I have tried numerous Cinnamon Rolls recipes that all claim to be the best, but none have wooed me quite like this one. It’s adapted from a legendary Cinnamon Roll recipe by Zingerman’s Bakehouse.
We don’t have a lot of traditions in my family, but Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas morning is one tradition that will always remain.
Everyone has their own way of doing them, and I’ve noticed that the most commonly used frosting is cream cheese.
I too, used to think that cream cheese frosting was the best.
But not anymore.
I did a side-by-side taste test a while back with some family members, and the cinnamon rolls with the buttery icing were unanimously chosen over the cream cheese frosting rolls.
And for the record, I LOVE cream cheese frosting.
But it’s not as harmonious with the cinnamon rolls as a buttercream-style icing, and here’s why:
Cinnamon rolls should really be about the rich and fluffy dough and fragrant cinnamon filling, and cream cheese frosting takes the attention away from them. It’s overpowering.
Maybe for some recipes that’s a good thing, if the dough isn’t that impressive.
But this dough is impressive. Enriched with butter and eggs like homemade Brioche, with an airy and light texture, and an incredibly fragrant brown sugar cinnamon filling, it truly is the star.
Then you accent it with an old school butter icing that has the slightest hint of orange (which is optional, you could do vanilla instead), and it melts into the crevices of the rolls. Om nom nom.
This recipe is adapted from legendary Zingerman’s bakehouse, via a blog that I found sharing a version of their cinnamon rolls from a baking class. I dug through pages and pages of google search results hoping to find something like this, as Zingerman’s does not share their cinnamon roll recipe in their cookbook (Amazon affiliate). The post from Judy and Steve is quite old, but the cinnamon rolls indeed remind me of the incredible version I tried at the Zingerman’s shop in Ann Arbor earlier this year.
How to Make Cinnamon Rolls:
We’re going to start by making a poolish, which sounds like a big deal, but is really just a pre-ferment step that improves the taste and texture of the final product.
Combine warm milk, yeast, and bread flour in the bowl of a stand mixer:
Mix with the paddle attachment until a soft dough forms:
Cover the bowl and let the poolish sit for an hour, until it doubles in volume:
Remove the poolish from the bowl, then cream together some softened butter, granulated sugar, and salt. Then, mix in two eggs, one at a time:
The mixture will look very curdled and liquidy, and that’s fine. Add a piece of the poolish, one at a time:
Until you get something that looks sort of like a cake batter:
Add bread flour to the bowl:
And finally, you’ll get a very sticky looking dough:
Scrape all the dough off the paddle and shape into a ball. Cover the bowl and pop this into the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, mix together the cinnamon filling, which is made from brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt:
Roll the dough out into a 7×18″ rectangle and brush with butter, to help the cinnamon filling stick:
By the way, since I get asked all the time, this is the baking mat pictured above (Amazon affiliate link) that has the diameter measurements labeled. It’s really helpful whenever I bake!
Gently pat the cinnamon brown sugar into the dough, leaving some edge at the top:
Roll the rectangle up tightly, and notice the direction you want to roll is upward, keeping the log really wide:
Then use a bench scraper or knife to cut the log into 12 pieces:
It’s easiest to do this by cutting the log in half, then each of those pieces in half, then cutting each quarter into even thirds. Each piece should be about 1.5″ thick.
Place the cut cinnamon rolls on a parchment lined quarter sheet pan (or 9×13 baking dish) and gently press the tops down to flatten:
Cover the cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap or even better, a lid (this is why I love this sheet pan with lid so much – Amazon affiliate link):
After a 2-hour rise, the cinnamon rolls should fill up most of the empty space from before:
Bake the cinnamon rolls for 15-18 minutes. In the meantime, make the icing by whipping together butter, confectioner’s sugar, orange juice, orange extract, and salt:
If you want to skip the orange hint of flavor, I have instructions in the recipe box for substituting milk and vanilla extract instead.
When you pull the cinnamon rolls out of the oven, they should be golden brown on the edges and quite fluffy inside:
Let the rolls cool slightly, but slather on the icing while they are still warm:
The goal is to have the icing melt slightly, but not completely.
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes are another fun recipe to try if you want the pancake form of cinnamon rolls. Enjoy!
More Cinnamon Baked Recipes:
How to Freeze Cinnamon Rolls: Completely bake, frost, and cool the rolls, then place into an airtight container. They will freeze well for up to 2 months.
How to Reheat Cinnamon Rolls: You can microwave them directly from frozen for about 20-30 seconds for one roll.
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
For the Poolish:
- 1/2 cup whole milk warmed to 110F
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 5 oz bread flour, by weight (1 cup, measured)
For the Dough
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- poolish from above
- 7.5 oz bread flour, by weight (1.5 cups, measured)
For the Filling:
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, or even better, use Muscovado)
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter melted, for brushing
For the Icing:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 tbsp orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)*
- 1/4 tsp orange extract **
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
You will also need a small amount of flour for dusting the work surface when you roll the dough out, max 1/4 cup
- Start with the poolish: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, yeast, and bread flour for about 1 minute on medium low speed. Scrape down the sides and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.
- Moving on to the dough: Scrape the poolish out into another container temporarily, then put the stand mixer bowl back on the machine (no need to clean the bowl). Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt for about 1 minute on medium speed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds on medium speed each time. The mixture will look very curdled and that's fine.
- With the mixer on medium low speed, add 1/4 of the poolish at a time to the bowl, one piece every 30 seconds.
- Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture looks like cake batter, with a light and creamy texture, for about 1 minute.
- Turn the speed back down to low, and add the flour. Once incorporated, increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or for a minimum of 8 hours.
- Mix the filling: In a small bowl, stir to combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a rectangle 7" long and 18" wide.
- Brush the entire top surface of the rectangle with the butter, then evenly sprinkle the brown sugar filling all over the top, but leaving a 1/2" empty edge at the top of the rectangle (see picture if necessary). Pat the brown sugar filling gently into the dough to help it stick, but do not smash the dough down.
- Roll the dough up tightly from the bottom 18" edge (see picture), then pinch the seam together at the top. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the log into 12 even pieces (I cut the roll in half, then each in half again, then each quarter piece into 3 pieces). Each roll should be about 1.5" wide.
- Line a quarter sheet pan (or a 9x13 casserole dish) with parchment paper, and place all 12 cinnamon rolls in the pan. Gently flatten the rolls with the palm of your hand until they are 1" tall.
- Cover the rolls with a lid or with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours, during which time the rolls will expand greatly and fill in most of the empty space between.
- 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375F.
- Remove the lid or plastic wrap, and bake the cinnamon rolls for 15-18 minutes, until the cinnamon rolls are golden brown and risen. If you want to check for doneness with a thermometer, they should be at least 195F.
- Make the Icing: While the cinnamon rolls bake, prepare the icing. Using a hand mixer (or even just a sturdy whisk), mix together the butter, confectioner's sugar, orange juice, orange extract, and salt, until smooth and combined.
- When the cinnamon rolls have finished baking, let them cool for 3 minutes, then slather on all the icing. It should melt into the crevices of the rolls. Serve and enjoy while warm!
Post updated in December 2019. Originally published March 2011. If you’d like the old recipe, contact me via the contact page.