Breads, Rolls + Donuts Holidays Icing + Frosting

Pillowy Soft Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls produces perfect pillowy soft cinnamon buns consistently. This recipe has a rise time of 2 hours and a total of 4 foldings (video guidance below!). Allowing the dough to rest overnight in the fridge yields the best results and makes this recipe convenient for a morning bake! These cinnamon rolls are 100% worth the effort. The cinnamon rolls will emerge from the oven gooey, pillowy soft and perfect.

soft and gooey cinnamon rolls on parchment paper

I like my cinnamon rolls super soft and gooey, so I put a thin layer of the icing over them while they are still warm. The icing melts into the just baked rolls, eliminating any hard corners or edges.

If you prefer a little crispy crunch to your cinnamon rolls, you can wait until they have cooled and then top them with all the icing. Or you could make this cinnamon buns recipe that has a cinnamon sugar dusting instead of icing!

My Cinnamon Rolls recipe was featured on The Kitchn, and the Pancake Princess declared it the winner of her Cinnamon Roll Bake Off! I created this recipe for my first cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.

Tips for Making the Best Cinnamon Rolls: 

1. What if I don’t have instant yeast? You can still use active yeast. Active dry yeast is a little different than instant in that it used to be made with larger granules and needed to be dissolved first. However, most yeast made today has similar sized granulates, so you can skip this step. It should be fine to use the active yeast in the recipe as written. If you are worried about it, you could dissolve the yeast in the warm milk instead of adding it to the flour mixture. Red Star Yeast has a great FAQ page troubleshooting yeast here. You can read more about the difference in yeast here.

2. Is the dough supposed to be this sticky after mixing? YES! It is. The directions call for it to be chilled after mixing, which will help with the rolling out process. If you don’t chill the dough, it will be hard to roll out.

3. What if I don’t have all-purpose flour? Bread flour is a fine substitution, but the texture will be slightly different, and not as fluffy.

*Caution, whole wheat flour will make the rolls more dense, and you may need to add more liquid to the dough. 

4. Can I add more cinnamon flavor? Of course! I sometimes use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 4 teaspoons cinnamon for the filling.

cinnamon roll dough cut into individual rolls and set to rise.

5. Can I shape the buns and let them rise overnight in the fridge? Yes! There are directions below on how to do so (this step still requires that the dough be chilled first before rolling).

6. Can I freeze the baked buns?

If you want to bake the buns and freeze them, you can. Once cooled, wrap them in plastic, and then place them in a freezer bag for up to 2 weeks.

When ready to eat, thaw, warm, and then coat with icing. They may not be as soft and tender as fresh-baked buns.

7. Can I substitute something else for the honey? I honestly haven’t tried it, and the ratios may have to be adjusted somewhat when changing out sugar-y liquids. Or try maple syrup instead. Here’s how to substitute other liquids

8. Can I use other egg sizes beside large? Yes. Check out this egg size conversion chart for replacing egg sizes.

9. Why do I knead the dough straight from the fridge and then let it rest again?  Kneading the dough a few times (10 to 12, as indicated in the recipe) helps wake the gluten up.

There is a lot of butter in this dough which can get in the way, so sometimes it needs a little help. Then covering it and letting it rest for 20 minutes before rolling it will help the gluten relax so it is easier to roll.

soft and gooey cinnamon rolls, close up photo.

How to Fold Cinnamon Roll Dough

I’ve included a video below of the folding process, which shows how to do it. This little extra step is the secret to the pillowy soft texture of the rolls!

Why do I fold the dough? Folding the dough helps improve the dough’s structure, ensures gluten will form, and makes it easier to handle.

video of folding cinnamon roll dough.
Cinnamon Rolls

Soft and Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Servings: 10 rolls
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
I like my cinnamon rolls super soft and gooey, so I put a thin layer of the icing over them while they are still warm. The icing melts into the just baked rolls, eliminating any hard corners or edges. If you prefer a little crispy crunch to your cinnamon rolls, you can wait until they have cooled and then top them with all the icing.
Sarah Kieffer
4.84 from 125 votes
Print Pin Rate

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk warm (100-110F)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (568g)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 tablespoons 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces (142g)

Filling

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (99g)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (29g)

Frosting

  • 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (113g)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (114g)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar (113g)

Instructions

For the dough

  • Grease a large bowl.
  • In a large 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. With the mixer on low, add the butter, one piece at a time. When all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium and beat the butter into the dough, until all the little butter pieces are incorporated, 1 minute. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl. The dough will be very sticky and you will need a spatula to scrape the dough into the bowl.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Place your fingers or a spatula underneath the dough and gently pull the dough up and fold it back over itself. Turn the bowl and repeat this folding again. Continue 6 to 8 more times, until all the dough has been folded over on itself. Re-cover the bowl with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat this series of folding 3 more times, for a rise time of 2 hours and a total of 4 foldings (see the GIF above on how to do this folding). Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 72 hours.

To Assemble

  • Flour a work surface and knead the cold Sweet Dough 10 to 12 times (see troubleshooting above for why). Shape the dough into a ball, cover the top lightly with flour, and cover with a tea towel and let come to room temperature. 
  • Grease a 9×13-inch pan; if desired, line with parchment paper (this makes for easier cleanup). 
  • 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 and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the top, pressing it lightly into the butter so it adheres. Starting at a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam gently to seal it and position the dough seam side down. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12-equal pieces. Transfer the pieces to the prepared pan and place them cut side up. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Remove the plastic and bake 27 to 32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the rolls are golden brown. While the rolls are baking, prepare the icing. 
  • Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Using an offset spatula or table knife, apply a thin layer of the cream cheese icing, using about one-third of the mixture. Let the rolls cool for another 15 to 20 minutes. Top with the rest of the icing 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 confectioners' sugar and mix on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on medium until the icing is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. 

**For overnight cinnamon rolls

  • Prepare the rolls (roll out dough, fill them, roll them up, cut them, and put them in the prepared pan, but do not let rise for 1 1/2 hours as stated above) then cover them loosely with plastic and refrigerate for up to 18 hours. When ready to bake, preheat the oven, and let the rolls sit at room temperature (still covered in plastic) for 30-45 minutes. Bake as directed (they make take slightly longer to bake). 

Notes

The dough can be cut into 8, 10, or 12 pieces, depending on your preferred size. Add a few minutes to the baking time for larger-size buns.
You don’t have to use a 9 x 13-inch baking pan here; you can get creative if you’d like. I often use this round 10-inch pan (affiliate link) for baking the cinnamon rolls or this 5 quart braiser. You could also bake them on a half sheet pan lined with parchment. 
  • Reply
    Caitlin
    Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve made countless cinnamon roll recipes. and this one is far superior any! I make this 2/3 times a year and each time it is jut mouthwatering. Thank you for a recipe that my family begs for!

  • Reply
    Jean
    Sunday, May 29, 2022 at 8:44 am

    5 stars
    Where are u finding resources that say that 4 cups = 568 g? I agree with what the others are finding, that 4 cups = 480 g.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Sunday, May 29, 2022 at 9:21 am

      Hi Jean, Every baker weighs their flour differently; there is no universal measurement for flour weight (much like women’s pants vary from size to size over brands), it can range from 120g to 150g. King Arthur flour uses closer to 120g per cup, America’s Test Kitchen uses 5 oz (142 g) per cup. That is why it is important to use the recipe author’s gram measurement when baking. For all my recipes in my cookbooks, I use 142g of flour per cup, and that is why it is 568 g for 4 cups on my recipe. I do have a short section about this in all my cookbooks. The LA Times also wrote a whole article on it: https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2021-02-05/what-does-a-cup-of-flour-weigh-its-surprisingly-complicated I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Kc
    Friday, May 20, 2022 at 11:18 pm

    5 stars
    So I’m not sure what is going on, but my dough is not coming out right ? I’ve tried this recipe twice now, following the instructions exactly but my dough is way too sticky! I can’t roll it out and shaping them was a nightmare, even after the overnight chill and bringing to room temp. Can anyone give me advice as to what I may be doing wrong? Please and thank you ????

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 11:08 am

      Hello! I so sorry you are having trouble with the dough. Are you weighing your ingredients? And what kind of flour (brand and type) are you using?

  • Reply
    Sherrie
    Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    5 stars
    Can I increase the honey for a little sweeter dough? Thank you.

  • Reply
    Lynsey
    Monday, May 16, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    5 stars
    They turned out delish! Should the leftovers be refrigerated since the icing has cream cheese in it??

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 9:01 am

      Hi! I refrigerate and then heat in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm up.

  • Reply
    Sierra
    Friday, May 13, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    5 stars
    Is chilling them overnight required? I rolled them out and kneeded them 4 times as directed but am hoping to prepare them tonight and put them in the fridge so they are ready to be baked first thing in the morning.

  • Reply
    Drayer
    Sunday, May 1, 2022 at 8:43 am

    5 stars
    I made these on a whim this morning and hustled them through the rise cycles and they were still so tasty and soft. 10 out of 5 stars, will definitely make again! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  • Reply
    Bianca
    Friday, April 29, 2022 at 9:42 am

    5 stars
    Hi!

    I’ve made these a handful of times and LOVE them, but can you clarify the overnight recipe? After the initial rise, do you need to refrigerate for a period of time before rolling them up?

    Initial rise – Fridge ? – Roll out and assemble – Fridge overnight – AM rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours and bake ?

    I read through all the comments and am unsure still.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 11:13 am

      Yes, the risen dough should be chilled for at least 2 hours before rolling out, and up to 48 hours. Then roll out the dough the night before baking, fill, and refrigerate overnight again, then bake the next morning. The buns will be doing a slow rise in the refrigerator all night, so take them out and let them rise on the counter while the oven preheats – 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Reply
    Kristin Sanchez
    Thursday, April 21, 2022 at 10:47 am

    5 stars
    Hi!

    I’m wondering if the dough was a bit soft when you rolled them out since you said let it come to room temperature? I’m thinking I let it soften too much and maybe should rolled it out cold. It was a little harder to get a clean shape.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 11:16 am

      It’s possible – room temperature is a bit different for everyone. The dough should be at about 68 degrees (room temperature), just slightly cool to the touch. If your oven is on and your kitchen is hot, the dough can heat up pretty quickly and be sticky. You can always place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool down.

  • Reply
    Cassie
    Monday, April 18, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Sarah,

    I love this recipe! One question I always have though is how long on average does it take to “let the dough come to room temperature” after removing the chilled dough from the fridge and before shaping? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    Sunday, April 17, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    5 stars
    This dough is amazing! Finally, a cinnamon roll that is not dry and bready!!! I will probably make a bit more filling next time, as some others have suggested. The frosting was great too. I made 12 rolls and they were very tall and fluffy. I may try getting 15-16 out of my next batch.

  • Reply
    Linda
    Sunday, April 17, 2022 at 10:57 am

    5 stars
    These are the best cinnamon rolls I have ever made!

  • Reply
    Kathy
    Saturday, April 16, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    4 stars
    I made these cinnamon rolls exactly like the directions say and they came out a little dry not gooey. So I got to thinking what could have gone wrong. I measured and weighed the flour. The recipe calls for 4 cups but the weight measurement says 568 grams.. I went with weighing because that is more precise. The thing is 4 cups of flour do not equal 568 grams. It equals 480 grams of flour. So if your rolls are dry you probably weighed them instead of using measuring cups. I’ll try making these again using the correct weight of 480 grams of flour.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Saturday, April 16, 2022 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Kathy – 568 g is the correct amount for 4 cups of flour. In all my recipes, throughout all of my cookbooks, 1 cup of flour equals 142 g. Did the dough come out dry for you, or the final baked cinnamon rolls dry? If it was the final baked rolls, it’s possible that your oven temperature is off and they were over baked. If it was the dough, did you add all of the 10 tablespoons of butter? I find some people forget to add the butter or don’t add all of it, and that can make the rolls dry.

      • Reply
        Me
        Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at 11:41 pm

        5 stars
        I agree…I go by king author weight conversion chart and 1 cup ap flour= 120grams. I was perplexed on how much to add. I added an average of 568 and 480.

  • Reply
    Frances
    Friday, April 15, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    5 stars
    These cinnamon rolls are iconic amongst my family and friends. This is what I make when I really want to show off or celebrate. It is well worth the lengthy time they take (compared to buying from the store). 10/10 will keep making over and over and over again!!

  • Reply
    Amy Villarama
    Thursday, April 14, 2022 at 9:52 pm

    5 stars
    Has anyone tried freezing theses cinnamon rolls before you bake them? Freeze them before they have their final rise as buns?

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Saturday, April 16, 2022 at 3:46 pm

      Hi Amy – I haven’t tried freezing them before their final rise; sometimes freezing dough results in not-as-soft, and I haven’t wanted to risk it.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    5 stars
    Is it possible that once the dough is prepared I can cut the dough in half or thirds in order to make mini buns? I want to make these for Easter but I have a large family and making the full size ones will be too much. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at 3:31 pm

      Yes, you can make them smaller!

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