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Craving a gooey, fluffy Cinnabon roll, but you’re nowhere near a Cinnabon location? No problem. I’ve tested this amazing recipe 4 times, and it’s come out delicious every single time! Once you try this recipe, you’ll agree with my family that this recipe makes cinnamon rolls that taste even better than the Cinnabon ones.
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What ingredients are in Cinnabon rolls?
There are several ingredients in my copycat Cinnabon roll dough. Let’s go through each ingredient and see how it makes these rolls so delicious.
- Bread Flour: gives the rolls the fluffy, chewy taste we love. All-purpose just won’t work here.
- Yeast: makes the dough rise and the rolls smell amazing.
- Salt: keeps the yeast from growing too quickly and adds flavor.
- Honey: gives the dough a soft texture, encourages the yeast to grow, and sweetens the dough a little.
- Butter: softens the dough and adds richness and flavor.
- Lard: you might be wondering about this one! Lard in bread makes it even softer and fluffier than with just butter.
- Eggs: adds richness and fluffiness to the bread and also encourages the dough to rise in the oven.
- Milk: adds richness and softness to the dough.
What kind of cinnamon does Cinnabon use?
There are two kinds of cinnamon, Saigon and Ceylon. Cinnabon uses Saigon cinnamon in their rolls, so I’ve opted to use that kind for my recipe. Saigon cinnamon definitely has a richer, spicier flavor and more reddish color than Ceylon cinnamon.
Can I use margarine instead of butter for cinnamon rolls?
Please, don’t use! Margarine is full of chemicals and you should never be eating it. Especially for cinnamon rolls, you need real butter for the best flavor.
How do you activate yeast?
Activating or proofing yeast is only necessary if you’re using active dry yeast. I recommend using fast-action or “instant” yeast, which does not need to be activated before using.
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water. Make sure the water is no hotter than 115 F. Use a thermometer.
- Add the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved in the water.
- Let the mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add the foamy yeast mixture directly to the flour and other ingredients to make the dough. You may need to decrease other liquids in the recipe because you’re adding water along with the yeast.
Why do you let dough rest after kneading?
Letting the dough rest (also called proving or rising) after kneading it is a crucial step that you should never skip. This resting time allows the yeast to add lots of flavor to the dough and gives the gluten in the dough time to rest, making the dough easier to shape.
Does rapid rise yeast need to rise twice?
Yes. Contrary to what it says on the yeast packet, dough made with rapid rise or fast-action yeast does need to rise twice. One rise simply will not give you the desired flavor and texture.
Why are my cinnamon rolls not rising?
There are several reasons why your cinnamon rolls aren’t rising. Let’s explore the most common causes and how to remedy them.
- The yeast is dead or stunted. Be sure that your yeast isn’t past its expiry date. If you’re using active dry yeast, make sure to proof it first in warm water and a little sugar to see if it’s still active. When mixing up the dough, use liquids that are at 115 F or below; hot temps will kill the yeast. If the yeast makes direct contact with salt, that can also kill it.
- The room is too cold. Cold temperatures slow down the yeasts’ growth, while warm temperatures speed it up. If you’re working in a cold room, place the bowl of dough or pan of rolls in a cold oven. Put a casserole dish full of boiling water on the shelf beneath the dough and close the oven door. The steam will warm up the dough, encouraging it to rise.
- The rolls didn’t rise long enough before being baked. If you’ve already baked your cinnamon rolls and are wondering why they didn’t rise, this is probably why. Next time, gently poke the risen dough with your fingertip to see if it’s proved enough. When it’s ready, the dough will quickly spring back to its original position.
How do you know when dough is done rising?
When you’re letting the dough rise (also called prove), it can be tricky to know when it’s done! Here’s how to tell.
- For the first rise, the dough is in a bowl. It’s done rising when it has at least doubled in size. You can snap a photo with your cell phone or tablet of the dough before and after it rises to double check that it’s grown enough.
- For the second rise, the rolls are in a pan. The rolls are done when they have noticeably increased in size. Most importantly, the dough should spring back when you poke it gently with your fingertip.
How do you make cinnamon rolls fluffier?
There are several ways you can ensure beautifully fluffy cinnamon rolls! Here’s some top tips for getting fluffy rolls.
- Sift the bread flour. This sounds unusual, but it helps the rolls have a soft, thin crust and fluffy interior.
- Use a combination of butter and lard in the dough. Butter adds flavor, while lard gives the dough an extra soft and light texture.
- Use eggs in the dough. Eggs add richness, improve the dough’s texture, and encourage the dough to rise higher in the oven.
- Let the dough rise long enough. Underproved rolls will be dense and doughy instead of light and fluffy. The rolls are proved long enough when the dough springs back when prodded with a fingertip.
Do cinnamon rolls need to touch when baking?
Technically, cinnamon rolls don’t need to touch when they’re baking. However, I do like them to touch, because it keeps them softer and more gooey. If you like a firmer outer crust, then use a larger pan and space the rolls farther apart.
Why do my cinnamon rolls shrink after baking?
If you’ve noticed that the inner spiral of your cinnamon rolls has shrunk a little after baking, that’s nothing to worry about. When bread is baked, it is full of steam, and when it is cooled, it slowly releases that steam, causing the bread to contract. If the bread shrinks a lot, it means that your rolls may have proved too long before being baked.
How do you reheat cinnamon rolls?
You can reheat up to 4 cinnamon rolls in the microwave on a plate, although our family prefers to warm the rolls individually right before we eat them. The spiral shape of cinnamon rolls heat them up quickly, so you should be fine with microwaving each roll for 30 seconds.
Can you freeze homemade cinnamon rolls?
Yes, you absolutely can and should freeze homemade cinnamon rolls – don’t leave them on the counter overnight or put them in the fridge. Simply seal them inside of zip-top freezer bags, pressing out the extra air, and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature or microwave individual rolls for 45-60 seconds.
Can vegetarians eat cinnamon rolls?
Yes, cinnamon rolls are okay for vegetarians to eat. The rolls and frosting contain eggs and dairy products, but no meat.
What are the calories in a Cinnabon cinnamon roll?
According to Cinnabon, their classic roll contains 880 calories, 37g of fat, 127g of carbs, and 58g of sugar. By comparison, my homemade Cinnabon cinnamon rolls have only 432 calories, 17.8g of fat, 62g of carbs, and 30.4g of sugar. Making your own is definitely so much healthier and easier on the wallet.
Are cinnamon rolls bad for you?
Any way you slice it, cinnamon rolls aren’t the healthiest dessert out there. However, homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch are actually a lot healthier than the canned Pillsbury ones or Cinnabon ones. If you make the rolls yourself, you know that they don’t have any artificial flavors, food coloring, preservatives, or dough enrichers. Plus, they’re lower calories and tastier than store bought ones!
How can I make cinnamon rolls ahead of time?
There are a few ways you can make cinnamon rolls in advance to save time on Christmas morning. Choose the method that suits your schedule the best.
- Method #1. Mix and knead the dough, then place it in a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in the fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours. Let the dough warm up in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours before rolling out and shaping.
- Method #2. Mix and knead the dough, let it prove until doubled in size, roll the rolls, and place the covered pan of rolls in the fridge. Prove in the fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours. Let the dough warm up in a warm place until springy to the touch before baking. This can take up to 2 hours since the dough was chilled.
- Method #3. Bake and frost the cinnamon rolls in advance, then freeze them and reheat in the microwave when ready to eat. This is the easiest method for our family, and what we will be doing this year.
- Skinny. If you’re trying to cut calories, omit the icing or use a lower-fat cream cheese. You can also make the rolls smaller.
- Vegan. Use vegan butter and almond milk, and omit the eggs and honey from the dough. Use a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon juice instead of the cream cheese frosting.
- Gluten Free. Making successful gluten free bread is a challenge! I’d highly recommend this tested recipe from Let Them Eat Gluten Free Cake.
How to Make Better Than Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls
Make the bread dough. Gather the ingredients before you begin. You’ll need bread flour, fast-action yeast, salt, honey, eggs, butter, lard, and milk.
Heat the milk to 115 F. If you’re microwaving the milk, put a glass or wooden skewer in the milk to break the surface tension, preventing explosions.
Sift the bread flour into a mixing bowl.
Add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl.
Mix in the salt and yeast with your finger.
Dump in the softened butter, lard, and honey.
Mix everything together with your hand until it has a dry, crumbly texture like in the photo below.
Add the two eggs and half of the warm milk.
Mix the dough together with your hand, gradually adding more warm milk as needed to create a slightly sticky dough. See how there’s still some flour left at the bottom of the bowl? That means that the dough needs a little more milk.
This is what the dough should look like once you’ve added the right amount of milk. You may not need it all, as the brand of flour and humidity affect the amount of liquid needed in the dough.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10-15 minutes. Check to see if the dough is kneaded enough by tearing off a piece of dough and stretching it as thin as you can. If you can read through the dough like in the photo below, the dough has been kneaded sufficiently.
Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.
Set the bowl of dough in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Make the cinnamon sugar mixture. While the dough is proving (also called rising), grab some Saigon cinnamon, softened butter, and dark brown sugar.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together until well mixed, then set aside.
Shape the cinnamon rolls. Once the dough has doubled in size, flip it out onto a floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out the big gas bubbles.
Roll out the dough until it measures at least 19×19 inches. I couldn’t fit the whole piece of dough in this photo, but here it is with a ruler. The dough should be quite thin, and make sure that the edges are the same thickness as the middle.
Spread the softened butter all over the dough, except leave a border of about 1 inch on three sides. Using an angled spatula, as in the photo below, makes this process easy and accurate.
Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the buttered dough, using your fingers to smooth it out.
The side of the dough closest to you should have the butter and sugar all the way to the edge. That’s where you want to start rolling. Fold over the edge just a little, then keep rolling until you have a log.
Turn it over so the seam is exposed, and pinch it tightly to seal. This step keeps the dough from unrolling.
Chop off the uneven ends of the log with a bench scraper and use the scraper to mark the dough in 12 equal pieces. I nicked my dough about every 1 1/2 inches.
Now, cut the log into 12 rolls. I like to use a piece of thread for this, because a knife tends to flatten the roll and make it look unattractive. To cut with a thread, place the thread under the log and draw it tightly around the log until it cuts through the dough.
Place the 12 cinnamon rolls in an unbuttered 11×14-inch pan. It’s crucial to use an extra large pan here to give the rolls room to rise out. They’ll grow a lot!
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to prove in a warm place until the rolls are springy to the touch, about 30 minutes.
Make the cream cheese frosting. Grab some softened cream cheese and butter, along with some powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract.
Beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
Sift in the powdered sugar. Don’t skip this step, or you’ll have lumpy frosting.
Beat the frosting until smooth, then add the vanilla extract and a little cream to make it spreadable. Taste and add more powdered sugar if desired.
Check on the cinnamon rolls. They should have noticeably increased in size, and the dough should spring back into place if you gently prod it with your fingertip.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Cover the pan of rolls loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 400 F for 25 minutes, then uncover the rolls and bake for another 5 minutes to brown them slightly. The rolls are cooked when the center rolls have an internal temperature of 190 F on a thermometer.
Immediately after the rolls come out of the oven, spread on the cream cheese frosting.
- Always, always, always use bread flour. All-purpose flour simply will not give you the light, fluffy rolls you crave, because it has a lower protein content than bread flour.
- Measure the ingredients by weight. This is much faster and more accurate than using measuring cups.
- Use fast-action yeast. This allows you to skip the annoying step of having to proof the active dry yeast in warm water and sugar and let it stand until bubbly, which is usually 10 minutes.
- Don’t let the salt touch the yeast. Salt will kill the yeast if it touches it directly.
- Use a combination of butter and lard in the dough. Lard gives the rolls a beautifully light and fluffy texture, while butter adds a fantastic flavor.
- Use a thermometer to check the milk temperature. The warm milk for the dough should be at 115 F or below; higher temps will kill the yeast.
- Knead thoroughly. One of the keys to high rising, fluffy cinnamon rolls is kneading the dough long enough. Use the windowpane test as described in the recipe card below to make sure that your dough has been sufficiently kneaded.
- Don’t under-prove. The first prove (when the dough is in the bowl) should be long enough to allow the dough to at least double in size. The second prove (when the rolls are rising in the pan) should be long enough to make the dough springy when pressed with a fingertip. Under-proved rolls will not rise well and will taste doughy.
- Bake the rolls at 400 F. This hotter temperature ensures a great oven spring (rise). Bake the rolls loosely covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 5 minutes. Don’t open the oven door during the first 10 minutes of baking, or the rolls may collapse.
- The rolls are done when the center rolls have an internal temperature of 190 F. Do not simply go on baking time, because each oven cooks differently.
Our Go-To Kitchen Tools
- Kitchen Scale: quickly and accurately measure ingredients with this digital scale.
- Digital Thermometer: you’ll always know the temperature with this affordable thermometer.
- Set of 4 Sieves: effortlessly sift your flour and powdered sugar with these strainers.
- Angled Spatulas: spreading butter on the dough is easy with these spatulas.
- Saigon Cinnamon: this is the kind of cinnamon that Cinnabon uses in their rolls.
Craving more cinnamon sugar goodness? Check out these other yummy recipes.
- Kanellängd: this Swedish cinnamon bread is a delicious treat you’ll want to make again!
- Swedish Tea Ring: this golden wreath of cinnamon goodness is a coffee time favorite.
- Mardi Gras King Cake: this colorful bread is soft, fluffy, and perfect for Carnival time.
The pleasure of a 5-star review for this cinnamon roll recipe would be greatly appreciated.Print
Make these better than Cinnabon cinnamon rolls for a Christmas morning breakfast the whole family will love. Learn how to make the yeast dough and the gooey frosting from scratch with all of my tips. These light and fluffy rolls will disappear in minutes!
For the Dough
- 4 1/8 cups bread flour (500g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (43g)
- 3 tablespoons lard (40g)
- 5 tablespoons clover honey (100g)
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed (240 ml)
- 2 large eggs
For the Filling
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (72g)
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed (150g)
- 4 teaspoons Saigon cinnamon
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 ounces brick-style cream cheese, softened (57g)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (38g)
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (120g)
- 2–3 teaspoon heavy whipping cream (10–15 ml)
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Making the Dough (35 min prep + 1 1/2 hrs proving)
- Sift the flour. Sift the bread flour into a large mixing bowl. This step helps the bread have a thin crust and light, fluffy interior.
- Warm the milk. Pour the milk into a microwave-safe container and place a glass stirring rod or wooden skewer into the milk to break the surface tension, which will prevent explosions in the microwave. Warm the milk in the microwave until it’s 115 F. It’s crucial to use a thermometer to check the temperature, because if it is above 115 F, it can kill the yeast.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Add the salt and fast-action yeast on opposite sides of the bowl of flour, then stir them both into the flour. Make sure to keep the salt and yeast separate, since salt will kill the yeast if it touches the yeast directly.
- Add sweetener and fats. Dump the honey, softened butter, and lard into the flour mixture. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, then dump them into the flour mixture. Stir and crush the mixture with your hand until the ingredients look dry and clumpy.
- Mix in the liquid. Gradually pour in the warm milk, stirring and crushing the flour mixture with your hand as you do so. You need just enough milk to create a slightly sticky dough with no flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Depending upon the humidity and the brand of flour you’re using, you may not need all of the milk.
- Knead the dough. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. To knead, use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process. You can also slap the dough against the counter. Add only a little flour occasionally throughout the kneading process.
- Check the dough. Use the windowpane test to see if the dough is kneaded enough. Tear off a lump of dough and use your fingers or even your knuckles to carefully stretch the dough as thin as you can. If you can read large print through the dough, it’s kneaded enough. If you don’t knead the dough long enough, the rolls will not rise as well or be as light and fluffy.
- Prove. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a tough skin from forming on the dough. Place the bowl of dough in a warm, but not hot, place until the dough has at least doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. For overnight rolls, place the dough in the fridge for at least 8 hours at this stage.
Shaping the Rolls (20 min prep + 30 min proving)
- Cinnamon and sugar. Mix together the Saigon cinnamon and dark brown sugar until well mixed.
- Punch down the dough. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out gas pockets.
- Roll it out. Use a wooden rolling pin to roll out the dough to a square measuring at least 19×19 inches. If the dough is too stiff, let it rest for a couple minutes, then try again. Make sure that the edges of the dough are thin, or the rolls won’t have a pretty swirl.
- Butter. Use an angled spatula to evenly spread a thin layer of softened butter all over the dough. Leave a 1 inch border of no butter on the ends and the long side that’s away from you. This will help the dough seal better when it’s rolled up.
- Sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture all over the buttered dough, then spread it out with your fingers. Make sure that all of the butter is covered with an even layer of the cinnamon sugar.
- Roll it up. Start rolling the dough from the side of the dough closest to you. Fold the edge over about 1/2 an inch, then tightly roll it up.
- Seal. Turn the log over so you can see the seam, and pinch it tightly so the dough doesn’t unroll later.
- Trim the ends. Cut off the ends of the log with a knife or bench scraper. Prove and bake these ends in a large ramekin or small cake pan.
- Slice the rolls. Mark the dough in 1 1/2 inch intervals with a knife or bench scraper so you have 12 equally sized rolls. Cut a piece of thread about 8 inches long and place it under the log of dough. Wrap the thread around the log and pull it tighter and tighter until it cuts through the dough. Repeat until the log is cut into 12 rolls.
- Prove. Space the 12 rolls swirl side up in an 11×14-inch lasagna pan or cake pan. (It’s important to use a large pan to give the rolls room to rise out instead of up and getting overcrowded.) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put in a warm place. Let the rolls prove until they are springy to the touch, about 30-40 minutes.
Making the Cream Cheese Frosting (10 min prep)
- Beat. Dump the softened cream cheese and softened butter into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
- Add sugar. Sift the icing sugar into the cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix again until smooth.
- Flavor and taste. Beat in the vanilla and a teaspoon of heavy cream to give the frosting a spreadable consistency. Taste and add more powdered sugar if desired. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar; if the frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream.
- Beat until fluffy. Beat the frosting for 30 seconds to 1 minute on medium-high speed to make it fluffy and smooth. You should have about 1 cup of frosting.
Baking the Rolls (5 min prep + 30 min baking)
- Preheat. About 10 minutes before the rolls are done proving, turn the oven to 400 F.
- Bake. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan of rolls and loosely lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan. Bake the rolls on the middle shelf of the oven at 400 F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil covering and bake for 5 minutes more to brown the rolls slightly. The rolls are baked when the center rolls have an internal temperature of 190 F on a meat thermometer.
- Frost. As soon as the rolls come out of the oven, spread the cream cheese icing on each roll. The heat from the rolls will melt the icing, giving them a gooey texture.
- Cool and enjoy. Allow the rolls to cool for 15 minutes before serving, as they are very hot. Enjoy warm.
- Storing the rolls. If you’re not eating the cinnamon rolls within a couple hours, allow them to cool completely, then freeze in a freezer zip-top bag for up to 1 month. Do not refrigerate the rolls, as it will make the bread part go stale. Also, the rolls cannot be stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours because of the cream cheese frosting.
- Make this recipe perfectly the first time. Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
- The pleasure of a 5-star review for this cinnamon roll recipe would be greatly appreciated.
- 👩🏻🍳 Want to see our latest recipes? Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: better than cinnabon cinnamon roll recipe, cinnamon rolls from scratch, cinnabon cinnamon rolls recipe