6 Cinnamon Roll Recipes Making Sticky-Sweet Holiday Brunches
What do you eat on Christmas or New Year’s Day morning? Many Americans have something warm and sweet to accompany their coffee and morning mimosas. There’s no better time to indulge than the holidays, and many people go the cinnamon bun route. Warm sticky buns are indulgent, nostalgic, and crowd-pleasing. They appeal to those young and old, and never disappoint.
But still, steer clear of the freezer aisle this holiday season, because while the canned cinnamon bun variety certainly isn’t tasteless, it’s got nothing on homemade buns. And you can make your own this year. We’ve found 6 recipes that will make your homemade bun dreams come true, and won’t even drive you crazy. While some of the food formulas require yeast, others offer shortcuts, and it’s up to you as to which roll route you take. We promise you won’t regret it.
1. Classic Cinnamon Rolls
First up is a classic cinnamon roll recipe highlighted by Food Network. These warm rolls are the perfect thing to make ahead and then serve on a slow holiday morning, especially if that holiday happens to be December 25 or January 1. Many bakers are intimidated by yeast and the lengthy process it takes to boast your own homemade buns, but much to many people’s surprise, the rolls are actually not as difficult as you’d expect, and dare we say (gasp!) easy. As long as you plan ahead and allow for adequate rising time, there really is no reason you can’t master your own homemade cinnamon buns, and we can promise you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 (¼-ounce) packet active dry yeast
- ¼ cup plus ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the bowl
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For the Filling
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the Glaze
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Directions: Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until it reaches about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the yeast and ¼ teaspoon sugar (don’t stir). Set aside until foamy, 5 minutes. Whisk in the melted butter, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Whisk the flour, the remaining ¼ cup sugar, the salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until thick and slightly sticky. Knead on medium speed until the dough gathers around the hook, 6 minutes.
Remove the dough and shape into a ball. Butter the mixer bowl and return the dough to the bowl, turning to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 hour 15 minutes.
Roll out the dough, fill and cut into buns. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan; place the buns cut-side down in the pan, leaving space between each. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake the buns until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a bowl, then whisk in the cream and melted butter. Transfer the buns to a rack and spoon the glaze on top while still warm.
2. Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Next up are pumpkin cinnamon rolls from The Pioneer Woman. If you’re sick of pumpkin pie, instead celebrate the holiday season with perfectly spiced, doughy rolls. The pumpkin flavor never fails to take even the most classic recipes to the next level, and it pairs perfectly with warm, sticky dough. Take a note from The Pioneer Woman’s book and make these for your loved ones on Christmas morning.
- 1½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ cup (additional) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter, melted
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ pound powdered sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Dash of salt
- Extra flour, for rolling
- Extra milk, for thinning
- Extra butter, for the baking pan
Directions: In a large saucepan, combine whole milk, vegetable oil, and sugar. Heat until hot but not boiling, then remove the pan from the stove and allow it to cool until the mixture is warm to the touch but not too hot. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the liquid and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir in pumpkin purée until combined.
Combine flour with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Sprinkle it into the saucepan and stir until it just comes together. Cover the saucepan with a dish towel and set in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, the mixture should be very puffy and at least doubled in size. Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until totally combined.
For rolls, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle butter into 3 pie pans and smear it all over the bottom of the pans. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and press it into a rectangular shape. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle about 10 inches by 30 inches.
Drizzle the melted stick of butter over the dough and smear it all over the surface with your fingers. Mix together sugar, brown sugar, and the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Sprinkle this all over the surface of the dough, covering all the melted butter. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Roll the dough toward you into a large log. When it’s all rolled, pinch the seam closed and turn the roll over so that the seam is facing down. Slice ½- to ¾-inch slices and place them in the buttered pan(s). Allow them to rise for 20 minutes, then bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until nice and golden brown around the edges.
For frosting: Make the frosting by combining all the frosting ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until fluffy, adding more milk if you’d like a thinner icing. Add maple flavoring if using and beat until combined. Ice rolls immediately when they come out of the oven. Sprinkle extra nuts over the frosting, then allow them to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
3. Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls
Another orange root vegetable that’s begging to be enlisted in a cinnamon roll this winter is a sweet potato. Don’t believe us? Try this recipe for Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls from Bright Eyed Baker and see for yourself. This foodie formula proves that sweet potatoes are superfoods in more ways than one, and we all aren’t complaining. Like the other two recipes previously highlighted on this list, this one requires yeast, but the extra effort is worth it. Before you underestimate yourself, try your hand at your own rising dough, and you’ll likely be surprised at how simple the process really is.
- ¾ cup milk, divided
- ½ stick butter, cubed
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups mashed sweet potato
- 1½ cups whole wheat flour
- 2½ cups bread flour, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Directions: Combine milk with butter and microwave in a heat-safe bowl for about 40 seconds, just until stirring makes the butter melt into the milk completely. Set aside to cool until comfortably warm, not hot. Meanwhile, combine the remaining milk with sugar in a large bowl, stirring the sugar into the milk. Sprinkle the yeast on top and stir. Let sit until foamy.
Slowly stir the butter and milk mixture into the yeast mixture, followed by the egg yolks, remaining sugar, and salt. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and whisk in until smooth. The mixture may look a bit lumpy but the color should be even. Add the whole wheat flour and 2 cups bread flour. Stir or fold in until partially combined, creating a sticky dough. Use your hands to knead everything together into a moist dough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding bread flour as needed.
Shape the dough into a ball with a smooth top and place in a greased bowl that is about twice its size. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and punch down gently. Roll out to a rectangle, 11-by-18-inches, with the 11-inch side toward you. Rub the butter all over the top of the dough. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over the dough. Starting at the end near you, roll the dough up as tightly as possible, pushing the ends in as you go so the width of the rolled dough stays the same. Form a seam at the end and turn the roll so the seam is on the bottom. Slice the roll into 12 equal pieces using a serrated knife. Arrange the sliced rolls in the prepared baking dish as you go. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, remove the rolls from the fridge and let sit at room temperature until they are puffed up and have risen almost to the top of the baking dish. When the rolls are almost ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Just before baking, brush the rolls with the melted butter. Bake for about 25 minutes, until they are puffy and no longer doughy.
While they are baking, warm the milk for the glaze in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. As soon as the rolls are done baking, brush with the milk and sugar glaze. Return to the oven for another 2 minutes to allow the glaze to seep in. Allow the rolls to cool slightly before eating or flipping over. To flip, place a sheet of parchment paper or a large tray over the top of the rolls and, holding the baking dish and the parchment/tray together, flip over. Place on the counter and allow the rolls to fall out of the pan.
4. No-Yeast-Required Cinnamon Rolls
But still, if you really aren’t feeling ambitious this holiday week, you also have the option of making these no-yeast-required cinnamon rolls from Recipe Girl. Your Christmas morning just got a little easier. Requiring only baking staples, plus cream cheese if you choose to make the frosting, you really have no reason not to celebrate America’s favorite holiday with sweet rolls. These babies take only 25 minutes to bake, and about 25 seconds to eat.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 cups bread or all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, combine the filling ingredients with a fork until a crumbly mixture is formed.
Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use clean hands (or a pastry blender) to work the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the milk and the egg and stir to combine. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into roughly shaped large rectangle. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border all the way around. Carefully roll up the rectangle. Use a sharp knife to cut 12 rolls. Carefully place the rolls in the prepared muffin tin.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes. While the cinnamon rolls are baking, prepare the frosting: Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk/buttermilk in a medium bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine. Add a little more milk if you wish to have a thinner frosting. Spread the frosting on top of warm rolls or drizzle on top. Serve warm.
5. Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Rolls
Back to the yeast game we come with these Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Rolls. Hello, carb heaven. If you think classic cinnamon rolls are good, you should try pouring some chocolate chips into your next batch. We promise the addition will be nothing short of a game-changer, and you can see what we mean with this recipe from Taste of Home.
- 4 packages active dry yeast
- 2½ cups warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 3 cups warm 2% milk (110 degrees to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup honey
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 14 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2¼ cups packed brown sugar
- 1 package miniature semisweet chocolate chips
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 to 8 tablespoons milk
Directions: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk, butter, eggs, honey, salt and 3 cups flour; beat on low for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a large greased bowl; turning once. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; divide into four pieces. Roll each into a 14-by-8-inch rectangle; spread with butter. Combine the brown sugar, chips and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough to within ½ inch of edges and press into dough. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. Cut each into 12 slices. Place cut side down in four greased 13-by-9-inch baking dishes. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. For glaze, in a large bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla, and enough milk to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over warm rolls.
6. Vegan Cinnamon Rolls
Last but not least: Vegan cinnamon rolls, of course, requiring only 7 ingredients. All excuses can officially be kicked to the curb thanks to Minimalist Baker. As long as you have yeast, almond milk, vegan butter, salt, flour, cinnamon, and sugar, you can master these rolls that the recipe developer promises are “delicious, fluffy, and gooey,” and all you have to do is proof, roll out, bake, and go.
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ cup vegan butter, divided
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ½ tablespoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
Directions: In a large sauce pan, heat the almond milk and 3 tablespoons butter until warm and melted, never reaching boiling. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or the temperature of bath water. It should be warm but not too hot or it will kill the yeast. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon sugar and the salt and stir.
Next, add in flour ½ cup at a time, stirring as you go. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with canola or grapeseed oil, and add your dough ball back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter and top with ¼ cup sugar and ½ tablespoon cinnamon.
Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough and situate seam side down. Then with a serrated knife or a string of floss, cut the dough into 1½- to 2-inch sections and position in a well-buttered 8-by-8-inch dish or comparable sized round pan. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter (melted) and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve immediately.