Finding the best homemade cinnamon roll recipe has been my mission for more years than I can count on two hands.
Finding the best homemade cinnamon roll recipe and actually making it, now THAT is what has been my mission for that number of years.
I’ve Pinned hundreds of recipes on Pinterest, and liked all of them on Facebook. I’ve torn out every recipe from every magazine that’s shared cinnamon rolls deemed fit to bake. And it seems that just about every week of Friday Faves has one more recipe for the perfect cinnamon roll included in it.
Not that I’ve ever made any of them.
For some reason the notion of baking homemade cinnamon rolls has always intimidated me. I blame it on my childhood. That’s when my early cinnamon roll baking adventures relied on using the pre-made dough from the can that came out of the oven tasting like they’d been baked 3 days before and then quickly turned into 5-day-old rolls as soon as they cooled. It ruined the notion of cinnamon rolls for me until I had a REAL cinnamon roll from a true blue bakery and realized just how many light and fluffy pillows from cinnamon and brown sugar slathered with glaze bundles of heaven I’d been missing out on all those years.
Now THOSE rolls are the ones I want to bake. The cinnamon rolls I want to be known for. The rolls that when family and friends take one bite they blissfully roll their eyes in satisfaction as they slowly absorb each sweet, flaky bite, and then look to one another in agreement and say, “Heidi makes THE BEST cinnamon rolls.”
And now, I have that recipe.
This is it. This is the recipe I will from today forward forever be known for, the one that will give me the title as the Cinnamon Roll-Making Queen.
But I absolutely cannot take any credit for it. No way. All the credit goes to Sarah Kieffer, the blogger behind the blog that Savuer named the Best Baking & Dessert Blog, The Vanilla Bean Blog, and a friend who is nearly as sweet but hardly as flaky as these rolls.
I’ve featured Sarah on the blog before (check it out here) and this cinnamon roll recipe comes from Sarah’s first cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. As a former pastry chef and a frequent contributor to the Bread In Five team, Sarah has some serious baking chops to share with the world, and her level of experience makes her new cookbook and the recipes in it all the more dependable for every level of baker. Including a novice like myself.
These cinnamon rolls start off with a recipe for sweet dough that Sarah uses as the base for several recipes in her book. The dough is perfectly tender (thanks to honey and eggs) and is actually really simple to make with only the help of a stand mixer that does most of the kneading for you. The only work that needs to be done is setting the timer on your phone to remind you to give the dough it’s series of flip and folding after its series of rising times.
I found the perfect time to do this was in the evening, starting the dough making process while fixing dinner, then flipping and folding as the evening wore on and finalizing the process before I went to bed. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days, making it a good candidate to add to any brunch or breakfast table. One thing to note, the dough will be pretty shaggy and rough the final time you pull it out of the fridge.
But this is a miracle dough. With just a few kneading pushes the dough becomes pliable and smooth, and amazingly easy to work with.
Once that bit is over, the rolling process is the only production piece of the cinnamon roll puzzle left to finish off in the morning. I’m sure that eventually I”ll get the hang of rolling out the perfectly even and 16 X 12-inch rectangle with perfect thickness, because that’s what queens do. They perfect things.
This first time of my baking these rolls didn’t come out exactly perfect in my cutting proportions, but I’m totally okay with that because these rolls are amazing tasting and who cares if one a little misshapen than the other. Builds character is what my mom always said.
Smudge requested BIG rolls (a girl after my own heart) so I cut these down into just 8 rolls. You can certainly make them smaller to 12 portions and pack them in tighter if you prefer.
Since I followed all of Sarah’s instructions to the letter, making the cream cheese glaze was not going to be any different. Sarah suggests slathering a layer on as soon as the rolls come out of the oven so the glaze sticks in every nook and cranny, and then adding more again after they’ve somewhat cooled. Smart girl that one.
My only comment here is I seemed to have quite a bit of glaze left over, even after swiping my rolls with a double dose. But in cinnamon roll-land, isn’t that the best problem to have?
Feeling like ways to customize your cinnamon rolls? Here’s some ideas:
- Orange and Almond Cinnamon Rolls: Add the orange zest of 1-2 oranges to the cinnamon sugar filling and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to the cream cheese frosting.
- Cinnamon Rolls with Raisins and Nuts: Add 1 cup raisins and 1 cup chopped nuts to the cinnamon roll filling
- Raspberry Cinnamon Rolls with Lemon Creme Fraiche Frosting: Substitute the 1/2 cup brown sugar with 3/4 cup raspberry jam for the filling and switch out the cream cheese with creme fraiche.
- Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Roll: Add 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice to the cinnamon and brown sugar to use as the filling.
All hail the Queen of Cinnamon Rolls! That would be Sarah. Me? I’m just happy being in her royal court.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- For the Sweet Dough
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup whole milk, warm (100°F—110°F)
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
- For the Cinnamon Rolls
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- For the Icing
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, atrium temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Grease a large bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the eggs, milk, and honey.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, yeast, and salt and stir on low to combine. Add the egg mixture and mix on low to combine. Add the butter one piece at a time, then increase the speed to to medium and beat the butter into the dough, until all the small butter piece are incorporated, about 1 minute. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl. The dough will be very sticky and shaggy, so use a spatula to scrape the dough into the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 minutes. Place your fingers underneath the dough and gently pull the dough up and fold it back over itself. Turn the bowl and repeat this folding again. Repeat 6 to 8 more times until the dough has been folder over on itself. Re-cover the bowl with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat the series of folding 3 more times, for a rise time of 2 hours and a total of 4 foldings. Tightly core the bowl with the plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 72 hours. Sarah suggests the dough can be used right away after the initial 2-hour rise, but she finds it easier to work with after it has been refrigerated overnight.
- To make the cinnamon rolls, flour a work surface and knead the sweet dough 10 to 12 times. Shape the dough int o a ball, cover the top lightly with flour, and cover with a tea towel to come to room temperature.
- Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Roll the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter so it adheres. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam gently to seal it and position the dough seam side down. Use a scissors or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces or 8 equal pieces if you want larger size cinnamon rolls. Place the pieces in the prepared pan cut side up. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Remove the plastic and bake for 25-27 minutes, rotating half way through until the rolls are golden.
- While the rolls are baking, prepare the icing.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the rolls cool for 5 minutes. Apply a thin layer of the icing on the cinnamon rolls while warm so it seeps into all of the nooks and crannies of the rolls. Add more icing as desired and serve.
- For the Icing: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and mix on low to combine. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
- Reprinted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics
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