This recipe has been brewing in my mind for about 3 years. Our Better than Cinnabon cinnamon rolls became famous, and that’s because the heavy cream makes them ooey, gooey delicious.
The best part of the cinnamon roll is that center bite that you get when you unroll a cinnamon roll. Don’t even try to eat that cinnamon filled middle bite first. The best gets saved for last. Why not create an entire recipe that mimics that “center of the cinnamon roll”? That’s exactly what this does.
About Cinnamon Roll Bites
Flavor: Cinnamon. Buttery sweet. Vanilla glaze. Those are the key flavors in this middle of the cinnamon roll casserole recipe.
Texture: Ooey gooey. Silky smooth cinnamon sauce coats every piece of soft cinnamon roll dough. These are best served warm when they are super soft.
Method: I used a 12″ cast iron skillet to bake the casserole. You can use a 9×13 baking dish or a large deep dish pie plate if you have one.
Center of the Cinnamon Roll
Cinnabon has a menu item called “Center of the Cinnamon Roll”. I’ve had them and to be honest, I was less than impressed. I have no idea how they actually make them, but to me, they tasted like day old Cinnabon’s that they tried to revive by pouring some cinnamon syrup and glaze over.
I knew I could do better, so this is our center-of-the-cinnamon-roll dessert. There are several steps and it takes a bit of time, but I’ll give tips for shortcuts below.
I’d love to know what you think!
Start with the Dough
This is the same recipe as our buttery soft cinnamon rolls, but I halved the recipe so that the cinnamon roll bites could be baked in a traditional size skillet.
There are a couple of ways to make the dough:
Knead by hand. No special tools needed, and this dough is super easy to work with.
Knead with a stand mixer. That’s how I’ll demonstrate for this recipe and how we often make our cinnamon roll dough.
Make in a bread machine on the dough setting (this is the bread maker I love). This is hands off and super simple. It even rises right in the bread maker.
Homemade dough is always worth the effort. But sometimes you need a shortcut and that’s ok. Here are a few options to cut down the prep time for the dough:
Use refrigerated biscuitdough. I recommend two tubes of biscuits.
Use refrigerated cinnamon rolls. Because why not make cinnamon roll bites out of cinnamon rolls?!
Try frozen bread dough. You can buy loaves of bread dough that you allow to defrost and rise. Then use that to make dough balls as the recipe calls for.
What Makes the Cinnamon Syrup
There are two elements of this recipe that make the cinnamon syrup.
The cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll or dip balls in melted butter, then shake in cinnamon and sugar. This will coat every side of every dough ball ensuring that cinnamon flavor is in every bite. This is the same method we use in our monkey bread recipe.
The cinnamon syrup. After you’ve coated the dough balls, whip up a quick cinnamon syrup using butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Then pour this over the dough balls.
Each part is important. The first time I only used the cinnamon syrup and it just wasn’t enough flavor. Take the time to coat the dough balls. It will be worth it.
The Secret Ingredient: Heavy Cream
Just as we do with our cinnamon rolls, the cinnamon roll bites have heavy cream poured over them as well. That heavy cream soaks around each bite and helps the sugar syrup to turn into a fantastic caramel-like glaze.
You love our heavy cream cinnamon rolls for being ooey gooey, and these are no different.
A delicious mistake
We tested this recipe so many times I got tired and made a few mistakes. One was blessing in disguise.
Here it is: For extra gooey rolls, wait until half way through baking to pour the cream on the rolls. This allows some of the cream to stay in the pan rather than get soaked into the dough. Either way works and we like both ways.
Don’t forget the powdered sugar glaze.
The center of the cinnamon roll always has the most glaze which is partly what makes it the best. I made a simple powdered sugar glaze from scratch. You may be thinking “ugh…another part to this recipe?!” But trust me, this is the easiest.
Simply whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy cream. Then pour this over the golden brown bites. It helps add one last blast of “gooey” to the bites.
Use store bought vanilla frosting if you prefer. Or if you used canned cinnamon roll dough, the frosting that came with them will work in a pinch.
The bites are best served fresh from the oven. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge or the freezer and warm them in the microwave before serving.
Cinnamon Roll Bites
4.50 from 30 votes
Do you love the soft & gooey center of the cinnamon roll? Cinnamon roll bites are baked in cinnamon syrup and heavy cream to create a bunch of "middles".
1 1/2teaspoonsinstant dry yeast*I like Red Star Platinum Baking Yeast
1large egg at room temperature
1/4cupsalted butterMelted, but make sure it isn't over 110º Fahrenheit. Just softened is fine. (2 ounces)
1/4cupgranulated sugar50 grams
2 1/4cupsall-purpose flourdivided, 293 grams
To shake the dough balls:
1/4cupmelted salted butter2 ounces
1/2cupbrown sugar55 grams
For the syrup:
1/2cupsalted buttermelted, 4 ounces
1/2cupbrown sugar55 grams
To pour over the top:
1/2cupheavy cream**4 ounces
For the powdered sugar glaze:
1cuppowdered sugar130 grams
4tablespoonsheavy cream2 ounces
Make the dough:
Pour the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast overtop.
Add the eggs, butter and sugar. Mix until combined.
Add in salt and flour. Mix using the beater blade just until the ingredients are barely combined. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so the flour has time to soak up the liquids.
Scrape the dough off the beater blade and remove it. Attach the dough hook.
Beat the dough on medium speed. Knead for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth. **The dough should be tacky and will still be sticking to the sides of the bowl. That's ok!
Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.
Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in the greased large bowl.
Cover the bowl with a towel or wax paper.
Set the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until almost double. I like to turn on the oven to the lowest setting for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the oven and place the dough to rise in there. It normally takes about 30 minutes for the dough to rise. Do not allow the dough to rise too much.
Split off about 64 ¾” dough pieces. Roll into balls.
Toss dough balls in melted butter.
Place ½ cup brown sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Shake the dough balls in the bag with the sugar to coat them.
Place them in a greased 10” cast iron skillet. Set aside.
Make the syrup:
In a small bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Then pour butter/brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the top of the dough balls. Let this rise for about 20 minutes.
Pour ½ cup heavy cream over the rolls. Or, for extra gooey rolls, wait until half way through baking to pour the cream on the rolls. This allows some of the cream to stay in the pan rather than get soaked into the dough. Either way works and we like both ways.
Bake the rolls:
Bake at 350ºF for 27-29 minutes or until the cinnamon roll bites are baked through.
Make the glaze:
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract.
Drizzle the glaze over the warm rolls.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container and warm them in the microwave to serve again.
*Different yeast calls for slightly different proofing methods. We follow Red Star Platinum’s temperature guidelines. Please check your yeast packet to see what temperature the milk should be at.**If you don’t have cream, use half and half, coffee creamer, evaporated milk, whole milk or coconut cream. Any of these will work. Even 2% milk will work, but we prefer a higher fat milk.Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.The calories shown are based on the recipe serving 12, with 1 serving being 1/12 of the cinnamon roll bites. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**
Keyword breakfast recipe, cinnamon roll bake, cinnamon roll breakfast
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