I typically only make cinnamon rolls during the winter, so I feel a little odd sharing this recipe with you right at the cusp of June. I made these recently for my sister-in-law Aubrey’s birthday, because she’d rather have cinnamon rolls than a birthday cake (and I kind of agree – who can argue with cinnamon and brown sugar?). I couldn’t very well let these photos just sit around for months and months, or so I told myself, so here you are getting an absolutely delicious and incredibly easy cinnamon roll recipe.
Disclosure: This recipe is easy, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t multiple steps to this recipe. There are. But they’re seriously SO easy. Promise.
First of all, check out the ingredients for the dough. Super simple.
I make our dough using the bread machine, which means I dump all the ingredients in and leave it alone until it beeps at me. But even if you’re making it with a mixer, it’s still simple – it just takes some time to allow the dough to rise and get all perfectly pillowy.
Sigh. I love this dough. I wish you could reach through the screen and you’d totally understand what I mean by pillowy. So. so. soft.
Because it’s so soft, it’s really easy to roll it out into about a 16″x20″ rectangle. If you remember my method from the soft pretzels, I pull a tape measure out to get a semi-accurate size.
Next, I coat the dough with a mixture of cinnamon, brown sugar, and melted butter.
Once it’s all spread out, then it’s time to roll the dough. I roll the dough pretty tightly because I like lots of layers within my cinnamon rolls.
You end up with long log of dough, and then it’s time to cut it into pieces.
First I cut it in half, then in half again so I have four pieces. Then I cut each of those four pieces into thirds, and voila! I’ve got my 12 rolls ready to go.
You’re never going to end up with 12 perfectly equal sized rolls, unless you’re discarding the ends (tsk tsk… can’t waste cinnamon and brown sugar, folks!) and are incredibly meticulous with your cutting. But I don’t worry too much about that – I just place the largest rolls in the four corners, and the smaller ends of the log in the middle – this helps ensure that all the rolls bake through evenly.
They look really spaced out within the pan, initially, but then I cover the dish with a damp towel and let the rolls rise again for 45 minutes, and then there is much less space between each roll. It’s still okay to have space, though, because the rolls will spread as they bake.
You could throw the rolls in the oven at this point, but I cover them with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge overnight, so they’re ready to bake the next day. Fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning are a pretty phenomenal thing.
I love that this recipe can be made in two stages. It’s perfect for Christmas, for one thing. Brian and I make the rolls the night before after the kids are in bed, and then I just have to pop them in the oven Christmas morning. So perfect. But it’s also great for if you’re hosting overnight company, or are just in the mood for an extra special breakfast.
Or birthday celebration.
While the cinnamon rolls are in the oven baking, I make the cream cheese frosting.
Then, about 10 minutes before the rolls are done, I pull them out and put a giant dollop of frosting on each one.
I don’t know anyone else that does it this way, but it allows the frosting to melt wonderfully over each roll, so I highly recommend it. Perfection.
And tons of cinnamon. You’ll be in love.
- 4½ cups bread flour
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup butter, melted and cooled (don't pour piping hot butter in the mix or it will kill the yeast!)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup warm milk (not hot, just slightly warm to the touch)
- 2½ teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2½ tablespoons cinnamon
- ⅓ cup butter, melted
- 6 ounces cream cheese
- ½ cup butter
- 3 cups powdered/confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Place the dough ingredients in the order listed above in your bread machine and run the dough cycle. If you do not have a bread machine, follow steps 2-5.
- In your mixer's bowl, combine the milk, sugar, and salt. Mix until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for 5-7 minutes (you want it to look like it's slightly foamy), then mix in the eggs 1 at a time.
- Add bread flour ½ cup at a time until a dough starts to form and the flour is well-incorporated.
- Pour in the butter and continue to mix for 5 more minutes. When the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes.
- Cover the dough with a damp dish towel and let it rise for 30 minutes.
- Now, whether you've used your bread machine or your mixer, use a rolling pin to roll your dough out to a roughly 16"x20" rectangle.
- In a small bowl (I use a cereal bowl) mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter, then spread it over the dough. I use my hands to spread it out fairly evenly - it doesn't need to be perfect but you want good cinnamon coverage.
- Fold over one of the long edges of the dough and continue to roll tightly until you have a long log of dough. Cut it in half once, then cut each of those halves in half so you end up with four pieces. Cut each of the four pieces into thirds so you have 12 rolls.
- Place your rolls in a buttered 9x13 baking dish, and cover with a damp dish towel. Let them rise for 45 minutes. At this point you can either bake them immediately or cover them and refrigerate until you're ready to bake them the next day.
- Bake your rolls on the middle rack at 375 degrees for about 18-20 minutes. If the tops start to get too brown, cover with foil.
- While the rolls are baking, use your mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix until well-blended.
- After 15 minutes of baking your rolls, pull them out and put a large dollop of frosting on each roll. You'll still have extra frosting in your bowl; this is great to set out for people to add extra frosting to their individual rolls as they prefer.
- Put the rolls back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove, and use a spreader to make sure all the rolls are covered with frosting.