Easy Cinnamon Rolls (under 2 hours)
Yes, it’s true, you can make easy cinnamon rolls from scratch without having to wait half a day for the dough to rise! This recipe cuts the hassle out of making giant, fluffy cinnamon rolls—without sacrificing flavor.
If you thought your choices for homemade cinnamon rolls were to pick up a can of dough from the refrigerated section or to wait 4 hours (or overnight!) for from-scratch dough to rest, rise, and rise again, this recipe for easy cinnamon rolls is a game-changer.
Yes, it’s homemade! For real homemade, not from a can!
Yes, it’s made with yeast!
But it only needs a 10 minute rest and one 50 minute rise, which means you can start your cinnamon rolls right when you wake up and not have to wait until lunch to eat them.
As if that’s not enough of a selling point, these quick cinnamon rolls are just as finger-licking good as the classic recipe, with spirals of buttery cinnamon sugar filling and a sweet-and-tangy cream cheese frosting as the perfect finishing touch.
(If you love cinnamon, be sure to check out these recipes too: cinnamon cream cheese glaze, brown sugar cinnamon coffee syrup, apple cinnamon baked oatmeal, and cinnamon whipped cream.)
About this easy cinnamon roll recipe
So what’s the secret here? How do you get fluffy, soft cinnamon rolls with only one rise?
The first rise is when most of the magic happens when you’re working with a yeast dough. As the yeast feeds, it produces gas, and this gas is what makes the dough rise; as the dough gets bigger, the yeast can’t feed as efficiently, which is why most bread recipes have you punch down the dough, shape it, and let it rise a second time so the yeast can keep feeding.
The punching and second rise is totally optional, though, and you don’t have to do it—or at least not in most recipes. You’ll still get a fluffy texture, you’re just cutting the feeding time for the yeast, so the results will be slightly different; the big difference is that there’s less depth in the flavor.
That difference might be noticeable in a plain loaf of bread, but there’s so much going on with cinnamon rolls, you’re not going to take a bite and say, “Aha! This cinnamon roll tastes less yeast-y than usual!”
Trust us: quick cinnamon rolls are the best cinnamon rolls!
What you need
- Dough: Whole milk, active dry yeast, granulated sugar, unsalted butter, egg, vanilla extract, kosher salt, all-purpose flour
- Cinnamon filling: Unsalted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, heavy cream
- Cream cheese frosting: Unsalted butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, kosher salt
A note about the cinnamon: Cinnamon is the star of the show here, so you want to make sure you’re using fresh, fragrant cinnamon. If you don’t bake often (or if you bought a huuuuge bottle that’s been sitting in your pantry for years), your cinnamon may be past its prime—check it by opening the bottle and taking a whiff. If it only has a faint cinnamon aroma, or it smells kind of musty and old but not cinnamon-y, buy fresh cinnamon before making this recipe.
How to make them
Prepare. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Proof the yeast by heating the milk for 30 to 40 seconds in the microwave, then whisking in the yeast and sugar; cover with a clean dishtowel for 10 minutes. If the mixture is bubbly after 10 minutes, you’re good to go!
Tip: The milk should be somewhere between 98 and 105ºF; too hot and it will kill the yeast.
Make the dough. Combine the butter, sugars, cinnamon, and vanilla in a mixing bowl, then whisk in the yeast mixture, egg, and vanilla. Add the salt, then the flour a cup at a time and knead until the dough forms a ball. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 10 minutes.
Form the cinnamon rolls. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 14×18-inch rectangle.
Spread the filling over the top of the rectangle, then roll the dough into a log starting at the short side.
Cut the log into 12 rolls; each should be about an inch thick.
Tip: I like to use a Silpat or non-stick baking mat to roll out the dough because it stays in place, but a piece of parchment paper works too!
Rise. Place the cinnamon rolls in the pan and cover them with a clean dish towel. Let them rise for about 50 minutes. During the last few minutes of rising time, start preheating the oven to 350ºF.
Bake. Drizzle the tops of the rolls with heavy cream before baking. The addition of heavy cream makes for gooey, delicious cinnamon rolls!
Bake for 24 to 26 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
Frost. Use a hand mixer to beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Slather the frosting onto the warm cinnamon rolls and serve.
Tip: You’ll want to let them cool slightly before frosting. If they’re piping hot out of the oven, the frosting will melt!
Cinnamon bun is simply an alternate name for cinnamon rolls—they’re the same thing! Other names for cinnamon rolls include cinnamon swirls, cinnamon Danishes, and cinnamon snails.
Assuming your cinnamon rolls were soft when they came out of the oven, the culprit here is probably how you stored them. Cinnamon rolls need to be stored in an airtight container, and they longer they’re stored in the fridge, the more likely it is that they’ll dry out and get hard.
If, on the other hand, your cinnamon rolls were hard from the get-go, it could be that you‘ve added too much flour. Spoon the flour lightly into the measuring cup, then level it with a butter knife.
Yes, you can over-knead dough, and the result is a dough that’s difficult to work with and an end-product that’s flat, tough, and chewy. You’ll know your dough doesn’t need anymore kneading when it’s smooth and quickly springs back when you poke it.
How to make these cinnamon rolls your own
Want to customize these cinnamon rolls? Here are some ways to make them your own!
- Not a fan of cream cheese frosting? Swap it for a simple glaze made with milk and powdered sugar. Use our lemon glaze recipe and omit the lemon zest, then swap the lemon juice for milk.
- Make Nutella cinnamon rolls. Swap the butter for Nutella to give your cinnamon rolls a chocolatey twist!
- Try apple cinnamon rolls. Add diced apples (or fried apples!) to the filling mixture, then swap the cream cheese frosting for a drizzle of homemade caramel.
Make Ahead Ideas
You can make a batch of cinnamon rolls and store them unfrosted in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to a week. Once the cinnamon rolls have been frosted, they should be refrigerated and eaten within 3 days.
Freezer Storage Suggestions
To freeze this recipe, wrap the unfrosted cinnamon rolls in plastic wrap, then pop them in a freezer bag. Store for up to 3 months and thaw at room temperature before heating and frosting.
Place a frosted or unfrosted cinnamon roll on a microwave-safe plate and heat for about 30 seconds.
More breakfast pastry recipes
Get the Recipe: Easy Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (see note)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ – ½ cup heavy cream, at room temperature (for pouring over rolls after rising, but before baking)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- Line a 9”x13” baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, heat milk for 30-40 seconds, until the milk is lukewarm. Add in yeast and sugar and stir with a whisk until dissolved. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes.
- While your yeast is proofing, combine softened butter, sugars, cinnamon, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- After the yeast has proofed, whisk in melted butter, egg, and vanilla, until fully combined.
- Add in salt and flour, 1 cup at a time. Knead it slightly until the dough forms a ball. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Rest the dough for 10 minutes.
- Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out until it is approximately a 14” × 18” rectangle that is 1/4” thick.
- Spread filling over the entire surface of the dough.
- Beginning at the short side, roll the dough up.
- Use a serrated knife cut the dough into 12 rolls.
- Place cinnamon rolls in the pan, cut-side down. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for about 50 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Drizzle the tops of the rolls with heavy cream. Bake for 24-26 minutes until the tops are slightly golden brown.
- For the frosting, add softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to a medium-sized bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until combined and smooth. Frost cinnamon rolls and serve warm!
- Unfrosted cinnamon rolls can be stored in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Frosted cinnamon rolls should be stored in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator and be eaten within 3 days for best quality.
- After cooling completely, unfrosted cinnamon rolls can be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a plastic freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature before reheating and frosting.
- Place one cinnamon roll on a microwave-safe plate and heat for up to 30 seconds. The cinnamon roll may be frosted or unfrosted for this method.
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