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The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

These are the BEST homemade cinnamon rolls you’ll ever make! They’re light and fluffy, with a gooey cinnamon filling and a bourbon cream cheese icing that’s slathered over the cinnamon rolls while they’re still warm. Perfect for the holidays or as a special weekend treat!  

photo of a woman serving the best homemade cinnamon rolls from a baking pan

Creating The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls       

When I say that this is the best cinnamon roll recipe ever, please know that I’m in no way exaggerating. 

I’ve been making this exact recipe for years, and our friends and family all agree that these are the best homemade cinnamon rolls. 

As for what makes this recipe the “best ever,” well, it’s a lot of little things that all add up to create fluffy cinnamon rolls with the most incredible depth of flavor.

photo of the best homemade cinnamon roll recipe with cream cheese frosting on them in a round baking pan

The bourbon and vanilla bean paste in the cream cheese icing add a nuanced flavor that you just can’t find in any store-bought tube of cinnamon rolls. 

Whole milk and melted butter keep the cinnamon roll dough moist and flavorful. And the nearly ¼ cup of ground cinnamon in the filling ensures that each bite is packed with cinnamon-sugar goodness. 

In short, these are the best cinnamon rolls you’ll ever eat. They’re comforting, soft and fluffy, and just sweet enough — and the bourbon in the cream cheese icing makes these stand out from your regular run-of-the-mill cinnamon rolls. 

If I ever made another cinnamon roll recipe, I think my family would have a lot of not so nice things to say about it! 

photo of dough rising for the best homemade cinnamon rolls ever

What’s the Best Time to Make These Cinnamon Rolls? 

Any time is a good time to make homemade cinnamon rolls, especially when they’re this delicious! 

However, our family’s tradition is to bake the bourbon cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (I’ll give make-ahead instructions later in this post!). It’s a special treat for our family, and we look forward to it every year! 

I like to make extra so we can enjoy them in the few days after Christmas. 

I’ll also make extra dough to gift to friends and family. I’ll give them a disposable pan of unbaked cinnamon rolls, a container of frosting, and instructions for the final rise and baking so they can make them fresh whenever they’d like.

ingredients to make bourbon cream cheese frosting for the best homemade cinnamon rolls recipe

Tools Needed for Making Cinnamon Rolls

Making homemade fluffy cinnamon rolls is easier than you might think, but it does help to have a few specific kitchen tools on hand.

You likely have most of the necessary equipment already, but just to be sure here’s what I recommend using: 

  • Measuring cups and spoons —Use whatever you have on hand, but this is the set I use and love. 
  • Kitchen thermometer — Useful for testing the milk temperature. It needs to be warm enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot that the yeast will die. 
  • Stand mixer with dough hook attachment — Your hands and a wooden spoon will work just as well, but having a stand mixer makes kneading the dough much easier and quicker.  
  • Rolling pin — For rolling out the cinnamon roll rough. 
  • Silicone pastry mat — Provides a clean work surface for rolling out the dough, plus it provides a template so you can tell how large to roll it out. 
  • Mixing bowl — You’ll need a large mixing bowl for making the dough and letting it rise. 
  • Wire whisk — I like to use a wire whisk for mixing the cinnamon filling together. 
  • Offset spatula —Makes spreading the butter over the rolled out dough much easier. 
  • Serrated knife — What I prefer using for cutting the dough into rolls. 
  • Baking pan — You’ll need a 9×13-inch pan for this recipe. Using a good-quality pan will prevent the rolls from burning on the bottom or baking unevenly. 
photo of bourbon cream cheese frosting in a bowl for frosting this homemade cinnamon roll recipe

Ingredients for The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe is broken into three parts: the dough, the filling, and the icing. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to make the best cinnamon rolls.

For the Cinnamon Roll Dough:

  • Whole Milk 
  • Active Dry Yeast 
  • Granulated Sugar 
  • Salt 
  • Egg
  • Salted Butter
  • All-Purpose Flour 

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Filling:

  • Salted Butter
  • Brown Sugar
  • Ground Cinnamon 
  • Cornstarch 

For the Bourbon Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll Icing: 

  • Cream Cheese
  • Salted Butter
  • Vanilla Bean Paste 
  • Lemon Juice
  • Bourbon
  • Powdered Sugar

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions to make this recipe for the best homemade cinnamon rolls, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

photo of how to roll out cinnamon roll dough to make this homemade cinnamon rolls recipe

How to Make Cinnamon Rolls From Scratch

Making cinnamon rolls from scratch isn’t difficult, but you do need to be patient! The dough needs to rise twice before it can be baked, plus you’ll need to fill and shape the cinnamon rolls. 

I’ve provided full instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post, but I’ll quickly go over the key steps to preparing the best cinnamon rolls.

Step 1: Prepare the Dough 

  1. Combine the warm milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for 5 minutes. 
  2. After 5 minutes, add the sugar, salt, egg, and melted butter. 
  3. Measure just 1 cup of flour into the milk mixture. Stir, on low speed, until combined.
  4. Continue adding flour, 1/2 cup at a time, while the mixer stirs on low speed. (When the dough becomes too thick for the paddle attachment, switch it out to the dough hook.)
  5. After the dough has reached the appropriate consistency, allow it to knead using the dough hook for 5 minutes.
photo showing how to make homemade cinnamon rolls - adding the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture

Step 2: Let the Dough Rise 

  1. Remove the cinnamon roll dough from the stand mixer’s bowl. 
  2. Lightly grease the bowl with softened butter or cooking spray, then transfer the dough back to the bowl.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place.
  4. Allow the dough to rise for 1 – 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
photo of rolled cinnamon rolls rising in a pan before baking

Step 3: Rolling and Shaping the Dough

  1. Once the dough has doubled in bulk, turn it out from the bowl onto a floured surface. 
  2. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle.
  3. After you’ve rolled the rectangle out, use an offset spatula to spread the softened butter all over the surface of the dough. 
  4. Sprinkle the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture on top.
  5. Roll the dough into a log, starting on the shorter end. 
  6. After you’ve rolled the entire rectangle into a log, cut the log into 12 rolls.

Step 4: Let the Dough Rise Again

  1. Line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper and then grease it well with butter. 
  2. Place the cinnamon rolls into the pan. 
  3. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to a warm place, and let rise until doubled in size. 
photo of baked homemade cinnamon rolls in a pan on a kitchen counter

Step 5: Bake and Frost the Cinnamon Rolls 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan. 
  2. Bake until the rolls are just slightly golden brown on the tops.
  3. Frost the cinnamon rolls while they’re still warm and dig in! 

The above is simply a summary of this homemade cinnamon roll recipe. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.

photo of homemade cinnamon roll icing being spread on baked cinnamon rolls

How Long to Cook Cinnamon Rolls? 

The cinnamon rolls will need to bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350ºF. You want them to be slightly golden brown on top! 

Tips for Making the BEST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

  • Let the dough rise until doubled in size — Remember that rising times are just guidelines. My main question is always: has the cinnamon roll dough doubled in bulk? That is how you know the rise is complete when making the dough for these homemade cinnamon rolls.
  • Make sure your yeast is still active — I always make sure to check the expiration date on my yeast. Old yeast doesn’t yield reliable rising results. If you can’t remember when you purchased the yeast, it’s likely time to purchase a new jar. (Or, buy packets to reduce waste!) 
  • Use full-fat ingredients — Fat equals moisture and flavor, two things you absolutely want when making cinnamon roll dough and icing! I recommend using full-fat, brick-style cream cheese to make the icing. It will result in a richer, thicker icing. You’ll also need whole milk for the dough and regular butter (not buttery spread) for the filling. 
  • Bringing the butter to room temperature — When making the filling and the icing, the butter must be softened to room temperature first. If you forgot to set it out before beginning the recipe, here are my tips for softening butter quickly
  • Bringing the eggs to room temperature — Likewise, you must bring the eggs to room temperature before making the dough (are you noticing a theme here?). Here’s how to bring eggs to room temperature in about 5 minutes. 
  • Baking with yeast — If baking with yeast has provided mixed results in the past or if this is your first time baking with yeast, definitely read my top tips for using yeast in baked goods
a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese cinnamon roll icing on a counter with a striped towel

FAQ The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Got questions about how to make the best cinnamon rolls? Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions. Feel free to leave any other questions in the comments on this post and I’ll respond with answers.

What Type of Yeast Is Best for Cinnamon Rolls? 

This recipe calls for active dried yeast. I prefer using it because it results in a slower rise, which equates to lighter, fluffier cinnamon rolls. 

However, If you want a shorter rise time, substitute quick rise / instant yeast in place of active dry yeast. 

Can This Recipe Be Made Without Bourbon? 

Yes! Simply omit the bourbon and replace it with milk when making the cinnamon roll icing. 

Can This Recipe Be Made in Advance? 

Absolutely! I always make the dough and shape the cinnamon rolls before Christmas, then complete the second rise the morning I bake them off. 

To prepare the best ever cinnamon rolls the night before: 

  1. Prepare the rolls up to the point where you roll and place them in the pan. 
  2. Then, cover them in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 
  3. In the morning, remove the pan from the fridge and proceed with the instructions where you left off. Note that the rising time may be slightly longer than noted in the recipe due to the dough being cold vs room temp.

You can also prepare the recipe completely the day before and store them unfrosted in an airtight container. Before serving, gently reheat them in a warm oven before frosting.

photo of a serving of the best homemade cinnamon rolls on a white plate

Can Cinnamon Rolls Be Frozen? 

Yes, very easily! You can either freeze the unbaked cinnamon rolls, or you can wait to freeze them after they’ve been cooked. 

How to Freeze Unbaked Cinnamon Rolls 

  1. To freeze: Prepare the recipe as instructed through the step that details how to roll and slice the dough. 
  2. Place the sliced cinnamon rolls in a freezer-safe container with a lid. Be sure to line the container with parchment paper for easy removal! Transfer the container to the freezer and freeze until solid. 
  3. You can store the frozen rolls in the container in your freezer if you like, but I prefer to transfer them to a vacuum seal bag for maximum freshness. Store the rolls in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  4. To bake the frozen cinnamon rolls: Remove the rolls from the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. 
  5. In the morning, bring the rolls out of the fridge and transfer to your preferred baking dish. 
  6. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let come to room temperature and rise until doubled in size (this is the second rise in the instructions). 
  7. Bake and frost according to directions.

How to Freeze Baked Cinnamon Rolls 

  1. To freeze: Prepare the recipe as instructed through the baking steps
  2. Place the unfrosted, baked cinnamon rolls in a freezer-safe container with a lid. Transfer the container to the freezer and freeze until solid. 
  3. Store the rolls in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  4. Thawing and frosting the frozen, baked rolls: Remove the rolls from the freezer and thaw overnight on the counter. 
  5. Transfer the thawed rolls to a baking dish and transfer to a warm oven to reheat. 
  6. Alternatively, you can reheat the rolls one at a time in the microwave on partial power for 30-45 seconds each. After reheating the rolls, frost as instructed. 
photo of a woman eating the best ever cinnamon rolls

How to Reheat Cinnamon Rolls 

The easiest way to reheat baked cinnamon rolls is in a 350ºF oven for 10 to 15 minutes. I recommend covering the pan with foil to keep the cinnamon rolls moist. (Note that any icing will melt slightly in the oven.) 

You can also reheat the rolls individually in the microwave on partial power for 30-45 seconds each.

Can the Recipe Be Made Dairy-Free

I haven’t tested it, but I imagine you could use your preferred dairy-free milk substitute, vegan butter substitute, and vegan cream cheese. Just make sure you use unflavored and unsweetened dairy-free milk for best results.

Can the Cinnamon Roll Filling Be Flavored? 

Yes, feel free to experiment with gingerbread spice, pumpkin spice, or by adding small amounts of other warm spices to the cinnamon

What to Serve with The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Since the bourbon cinnamon rolls are very sweet on their own, I prefer pairing them with savory breakfast or brunch dishes. Here are some ideas of what to serve with your fluffy cinnamon rolls: 

photo of a warm cinnamon roll on a plate with a mug of coffee

Try this Recipe for the Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls! 

Next time you’re looking for a make-ahead holiday breakfast idea, give this easy recipe for cinnamon rolls a try! Did you think they were the best ever?

Leave a comment below and give it a review for others to see what you thought of this recipe for the best cinnamon rolls.

On Instagram? Share your photo and tag me with @goodlifeeats and #goodlifeeatsrecipes. I’d love to see a photo of your fluffy cinnamon rolls!

More Holiday Breakfast Recipes: 

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls are the perfect fall treat! Pumpkin spice dough is rolled with plenty of cinnamon and sugar, and then slathered with cream cheese frosting. You’ll love all the pumpkin flavor that these cinnamon rolls offer!

Gooey Caramel Pecan Rolls are perfect for a special occasion brunch. They feature a soft brioche dough, cinnamon filling, and tons of caramel pecan topping. They’re seriously the best sticky buns!

This cinnamon pull-apart bread is essentially a monkey bread from scratch with a homemade caramel topping. Perfect for holiday brunches!

For a fresh take on the classic cinnamon roll, try this recipe for Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing.Their sweet and tangy taste is perfect for this time of year!

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cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting on a white plate with a fork

The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Rise Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutes

These are the BEST homemade cinnamon rolls you’ll ever make! They’re light and fluffy, with a gooey cinnamon filling and a bourbon cream cheese icing that’s slathered over the cinnamon rolls while they’re still warm. Perfect for the holidays or as a special weekend treat!  

Ingredients

For the Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 1 cup warm Whole Milk (around 105-110 degrees)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Large Egg, beaten (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup melted Salted Butter
  • 4-5 cups All-Purpose Flour

For the Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 10 tablespoons softened Salted Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed Brown Sugar
  • 3 1/4 tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Cornstarch

For the Cinnamon Roll Frosting

  • 2 oz. softened Cream Cheese
  • 4 tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Bourbon
  • 1 1/4 cups Powdered Sugar

Instructions

Preparing the Cinnamon Roll Dough

  1. Add the warm milk and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir to combine and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. After 5 minutes, add the sugar, salt, egg, and melted butter. Whisk well to combine.
  3. Secure the stand mixer bowl onto the stand mixer. Add the paddle attachment.
  4. Measure 1 cup of flour into the milk mixture. Stir, on low speed, using the paddle attachment, until combined.
  5. Continue adding flour, a half a cup at a time, while the mixer stirs on low speed.
  6. When the dough becomes too thick for the paddle attachment, switch it out to the dough hook and add the remaining flour while the mixer stirs on low speed. (You may not need to use all of the flour. The dough should be soft, but not sticky, and should pull away from the sides of the bowl while mixing.)
  7. After the dough has reached the appropriate consistency, allow it to knead using the dough hook for 5 minutes.

Letting the Cinnamon Roll Dough Rise

  1. After the kneading is complete, remove the cinnamon roll dough from the stand mixer’s bowl.
  2. Lightly grease the bowl with softened butter or cooking spray. Then transfer the dough back to the bowl.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Place the bowl in a warm place, such as an oven with the light on (not set to a temperature) or using the “proof” function if your oven has one.
  4. Allow the dough to rise for 1 - 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Preparing the Cinnamon Roll Filling

  1. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.

Rolling the Cinnamon Roll Dough 

  1. Once the dough has doubled in bulk, turn it out from the bowl onto a floured surface. I like to use a large silicone pastry mat on top of my counters and dust it with flour using a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle that is 1/8th of an inch thick (about 0.3 cm).
  3. The rectangle will be approximately 2x3 feet (approx 60x90 cm). If you’re having a hard time getting a perfect rectangle, you can cut portions off from the edges of the dough and add it back into the center of the rectangle and continue rolling. You don’t want to have edges that are too rounded or for your shape to be oval like.
  4. After you’ve rolled the rectangle out, use an offset spatula to spread the softened butter all over the surface of the dough. Then, sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top.
  5. Next, roll the dough into a log, starting on the shorter end. After you’ve rolled the entire rectangle into a log, cut the log into 12 rolls (approximately 2-2.5 inches thick per roll).

The Second Rise

  1. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a pan(s).
  2. You can use a large rectangular pan (such as a 9x13) or 2 round cake pans, or a large round cast iron pan. 
  3. Then, grease the parchment paper and sides of the pan with softened butter. Place the cinnamon rolls in the prepared pan.
  4. Optional: if you wish to bake the rolls the next day, you will cover with plastic wrap or foil and store them at the refrigerator at this point.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, transfer to a warm place, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. Note: This will take longer if you’ve chosen to refrigerate your rolls overnight because you’re starting with cold dough rather than room temperature dough.

Baking the Cinnamon Rolls

  1. Place the oven rack on the center position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap or damp towel from the pans. 
  2. Then, transfer the pans to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the rolls are just slightly golden brown on the tops.

Preparing the Vanilla Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. While the rolls bake, add the softened cream cheese and softened butter to a bowl. Combine using a hand mixer (you can also use a stand mixer if you prefer). 
  2. Beat the butter mixture until fully combined and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed.
  3. Then, add the vanilla bean paste, lemon juice, and bourbon. Stir until combined.
  4. Add the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time while stirring until all of the powdered sugar has been added.
  5. Scrape the sides down with a spatula as needed, and bean until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  6. Spread on top of hot cinnamon rolls.

Notes

We like to put the cinnamon roll frosting on while the rolls are still warm. It melts the frosting, making the rolls even more gooey and decadent  

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Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 1139Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 71mgSodium 276mgCarbohydrates 206gFiber 7gSugar 44gProtein 24g

GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy. This provided information is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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