These are the BEST Cinnamon Rolls! Made with the softest dough, stuffed with a gooey cinnamon sugar filling, and slathered in a tangy cream cheese frosting.
These are the best cinnamon rolls ever. Seriously. The perfect amount of light and fluffy, chewy and sweet, cinnamon-y, warm, delicious…I mean, come on. Breakfast doesn’t get any better than this!
What’s the difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns?
The primary difference between the two is the frosting. Cinnamon buns are not frosted and, instead, finished off with a brown sugar glaze. In cinnamon rolls the brown sugar glaze is wrapped inside the roll and the top is smothered with a thick, creamy frosting!
Today, we’re making cinnamon rolls stuffed with a buttery cinnamon sugar filling and topped with the most luxurious cream cheese frosting!
There are three parts to today’s cinnamon rolls: the dough, the filling, and the frosting!
- Buttermilk – warm, but not too warm or it will kill the yeast. The milk should be heated to about 100-110ºF.
- Active Dry Yeast – make sure you’re NOT using instant yeast; the baking process is very different between the two.
- Unsalted Butter – adds the perfect amount of moisture to the dough.
- Brown Sugar – adds warmth and sweetness.
- Eggs – give the rolls structure and add moisture to the dough.
- Salt – cuts the sweetness.
- All-Purpose Flour – the base for the dough.
- Brown Sugar – use dark for the richest, molasses-like flavor!
- Cinnamon – adds warmth and a little spice. Can’t have a cinnamon roll without it!
- Unsalted Butter – helps the cinnamon sugar stick to the dough while also providing a rich, buttery flavor.
- Cream Cheese and Sour Cream – the base of our frosting. Both add creaminess and tang.
- Unsalted Butter – provides a richness to the frosting.
- Vanilla Extract – adds depth of flavor.
- Powdered Sugar – thickens the frosting and adds sweetness.
- Salt – enhances other flavors within the recipe.
How to make
This recipe is much simpler than it looks! While the dough is resting, make your filling and your frosting; you’ll have gooey cinnamon rolls before you know it.
- Place warm milk, yeast, melted butter, and brown sugar into your stand mixer bowl and mix until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add in eggs and salt, mix again, then add and mix in flour. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes then beat the dough on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic-y.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise for 1 hour.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together cinnamon and brown sugar for the filling.
- Once your hour is up, move the dough to a floured work surface and roll it out into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle.
- Use a spatula to spread a cup of softened butter over the dough then sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar.
- Roll the rectangle of dough up into a roll.
- Use floss to cut the roll into 12 slices.
- Move the dough rolls to a greased baking sheet, two inches apart then cover the pan with the towel and allow the rolls to rise for another hour.
- Once the second hour is up, uncover the rolls and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are golden-brown and cooked through.
- While the rolls cool, use a hand-mixer to beat together cream cheese, butter, and sour cream for the frosting.
- Add in powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and beat again.
- Once the baked rolls are fully cooled, spread the frosting over top then serve and enjoy!
How to roll out and cut cinnamon rolls
- Sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface.
- Dump out the risen and rested dough.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle until it’s about 1/8-inch thick.
- Slather with butter then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Be sure to press the sugar onto the dough, so it sticks.
- Tightly roll the dough into a log.
- Using a piece of floss, slice the dough roll into 12 equal pieces. I highly recommend watching the video to see how we do this!
How long to bake cinnamon rolls
Bake cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes in a preheated 375 degree F oven. You’ll know they’re done when the outside is slightly golden-brown and the inside of the roll is cooked through.
What’s the best frosting for cinnamon rolls?
Cream cheese frosting is the way to go for cinnamon rolls. The slightly tangy and creamy frosting pairs perfectly with the sweet richness of the dough.
If you’re not a fan of cream cheese and sour cream—which is the pairing we’re using in this recipe—feel free to whip up a batch of homemade vanilla frosting instead!
Can you use instant yeast?
I don’t recommend it for this recipe. Instant yeast rises a lot faster than active dry yeast so your dough may actually over-rise which could result in overly dry cinnamon rolls.
Why didn’t my cinnamon rolls rise?
There are a couple of reasons the dough might have not risen properly. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Your yeast was too old. Expired yeast doesn’t work like fresh yeast does. Be sure to check the expiration date before you get started.
- Your milk was too hot. If the milk is overheated (past 110ºF) then it may kill the yeast.
- You kneaded in too much flour. Be careful about how much flour gets incorporated into the dough. Spoon and level your flour when measuring it for the dough.
Cinnamon rolls may be time intensive, but they’re actually quite easy to make. Here are a few things you can do to make sure they come out perfectly every time!
- Warm (but don’t overheat) your buttermilk. It should be between 100 and 110ºF. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast and the dough won’t rise. Again, use a thermometer to check the temperature.
- Use room temperature butter. If it’s too hot and melted, the filling will leak out as the rolls bake.
- Use room temperature eggs. We’re using warm milk and room temperature butter, if your eggs are cold, they won’t incorporate well into the dough.
- Flour your work surface. Since the dough is sticky, you want to make sure it doesn’t stick to the counter as you roll it out.
- Be careful not to add too much flour. The dough should be a little bit sticky but not so sticky you can’t get it off your fingers.
- Roll the dough tight but not too tight. You want the rolls to be tight enough they can maintain their shape but not so tight they can’t rise as they bake.
- Cool the rolls completely before adding the frosting. If the cinnamon rolls are too warm the frosting will become runny.
What to serve with cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon rolls are a meal on their own, but if you’re looking to bulk up brunch, here are some of my favorite pairings:
Can you make homemade cinnamon rolls in advance?
You sure can, although it adds a few more steps to the process.
Completely assemble the rolls as directed but, before the second rise, cover the baking sheet with lightly greased plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or in the freezer for up to a month.
When you’re ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and cover the rolls with a warm, damp towel for 60 minutes to activate the second rise. Once that’s done, bake as directed, cool, frost, and enjoy!
How to store
Leftover unfrosted cinnamon rolls can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.
Leftover frosted cinnamon rolls can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
To warm, thaw in the refrigerator if frozen, then heat in the microwave or oven.
Can you freeze cinnamon rolls?
Yep! To freeze after baking, store the cinnamon rolls (unfrosted) in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks. When you’re ready to serve, defrost at room temperature, warm in the oven or microwave, frost, and enjoy!
Equipment for this recipe
- 1 1/2 cups fat free buttermilk warmed to 100 - 110 degrees F
- 2 (1/4 oz) packets active dry yeast not instant yeast
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted (1/2 cup = 1 stick)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 7 cups all-purpose flour use the spoon & level technique to measure
- 2 cups dark brown sugar packed
- 4-5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (1 cup = 2 sticks)
- 1 (8 oz) block cream cheese softened
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (1/2 cup = 1 stick)
- 1/2 cup sour cream room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Place warm milk, yeast, melted butter, and brown sugar into the bowl of the stand mixer.
- Mix, using the paddle attachment or flat beater, to combine, then let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add in eggs and salt, then mix for 30 seconds.
- Add in flour and mix until the ingredients are *just* combined, about 30 seconds.
- Scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl, then scrape the dough off the beater blade and remove it.
- Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes.
- Attach the dough hook, then beat the dough on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in the greased large bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes at room temperature.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling.
- Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
- Grease an unlined rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Generously sprinkle a clean work surface with flour.
- Turn out the dough and sprinkle the top of the dough with additional flour. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough to large rectangle that is approx. 1/8 inch thick.
- Use a rubber spatula to smooth 1 cup softened butter over the dough rectangle.
- Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar mixture, then use your hands to press it into the butter.
- Roll the dough up, then use floss to cut the roll into 12 slices. Place the slices 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
- Cover the pan with a towel and allow the rolls to rise for 60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Uncover the rolls and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are lightly golden brown and the center rolls are cooked through.
- Remove from oven and cool.
- While the rolls are cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting.
- Place cream cheese, butter, and sour cream into a large bowl.
- Use a hand mixer to beat until well combined.
- Add in powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.
- Beat again until well combined.
- Spread the frosting over the cooled rolls and enjoy!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.