Many recipes claim to be “The Best” Cinnamon Roll Recipe, but, I have spent a lot of time putting them all to the test and came up with the one recipe to rule them all. Over the past years I have tried more than 14 different Cinnamon Roll and Cinnabon Clone recipes, this is the result of my favourite takeaways from each and every one of them. A recipe that has evolved to perfection. And here, I am sharing it with you!
Who doesn’t love a great cinnamon roll right? I remember my first one like it was yesterday. Some of you know, I grew up in Vienna and Cinnamon Rolls are a big thing there although in Vienna they are made with a Walnut and Cinnamon filling (delicious).
Making Cinnamon Rolls at home is not difficult, all you need is a bit of patience and follow the steps closely and voila, your delicious treat will be ready in no time. I often make a batch of 12 or 24 in one go because trust me, they don’t stick around very long. When I made the recipe for the blog and my YouTube channel, I had to film a couple of shots for the ending scene the next day, to my surprise, they where all gone and I had to make a new batch the next morning, THATS how good these are.
Cinnamon Buns have been around for literally centuries, they are said to originate from Sweden where they are called Kanelbullens. Kanel is the Swedish word for Cinnamon and Bullens means buns. Swedes even have an annual Kanelbullens day which is the 4th of October. The Cinnabon version we know today was first launched in Washington in 1985 and is now directly associated with Cinnamon Rolls.
Now here is one AMAZING reason to make these at home, a Cinnabon Classic Roll will cost you around $3.76 or more outside the US. In comparison, making this recipe will cost you (are you sitting?) $0.70c each. You can literally save almost $30 by just making one batch of these.
Cinnamon Rolls Ingredients
During my quest for the best cinnamon rolls, I have tried many different ingredients to test the outcome. The list of ingredients I have listed below, are the ones that yielded the best result.
- Milk is a must for a buttery smooth yeast dough, make sure it is at room temperature so it activates the yeast.
- Large Eggs at room temperature, if you can try to get open range eggs, I recently compared cage and farm eggs and the flavour and colour of the egg yolk is just not compare able, also, caged hen’s live a very sad life. So do that good deed and get farm eggs 🙂
- Unsalted Butter, you will see some recipes that use margarine and for me that just doesn’t make any sense. Margarine has a high water content and less fat, that makes a tougher less buttery dough. DONT USE MARGARINE.
- All Purpose Flour, I use either 00 Flour or just simple all purpose flour.
- Salt, any type will do. I have tried kosher and sea salt and there isn’t really any difference. The salt in this dough has a lot of roles to play and flavour is not one of them. Salt controls fermentation, gluten formation and dough colour so the type of salt doesn’t really matter.
- Crystal Sugar doesn’t just make the dough sweet, it also feeds the yeast so the dough can rise and become the fluffy delicious pillow we want to taste in our cinnamon rolls.
- Brown Sugar is the main ingredient inside your cinnamon roll, we use brown sugar, opposed to white sugar, because brown sugar has a rich texture. Now there are many different types of brown sugar. Muscovado (dark brown), Turbinado (Light brown) or Light and Dark brown sugar flavoured by molasses or syrup. For the ultimate flavour and texture, use ONLY Muscovado Sugar. Its dark, rich and perfect for cinnamon rolls.
- Ground Cinnamon otherwise they just wouldn’t be Cinnamon Rolls 🙂
- Melted Butter to keep it all together and enrich the flavour.
Cream Cheese Icing
- Cream Cheese, any type as long as its not flavoured. Now I always use Philadelphia Cheese. I have no affiliation to Philadelphia cheese ( I wish I did get tons of it for free ) but its really the best quality I can find in my region. Its also more expensive but hey, you are saving TONS by making these yourself and not buying them from Cinnabon so spend some of that saved money on quality ingredients 😀
- Softened Butter for texture and flavour
- Powder or Confectionary Sugar to sweeten it all up
- Vanilla Extract to round off the butter and cream cheese flavour
- A pinch of Salt to enhance the flavour
How to make Cinnamon Rolls!
The crucial components to a delicious cinnamon roll are soft, buttery dough, juicy sweet cinnamon filling and the famous cream cheese topping that gives it the famous “Cinabon” vibe. Now how do you make buttery soft dough and delicious cinnamon filling? Its not difficult at all, all you need to do is follow the steps carefully and you will be eating delicious rolls in no time.
Let’s break the process in to three parts, the yeast dough, filling and shaping and finally the baking and topping.
Before we start working with the dough, we need to bloom the yeast. You can use any type of yeast for this recipe but you have to make sure you follow the right steps according to the type of yeast you are going to use. Instant Dry Yeast is definitely the easiest and fastest way to achieve a good dough. If you are using fresh yeast of Active Dry Yeast, you will need to bloom the yeast first. You can skip this part if you are using instant yeast.
To Bloom the yeast, combine the warm milk with the yeast, salt and sugar. Let it rest for 10-12 minutes. This should form a layer of bubbles on top of the milk. If it doesn’t your yeast might be dead and there is a good chance you won’t get a rise.
Now that the yeast is ready, add the eggs, butter and flour, and knead until you have a soft smooth dough. This can take 7 to 10 minutes of kneading. If you are using a stand mixer (recommended) set it to level 1 or 2 and let it run for the whole amount of time. You can scrape the bowl every 3 minutes so nothing sticks. Line a bowl with a little vegetable oil and roll the dough into a ball. Place it in the bowl and cover the bowl with cling film. Now let it rest in a warm place for 40 minutes. It will double in size.
Lightly press out the air from the yeast dough and palace it on a working surface. It might be a little sticky so use some flour to avoid sticking to your working surface. Then use a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle that’s around 45 cm or 18 inches wide and 35 cm or 13 inches tall. The thickness of the dough should be just under half an inch or 40mm.
The filling is so delicious, yet very very easy to make. Simply combine the cinnamon and brown sugar in a small to medium sized bowl and give it a quick whisk. Using a brush, spread the melted butter over the top side of the dough rectangle. No need to leave an space just cover the whole surface evenly.
Now sprinkle the cinnamon / brown sugar mix evenly over the butter covered dough. Then grab a small palette knife or a butter knife and spread and press the sugar into the dough. It will stick to the butter so no need to be too thorough with this. Now lets go to the final step, shaping, baking and the topping.
Shaping and Baking
There are two ways to shape your cinnamon rolls, I will explain both ways but the first one is my favourite as it creates my famous tower look. Here is how it goes:
Method 1 (tower look):
Cut the dough (on the long side) into individual strips, each strip should be around 5cm or 2 inches thick. The last one might turn out a little smaller, it will still taste great and be a cute little Cinnamon Roll. Now start on one side of the dough strip and roll it up as tightly as you can without changing the dough shape. Pinch the last part together so it doesnt open up and place it in your baking dish.
Method 2 (Sausage Roll):
Instead of cutting the dough into strips, roll the whole dough (from the long side up) into a sausage shape. It should be 45cm or 18inch long. Now using a very sharp knife, cut the sausage in to roll’s that are around 2 inches thick. Place each slice side facing down into the baking tray.
With both methods, let the dough rest covered for 10 – 15 minutes. This will avoid any breaking or coming apart in the oven.
Here is a great tip, I do this before baking to get extra juicy rolls. Paint the baking tray with some of the melted butter, now sprinkle some cinnamon / brown sugar evenly over the baking tray. Place the rolls on top of this layer. It will seal the bottom of the roll to avoid any tasty filling escaping and it will keep them from drying out during baking.
Bake the proofed rolls at 175C or 345F using convection for around 20 to 22 minutes. Check the colour of the dough, it should be golden brown and maybe a little darker in the top spots. Check my pictures to get a good idea on how it should look out of the oven.
Cream Cheese Icing
At this point, your cinnamon rolls should be baking and this is the perfect time for you to prepare the cream cheese icing. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese, salt and vanilla extract. Use a hand mixer to whisk until smooth and combined. If its not becoming smooth and you have little bits of cream cheese floating in your frosting, you probably didn’t have everything at room temperature. But don’t stress, it will all come together when you add the confectionary sugar.
DO NOT add all the sugar at once, add it a spoon at a time while whisking and occasionally taste test to get the desired sweetness. Some like it very sweet others don’t so take your time and stop when you feel its enough.
If you accidentally over sweetened the icing, you can add 1-2 table spoons of fresh lemon juice to take of the edge.
Finally just drizzle over the slightly cooled cinnamon rolls and server. Voila.
Cinnamon Roll Recipe
- 225 Grams Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
- 75 Grams Unsalted Butter Melted
Cream Cheese Icing
- 300 Grams Cream Cheese I use Philadelphia but anything works
- 30 Grams Powder Sugar
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Sugar Or Vanilla Extract
- 1 Pinch Salt
- Combine the yeast with the Milk, Salt and Sugar and let it bloom for 10-15 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface of the milk. If you are using instant yeast you don't need to wait just go to the next step.
- Add the eggs, melted butter and salt and give it a good whisk. Now add in the remaining ingredients and set your stand mixer to kneading using a dough hook. If you want to knead by hand then keep folding in the bowl until it comes together. When the dough is not too sticky, you can continue kneading on a working surface. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth all around.
- Line your bowl with a table spoon of vegetable oil, form the dough in to a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover with cling film and let it proof in a warm place for 45 Minutes. It should double in size within those 45 minutes.
- Lightly press out the air and place the dough on your working surface. You might need to flour your working surface to avoid sticking to the counter. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough in to a rectangle approximately 50 cm x 40 cm and around 1/2 a cm in thickness.
- Brush the melted butter on the upside of your dough rectangle. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar with the cinnamon and whisk together. This is also a good point to preheat your oven to 170C or 340F.
- Using a large spoon, try to sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly on the dough rectangle. Then using a pallet knife, lightly spread the mixture evenly and press into the dough.
Roll Shaping Method 1
- If you want the cinnamon rolls to tower like mine, then use this method. Cut the dough with the filling in to strips. You need 12 equal strips so around 3.5 cm thick strips. Then pinch the edge of each strip and start rolling length wise until you have a perfect cinnamon roll. Pinch the end together and place in your baking tray.
Roll Shaping Method 2
- If you want perfectly flat rolls then follow this method. Roll the whole rectangle length wise so you have a 50 cm long sausage. Now cut the sausage using a sharp knife into 3.5 cm thick strips. Now place in your baking tray and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown.
The History of Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon originates from Sri Lanka and has used for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used Cinnamon for religious practices and embalming making it worth more than Gold in ancient times. The Roman empire eventually brought cinnamon to Europe and Scandinavia where the Swedes created the first type of cinnamon roll called Kanelbulle. Kanel transclates to cinnamon and Bulle to bun so basically a cinnamon bun.
Since the ancient times many different types of cinnamon buns have evolved and eventually the American version we know today was spread across the globe by the famous Cinnabon Brand.
Due to its spiral shape, this pastry is often referred to as a “Snail” in many European countries. Austria and Germany for example call it Zimtschnecke which translates to Cinnamon Snail. Here are some names for this delicious pasty from around the world:
- Sweden / Kanelbulle – Cinnamon Bun
- Germany & Austria – Zimtschnecke – Cinnamon Snail
- Hungary – Fahéjas csiga – Cinnamon Roll
- Denmark – Kanelsnegl – Cinnamon Snail
- Finland – Korvapuusti
If you want to spice up your filling a bit try and add some additional flavours or textures. Here are some things I’ve tried that worked wonders.
- Chopped Pecan Nuts or Walnuts
- Raisings (not my thing)
- Chocolate Chips (Delicious)
- Sliced Almonds
- A pinch of cardamom can work wonders, add it to the dark sugar cinnamon mix.