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Homemade cinnamon rolls are one of the best breakfast, or desserts, around. Our version is soft, light, and packed with brown sugar and cinnamon. After the cinnamon rolls bake to a beautiful golden brown, they’re drizzled with a sweet vanilla glaze.
Who doesn’t like warm, gooey, cinnamon rolls from scratch? They are certainly some of our favorites.
Whether you call them cinnamon rolls, cinnamon buns, or sweet rolls, they seem to be a favorite with most people.
This is our recipe for soft, sweet rolls filled with plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar. Then they’re topped with a sweet vanilla glaze.
What are the ingredients in Homemade Cinnamon Rolls?
- All-purpose Flour
- Granulated Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Powdered Sugar
Make the Dough
Before you get started, check the expiration date on the yeast. If it’s passed the expiration date, the yeast won’t activate and the dough won’t rise.
I’ve made this cinnamon roll recipe with both active and instant yeast and have gotten consistent results. Check out the “Tips” near the bottom of the post to see the alternate version.
- Start by measuring 2 1/2 cups of flour into a large bowl. Reserve the remaining flour just in case you need to add it later. It’s better to start with less and add additional flour as needed. Depending on the weather, I’ve used close to 4 1/2 cups of flour. Let the amount of flour listed be a guide. It’s not set in stone.
- Next, add the sugar, salt, and yeast to the flour. Give it a stir to combine the dry ingredients.
- Use a large measuring cup or microwave safe bowl to heat the water, milk, and softened butter.
- Don’t overheat the liquids. It only needs to be heated to about 110 to 115 degrees. Otherwise, it will kill the yeast.
Stand Mixer Version:
This is my preferred version, because the mixer will do the mixing and kneading for you. This is also the method that I’ll list in the recipe card.
- Transfer the flour mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the milk and water mixture to the flour then add the lightly beaten egg.
- Use the dough hook attachment and mix on low speed until all the flour is combined. At this point, you should know whether or not the additional flour is needed.
- If the dough is wet, sticky, and stuck to the sides of the bowl, more flour is needed. Add additional flour about a 1/4 cup at a time.
- Stop adding flour when the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. It will also be smooth and soft to the touch. The dough shouldn’t stick to you fingers when touched. Continue to mix for 5 to 6 minutes on low-medium speed. Then, let the dough sit and rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
Mixing the Dough by Hand:
- Instead of transferring the ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer, pour them into a large bowl. Use your hands to mix the dough until the ingredients are well combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let the dough sit and rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
Roll Out the Dough and Add the Filling
Don’t let the cinnamon roll dough set too long; otherwise, it will begin to rise. It needs to be rolled out and filled before the first rise.
Rolling Out the Dough:
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle.
- I was able to get a decent sized rectangle of 16-inches x 10-inches. This isn’t necessarily the size you’d have to roll out. It’s the size that normally works in our kitchen.
- Rolling out a larger rectangle will result in more cinnamon rolls but a thinner dough. A smaller rectangle will give you fewer, thicker (more bread-y) cinnamon rolls.
Add the Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Filling:
- Use a spatula or your hand to spread the softened butter across the surface of the dough. Next, add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Make sure to leave 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch around the edges without filling. That way it won’t spill out as you roll.
- We use ½ cup of brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of cinnamon. Please use these amounts as a guide and adjust to your tastes.
Roll and Cut the Cinnamon Rolls
- Starting with the longer side of the dough, carefully roll the dough as tightly as possible making sure the cinnamon and sugar mixture is on the inside. Pinch the seam slightly to ensure the cinnamon rolls are secure.
- Use a sharp knife, pastry cutter, or dental floss to cut the length of dough in half. From there continue cutting even pieces until you have the desired number of cinnamon rolls. We normally cut between 10 and 12.
Let the Rolls Rise
- Place the cut cinnamon rolls into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover the dish with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and set it in a warm area. This is also know as proofing the dough.
- The cinnamon rolls should double in size. The amount of time this takes varies greatly on the temperature of your home and where you place the pan.
- We like to preheat the oven, and place the cinnamon rolls on the stove. It usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the temperature of the kitchen. The photo below is after the cinnamon rolls have completed the first rise.
Baking the Cinnamon Rolls
- After the cinnamon rolls double in size, place them in the oven that’s been preheated to 350 degrees, and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and allow them to cool until they’re just slightly warm before applying the icing.
Make the Icing
While the cinnamon rolls are baking, go ahead and make the icing. If you like a lot of icing, the recipe can easily be doubled. (Watch the video to see what the cinnamon rolls look like with a double batch of icing!)
If you don’t want to double it, the cinnamon roll icing makes just enough for a light coating.
- Whisk together the vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar. Add additional milk as needed to reach the desired consistency.
- Use a spatula to apply the icing to the slightly warm cinnamon rolls.
Tips for the Best Cinnamon Rolls
How to Activate Yeast:
Over the years we’ve heard from some readers that the yeast didn’t activate after being added to the dry ingredients.
If you are using active yeast or have concern that the yeast isn’t being activated prior to being added to the flour mixture, here’s what we recommend as an alternative.
- Heat the milk and water as directed but leave out the butter. Stir in the sugar and yeast and allow the yeast to foamy and tan in color.
- Next, add it to the flour, salt, butter, and egg then mix as directed. Having trouble working with yeast? Here’s a post we wrote to explain how to activate yeast.
How to Adjust the Flour and High Altitude Baking:
As mentioned above, start by using less flour and adding more as needed. Different environments, altitudes, and weather will affect this recipe.
I’ve used anywhere from 2 ½ cups to a little over 4 1/2 cups of flour depending on where I’ve lived and the indoor/outdoor humidity.
If you live in the mountains, the bake time and temperature may need to be adjusted slightly. Check this out for more information about high altitude baking.
Can Homemade Cinnamon Roll Dough Rise Overnight?
We’ve never tried this but I did some research, and it looks like, YES! Cinnamon roll dough like ours CAN rise overnight.
The key is to refrigerate the dough after you’ve cut the rolls (step 4). Don’t leave it out at room temperature.
Can Cinnamon Rolls Be Frozen?
Yes, they can! We haven’t frozen these cinnamon rolls, but we get asked this a lot. This post from King Arthur Flour explains how to bake the cinnamon rolls partially, freeze them, then bake the cinnamon rolls again until they’re fully cooked.
Another method is to freeze the cinnamon rolls, in the pan, before they’ve risen. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and place them in the freezer.
When you’re ready to bake the cinnamon rolls, take them out of the freezer, let them thaw, complete the first rise (step 4), and continue the recipe as written.
How Do You Make Gooey Cinnamon Rolls?
- Don’t over mix the dough. Just like adding too much flour will make it dense and tough, the same will happen if it’s over mixed. It needs to be smooth and elastic. This will make for a soft cinnamon roll.
- The cinnamon rolls should touch in the pan. This helps keep the cinnamon rolls soft and fluffy and as they bake.
- Make sure to add plenty of filling, and don’t let it leak out. The filling keeps the interior of the cinnamon rolls ooey and gooey as the sugar and butter melt.
- Don’t make the cinnamon rolls too thick; otherwise, the roll layers will be bread-y.
- Apply enough icing, and apply it when the cinnamon rolls are still slightly warm. The cinnamon roll icing adds moisture to the tops of the rolls.
Looking For More Baking Ideas?
- Vanilla Cake Donuts with Nutella Glaze
- Stove Top Brownies with Salted Caramel Sauce
- Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Topping
- Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- Orange Cranberry Bread
Easy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour (see notes below)
- 3 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 1/4 Teaspoons Yeast (see note)
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1/4 Cup Milk
- 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (softened)
- 1 Egg (lightly beaten)
- 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (softened)
- 4 – 5 Tablespoons Cinnamon (to taste)
- 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 – 3 Tablespoons Milk (adjusted for desired thickness)
- Mix 2 1/2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until well combined. Set aside.
- Heat water, milk, and butter to about 115 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add water, milk, and butter mixture to dry ingredients and add egg.
- Using a dough hook, mix on a low setting until the dough comes together. If the dough is too wet, add remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time to form a soft, smooth, elastic dough. Then continue to mix on low-medium speed for 5-6 additional minutes. Next, allow dough to rest for 3-5 minutes.
- After the dough rests, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangular shape about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick.
- Use your hand or a spatula to spread the softened butter on the rectangle of dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar evenly over the softened butter.
- Beginning with the long side of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough, so the cinnamon and sugar are on the inside. Use a sharp knife, dough scraper, or dental floss to cut the rolled dough into 10-12 even pieces.
- Place the cut dough into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan, and cover with a clean towel.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rolls in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled in size.
- After the cinnamon rolls have doubled in size, place them in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven, and cool until just slightly warm before icing.
- In a small bowl, whisk together vanilla extract, confectioners' sugar, and milk. Pour over slightly warm cinnamon rolls. Use a spatula to spread the icing evenly over the cinnamon rolls.
- Store cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.