Homemade Cinnamon Rolls {Cinnabon Copycat}

The best homemade cinnamon rolls ever! If you love gooey cinnamon buns, THIS is the recipe with the secret ingredient that makes all the difference. Everyone raves about these better-than-Cinnabon homemade rolls.

Table of Contents
  1. Why you’ll love this recipe:
  2. The Secret Ingredient
  3. Ingredients for Cinnamon Rolls
  4. How to Make Cinnamon Rolls
  5. How to Roll Cinnamon Rolls
  6. Cinnamon Roll Frosting
  7. Watch me make this cinnamon roll recipe:
  8. Homemade Cinnamon Rolls {Cinnabon Copycat} Recipe
  9. Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
  10. Can you freeze cinnamon roll dough before baking?
  11. What You Need to Make Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are one of the BEST breakfasts. You can make quick and easy cinnamon rolls or you can make pancakes or bread pudding, but this right here is the best Homemade Cinnamon Roll recipe.

It’s been over 5 years since we first unveiled our favorite cinnamon roll recipe. And since that first day the recipe made its appearance on Tastes of Lizzy T, you all have loved it. 

We thank you so much for your support and excitement for this recipe. We love hearing from you about the many ways these secret ingredient cinnamon rolls find their way to your table, bringing your family together just as it has ours for over 23 years. 

If this sweet roll recipe is new to you, you’re in for a treat! We’ve got the ultimate cinnamon roll guide to give you every bit of information you need for making the gooiest, best cinnamon rolls ever.

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • From-scratch, gooey breakfast sweet rolls that everyone craves.
  • Rich, buttery homemade yeast dough.
  • Heavy cream is our trade secret for achieving the softest, richest, gooey rolls.
  • Melt in your mouth cream cheese frosting in maple or vanilla flavor covering the tops.

The Secret Ingredient

Before I had this recipe, I was addicted to Cinnabon cinnamon rolls. They were large, soft, and gooey. I’m all about the gooey. Why is Cinnabon so gooey? What is the Cinnabon secret ingredient? I searched and searched (mostly recipe books because recipe websites were not a huge thing back then) and finally found a key idea.

Secret INGREDIENT

Pour heavy cream over the cinnamon buns before baking. THIS is the secret ingredient and what makes the rolls rich and gooey. Cinnabon copycat recipe? That’s not totally what I was going for, but I think we pretty much got it.

Here’s how you do it. After the cinnamon rolls are rolled into their pretty swirls and you’ve allowed them to rise in the pan…right before they are ready to bake, warm heavy cream in a small bowl.

Why warm the cream? Because your rolls have risen in warmth and you don’t want to add refrigerator-cold cream to your unbaked rolls. Adding warm (not hot!) heavy cream will keep the rolls rising as they should during baking. Pour the heavy cream overtop all of the rolls and watch that rich cream soak in and around the rolled dough.

  • Can you make these rolls without heavy cream? Yes.
  • Will they be good? Yes.
  • Will they be as gooey? No.

I find that the heavy cream helps the filling of the cinnamon rolls to be smoother and not as grainy. So just try it, K?

Pro Tip

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.

Ingredients for Cinnamon Rolls

  • Milk. 2% milk is what I traditionally use for the dough. Whole milk or non-dairy almond or coconut milk works too.
  • Yeast. I like to use Red Star Platinum yeast which is an instant yeast. This means you don’t have to let the yeast “proof” and the rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast. Always read the instructions on the back of the packet to see how you should add the yeast to the recipe.  
  • Eggs. Large eggs are standard for this recipe. I have not tried any replacement for eggs in this recipe.
  • Butter. The original recipe called for ⅓ cup butter, but since I’ve made it over the years, one tweak I made was to increase the butter to ½ cup. You can see this in the notes I made in the recipe card. I highly recommend it!
  • Sugars. Granulated sugar goes in the dough. Brown sugar is in the filling. You can use dark brown sugar in the filling if you’d like.
  • Salt. Although we use salted butter, we still add 1 teaspoon of salt to the dough. 
  • Flour. You can use all-purpose flour and bread flour. Either work. Bread flour will help the rolls have a fluffier, chewy but sturdier texture. With all-purpose flour, the rolls may be softer.
  • Cinnamon. Use Saigon cinnamon in this filling. One of Cinnabon’s secrets is the cinnamon they use. It’s called Makara. They trademarked this cinnamon so from what I understand it is hard to buy.
  • Heavy cream. Use a high fat milk for the heavy cream soak. Evaporated milk, whole milk or half and half works too.
  • Cream cheese. Full fat cream cheese is for the frosting.
  • Powdered sugar.
  • Maple or vanilla extract. I love, love maple flavor for my cinnamon rolls, but vanilla works just as well.

How to Make Cinnamon Rolls

Tips for making the dough:

When I originally set out to make the best cinnamon roll recipe, I started with our dinner roll bread dough. Over that year as I tweaked the recipe, I made the dough just a tad bit sweeter. Worried about the dough not rising? Here are a few tips:

  • Be sure that your milk is warm to activate the yeast, but not too hot so that it kills the yeast (about 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit is good). You’ll also want to warm the butter so it is soft and mixes in easily. But again, the butter should not be over 110º Fahrenheit. I use salted butter, but unsalted butter works well too.
  • Bring the eggs to room temperature also by placing them in a glass of warm water before adding them to the mix. If the ingredients are not cold, they’ll help the yeast to do what it needs to do quickly and give a beautiful rise to your cinnamon rolls.
  • In the video I use a stand mixer to mix the dough. If you have bread machine you can use the dough cycle to make this extremely easy. Or, go the old-fashioned route and get those hands working by kneading the bread without a mixer. Any way works. If you decide to knead by hand, be careful not to add too much flour. The dough is supposed to be tacky, which is what keeps these rolls soft.
  • Don’t add too much flour. Start with 4 cups (spoon the flour into the measuring cups and level it with a knife). The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch. A dry dough will lead to dry cinnamon rolls. If you feel like you need a little more flour, add up to ½ cup more, but add it just a tablespoon or two at a time. The dough will be tacky and soft. It shouldn’t completely stick all over your hands, but if you touch it should feel tacky and not dry and floury. Don’t be tempted to keep adding flour!
dough in a bowl with a dough hook
  • This dough rises twice. Once right after kneading and then again after you roll the cinnamon rolls. You can read our tip son all about how to get dough to rise.

Cinnamon Roll Filling

We use three ingredients in our homemade filling: butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. You can soften the butter and mix the sugar and cinnamon with it to spread over the rolled out dough. Or you can simply spread on the butter, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the top. Either way works.

You can add one teaspoon vanilla extract if you’d like. We find it’s not necessary, but feel free to do so. Mix this all together while the dough is rising. This only takes a few minutes!

Love raisins and walnuts? Sprinkle them over this filling, then roll.

spreading cinnamon filling over dough

How to Roll Cinnamon Rolls

After you let the dough rise in a greased covered bowl (you can cover it with a towel or plastic wrap) until it is double in size, you’re ready to roll.. Use a pastry mat sprinkled with flour or other floured surface to keep the dough from sticking.

bread dough sitting on a pastry mat

Remember…the dough will be tacky and this is the point where it is ok to add flour on the pastry mat and on top of the dough itself for easy rolling. You’ll find this dough is very easy to roll out. If it is too much of an arm workout, you’ve most likely added too much flour.

how to roll cinnamon roll dough

After you’ve rolled the dough, spread the cinnamon filling on top and roll-up jelly-roll style. Use a sharp, serrated knife or a steel dough cutter to cut into as many rolls as you’d like. We like to do 12 rolls for a 9×13 pan (which end up deliciously large) or if we need to feed a bigger crowd, 15 rolls in a 10×15 baking pan.

dental floss cutting cinnamon rolls

Here’s a Pro Tip for cutting the cinnamon rolls: Use dental floss! It makes such a perfect cut without squishing the dough.

*Note: The rolls will be more evenly if they are spread out in a 10×15 baking pan.*

unbaked cinnamon rolls on a table

Cinnamon Roll Frosting

After the homemade cinnamon rolls have baked and look like cinnamon heaven, it’s time to frost them. You can use a simple powdered sugar glaze or a store-bought fluffy white frosting if you’d like. But we prefer our cream cheese icing.

This frosting contains butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese and extract (either vanilla or maple). You could even throw in a touch of cinnamon to make a cinnamon glaze. We’ve done it all!

You can add the icing while the rolls are warm and allow it to soak in, or if you’d like a pretty frosted look, spread the cream cheese icing on when the rolls are at room temperature.

overhead view of a pan of cinnamon rolls

And that my friends, is the BEST cinnamon rolls ever. My girls were hesitant to share our family secret ingredient, but so many of you have asked, they reluctantly agreed because they love you and want to see you happy. 🙂

Watch me make this cinnamon roll recipe:

closeup of a cinnamon roll on a plate with a fork
closeup of a cinnamon roll on a plate with a fork

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls {Cinnabon Copycat}

4.82 from 2183 votes
The best homemade cinnamon rolls ever! If you love gooey cinnamon buns, here’s the secret ingredient. Everyone raves about these homemade yeast rolls.
Servings 12
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Rise Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 59 minutes

Ingredients
 

For the Dough:

  • 1 cup warm milk (about 115 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast* (I like Red Star Platinum Baking Yeast)
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup salted butter** (Melted, but make sure it isn't over 110º Fahrenheit. Just softened is fine.)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter (almost melted)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream*** (for pouring over the risen rolls)

For the Frosting:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/3 cup salted butter (softened)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple extract (or vanilla)

Instructions
 

  • 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 4 cups (save the other ½ cup and add only if you need it) of flour and 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, adding in up to ½ cup more flour if needed to form a dough. 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! Don't be tempted to add more flour at this point. We generally add about 4 ½ cups, but start with 4 cups.
  • 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 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 or your cinnamon rolls will be airy.
  • While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon filling. In a medium bowl, combine the soft butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing until well combined. Set aside.
  • Sprinkle a pastry mat generously with flour. Turn out the dough onto the pastry mat and sprinkle the top of the dough with additional flour. 
  • Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough to about a 24×15" rectangle. (the size of the rectangle can vary…it does not have to be exact!)
  • Use a rubber spatula to smooth the cinnamon filling over the whole dough rectangle.
  • Starting on the long end, roll the dough up tightly jelly roll style. 
  • Cut into 12 slices and place in a greased 9×13 baking pan.****
  • Cover the pan and allow the rolls to rise for 20 minutes or until nearly double.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Warm the heavy cream until the chill is off. Don’t make it hot…you just don’t want it cold. It should be warm to the touch.
  • Once the rolls have risen, pour the heavy cream over the top of the rolls, allowing it to soak down in and around the rolls.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden brown and the center rolls are cooked through. Note…the time will vary based on how big the rolls are, what type of pan, how close the rolls are packed, etc. They could take up to 25-27 minutes. Check the rolls at 20 minutes. If they are getting too browned, cover loosely with foil for the remaining baking time.
  • While the rolls are cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting.
  • In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer. Blend well.
  • Add in your favorite extract and the powdered sugar. Beat until combined.
  • Spread the frosting over the cooled rolls.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Video

Notes

*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.
**A note about the butter, we have used ½ cup of butter instead of ⅓ cup many times. We feel it keeps the rolls softer. Give it a try!
***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.
****For smaller rolls, cut the dough into 15 slices and use a 10×15″ baking pan. The larger pan will also allow the rolls to rise more evenly.
Overnight Instructions
We often make the cinnamon rolls and get them to the point of the second rise (when they are rolled out, cut up and put in the pan). Cover and refrigerate until morning.
The morning you want to bake them, pull them out of the refrigerator. They may have doubled in size in the fridge overnight. If they have, let them sit for 30 minutes to get the chill off, then bake.
If they did not rise in the fridge overnight, allow them to rise at room temperature. Plan about at least an hour for this. Then pour on the cream and let them bake.
*The Calorie count shows the amount with ALL of the frosting used. There will be less calories in the rolls if you don’t use all of the frosting at once. Calories are per roll with the recipe making 12 frosted rolls.

Nutrition

Calories: 618kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 427mg | Potassium: 145mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 47g | Vitamin A: 965IU | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 2.6mg
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Calories 618
Keyword brunch, christmas morning, weekend

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

We often make the cinnamon rolls and get them to the point of the second rise (when they are rolled out, cut up and put in the pan). Cover and refrigerate until morning.

The morning you want to bake them, pull them out of the refrigerator. They may have doubled in size in the fridge overnight. If they have, let them sit for 30 minutes to get the chill off, then bake.

If they did not rise in the fridge overnight, allow them to rise at room temperature. Plan about at least an hour for this. Then pour on the cream and let them bake.

Can you freeze cinnamon roll dough before baking?

Yes! Make the cinnamon rolls and get them to the point of the second rise (when they are rolled out, cut up and put in the pan). Place them on a pan (not touching) and put them in the freezer for about 1 hour. Then place the rolls in a zippered bag and freeze.

When you’re ready to bake the rolls, plan ahead and put the rolls in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then pull them out of the refrigerate and allow them to rise the morning you want to bake them. Plan about at least an hour for this so you aren’t waiting too long! Allow them to do their second rise, then bake as normal.

What You Need to Make Cinnamon Rolls

  • Stand Mixer: Ok, you don’t 100% need this, but it does make life easier.
  • Red Star Yeast: My favorite yeast! It’s so forgiving and I have perfect baked goods, every time.
  • Saigon Cinnamon: The best flavored cinnamon.
  • Pastry Mat: This makes clean-up a breeze.
  • Dough Cutter: I JUST got one of these. What have I done without it all these years? Works as a scraper too, to get stuck-on dough off surfaces.
  • Baking Pan 9×13 or 10×15, depending on what you need.

Remember…we like to celebrate with GIANT CINNAMON ROLLS!

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Sharon
4 months ago

Im making these for an Easter Potluck Breakfast. Can I just double or triple the recipe?

D.L.
4 months ago

So the secret ingredient in Cinnabon is Makara cinnamon, it is a special blend they use that gets gooey when they bake.

Katelyn
4 months ago

At first I was afraid….I was petrified. No seriously, I made this cinnamon roll recipe 3 times….each time I could not bring myself to pour the cream over the rolls before baking. I kept thinking what if it ruins my hard work! Without the cream they were pretty good. I kept thinking I will try the cream next time. Well I finally committed last night. They were absolutely amazing! Now I can’t believe I didn’t do the cream step the first 3 times! It really just elevates the rolls, they come out moist and gooey and delicious. Don’t be like… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Katelyn
Sherry
4 months ago

5 stars
WOW! THANK YOU for this recipe! I’ve never made cinnamon rolls, and this recipe is exactly how I love cinnamon rolls. My family loved this for Easter breakfast today!! I followed it exactly and they turned out great! Giant, but great! 🙂

Abby
4 months ago

I just made these on Easter as a treat for our family brunch and they turned out great! The best cinnamon roll recipe I’ve tried so far. I think adding the cream over the rolls before baking them really makes a difference and keeps the rolls soft and gooey. I actually prepped the rolls the night before and kept them in the fridge overnight. I took them out and left it at room temp for over an hour. They didn’t seem to rise much so I was concerned how it would turn out, but as it baked they started to… Read more »

Kirsten
4 months ago

What is the Expiration for cooked cinnamon rolls ?? How long will they last on the counter or in the fridge?

Ayla
4 months ago

This recipe does not tell you to allow for the yeast to activate in the first step, it just straight to adding more ingredients. I knew I should have trusted my gut and allow the yeast to activate and get foamy before continuing with the recipe. But I followed the recipe to a tee and got no rise in my cinnamon buns on either the first or second rise. Additionally it was a soupy mess under the cinnamon buns after baking so they were hard to serve. They were still tasty and I look forward to trying them again with… Read more »

Gregg L. Friedman MD
3 months ago

5 stars
Excellent Cinnamon rolls. They taste fantastic! 5 Stars. Thanks for the recipe. By Gregg L. Friedman MD

Carolyn Taylor
3 months ago

Do you have to have a stand mixer for the cinnamon rolls!

Marilyn
3 months ago

5 stars
These were absolutely the best cinnamon rolls i have tried. The frosting just makes it keep tasting better. LORD help me. 🙂

Patty Orlando Allan
3 months ago

5 stars
I used a filling of lower sugar strawberry jam and no butter. I also used chopped walnuts in it. I will not frost them because of the extra sugar and that is not for me. But, these are a pleasure to make and a delight to eat. They remind me of my Auntie Norma’s recipe for “Delights”. She was a champion cook. Could make a bean taste like steak.

Jeannine
3 months ago

That’s a huge weakness of mine. They look delicious 😋I’ve made the mistake of looking at this before breakfast lol. Now its all I can think of. Thank you for sharing!

Francie
3 months ago

5 stars
Excellent recipe! Best ever cinnamon rolls! Thank you!

Maria
3 months ago

5 stars
Tastes JUST like Cinnabon! Followed the recipe exactly, only needed some additional time during the first rise but otherwise it went off without a hitch. Delicious and decadent.

bob
3 months ago

5 stars
yum