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Overnight Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Hola! I’m back in Charlotte where it’s sunny and 80 degrees. That’s how we do things in the South. It was 40 degrees and sleeting this time last week. Now we’ve fast-forwarded right into early summer. It will be 90 degrees before we know it. I LOVE IT.

Okay, the real reason for this post is not to discuss the weather (although I know I comment on it regularly…I am just so overly happy that it’s finally consistently warm). The real reason is to talk cinnamon rolls. The fluffy homemade kind filled with gooey brown sugar and raisins and topped with lots of icing.

Don’t they look amazing? I have been making this cinnamon roll recipe for 5 years now and it’s always a winner. I first posted this recipe on my food blog in December 2008 but I wanted to re-post it here.

I know if can be intimidating to bake with yeast but I have to say that this is a pretty beginner-friendly recipe if you’re new to it or not well-versed in bread baking. I’ve made this recipe countless times and never experienced any big fails. The key is to make sure you have fresh, active yeast and to give the dough proper rising conditions. The best thing about these cinnamon rolls is that they can be prepped the day before you want to bake and serve them and left to do their second rise overnight in the fridge.

This dough is so great to work with. It’s super soft and and rolls out beautifully.

My favorite part of the cinnamon roll making process is spreading the filling over the dough, rolling it up and slicing it into rolls. For some reason I always feel so accomplished when I see the actual rolls take shape.

My grandmother loves cinnamon rolls so I enjoy baking them for her when I visit. I thought they would be the perfect birthday brunch. I prepped the dough after dinner the night before I wanted to serve them. Right before bed I rolled out the dough and cut the rolls. I left them in the fridge overnight to do their second rise. The next morning we took them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature before baking.

I don’t know what can top warm homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast…especially on a random Tuesday morning.

My grandmother definitely approved!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
(Recipe adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles)



1/2 cup whole milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounce) sugar
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4-4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps
2-4 ounces cream cheese, softened (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk, until you reach your desired consistency


Heat the milk and butter in the microwave until the butter melts. Remove from microwave and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, yeast, sugar, egg and yolks at low speed until well combined. Add the salt, warm milk mixture and 2 cups of flour and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour and knead at medium speed (adding up to ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth and freely clears the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. The dough might still be a little sticky but you should be able to shape it into a round ball.  Place it in a very lightly oiled large bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (I like to let my dough rise in the oven.  I turn the oven to warm for a few seconds, switch it off and then put the bowl of dough in.)

After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with the long side facing you. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Moisten the top border with water and seal the roll. Lightly dust the roll with flour and press on it ends if necessary to make a uniform 16-inch cylinder. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the roll in 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours. (This is where you have the option of letting them rise overnight in the refrigerator.)

When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. (If you left them in the fridge overnight, let them come to room temperature before baking.) Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Erica April 10, 2013, 2:09 pm

    I’m running a half this weekend – I think these would be the perfect celebratory meal afterwords!

  • She Rocks Fitness April 10, 2013, 2:58 pm

    Those look fabulous! Yes, I will be sending this recipe along to my client. I think she will love this one. She’s such a big fan of these sweet treats that I pass along to her. My favorite still are the peanut butter chocolate chip ones that are really hardy. 😉 Thanks for sharing! It’s 80 degrees in NJ! HA!

    • Jen April 10, 2013, 6:50 pm

      i love this baking relationship you have with your client!

  • Lea @ Greens & Coffee Beans April 10, 2013, 3:10 pm

    I’m drooling over these cinnamon rolls! They look amazing!
    There’s a restaurant in Boone called Macados, they make the most delicious cinnamon rolls the size of your head and they leave the doors to the restaurant open on nice days so the whole street smells like cinnamon rolls! You can order one topped with vanilla ice cream and it’s heavenly!

  • Alaina April 10, 2013, 3:15 pm

    I have never attempted to make cinnamon rolls. Heck, I don’t even remember the last time I ate one! I think that needs to change. They are so delicious! And these look amazing.

    And happy birthday to your grandmother!! 🙂

  • Elizabeth @ livingrunningcooking.com April 10, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I wish I had one of those cinnamon rolls right now… I am having a HUGE after lunch sweets craving! I completely agree with your comments on the weather… I LOVE southern springs!!

  • Nicole April 10, 2013, 3:51 pm

    My boyfriend LOVES cinnamon rolls. I’m definitely baking these this weekend.

    Thanks, Jen!

  • Ally April 10, 2013, 4:55 pm

    These look like a great way to attempt cinnamon rolls. I think my family would love these for the next brunch. Thanks for sharing. Btw, that photo of your grandmother is darling – what a lucky birthday girl!

  • jennyv April 10, 2013, 5:45 pm

    Having a close relationship w/ your grandma is such a blessing!! I am so happy that you are able to take time to drive to see her. As much as it means to you, I’m sure she was just beaming and radiating love and joy!

  • Danielle @ clean food creative fitness April 10, 2013, 6:03 pm

    These look amazing! Your grandmother is so adorable! Happy Birthday to her!

  • Colleen April 10, 2013, 8:26 pm

    I LOVE baking cinnamon rolls from my sourdough starter. You are right, it’s such an accomplishment when they rise in that beautiful swirl pattern!

    • Jen April 11, 2013, 7:15 am

      i have never tried keeping a sourdough starter…i should though because it’s one of my favorite kinds of bread.

  • Holly April 10, 2013, 10:26 pm

    These look so amazing! I can’t wait to try your recipe. I will be honest, I really struggle working with yeast. I have tried several times and I always fail! I’m not sure what I am doing wrong, but this looks like a good excuse to give it one more try! Thanks for sharing! And happy birthday to your grandma! There’s just no one like grandma!:)

  • Kelly April 10, 2013, 11:54 pm


  • Annie April 11, 2013, 9:47 am

    Just wanted to comment thanking you for your cinnamon roll recipe! I made them last night and they came out INCREDIBLE! I live in a small college apartment building that was immediately drenched in the smell of decadent cinnamon sweetness. This was all after I ran a 10 miler yesterday- all about balance, right? Haha. Incorporated your 26 Acts of Kindness by sharing them with people in my building. Thanks again!

  • Rachael May 11, 2013, 10:41 pm

    Made these for Mother’s Day and tried one of them tonight… AMAZING! Thanks!! They were so delicious!

  • Traci July 31, 2013, 1:02 pm

    These turned out great! I did the overnight rise and they were a great treat to share!

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