Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls… these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy!
This month, as you may remember, was my month to host #bookclubcookbookCC. I chose to have the group read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and make cinnamon rolls. Though I haven’t quite finished the book yet, I’m loving it so far. The story is just so powerful and the way the Land family is united yet so divided has been incredibly compelling. I can’t wait to finish the book! No spoilers, please. 🙂
For my recipe this month, I thought about making the provided cookbook recipe for the cinnamon rolls [especially because they call for honey in the dough which I found realllly interesting]. But then I changed my mind and made these Copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls again instead. I have made them multiple times over the past couple of years for important people in my life when they have come to visit–my sister and brother in law, my college friend, my parents, my Bible study… and okay, okay… for just Ben and I on several occasions. If you come to visit us in Nashville maybe you’ll be lucky enough that I’ll make them for you too! 🙂 And I’m sure you’d love that, because these cinnamon rolls are truly, truly amazing! So I just had to share them with you. I hope you don’t mind, because these are the best cinnamon rolls I have ever made!
So, why are they the best? Cinnamon rolls have the reputation for being tough to make from scratch. You have to use yeast, which scares people. They require a lot of time–make the dough and the filling and the frosting, let them rise twice, bake, frost, etc. Blah! And don’t forget the rolling out process! A challenging prospect if there ever was one. While I can’t say that these cinnamon rolls are quick to make or that they are yeast free, this dough is the softest and stablest yeast dough I have ever worked with! I’m not sure why, but it’s a cinch to roll out every. single. time. It’s incredible. Even the time that I royally screwed up the dough by not adding all the ingredients because I was trying to make the dough while making dinner, Facebook messaging a friend, listening to music, AND emptying the dishwasher. Still, easy to roll out. Winner of a recipe in my book!
The relative ease of making these cinnamon rolls [and yes, I just said ease of making cinnamon rolls. If you can roll out dough without tearing your hair out, cinnamon rolls are easy, imo!] is trumped by how good they taste, and how reminiscent of Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls these really are. It’s not the dough or the filling or the frosting… but all three in one that makes these treats so special. I haven’t had a Cinnabon in years, though I am tempted nearly every time I visit a mall that has one.
Cinnabons were an integral part of my childhood. My grandpa, who passed away in September, always used to take me to the mall to split a Cinnabon with him when I was growing up. We lived near my grandparents for the first eight years of my life, and he often took care of me while my mom was in grad school and my dad was at work. Even though I haven’t had a Cinnabon with him in many years, almost every time I saw him, and even sometimes on the phone, he would mention this. He loved to reminisce about the activities we did together–everything from Cinnabon trips to feeding the ducks to making up stories together. I know I will always associate cinnamon rolls, and Cinnabon cinnamon rolls to be precise, with my grandpa. Though these past five months of pregnancy have been incredibly happy, they’ve also been filled with a touch of sadness knowing that I never got to tell my grandpa that he was going to be a great grandpa again. The last time I saw him, I was pregnant but didn’t know it yet, and I found out about the baby about a week after the funeral. Someday, a couple years from now, when I make these cinnamon rolls for [or with] our baby boy, I will tell him about his great grandpa and what a wonderful man he was. Even though these aren’t true Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, I think he would approve. ❤
two years ago: Champorado [Filipino Chocolate Rice Pudding]
four years ago: Cranberry Feta Pinwheels
five years ago: Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce
Copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls
slightly adapted from Culinary Couture
- 3/4 cup water – microwaved for about 15-20 seconds, should feel warm like bathwater, about 105-110 degrees F
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup buttermilk [1/4 cup milk + a couple drops of lemon juice/vinegar stirred and left to sit for 5 minutes works great]
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let rest for 5-10 minutes until yeast starts to bubble. When frothy, add salt, buttermilk, egg, oil, and remaining sugar. Whisk to combine. With a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of the flour. Then using a dough hook, add flour in 1/2 cup increments, mixing on low speed until dough begins pulling away from the side of the bowl. When a total of 4 1/2 cups flour have been added, increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. If you need to add an additional 1/2 cup flour, do so during this kneading process. I usually add the extra flour if the dough seems too sticky.
Grease a bowl with cooking spray [you can use the same bowl if you are coordinated enough to grease while the dough is in there/hold it to the side], then allow dough to rise in a warm location, covered with a dish towel, until doubled in size. This should take 1-2 hours.
When dough is almost ready, prepare filling. Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. Also, grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.
When dough is ready, flour your clean counter top/work surface. Punch down the dough and roll into a large rectangle, about 20×30 inches. Spread butter over dough, leaving a 1 inch margin on all edges. Top with filling mixture. Roll into a tight log, rolling from the long side closest to you. When you are almost to the other end, bring the far long side up and over so the seam is on top. Gently press the exposed edge to the top of the dough to seal.
Divide the log into three sections, then divide each section into four or five rolls depending on how big you want them. Cut with a sharp knife and gently transfer cinnamon rolls to prepared pan. If you lose the filling along the way, just gather it up and sprinkle over cinnamon rolls. Cover rolls with a dish towel and let rise in a warm location for another 1-2 hours, or cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to bake the next morning [this is what I always do]. For the refrigerator rise, remove from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15-17 minutes for 15 rolls or about 18-22 for 12 rolls. Bake until tops begin to brown, but check in the middle to make sure the dough isn’t raw. If they need additional baking time, cover with foil to prevent excess browning.
While rolls bake, prepare frosting. Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or a whisk, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon juice, beating until combined. Add powdered sugar gradually, mixing until smooth. In my stand mixer this usually takes about 2-3 minutes. When I make the rolls the night before, I leave the butter and cream cheese on the counter overnight so they are soft in the morning.
When rolls come out of the oven, immediately spread half of the frosting on top. Add additional frosting on individual rolls for serving, or when they have cooled down considerably. Serve warm–they reheat well too!