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Light and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls

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This homemade cinnamon rolls recipe is truly the best ever! They are so light and fluffy, made with brown butter, and topped with silky cream cheese icing.

cinnamon roll on navy blue plate

It's been quite a while since I've made cinnamon rolls. Earlier this year I made cinnamon roll apple pie cups and I often whip up my favorite glazed apple cinnamon rolls when I'm in the mood.

But it's been too long since I've made a classic light and fluffy cinnamon roll!

These are the best rolls I've ever made! You can tell from the images that they truly are light and fluffy with tons of cinnamon.

I followed a recipe from Cooks Illustrated and made just a few changes. The main one being brown butter. I've been on a brown butter kick lately and just had to include it in these rolls.

OMG! They came out amazing!! 

I'm sure you are going to love these just as much as you loved my homemade croissants and brown butter banana cream pie!

slathering icing over cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon roll ingredients

The ingredient list for cinnamon rolls can be intimidating but don't let it scare you. Yeast is nothing to be afraid of! To make homemade cinnamon rolls, you will need:

  • Butter - This gets cooked on the stovetop until it turns golden brown
  • Milk - Whole milk is best for this recipe
  • Yeast - You need 1 envelope of instant yeast or 2 and ¼ teaspoons
  • Eggs - Will help the rolls rise higher creating the light and fluffy texture
  • Flour - I prefer all-purpose flour
  • Sugar - Just a little to add sweetness to the dough and feed the yeast
  • Salt - Helps balance the sweetness
  • Brown sugar - The main ingredient for that gooey filling
  • Cinnamon - It's not a cinnamon roll without it
brown butter in white pan

How to make homemade cinnamon rolls?

Here's how to make the very best cinnamon rolls ever...

  1. Brown the butter. Brown the butter in a small pan and set aside some for the filling.
  2. Make the dough. Warm the milk to 105-115°F and stir in the yeast until it's dissolved. Then, stir in the eggs and slightly cooled brown butter. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the flour while the mixer runs on low speed. Keep beating on low speed until all the flour is incorporated then turn the speed up to medium and mix until a soft dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out into a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on how warm the environment is.
  3. Make the filling. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Shape the rolls. Roll the dough into an 18-inch square and brush the surface with the reserved brown butter. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Roll the dough tightly into a log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut the log into 12 equal size pieces and place them in a buttered 9x13 baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled in size. This will take about 1 hour.
  5. Bake the rolls. Bake the rolls in a 350°F oven for 35-40 minutes. The filling should be melted and the rolls should be a deep golden brown.
  6. Glaze the rolls. Top the warm rolls with your favorite glaze or use the one included in the recipe down below.
  7. Serve warm. Cinnamon rolls are best served warm. Enjoy!
unbaked cinnamon rolls in white pan

Can active dry yeast be used instead of instant yeast?

If you only have active dry yeast on hand, you can use that instead of instant yeast. You'll need to activate the yeast beforehand by placing in ¼ cup of warm (105-115°F) water mixed with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let it sit for 5 minutes until it's foamy then add it to the warm milk. You will need to reduce the amount of milk by ¼ cup.

Do I have to use brown butter?

You do not have to brown the butter if you don't want to. You can simply use melted butter instead. Although, the sweet nutty flavor of brown butter is what makes the rolls so phenomenal.

How do I make cinnamon rolls without a stand mixer?

These cinnamon rolls are easiest to make with a stand mixer but I understand that not everyone has one. You can mix the dough in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until the flour is well incorporated then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until a soft dough forms.

Try to avoid adding too much extra flour during kneading as this can make the rolls dense and tough.

You'll know the dough is ready when it is smooth and no longer sticky. If you press a finger in the center, it should bounce back.

close up of fork taking bite out of cinnamon roll

More delicious roll recipes

If you enjoyed these homemade cinnamon rolls, you need to try my cranberry orange sweet rolls, slow cooker orange sweet rolls, and pineapple sweet rolls!

cinnamon roll on navy blue plate

Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 12 rolls
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

This homemade cinnamon rolls recipe is truly the best ever! They are so light and fluffy, made with brown butter, and topped with silky cream cheese icing. 

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, divided
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast, 1 envelope
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 ¼ cups (552 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

For the filling

  • ¼ cup (56 g) brown butter, reserved from the dough
  • 1 ½ cups (315 g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing

  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups (180 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Instructions

Make the dough

  1. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk frequently. Continue to cook until melted. The butter will foam and then subside. Cook until brown bits develop in the bottom of the pan and the butter turns a light golden color, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove ¼ cup of the brown butter and reserve it for the filling.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until it reaches 105-115ºF. Remove from heat, whisk in the yeast until it's dissolved. Whisk in the eggs and brown butter.
  3. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour the milk mixture into the flour. 
  4. Continue to beat on low until the flour is incorporated, stop and scrape down the sides and bottom as needed. Turn the speed up to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
  5. Scrape the dough out into a lightly oiled bowl. Brush a little oil over the top of the dough. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Make the filling

  1. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt. 
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into an 18-inch square.
  3. Spread the reserved brown butter over the dough and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar mixture.
  4. Starting with the side closest to you, tightly roll the dough into a log and pinch the seam to seal.
  5. Place the roll, seam-side down, on a cutting board. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and arrange them cut side up in a buttered 9x13-inch baking dish.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls until deep golden brown and the filling is melted, 35 to 40 minutes. 

Make the glaze

  1. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time until incorporated.
  2. Add the vanilla and milk. Mix until the icing is smooth and spreadable.
  3. Transfer the rolls to a wire rack and top with ½ cup of glaze. Cool for 15-30 minutes then top with remaining glaze. Serve warm and enjoy!

Notes

Tent the rolls loosely with foil if they start to brown too much before they've finished baking.

Make ahead tip

  1. Baked and glazed rolls will keep for up to 4 days, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.
  2. Baked rolls will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and warm to your liking before serving.
  3. You can make the rolls all the way through to step 5 of "Make the filling". Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator, partially unwrap, and continue with step 6.
  4. You can partially bake the rolls, freeze them, then continue baking when you are ready to serve them. Follow the recipe as direct but bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Cool completely, cover tightly, and freeze. When you are ready to bake them, preheat the oven and bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes or until they are cooked through and golden in color. There's no need to thaw them first.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 389Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 443mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 2gSugar: 15gProtein: 8g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Alexandra

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Hi! I have some instant yeast "quick rise", and on the package it is written that the first rise is not important with this yeast. Should I still do two rises? Thanks!:)

Jen Sobjack

Sunday 17th of January 2021

Yes, two rises are still necessary for the recipe. However, the rise times will need to be reduced because it won't take as long for the dough to double in size.

Mark

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Was just about to get out the calculator out to work out the ingredients to make a sensible amount for one, then saw the tips about freezing :)

These are getting made tomorrow morning

Clarissa

Thursday 8th of October 2020

Is it possible to hand mix if you don’t own a mixer?

Jen Sobjack

Friday 9th of October 2020

Yes, mixing by hand is fine if you don't own a stand mixer.

Sofie

Wednesday 29th of April 2020

Very delicious recipe!

Unfortunately all the yeast was sold out in every supermarket in my small Dutch village (baking suddenly became real popular due to the corona lock down : ), so I used self rising flour instead of all purpose flour. However I wouldn't recommend doing this. Maybe it's because I did something wrong, but the dough barely rose even after two hours on top of a warm, sunlit counter top. I still made the cinnamon rolls with it, but they didn't come out as fluffy as they are supposed to. Instead they were a bit mushy and dense on the inside. Nevertheless they were still amazing and the cream cheese glaze fits perfectly with it!

Will definitely try this out again sometime when I can find yeast : )

Jen Sobjack

Thursday 30th of April 2020

Check your local bakeries. Some are selling yeast.

Daniella

Wednesday 8th of January 2020

I just made these and they came out Perfect~! Thank you so much for the recipe <3 (Just to share, I made half of the glaze and it was still enough to cover those buns~)

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