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This recipe yields a pan of buttery soft, gooey cinnamon sweet, and extra fluffy homemade cinnamon rolls topped with tangy cream cheese icing. It’s been a reader favorite recipe for years and I love it so much that I turned this rich dough into apple cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, and maple cinnamon rolls. You can make the cinnamon rolls within a few hours or get started the night before using the overnight preparation option.

cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

This cinnamon rolls recipe has lived on the site since 2014. After making countless more batches since I published the recipe plus answering readers’ comments and questions, I thought it would be beneficial to update the post with more helpful information and success tips. Homemade cinnamon rolls are a popular breakfast choice, so I want to make sure you have all the resources you need for this classic recipe.

Tell Me About These Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

  • Texture: This is one of my richest homemade doughs, so you’re already promised a soft, springy, and fluffy texture. I usually use all-purpose flour, but if you use the optional bread flour, your rolls will be a little chewier. I find that these homemade cinnamon rolls are even fluffier than my easy 1 rise cinnamon rolls (and that’s because there’s the additional rise here!).
  • Flavor: The smell of warm cinnamon rolls is oh-so-irresistible and inviting. Once you take that first bite, you’ll enjoy a fresh homemade dough that’s swirled with endless pockets of (Cinnabon style!) sweet and gooey cinnamon.
  • Ease: Homemade dough and shaped breads require precision and effort. The dough is pretty straightforward and simple to shape, as long as you have enough flour nearby for your hands, work surface, and rolling pin.
  • Time: This dough requires 2 rises. Once you understand the assembly process, the prep moves pretty quickly. Set aside at least 4-5 hours from start to finish or divide between 2 days with the overnight option. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind most of that time is hands off as the dough rises.

What Readers are Saying:

“I HAD to come and leave this rave review. I just baked and iced these cinnamon rolls ay 9:05 am. It’s now 10:55 am in a household of only 3 people only two are left. This recipe is the best I’ve ever tried.” – Chelsea

“Delicious and easy to follow! This was my first time cooking with yeast and my first time making homemade cinnamon rolls and this was a great recipe to start with. Everyone at brunch was blown away.” – Hannah

“Delicious! I have tried many cinnamon roll recipes, and this is my new favorite. I prefer a roll that is large, more fluffy than dense/gooey, and buttery without being overly sweet. This fit the bill!” – Brice

cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting on white plate
homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing
Yeast Beginners: Use This Helpful Guide

Are you new to baking with yeast? If so, reference my Baking with Yeast Guide because I include practical answers to many common baker’s yeast questions. If you want something more, get on the fast track to baking bread like a pro with my free Beginner’s Guide to Yeast email series. 🙂

7 Crucial Ingredients in These Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Feel free to skip straight to the recipe. But if you’re new to making bread, the following explanations are points that I’ve learned over the years and will be massively helpful.

  1. Whole milk: Whole milk is ideal for the richest tasting cinnamon rolls. Buttermilk works just as well without any changes to the recipe. Many readers have successfully substituted nondairy milks. In a pinch, you can use 2% or 1% milk, but do not use nonfat milk.
  2. Sugar: You need 2/3 cup of white granulated sugar in the dough. Use 2 Tablespoons in step 1 below (the proofing step), then add the rest in step 2.
  3. Yeast: You can use active dry or instant yeast. Follow the directions exactly as written regardless of which you choose. You’ll still proof the yeast in warm milk with some sugar even if you use instant yeast. This step ensures that the yeast is active and not expired. Most yeast these days is already active, but it’s a quick 5-10 minute step that prevents you from wasting your time just in case the yeast has expired. If using active dry yeast, the rise times will be a little longer. For the past 10+ years, my go-to brand has been Red Star Yeast. I always recommend Platinum Yeast from Red Star.
  4. Butter: This is a rich dough, meaning it has fat to help guarantee softness. Use 1/2 cup of softened butter and to help it blend easier, cut it into 4 pieces before adding.
  5. Eggs: Like butter, eggs promise a softer, richer dough.
  6. Salt: Dough is bland without salt.
  7. Flour: Flour is the structure of the dough. You can use either all-purpose flour or bread flour. You’ll notice the rolls are a little chewier if you use bread flour. It’s not a huge difference, so don’t worry if you only have all-purpose flour. (That’s what I usually use!)

Note: You’ll notice that I use more yeast in this recipe compared to my easy cinnamon rolls. Why? These are much fluffier and larger– about twice the size.

Step-By-Step Photos

Here’s what you’re looking for after you let the warm milk, some of the sugar, and yeast sit for about 5-10 minutes. The top will be a little foamy:

foamy yeast mixture in glass bowl

After the dough comes together, it will be a little soft and sticky– that’s normal. As explained in step 3 below, knead the dough on a floured counter or keep it in the mixer for kneading.

What If I Don’t Have a Stand Mixer? If you do not own a mixer, you can mix the dough together with a large wooden spoon/rubber spatula. It will take a bit of arm muscle. A hand mixer works, but the sticky dough repeatedly gets stuck in the beaters. Mixing by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula is a better choice.

dough in mixer bowl and again pictured on the counter

Let the dough rise until doubled in size:

dough that has doubled in size pictured in a glass bowl

Punch the risen dough down and roll it out.

Baker’s Tip: If the dough keeps shrinking as you roll it out, stop what you’re doing, cover it lightly, and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten. When you return to the dough, it should stretch out much easier. 

rolled out dough

Spread softened butter on top, then sprinkle on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (brown sugar or white granulated sugar).

dough rolled out with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar on top

Roll it up:

rolling up cinnamon roll dough

Use a very sharp knife to cut the roll into 12 rolls, each about 1.5 inches. Arrange in your greased baking pan, cover, then let the rolls rise until doubled in size and puffy, usually about 1 hour. The left photo is before rising and the right photo is after rising:

shaped cinnamon rolls before and after rising

Bake the rolls and then make the tangy cream cheese icing to smother on top. If cream cheese isn’t your favorite, you could top the rolls with vanilla icing, the brown sugar icing from these pumpkin donuts, maple icing from maple cinnamon rolls, or even the caramel icing from apple cinnamon rolls. Lots of options!

cream cheese icing in bowl next to a picture of it spread on cinnamon rolls

5 Success Tips

  1. Use brown sugar or granulated sugar in the filling: I used to use granulated sugar in the cinnamon sugar filling, but recently switched to brown sugar for extra flavor. Brown sugar doesn’t necessarily make the filling more moist– there’s so much butter, so it’s moist and gooey either way. Use whichever sugar you prefer.
  2. Best pan to use: I recommend a 9×13 inch glass or metal pan. Avoid ceramic pans. If you must use ceramic, keep in mind that the rolls will likely take longer to bake through.
  3. Evenly baked cinnamon rolls: These are extra big and fluffy cinnamon rolls, so to help guarantee the centers AND tops cook evenly, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the rolls after about 15 minutes in the oven. This will protect the tops from browning too quickly before the centers can cook.
  4. Don’t have all morning to spend on this dough? Feel free to prep the dough the night before. This is a wonderful way to save time in the morning so you can wake up and eat sooner. See my make-ahead/overnight instructions in the written recipe below.
cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

How to Freeze Homemade Cinnamon Rolls So They Still Taste Fresh

Let me share a tip I’ve learned after working with this dough for several years. You can prep the rolls and freeze them ahead of time so they still taste fresh.

  • Here’s how: Bake the rolls in step 9 for only about 10 minutes. Cool completely, then cover and freeze. To serve, take the rolls out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Once thawed, finish baking them for about 15-20 minutes. 

I often use this method when I gift cinnamon rolls to others– just copy/paste or write these freezing instructions down. This method is also helpful if you have company over, want to cut down on time, or are entertaining around the holidays.

Print
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homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes (includes rise times)
  • Yield: 12 rolls 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This recipe yields a pan of buttery soft, gooey cinnamon sweet, and extra fluffy homemade cinnamon rolls topped with tangy cream cheese icing. You can make the cinnamon rolls within a few hours or get started the night before using the overnight preparation option.


Ingredients

Scale

Dough

  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, warmed to about 100°F (38°C)
  • 2/3 cup (135g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons (14g) active dry or instant yeast (2 standard size packets)*
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (563g) all-purpose flour or bread flour (spoon & leveled), plus more as needed for hands/work surface
  • 2 teaspoons canola, vegetable, or olive oil for bowl (or use nonstick spray)

Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar OR granulated sugar (I use brown)
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 ounces (about 1/4 cup or 56g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (150g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm milk, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and the yeast together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy on top. *If you do not own a mixer, you can do this in a large mixing bowl and in the next step, mix the dough together with a large wooden spoon/rubber spatula. It will take a bit of arm muscle. A hand mixer works, but the sticky dough repeatedly gets stuck in the beaters. Mixing by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula is a better choice.*
  2. On medium speed, beat in the remaining sugar (which should be 1/2 cup) and the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Add the eggs and salt and beat on medium speed until combined. The butter won’t really be mixing into the mixture, so don’t be alarmed if it stays in pieces. Switch the mixer down to low speed and with it running, add 1 cup of flour at a time, making sure it’s fully incorporated before adding the next. After 4 cups have been added, add the last 1/2 cup and beat until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Dough will be soft.
  3. Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat on low speed for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 3 minutes.
  4. 1st Rise: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or use nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 2 hours or until double in size. (I always let it rise on the counter and it takes about 2 hours. For a tiny reduction in rise time, see my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking with Yeast Guide.)
  5. Grease the bottom and sides of a metal or glass 9×13 inch baking dish or line with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out the dough: Punch down the dough to release the air. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick. If the dough keeps shrinking as you roll it out, stop what you’re doing, cover it lightly, and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten. When you return to the dough, it should stretch out much easier.
  7. For the filling: Spread the softened butter all over the dough. The softer the butter is, the easier it is to spread in this step. (Microwave it for a few seconds to soften if needed.) In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle evenly over the butter. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18-inch-long log. If some filling spills out, sprinkle it on top of the roll. With an extra sharp knife, cut into 12 even rolls, about 1.5 inches each. Arrange in the prepared baking pan.
  8. 2nd Rise: Cover the rolls tightly and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Or use the overnight option below.)
  9. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Bake for about 25-28 minutes or until they are lightly browned on top. After about 15 minutes, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan to prevent the tops from browning too quickly and baking unevenly. Remove pan from the oven and place pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes as you make the icing.
  10. Make the icing: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 1 minute. Spread the icing over the warm rolls and serve immediately.
  11. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions – Overnight: To prepare the night before serving, prepare the rolls through step 7. Cover the rolls tightly and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. (16 hours max. 8-12 hours is best, but 16 hours is OK if absolutely needed. Do not exceed 16 hours.) The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1-2 hours before continuing with step 9.
  2. Make Ahead Instructions – Freezing: Baked rolls can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm up before enjoying. You can also freeze the unbaked rolls and here’s how: bake the rolls in step 9 for only about 10 minutes. Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. To serve, take the rolls out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Once thawed, finish baking them for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Milk: We recommend using whole milk for the best, richest tasting dough. You could also use buttermilk. 2%, 1%, or nondairy milk works in a pinch. Do not use nonfat milk.
  4. Yeast: You can use active dry or instant yeast in this recipe. Follow all of the same instructions. If using active dry yeast, the rise times are usually slightly longer. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  5. Other Icing Options: Instead of cream cheese icing, you can top the warm rolls with vanilla icing, the brown sugar icing from these pumpkin donuts, maple icing from maple cinnamon rolls, or even the caramel icing from apple cinnamon rolls.
  6. Gluten Free: We have not tested this recipe with gluten free flour, so we are unsure of the results.

Keywords: overnight cinnamon rolls, homemade cinnamon rolls

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I love every recipe on this website and swear by it. Never had anything go poorly.
    However, i tried this recipe twice and i keep having the same issue: the middle section of each roll puffs up more than the outer layers. They are very yummy but they do not look even.
    What am i doing wrong?

    1. I’ve read that rolling the log too tightly will cause this to happen! Not sure if that’s your issue, but I thought I’d comment.

  2. Amazing! I love the attention to detail with the tips and recipe notes. I doubled the icing because we LOVE icing!

  3. Loved these rolls! They always come out fluffy and delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Ok so I’ve been trying to make my cinnamon rolls over night and when I get them out of the refrigerator in the morning the dough has seeped out the inner goodness and I don’t know why. I got to bake them and all of the innards come out how do I keep this from happening.

      1. Hi Charlie, Thank you for trying this recipe! When you are shaping the rolls and and adding the filling, is the dough still even slightly warm? If so, the butter will melt and leak out. After you roll the dough into a rectangle, you can even try to chill it for a few minutes so it’s cool before adding the butter and filling.

      2. My solution to this is to allow the dough to bulk ferment during the first rise stage as opposed to the second rise when the rolls are shaped. This allows the yeast in the dough to slowly build more flavor without having to worry about the filling. Alternatively if you mix the filling ingredients together into a flavorful paste it will also result in very even distribution.

      3. The same thing happened to mine and the dough was not warm when I was rolling it… I’m hoping they turn out okay since I am making them for an Easter gathering today

  4. Wow!! I’ve tried many cinnamon roll recipes and this is my new go to. I made the dough in my bread machine and they came out perfect!

  5. The rolls were great but I think there might be something wrong with the icing recipe, mine were very runny not like the picture.

    1. Hi Stephi, We are happy you enjoyed the cinnamon rolls! Make sure you are using full-fat block cream cheese, not the kind sold in a tub, or the icing will be a different texture. You can also skip the added milk next time to help make it thicker if you wish.

  6. Is it possible to stretch this to 18 rolls? Can I roll the dough out a little larger? Or cut them into smaller slices? I would like something a little smaller and preferably not 500 calories a piece. 🙂

    1. Hi Cate, you can definitely make smaller rolls if you prefer.

  7. It tasted fab but the dough was very very wet and sloppy so ended up with blobs instead of rolls.
    Tasted fab so I must have gone wrong somewhere. My first attempt so will try again

  8. I have a little less than 1 1/2 tbsp of yeast would it still be alright to make or would it mess up the cinnamon rolls.

    1. Hi Sarah, depending on how much less yeast you use, they dough may not properly rise. But if it’s very close, the cinnamon rolls should turn out just fine!

  9. I found this recipe on a whim because my husband was begging for cinnamon rolls…. He told me not to tell his mom that they taste better than the family recipe they’ve been handing down for years!

  10. I love this recipe thank you for sharing. I’ve tried it three times now and it works everytime

  11. Made them for the second time today and they are absolutely delicious!!! I’ve never made any sort of yeast bread and the recipe was easy to follow.

  12. Are any adjustments needed when using while wheat flour versus all purpose flour?

    1. Using white whole wheat flour will dry out the texture of these rolls and we don’t recommend swapping all the flour. You could try replacing half to begin with to see how it goes. Let us know if you give it a try!

  13. tried this recipe with bread flour, the dough so easy to roll, this is the best recipe I’ve tried soooo soft and the recipe easy to follow, love it.

  14. I have made these cinnamon rolls three times, and the recipe is easy to follow. It has become tradition to make these rolls every year between Christmas and New Years. Always a crowd pleaser, and my kids absolutely love them, and will snack on them from breakfast until dinner.

  15. Tried this recipe a few days back. For a beginner, it turned out well. And my kids loved it. Thanx for the recipe.

  16. This recipe is fabulous! I have made it twice in less than 2 weeks, and recommended the recipe to 3 friends so far. I didn’t even know I loved cinnamon rolls until trying this recipe. Thank you Sally!

  17. I’ve just made my dough which is looking beautiful (fingers crossed) but I just realised I don’t have a big enough pan! Can I bake these in two batches? How will the baking time be affected?

    1. Hi Fatima, you can definitely divide these into two pans. While one is baking, keep the other covered with a clean towel at room temperature. Enjoy!

  18. Have you or any readers tried make ahead in the fridge instead of freezer? I want to eat rolls on Wednesday morning and make them no later than Monday afternoon. Was planning on the part-bake method – no 2 in your notes section. Is it worth freezing/thawing in that time or would you just keep them in the fridge?

    1. Hi Alanna! Just seeing this now, the cinnamon rolls would continue rising in the refrigerator and likely rise too much.

  19. Hi Sally, myself and my family just adore all of your recipes! I’ve made these cinnamon rolls several times and they are the best I’ve ever had! I was hoping to make these tomorrow but I realized I have 1 packet of active dry and 1 packet of instant yeast in my pantry… can I use 1 packet of each in this recipe? Thanks so much!

  20. I’m hoping to try making these this weekend – has anyone had any luck substituting for gluten-free flour? And if so, is there a better/worse GF substitute? I typically use Cup4Cup to make cookies/cakes with no issues but I’m unsure of how it will rise.

    1. Hi Kate, we haven’t tried a gluten free version of these cinnamon rolls, but some readers have had success using Cup4Cup or other 1:1 gluten free flours in our recipes. Let us know if you give anything a try!

      1. I ended up following this recipe using Cup4Cup gluten free flour and I think they turned out as well as they could have given the fact that gluten free breads/pastries lack the softness and chewiness that traditional flour yields. I’m not sure I would recommend using gluten free flour in this particular recipe just because when I think of a cinnamon roll, I think soft and chewy and mine were drier and denser (to no fault of Sally’s recipe). But in a pinch, if someone is really desperate for a GF cinnamon roll solution, it does work (and they visually looked beautiful!). If you’re reading this and looking for gluten free options, I’ve tried at least 4 of Sally’s cookie recipes and they all work phenomenally with Cup4Cup!

  21. I love these rolls! I use one pack of active and one instant yeast and substitute heavy cream for milk.. but I proof the yeasts in separate bowls with just enough water and a bit of sugar.. it’s like eating pillows!!!

  22. Love this recipe so much and make it all the time and always a hit! One question though, one of my sisters loves cinnamon rolls baked apart from one another, is this possible with these? Thank you so much!

  23. I’d love to know how you are packaging these when you give these as gifts!

    1. Hi Shawna, you can really package them however works best for you! One option would be baking them in a disposable pan and then wrapping with cellophane and a ribbon.

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