind that yeast is a living organism which thrives in warm temperatures, just as long as they’re not too warm. Yeast activates at 40 degrees and dies at 140 degrees.
- Room temperature ingredients: When it comes to baking, using room temperature ingredients, especially eggs, is important. In case you forgot to leave the eggs out, you can warm them up in a glass of warm water.
- A warm place: Yeast dough requires a warm place to let the yeast do its stuff. It needs to be out of direct sunlight, too. If your kitchen is chilly, you may need to let the dough rise longer. Or make a warm place! One of the best places to let dough rise is inside an oven. To create a warm environment ideal for rising, preheat your oven to its minimum temperature (200 degrees), but shut it off once the temperature reaches about 110 degrees. Place your dough (in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap), on a baking sheet and in the oven.
- Heavy Cream: This is a make-or-break ingredient that gives these cinnamon buns extra-special gooey appeal. Adding slightly warm heavy cream will keep the rolls rising as they should during baking. The first time I soaked these rolls in the heavy cream I thought I ruined them! You might, too. But don’t worry—magic happens in the oven and transforms the cinnamon rolls into a phenomenal baking masterpiece you'll make again and again.
How to Make Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
(Please go to the recipe card for the full recipe. This is just an outline for visual learners!)
- First, scald the milk. Milk is scalded when it's heated until a thin skin forms on top of the milk. This happens at about 170 degrees.
- Next, combine the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the scalded milk and cool to 110 to 115 degrees.
- Meanwhile, you need to bloom the yeast. This means you add yeast (in our case, Active Dry Yeast) to warm water (about 110 degrees). After 5 minutes, the yeast should be foamy and fragrant on top. (Read more in my section on "yeast" above).
- In your mixer, combine flour and the bloomed yeast. Add in the scalded milk mixture until the dough comes together. If the dough is sticking to the bottom of the mixer, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is fully released.
- Shape your dough into a ball, brush with butter, and proof the dough (let it rise) in a warm place, about 80 to 85 degrees. If you have struggled with proofing dough in the past, read my tutorial above ("a warm place") for how to proof dough with your oven. This is especially important in cold months or chilly climates!
- While the dough is rising, mix your filling. Turn the proofed dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle (12 inches by 18 inches) and brush with melted butter.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar filling over the dough and gently press it in. Leave about 1/2-inch border around the outside of the dough.
- Starting at the long edge of the dough, roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam to seal. Set the cylinder seam-side down and cut the dough in 12 equal pieces.
- Proof the cinnamon rolls a second time until doubled. Again, yes my easy oven method for proofing if your house is colder 80 degrees inside!
- Pour heavy cream over the top of the proofed rolls to make them extra gooey. You could omit this if you want to, but why would you want to?
- Bake until the rolls are golden brown and irresistible, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Frost with my delicious cream cheese frosting, or the icing of your choice. If frosting too sweet for you, brush the baked rolls with melted butter instead of frosting.
Can you make cinnamon rolls in advance?
Proper timing of cinnamon rolls can be tricky, especially if you want Homemade Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas morning. No one, not even Santa, wants to get up at 3 am to make hot sticky buns.
These beauties can be made to the point of the second rise (once they’re rolled out, cut, and added to the pan). Cover them, refrigerate the pan until morning, then bring them out and let them go through their second rise. Add heavy cream and bake, proceeding with the recipe as planned.
Can you freeze Homemade Cinnamon Rolls?
Yes you can. Cinnamon buns without icing are easy to freeze and bake up when you want them. (You can ice them once they're baked.)
Once you roll out, cut, and fill the baking pan with all those little cinnamon buns, wrap the baking pan in layers of plastic wrap and foil and freeze.
When ready to bake, take them out and move the to the refrigerator, letting them thaw overnight. The next morning, take them out and let them warm up while you preheat the oven.
Bake according to the recipe, adding 5-10 minutes to the cooking time.
Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Icing:
For a little orange twist, add a tablespoon or two of orange juice and a tablespoon of fresh orange zest to the icing.
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans and Maple:
Nuts or no? I think yes! You can add 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans to the filling mix as well as 1 tablespoon of real maple syrup for another layer of cinnamon bun perfection. Add even more toasted chopped nuts over the icing if you want to get even more nutty.
Homemade Cinnamon Roll Recipe
For the dough:
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter divided (1 stick)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
- 2 eggs room temperature (see note 1)
- 2 envelopes active dry yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons (see note 2)
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water 110 degrees
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 cup butter melted (1/2 stick)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (slightly warm, for after the 2nd proof)
For the icing:
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese softened
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1 cup powdered sugar (4 ounces)
- In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a scalding temperature (when a skin forms on top of the milk, about 170 degrees), stirring frequently. Remove immediately from heat after scalding.
- Meanwhile, combine 1/3 cup butter, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour scalded milk over the top and cool to 110 degrees to 115 degrees, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the eggs.
- While the scalded milk mixture is cooling, add the yeast to the warm water (110 degrees) and let it "bloom" for 5 minutes (see note 2).
- In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine 4 1/2 cups flour, yeast, and water. With the motor running on low, slowly drizzle in the scalded milk mixture.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. If the dough is sticky after 3 minutes, add the remaining ½ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Using a small, microwave-safe dish, melt the remaining butter for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Turn out the dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl and brush with 1 teaspoon melted butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let proof (rise) in a warm place (80 degrees to 85 degrees) until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (see note 3).
- While the dough is rising, mix the filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until combined.
- Coat a 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 12-inch by 18-inch rectangle and brush with the remaining melted butter.
- Sprinkle filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough and press into an even layer. Using a bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen the dough from the counter if necessary.
- Starting at a long edge of the rectangle, roll the dough to form a tight cylinder. Pinch seam to seal. Arrange cylinder seam side down and cut into 12 equal pieces. Using your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal open edges and keep the filling in place.
- Arrange rolls in prepared cake pan. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let proof in a warm place (80 degrees to 85 degrees) until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes (see note 3). Pour heavy cream evenly over the rolls after this second proofing.
- While the rolls are proofing the 2nd time, make the icing. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, buttermilk, and powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake until the rolls are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Switch the positions and rotate the orientation of the sheets halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle with icing.
- Room temperature ingredients: When it comes to baking, using room temperature ingredients, especially eggs, is important. If you forgot to leave the eggs out, warm them up in a bowl of warm water.
- Blooming yeast: In this recipe, you add yeast to 1/4 cup lukewarm water (90-110 degrees). At the end of 5-10 minutes, the yeast should look foamy. If it does not, the yeast isn't alive and should be discarded. Yeast activates at 40 degrees and dies at 140 degrees.
- Proofing: "Proofing" is a fancy term of waiting for yeasted dough to rise. To create the perfect place for proofing, preheat your oven to its minimum temperature (170°F, 200°F, etc.), but shut it off once the temperature reaches 110°F. Place your dough (in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap), on a baking sheet and in the oven. The oven temperature will drop when you open the oven door, but enough residual heat will remain that your dough should steadily rise. In this recipe, the dough should double in 90 minutes to 2 hours under these conditions.
- Make ahead: These cinnamon rolls can be made to the point of the second rise (once they’re rolled out, cut, and added to the pan). Cover them, refrigerate the pan until morning, then bring them out and let them go through their second rise. Add heavy cream and bake, proceeding with the recipe as planned.
- Freezing: Roll out, cut, and fill the baking pan with the cinnamon buns. Wrap the baking pan in layers of plastic wrap and foil and freeze. When ready to bake, take them out and move the to the refrigerator, letting them thaw overnight. The next morning, take them out and let them warm up while you preheat the oven. Bake according to the recipe, adding 5-10 minutes to the cooking time.
- Orange icing: For an orange twist, add a tablespoon or two of orange juice and a tablespoon of fresh orange zest to the icing.
- Maple and Pecans: Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans to the filling mix as well as 1 tablespoon of real maple syrup for another layer of cinnamon bun perfection. You can add even more toasted chopped nuts over the icing, if you want to.