This copy-cat Cinnabon cinnamon roll recipe gives you extra soft, extra fluffy, ooey-gooey, amazingly scrumptious cinnamon rolls. If you are a Cinnabon fan, this recipe is for you! The best part, besides the amazing flavor, they can be started the night before and baked in the morning.
I have been making these cinnamon rolls for years, and they are a family favorite. I usually make them once a year on Christmas morning. And it has become a family tradition to have our house filled with the fantastic aroma of baking cinnamon rolls as we open our Christmas gifts.
If you are a fan of the iconic Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, this recipe is for you! These cinnamon rolls have all the ooey-gooeyness of Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and a rich cream cheese icing that might just have you licking your plate.
For most people, the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn to start cinnamon rolls that take almost 4 hours to make, from start to finish, is a deal-breaker. I get it, I am not a morning person, and I wouldn’t want to do that either! But my favorite part about this recipe is that you can start the cinnamon rolls the night before, put them in the refrigerator and finish them in the morning with minimal work! I’ve included instructions in the recipe to make them all in one go and the overnight option.
Tips and Tricks:
You can use active dry yeast or instant yeast. The instructions are the same for both. When working with yeast, “blooming” or “proofing,” the yeast is an important step. This step ensures that the yeast is active and not expired. This is especially important if you’ve had your yeast for a while. If your yeast is old and no longer has live yeast cells, the dough will fail to rise, and you’ll waste your ingredients and time.
Blooming or proofing your yeast is easy. You just need a warm liquid, usually water or milk, yeast, and sugar. The most critical step is the temperature of your liquid; it needs to be between 100°F and 110°F. If your liquid is too hot, you will kill the yeast. The sugar helps activate the yeast and causes it to bubble up, further proving your yeast is active and ready to use. You just need to stir together the warm liquid, yeast, and sugar and let it sit for 10 minutes. If it bubbles and gets foamy, your yeast is active and ready to use. It’s a quick 5-10 minute step that prevents you from wasting your time just in case the yeast has expired.
Helping the Dough Rise:
For the dough to rise and double in size, you need a warm place to put it. Unfortunately, not everyone’s house has a nice warm spot to do this. Our house uses air conditioning year-round because we live in the tropics, so our house is on the cool side.
You can create a nice warm spot in your oven. Preheat your oven to 150°F, turn the oven off and wait a few minutes. Then place your covered dough inside to rise; leave the oven door open a crack to allow some of the heat to escape. After 30 minutes, shut the oven door to retain any remaining heat. Remove the dough when it has doubled in size.
Cutting Beautiful Rolls:
My new preferred way to cut cinnamon rolls is to use a Pizza Cutter. This method is incredibly quick and easy. First, roll the dough into a 20-inch x 12-inch rectangle and add the filling. Then cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch strips, roll each cinnamon roll individually, and place them in the prepared pan.
Dental floss is the most common way to slice your rolls before baking them. It’s better than a sharp knife or a serrated knife. Be sure to use unflavored floss unless you want your cinnamon rolls to have a minty flavor! First, measure out about 12-15 inches of floss, and slide it under your dough until you reach the point where you want to cut. Next, bring the floss around the top of the dough and, crossing the floss, pull both ends of the floss in a smooth, quick motion. The floss should cut cleanly and easily right through the dough. Repeat until all your rolls are cut. (See my step-by-step photos below).
Step-By-Step Instructions with Photos:
Start by proofing your yeast. Combine the yeast, warm milk (100°F-110°F), and sugar. After letting it sit for 5-10 minutes, it should look foamy. This is what you want as evidence your yeast is active and hasn’t expired.
Combine the remaining dough ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It should be tacky but not too sticky.
Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and roll it out onto a floured surface. Roll it out into a rectangle that is 20-inches by 12-inches and 1/4 inch thick.
Prepare the filling. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Gently spread the filling evenly on the rolled-out dough.
Once the filling is added to the dough, use one of these two methods to slice the cinnamon rolls. You can either use a pizza cutter and slice 1 1/2-inch wide strips and then roll each roll individually or use floss to cut the rolls (see more details on these cutting methods above in my Tips and Tricks).
Place the cut rolls in the baking pan. Cover with a towel and allow to rise a second time. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. They should almost double in size.
Bake your cinnamon rolls in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. While the rolls are baking, make the cream cheese icing.
When the rolls come out of the oven, immediately add a layer of icing. This allows the icing to melt into all the cracks and crevices of the cinnamon rolls and adds to their gooey deliciousness. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then add a final layer of icing.
To start these the day before, you follow the instructions through to the point where you place your cut rolls into the pan. Do not raise them a second time. Instead, wrap them tightly with foil and put them in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to finish the cinnamon rolls, remove them from the refrigerator and loosen the tinfoil from around the edges of the pan, but keep the cinnamon rolls loosely covered (this helps them not to dry out). Preheat the oven to 170°F, then turn the oven off. Place the covered cinnamon rolls in the warm oven, with the oven door open a crack, for 45 minutes to an hour to rise until they are almost doubled in size.
Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven, and preheat the oven to 360°F. When the oven is preheated, return the cinnamon rolls to the oven, uncovered, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Keep an eye on the cinnamon rolls; if they begin to brown on top, place a piece of foil loosely over the rolls and finish baking.
To freeze the cinnamon rolls, bake and add the icing and allow them to cool completely on the countertop. Place them in the refrigerator for an hour to slightly harden the icing (this helps the icing not stick to whatever container you are storing them in. Cover the top of the rolls with parchment paper and place them in a freezer bag or an airtight container.
To thaw the rolls, either set them out at room temperature for an hour or two or thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, place individual rolls in the microwave for 15-20 seconds for that fresh-out-of-the-oven taste.
Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 packages active dry yeast or instant yeast (1½ tablespoons or ½ ounce)
- 1 cup warm milk (100°F-110°F)
- ½ cup + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), packed
- 3 tablespoons cinnamon
- 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), softened
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 2½ cups powdered sugar
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Grease the bottom and sides of a metal or glass 9×13 inch baking dish, set aside.
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, mix together the yeast, warm milk, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5-10 minutes or until foamy on top.
- Add the remaining ½ cup sugar, softened butter, salt, and eggs. Mix on medium speed, using a dough hook or paddle attachment, until combined. Next, switch the mixer 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 all the flour has been added, mix until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes. The dough should be tacky but not too sticky.
- Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, flipping the dough once to grease all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to double in size in a warm spot in your kitchen for about an hour. ** If your house is on the cool side, you can preheat your oven to 170°F, turn it off and place your covered dough inside to rise; leave the oven door open a crack to allow some of the heat to escape.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it is approximately 20-inches long,12-inches wide, and about ¼-inch thick.
- Combine the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Then, stir in the melted butter until everything is equally moist. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, pressing it gently to spread it out. Keep the filling about ¼-inch from the edge of the dough.
- **Using one of the methods listed in the notes, cut the dough into 12 rolls, each about 1.5 inches.
- Place the slices of dough into the prepared pan.**If you are baking the cinnamon rolls tomorrow morning, stop here, cover tightly with tinfoil, place the cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator and pick up tomorrow at "Make-Ahead/Overnigth Instructions."
- (If continuing), place a kitchen towel or foil over the pan of cinnamon rolls, set in a warm place, and allow to rise until almost doubled in size (about an hour).
- Preheat the oven to 360°F. When the oven is preheated, bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Keep an eye on the cinnamon rolls; if they begin to brown on top, place a piece of foil loosely over the rolls and finish baking. **To be sure the cinnamon rolls are completely baked in the center, insert a thermometer into the center of the rolls; the temperature should be between 190°F to 200°F.
- While the cinnamon rolls are baking, begin making the icing. Add all the ingredients to a medium bowl and beat well with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- When the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven, spread a layer of icing over the rolls, letting it melt into the rolls. After the rolls have cooled for 15 minutes, spread a second layer over the cinnamon rolls and serve immediately.
- Cover leftover frosted rolls tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To reheat individual rolls, place in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.
- When you are ready to finish the cinnamon rolls, remove them from the refrigerator and loosen the tinfoil from around the edges of the pan, but keep the cinnamon rolls loosely covered (this helps them not to dry out). Preheat the oven to 170°F, then turn the oven off. Place the covered cinnamon rolls in the warm oven, with the oven door open a crack, for 45 minutes to an hour to rise until almost doubled in size.
- Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven, and preheat the oven to 360°F. When the oven is preheated, return the cinnamon rolls to the oven, uncovered, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Keep an eye on the cinnamon rolls; if they begin to brown on top, place a piece of foil loosely over the rolls and finish baking.**To be sure the cinnamon rolls are completely baked in the center, insert a thermometer into the center of the rolls; the temperature should be between 190°F to 200°F.
- While the cinnamon rolls are baking, follow the instructions for making the icing.