Cinnamon Rolls

Classic, homemade cinnamon rolls made from a favorite cardamom-flecked, buttery, yeast dough with a generous cinnamon-sugar swirl.

Cinnamon Rolls

I make a version of these cinnamon rolls nearly every year for Christmas. The first time I made them was in 2010, inspired by the version in Lotta Jansdotter's book. They're beauties. Everyone LOVES them. The base recipe is for a version of Lotta's beautiful, homemade, hot from the oven, loaded with sugar and spice, golden, buttery, classic cinnamon rolls.
Favorite Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Cinnamon Roll Basics

To make cinnamon buns you start by making a buttery yeast dough. I know some of you shy away from yeast-based recipes, because of perceived difficulty, but these really are fun to make. One thing to know, they do take time. You'll need to let the dough rest and rise at various points, but most of that time isn't active, so don't let that deter you. Also, once you get the hang of things, you can play around with all sorts of different fillings in future batches. If you want to explore something beyond cinnamon sugar, the filling can be anything from jam, a sweet compound butter, a flavored cream cheese filling. Have fun, experiment, and use this recipe as a jumping off point.
Favorite Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

How to Make Cinnamon Rolls: The Process

Making cinnamon rolls goes like this. Mix the dough. Let it rise. Roll it out. Put down the filling. Roll. Slice. (Freeze here, if you're going that route). Another rise. Bake. Lotta sprinkles her cinnamon buns with pearl sugar before baking, which gives them a nice crunchy top, but I know a lot of people like a thick slathering of icing - to the horror of some Swedes, I might add. Sometimes I serve these w/ raw sugar on top and icing on the side, and often use the icing from these hermit cookies
Cinnamon Rolls being Filled with Cinnamon Sugar

Variations

I've made little tweaks over the years reflected here. Above you see a version of the cinnamon rolls topped with icing. Alternately, you can do a simple sugar sprinkle before baking. I include instructions for both below. You can also play around with the flour. I've done versions with a percentage of rye and also whole wheat flour, for a kiss of rustic-ness. There are some great insights in the comments as well.
Favorite Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Make Ahead Magic

One of the great things about these cinnamon rolls, is that you can prepare them ahead of time. You can even freeze the pre-baked rolls. The night before you're ready to bake them, leave them to thaw, covered, on your counter, and bake them in the morning. 
Cinnamon Roll Swirl Loaf

To Make A Cinnamon Swirl Loaf:

This is an easy tweak to the below cinnamon roll recipe & results in a beautiful, braided loaf. Don’t be intimidated - it looks much more difficult than it is. Promise! The basic jist is this: instead of slicing your two tubes of tightly rolled cinnamon roll dough into individual buns, slice each tube lengthwise with a sharp knife and arrange them side by side, cut side up. See the illustration below to understand how to braid the strands. You should now have four “strands.” If you are having trouble slicing, try getting your knife a bit wet, and clean between each cut.
Cinnamon Roll Swirl Loaf

To braid: Pinch the top ends together. Now, take the left strand and move it over two strands (to the right) and under one strand back to the left. Switch to the other side: take the most right strand and lift it over two strands to the left and back under one strand to the right. Repeat, alternating from left side to right side until the loaf is complete. I find it easiest to say out loud, “over two under one, over two, under one.” Pinch the ends together and carefully lift and tuck into a 9x5 loaf pan. It really doesn’t have to be perfect, just aim for a reasonably tight braid.

Continue with the recipe as written, allowing the twisted loaf to rise in a cozy spot. You’ll bake at the same temperature noted in the recipe, but for longer with the twisted loaf - closer to 30 minutes. And with a loaf like this, where you run the risk of a doughy interior if you under bake, I like to use an instant read thermometer to make sure the interior hits about 190F. If the top of your loaf darkens before the dough is cooked, tent a piece of foil over the top for the duration of the bake.
Cinnamon Roll Swirl Loaf - close-up

More Ideas:

There are a lot of way to go from classic cinnamon rolls to something else. Here are some of the ideas that have come up over the years. For the vegans out there, Shannon notes, "1 cup wheat whole wheat flour and used coconut milk and a flax egg. Topped with nutella and whipped cream." I make a version of the icing with creme fraiche, always a hit, but buttermilk is great too, and easier to come by.

Danielle had this to add," I added 1 tsp of a medicinal masala chai spice blend I ordered on etsy, and it put these over the top!" I love this idea, and heartily encourage experimenting with other spice blends as well. I make these at times with a cinnamon, rose petal, sesame blend. Also, hard to go wrong by using a bit of lemon zest in the bottom of your baking dish.

Hope you love these as much as we have over the years! If you're looking for breakfast recipes don't miss this healthy granola, or the best waffle recipe (seriously!), these classic pancakes, a loaded frittata, tofu scramble, Herb Cream Cheese Scrambled Eggs, and the baked oatmeal is always popular.

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Cinnamon Rolls

4.42 from 29 votes

If you plan on freezing any of the pre-baked cinnamon rolls, here's what you want to do. Freeze them for an hour on a baking sheet or until they'll hold their shape, then drop them into a freezer bag, squeeze out any air and seal well. The night before you want rolls for brunch, thaw them overnight on your counter top, covered with a clean dish towel, and bake per the instructions below any time the following morning. 

Ingredients
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm whole milk (105F to 115F / 40C to 46C)
  • 3/4 cup / 100g brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup / 125g unsalted butter, barely melted
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 cups / 600g all-purpose flour
Filling
  • 1/2 cup / 60g brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup / 125g unsalted butter, softened
Glaze
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  • large grain raw sugar or pearl sugar for sprinkling OR icing
Icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk or heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
Make the Dough:
  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk in a large bowl. Add a pinch of the sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for a few minutes or until foamy.
  2. Add the remaining sugar, the egg, melted butter, and cardamom. Stir until smooth. Stir the salt into the flour, then gradually add the flour to the bowl, a bit at a time, incorporating the flour after each addition. Transfer the dough to a floured counter top and knead for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn it to coat with oil, and cover with a kitchen towel or equivalent. Let the dough rise in a sunny or warm place until doubled, about an hour.
  3. Cut the dough in half on a floured counter top and form each piece into a ball. One at a time, roll each piece into a rectangle 12 inches/30cm and 1/2 inch/12mm thick. See the photos up above if this is confusing.
Make the Filling and Shape the Rolls:
  1. Start by combining the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Spread half of the butter evenly over one rectangle of the dough. Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture evenly across the butter. Roll the dough up tightly lengthwise, then turn it so that the seam side is down. Cut the roll into 12 equal slices, a serrated knife works best. You can bake these, cut-side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet, in cupcake liners, or in a buttered baking dish. I used a well-buttered standard pie dish. Unless you are using individual cupcake liners, you want to arrange the slices about 1/2-inch from each other on the baking sheet or in the baking dish. They rise and expand, and end up nice and snuggly in/on the pan. Repeat with the remaining rectangle of dough and filling. You can freeze any slices you aren't going to bake at this point.

  2. Cover the rolls you are going to bake with a dry towel and let rise in a sunny or warm spot until doubled, about an hour. The timing is pretty flexible here - you can go a few hours depending on what is convenient.
  3. Heat the oven to 400F/ 205C with a rack in the top third. Brush the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if you like. Bake the buns until golden brown, roughly 15-18 minutes. Don't over bake, the buns will dry out = not as good. Remove from the oven and serve warm if possible, plain or with a slather of icing* on top of each bun.
Icing:
  1. Whisk the powdered sugar with the buttermilk, salt, and vanilla together in a small bowl. Stir until smooth, let sit for a few minutes, then adjust with more sifted powdered sugar if you want a stiffer icing, more buttermilk to thin it out.If icing your cinnamon rolls, spread a bit on each individual roll before serving or serving the icing on the side with a palette knife for individual spreading. 

Notes

Adapted from the Cinnamon Bun recipe in Lotta Jansdotter's Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandinavian Style by Lotta Jansdotter.

Serves
12
Prep Time
2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 50 mins
 
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

Has anyone tried using a 1:1 gluten-free flour? My mother loves cinnamon buns but is gluten-free. What a nice surprise for her if it works with this recipe. Thank you!

Elaine

    If you try it let us know! I can update the recipe notes. xx!

    Heidi Swanson

Are these supposed to quote dense? Mine didn’t rise up to light fluffy pastry , but perhaps this recipe is for a more dense bun? I made sure my yeast was active and the dough rose in the bowl. I left it in the fridge overnight and then left them out to rise /warm up for an hour. They didn’t double in size though. Suggestions ?

Stephanie Mathern

    Hi Stephanie - they're definitely more of a bread than a muffin or cake - which I tend to think of more as fluffy. My guess is that they might have needed more time to rise after refrigeration depending on the temperature of your kitchen and where they were rising....

    Heidi Swanson

Adding these to my list of things to make this month!

Maurizio Leo

I'm so glad that you are back. I'm terribly sorry for your loss and as a long-time reader of your website and books, I'm glad to see you back for your recipes were greatly missed. Best wishes Heidi!

Nicole

    Thanks for the kind note Nicole - it has been a tough stretch :(

    Heidi Swanson

I posted a comment about flour weight (that maybe is still waiting to be approved before being posted) and wanted to edit to add, as I now see while 120g is most often used as the standard conversion, some sources call for 150g for a cup of flour, that when measuring by weight I came up with an immensely dense and over-floured dough by 500g of flour. I had been continuing to add flour against my instincts for dough, as I didn't think it would make sense to be so under the weight (especially since it's very humid where I live), but stopped around 500g as it just felt it was too much. All of which is to say, Heidi, thank you for this and all your recipes. I apologize I jumped to calling it an error and listing a different conversion. It does seem, though, that maybe in the case of this recipe 600g flour is too much and 480g (a 120g per cup conversion) would be better?

Sarah

    Hi Sarah, thanks for this! I made them again this weekend with an eye toward your question. Ended up needing about 575g for the dough this times. It can vary from bake to bake. And I think it often depends on the brand of flour and weather as well. Sometimes I need more, and other times quite a bit less - depending on how "thirsty" the flour is. I think your inclination to go with your instinct is spot on - if your dough is on the dry side, add a bit more liquid, and if it is a bit wet, a bit more flour is welcome. xx

    Heidi Swanson

I have had my eye on this recipe for a long time but kept postponing due to a busy schedule. I had never made cinnamon rolls before, and thought that now that I am working from home because of the Corona virus I’d have more time, but it then took weeks before I was able to find yeast in the stores again! :-) However, I finally made them today and they are absolutely fantastic! Glad I have a second batch in the freezer!

Jeannine

Made these this morning and they were amazing! Loved the good dose of cardamom directly in the dough. The dough was also super easy to work with and roll out thanks to the butter. I was concerned adding 3/4c sugar directly to the yeast would make them unhappy, and maybe it did (much slower to rise than my usual experience; yeast was happy when bloomed), but it didn't really matter in the end. They puffed up beautifully with baking. Made an orange cream cheese frosting to finish. Thank you for the motivation to make and share such beauties!

Jen

These sound - and look - heavenly, Heidi. I'm bookmarking to make on Sunday for a family get-together, where I know they will be appreciated. Otherwise I risk eating them all between just two of us! Have a fabulous New Year.

kellie@foodtoglow

Absolutely delicious. 1 cup wheat whole wheat flour and used coconut milk and a flax egg. Topped with nutella and whipped cream, thank you for the wonderful recipe!

Shannon

    Thanks for the vegan notes Shannon!

    Heidi Swanson

Your overnight hack has firmly put these in our repertoire of festive breakfasts! They are on the table here too.

Neeltje

    Love hearing it! :)

    Heidi Swanson

Hi Heidi, Where can I find the Moroccan Baharat-Cinnamon Rose Blend ? San Francisco misses you

Renée

    I think I picked mine up on a trip at Epices Roellinger, but I'm not seeing it on their site anymore...:(

    Heidi Swanson

Has anyone tried these with bob’s redmill gf flour?

Annie

These were amazing! Thank you so much for the recipe. I got up early to make them on Christmas. The dough was easy to work with and rose beautifully. Everyone loved them. I will definitely be making these again.

Professor .Shaka

Try cutting back on the yeast; this recipe has so much that it will dry the dough out. When my children were small, I made cinnamon buns (by the seat of my pants) often. Since both were home for Christmas this year, I decided to make them again, and really couldn't recall how I'd done it before. So I began experimenting; starting with the recipe from "The Breadbaker's Apprentice," and with a whole lot of reading from other sources. It is common for enriched doughs (sweet doughs) to call for more yeast. (I'm sure this is the reason for the American habit of frosting cinnamon rolls -- to hide their dryness). Elizabeth David, in "English Bread & Yeast Cookery" writes in the section on brioche that too much yeast makes for a dry bread, and that's exactly what I've discovered. Yeast doesn't scale the way most ingredients do; you need enough to inoculate the dough, but not so much that it's competing for the resources in the flour. I'd try this exact same recipe, with a scant teaspoon of instant yeast, and an overnight proof in a cool room or the refrigerator after the initial proof and shaping. The finished bread will seam moister, flakier, and have a better crumb. It just might take a bit more time to proof; but that also means better flavor.

Rebecca Zicarelli

Making these today for Christmas breakfast! Instead of freezing, I’ll refrigerate the rolls after forming them. Thanks Heidi!

Andie Brands

Hey! So I am thinking to bake these on Christmas morning for my fam! I was wondering if doing from fresh, could I let them sit out overnight - i/e "Cover the rolls you are going to bake with a dry towel and let rise in a sunny or warm spot until doubled, about an hour. The timing is pretty flexible here - you can go a few hours depending on what is convenient." - or should I prepare a few days in advance, freeze them and then let them defrost overnight? Thank you!! FYI I'm very excited to try these.

Hi Samantha, I'd put them, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. And then literally, first thing in the morning (before brushing my teeth ;), move them to a warm cozy spot for an hour before baking. Hope that makes sense! OR you can prepare them ahead of time, and freeze the pre-baked rolls. The night before you're ready to bake them, leave them to thaw, covered, on your counter, and bake them in the morning.

Samantha

As suggestions for other fillings, since I love chocolate, I usually go with a nutella layer, or other similar chocolate/hazelnut spreads :)

Barbara

I just made these cinnamon rolls this weekend for a family brunch, they were amazing! I added 1 tsp of a medicinal masala chai spice blend I ordered on etsy, and it put these over the top!

Danielle

I have made these twice. TASTY! Both times, I used einkorn flour and just reduced the amount of milk by about 15 percent. Thank you for this recipe and all the others. You are an inspiration.

Victoria

Made these with a barely-sweet cranberry sauce and butter filling, and with icing on top they had the perfect amount of sugar! I also used a cup of eggnog instead of milk in the recipe, and used eggnog in the icing as well. Everyone loved them. Thanks so much for this recipe. Will definitely make these again!

Am

Hello Heidi! I am going to try these, they look amazing! Someone above asked a question, and your answer was this: "HS: Hi Katie, you could try Kim's rolls, and swap in a cinnamon sugar swirl. Hers are scone-like, no yeast. December 21, 2010" Where can I find Kim's rolls recipe? Thank you so much! Love your blog and your recipes! Kathy

HS: Hi Kathy: These are the rolls I was referring to - from Kim Boyce. Enjoy!

Kathy

These were amazing! Thank you so much for the recipe. I got up early to make them on Christmas. The dough was easy to work with and rose beautifully. Everyone loved them. I will definitely be making these again.

Courtney

Second rise after freezing should take place in the pan they're going to bake in, right? Otherwise, awkward to move them? Btw, biscottini from a Near and Far are amazing.

HS: Exactly~!

Leslie B.

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