The BEST Cinnamon Rolls
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The BEST Cinnamon Rolls bring back all the memories of childhood. The dough is unbelievably soft, and the sugar and cinnamon mixture takes them to the next level! Treat your family to a batch of these soon!
This family recipe is full of memories for me.
This recipe is one I’ve made fifty times, while my mom probably made it one thousand times – or more. She loved making cinnamon rolls, and made them for numerous church activities as well as for family gatherings. At any given time, there were probably 3-4 pans of rolls in her freezer. She went through periods of freezing them already baked, like the photo above, and then there were times when she froze them pre-cooked so they could be SUPER fresh on any day of the week.
If you are nervous about making cinnamon rolls from scratch, I’ve got you. Follow my directions closely, and you’ll be a pro in no time!
Ingredients needed to make The BEST Cinnamon Rolls:
- Yeast – I use Red Star Active Dry Yeast. (This is a very large amount. I keep a bunch in the freezer, and it lasts a long time.) We have perfect bread-making weather here in Texas, and my bread always rises pretty quickly. You may need a Quick Rise Yeast, depending on where you live.
- Sugar – The sugar is needed to add sweetness, but also, it helps to activate the yeast.
- Water – Be sure to use WARM water, not hot and not cold. It should be warm to the touch but not scalding. Scalding water will disintegrate the yeast, and cold won’t activate it at all.
- Oil – My choice of oil is usually canola. But feel free to use melted butter in place of it, if desired.
- Salt – Kosher salt is the only type of salt I use now. But regular salt may be used as well.
- Powdered Milk – If you can’t find powdered milk, use milk in place of the water above. Remember, it should be warm milk if that’s what you’re using to activate the yeast.
- Flour – All-purpose flour produces the softest, fluffiest rolls!
How to make The BEST Cinnamon Rolls:
I’m going to tell you a secret. Making cinnamon rolls is NOT hard. They seem to intimidate a lot of folks, but if you know how to make bread, then you can make rolls. There are just a few extra steps.
- Prepare the yeast mixture. In a large standing mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water. Be careful to use WARM water, not hot and not cold. Stir with a silicone spatula and let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes. When ready, you should see bubbles and/or foam – which means the yeast is activated and ready to go.
- Make the dough. Add the oil, salt, and powdered milk. Stir again, and then add about 4 cups of flour. Attach the dough hook and start the mixer. Mix until the dough is fully absorbed, about 10 minutes or so. Continue adding more flour until you get a good consistency. The dough should start to pull away from the sides of the mixer and it should be slightly stick to the touch. Be careful to avoid adding too much flour, because you want the rolls to be light and fluffy.
- Proof the dough. Remove the dough from the mixer and add it to a well oiled large bowl. Put some oil on your hands and punch down in the middle of the dough, pulling the sides into the middle to form a ball. Turn the ball over in the bowl so that the smooth side is facing up. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place it in a warm corner of your kitchen.
- Punch down and proof again. When the dough is almost doubled in size (this will take approximately one hour or so, depending on the weather and where you live). Grease your hands with oil, and punch down the dough again. Place back in bowl with smooth side up, cover it up, and let rise again.
- Form rolls. When dough is doubled again, cut it in half with a serrated edge knife. Using a baking mat greased with oil, place one section of dough, and pat it into a large rectangle. Don’t over-handle it. Spread half of the butter on the section, followed by half of the brown sugar and half of the cinnamon. Roll it up into a long log. Slice it into one inch sections, and place in a baking pan. Repeat with remaining dough.
- If you have extra dough after filling your pans, you can make mini rolls using small little ramekins.
- Proof rolls. Cover the pans of rolls, and let them sit for about 20-25 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.
- Bake. Bake rolls in a preheated 350 degree oven, for approximately 22 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are and bottoms are golden to your liking.
- Cool. Remove rolls carefully from pans to cooling racks.
- Frost. Add frosting when rolls are cooled. We love caramel frosting the best!
Caramel Frosting Ingredients:
- Butter – I use unsalted, but regular is fine too.
- Brown Sugar – This is what gives the frosting that caramel color!
- Milk – Any kind works.
- Powdered Sugar – Two cups.
How to make Caramel Frosting:
- Cook. In a small saucepan, melt butter and then add the brown sugar. Mix and cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and add the powdered sugar. Mix well and let it sit for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until it thickens slightly.
- Troubleshooting. If the frosting gets too thick, just add a few more drops of milk and stir. You can also heat up the frosting in the microwave to make it spreadable.
- Storing. You can store the frosting on the counter for several days, covered, or keep it in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Can I make Cinnamon Rolls ahead of time?
Yes, you can definitely make these up ahead of time, according to one of the methods below.
- Store them in the fridge overnight. After placing the rolls in the pans, cover them tightly and place them in the fridge. The following day, bring them to room temperature and let them rise again before baking. This can take several hours so plan in advance.
- Freeze them before baking. After placing rolls in the pans, cover tightly and place in freezer bags. Freeze them immediately. The day you need them, give yourself around 12 hours to prepare them. Place them on your kitchen counter and let them thaw completely, come to room temp, and rise again. If you plan to serve them at breakfast, set them out overnight.
- Bake them and freeze. Bake the rolls, cool, and wrap tightly. Place in freezer bags and freeze. When ready to serve them, remove from freezer and either let them come to room temp, or microwave them on defrost until they’re ready.
Possible Reasons your dough isn’t rising:
- You’re using old yeast. Be sure to look at the expiration date on your yeast. Use fresh yeast, or keep it in the freezer. I buy a large quantity and store it in the freezer for months (and give it away to friends). 🙂
- You didn’t use warm water (or milk) to activate the yeast. When proofing yeast, it is important to use warm liquid. Hot liquid kills the yeast, and cold liquid won’t activate it.
- The temperature of your home is too cold. Since we live in Texas, this never happens to me, but if you are in a very cold climate and aren’t heating your home, that could cause your dough to be stagnant.
- Your dough is too heavy. This can be caused by using too much flour or by using too many whole grains. It’s best to keep your dough slightly sticky, and I recommend using some all-purpose flour to lighten up grainier breads.
- You’re making it by hand and not kneading it enough. I’ve never made cinnamon rolls by hand, but if you do, you’re going to need to use some muscles to get it to rise. I recommend using a standing mixer for bread.
Can I make cinnamon rolls by hand?
You can definitely make cinnamon rolls by hand, but it will take more time and energy! I’ve never personally tried this, but if you give yourself a lot of time, and really work the dough, you can do it.
Tricks to get your dough to rise faster:
- Heat up a bowl of water in the microwave. Then place the bowl of dough on top of the bowl of warm water and cover with a clean towel.
- Heat up about four cups of water in the microwave for approximately 5 minutes. Remove the water, and place the bowl of dough in the microwave for about 15-20 minutes.
- Set your oven to bake at 200 degrees. Place the (oven-safe) bowl of dough in the oven, and shut the oven off. Keep the bowl in the oven until you see that it has risen.
Kitchen Tools used for this recipe:
- Bosch Universal Mixer – The BEST mixer for bread by a long shot. My mom had one, which is why I do too, and she used it more than I ever will.
- Silicone Baking Mat – This mat is perfect to use for rolls and breads (and scones and biscuits) because it’s non-stick and really easy to clean.
- USA Pans – I’ve recently been buying these pans and I’ve gotta admit. They’re the best and made in the USA (obviously), which is bonus!
- Cooling Racks – I use these almost every day, for cooling off all the things.
Make these amazing bread recipes next!
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The BEST Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough:
- 2 Tablespoons yeast – I use Red Star
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups warm water – not hot, not cold
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 Tablespoons powdered milk
- 5-6 cups all-purpose flour – or to right of consistency
For the sugar and cinnamon mixture:
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter slightly softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons cinnamon – more or less, depending on your preference
For the caramel frosting:
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar
For the dough:
- In a large standing mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water. Be careful to use WARM water, not hot. If the water is too hot, the yeast will disappear and you can’t make bread without yeast. Mix and let sit for about 15 minutes to get the yeast working. You should see little bubbles in the water.
- Add the oil, salt, and powdered milk. Stir with a spatula. Attach dough hook to mixer and add about half of the flour. Start the mixer and let the flour absorb.
- Gradually add more flour, a little bit at a time until the dough is less sticky and pulls away from the sides of the mixer. You want the bread dough to be slightly sticky, but not too much. When you touch the dough, it should bounce back slightly. Be sure to leave the mixer on for several minutes after you get the right consistency.
- Grease a large bowl with canola oil. Add dough to the bowl, making sure you smooth it into a ball, by punching it down – starting in the center of the dough. Place dough with smooth side up and cover with a clean towel. Let the dough double (approximately) in size.
- Once doubled, punch down the dough again – by pushing down with your fists in the middle of the dough, pulling the outer edges in towards the middle. Re-grease the bowl with oil and place the dough with smooth side up. Let rise until doubled in size again.
Adding the sugar and cinnamon mixture:
- Take about 1/3 of the dough, and press it on a well-greased surface, into a rectangle. (See pictures above.) Using your hands, spread two tablespoons of butter on the dough. Then sprinkle 1/3 cup of brown sugar and one tablespoons of cinnamon all over the dough.
- Gently roll the dough up into a long log. (See pictures above.) Using a serrated edge knife, cut dough log into about 1 inch sections. Place sections into greased pans, and press down slightly, so that the cinnamon sugar is visible on top.
- Continue with the other 2/3 of the dough. This recipe should make about three pans of rolls, depending on how big you make them.
- Cover the pans with a clean dishtowel, and let rise again until dough is almost doubled. This dough rises fast in Texas, and only takes about 20-30 minutes to be ready to bake.
- Bake rolls in 350 oven, for about 22 minutes, or until rolls are nice and golden on the top, and slightly golden on the bottom. Remove rolls to cooling racks.
For the caramel frosting:
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the brown sugar. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar. Mix very well and set aside.
- It may take 15 – 20 minutes for the frosting to set up. You want it to have a thick but spreadable consistency. If it becomes too thick, add a few more drops of milk and stir. Or you can heat it up in the microwave slightly before spreading.
- When you add the warm water to the yeast and sugar – be careful to use WARM water, not hot. If the water is too hot, the yeast will disappear and you can’t make bread without yeast. Also, do not use cool water because it won’t activate the yeast.
- Don’t add all the flour at once because every baking day is different. Some days you will need a bit more flour and some days, you will need less.
- The powdered milk is a must. I’ve tried it with regular milk, but the powdered milk seems to make the softest dough.
- The dough should be slightly sticky when ready, as opposed to bread recipes. Over time, you will learn exactly how much flour is needed to make the ultimate rolls.
- When done, the bottom of the rolls should be slightly brown, and the top, a nice golden brown.
- I like to frost these with caramel frosting (shown below). But you could also use a cream cheese frosting or even a simple glaze.
- These rolls freeze well, unfrosted, using freezer bags.
Your mom (and Betty) made the best rolls. I do not. I would always race to the country store at Mulligan stew to buy her rolls. I miss your mom and dad. They were such pillars in St. Joe!
Oh, thank you so much, Rita Sue. They really did make the BEST rolls.
These are amazing every time! The best!
They are delicious!! I love them, kids love them and extended family loved them…winner!!
Thanks Holly! So glad you enjoyed them. 🙂
They are delicious easy to make and taste better than store bought . My husband ate almost all of it the first day. Thank you
I’m so glad you liked them! Thanks for your sweet comment. 🙂
Question: can these be prepped at night, refridgerated after last rising and baked next morning?
I’ve never tried that but I think my mom used to. Maybe wrap VERY tightly so they don’t continue to rise in the refrigerator and then take them out in the morning. Good luck!!