How To Make Cinnamon Rolls


I won’t lie to you, doing these will take a little practice. If you’ve never rolled dough out into a rectangle before, it probably won’t be really even. The good news is, even if they come out all kinds of different shapes they’re still going to taste great. So practice on yourself a few times before doing these for guests. Go ahead, no need to wait for a special occasion.


1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons, half stick)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons yeast (one package)
1/4 cup warm water (105°-115°)
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 cups flour


1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons, half stick)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
(optional) raisins


1 cup powdered sugar
juice of 1/2 small lemon



Start by scalding the milk. This is probably not strictly necessary if you’re using pasteurized milk. (For way more on the “should I or shouldn’t I” than I feel like putting here, take a look at what the internet has to say about scalding.) Scalding breaks down a protein in the whey that can keep the dough from rising as much. (Maybe, unless it doesn’t … Seriously, go see what the internet has to say.)

In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, bring the milk nearly to a boil.

When a film starts to form on the top, turn off the heat and skim it off with a spoon.

Add the sugar, salt, and the first half-stick of butter and stir until the sugar and butter are both melted.

Set the milk/butter mixture aside to cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, combine the yeast and warm water and stir quickly.

Stir in the egg.

Add the milk/butter mixture. (Make sure it’s cooled down to room temperature or you’ll kill the yeast.) Add the flour and stir until the flour is all incorporated and the dough comes together in a soft, loose ball.

Add a couple of tablespoons of oil (I always use extra virgin olive or olive pomace oil) to a clean bowl. Roll the dough around until it is oiled all over, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet dish towel. This will keep the dough from drying out and forming a skin, which would keep it from rising.

Put the bowl someplace warm, not hot — inside the stove, turned off but with the light turned on is about perfect — until the dough has doubled in volume, about an hour-and-a-half.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down to deflate it.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth and satiny.


Here’s the only part of this that takes some practice. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about an eighth-inch thick. All the reading and watching in the world won’t help you with this. You’re just going to have to do it a few times to get the hang of it.

Soften the butter, but don’t melt it. Spread it evenly onto the dough.

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.

My sugar was a little clumpy, so I had to break it up a bit with a fork.

Spread the cinnamon evenly over the dough and roll it up.

Make-ahead option

I was preparing these the night before, so I could bake them fresh for Easter brunch. You still have to take them out a couple of hours before baking, so this won’t actually save you much time. But it’s one less thing to worry about when you have a lot of other things going for a party.

So, wrap the roll in plastic wrap, to keep it from drying out, and aluminum foil, to help keep the shape.

Put the wrapped roll in the fridge overnight. The next morning, the cold dough will be firmer and much easier to cut.

Slicing and baking

I had heard you could cut these really easily using dental floss. It tried it.


After doing this wrong, I learned the trick is to slide the floss under the roll, cross the ends on top so you have the floss wrapped around, and pull the ends. Okay, now I know.

But I didn’t see that when I was making them, so I just used the knife. Because the roll was cold from the fridge the slices mostly kept their shape. Even so, I squeezed them a little to round them out after cutting.

Once they’re all cut, oil a baking sheet and arrange the rolls with room in between.

Place the baking sheet in the oven — turned off but with the light on again — until the dough warms up and the rolls double in size. (If you did these the night before and they’re cold from the fridge, this could take three hours.) Then bake at 400° for 10-15 minutes, until they are golden brown on top.


Arrange the rolls on your serving dish, and prepare the lemon glaze. Pour it over the rolls.

Serve with ham, eggs strata, pineapple stuffing and fruit salad.

Or, you know, like … just by themselves. That works pretty good.

And that’s it.

Radio interview available

The interview I did on Darla Shine’s show is available here. (Warning: It’s over 7MB)


  1. Sweet Bird says:

    I like overnight proofing with cinnamon rolls, I think it helps a lot.

    That being said, making cinnamon rolls for me has been a real crapshoot. First time = fabulous, second time = crap, third = awesome, fourth = crap. And all with the same recipe.

    The gods are cruel…

  2. This is incredibly perfect timing. I was just doing a little blog surfing before I jumped into making, you guessed it, cinnamon rolls! Thanks for the advice and the step by step pictures! Now I know exactly what to do!

  3. Those look wicked good. Man, I haven’t had cinnamon rolls in forever. My mom used to make them every Christmas. She always put nuts in them, but I like them more straight up, like you did.

  4. Sweet Bird, these were my first. I may have just gotten lucky. Although I have honed my rolling technique making lots and lots of other roll-up things.

    Danae, make sure you check out that link I posted to the floss trick.

    Bob, I’ve had nuts but decided not to this time. Next try I may include nuts and raisins.

  5. Mike Stockman says:

    Great post, Drew. I have made cinnamon rolls where I made the dough the previous night, let it sit in the refrigerator all night, then rolled it out and made the rolls in the morning.

    The only difference I can see in doing it that way is that the act of rolling it out thin, spreading stuff on it, and other manhandling might serve to warm it up faster than the already-rolled dough. I’m sure I didn’t wait 3 hours from fridge to baking when I made them, although it still took a while.

    But since everyone always wants cinnamon rolls for breakfast, overnight-chilled dough is the only choice, regardless of the method.

  6. Mike Stockman says:

    Just thought about the third choice, which I’ll have to try now as an experiment: make the rolls the night before, and cut them, and lay them in the pan, then cover and chill overnight. They should rise slowly in the fridge, which means you only need a 1/2 hour or so in the morning to get them up to room temp before baking. Wonder if that will work?

  7. I was thinking the same thin, Mike. Only one way to find out.

  8. onlinepastrychef says:

    Love cinnamon rolls! I like to bake them close together so it’s all “inside” pieces with no harder “crust” to get in the way of the cinnamony-gooey delight.

    I find I can shove more cinnamon filling in them if I make a paste of softened butter/sugar/cinnamon/salt/orange zest(optional, of course) and then slather it on about 1/4″ thick. Yum:)

  9. Mommy's Kitchen says:

    Am I a missing how much yeast is used in the recipe? I cant see it, I wanted to make them tonight.

  10. You’re not missing it, I was. It’s updated now. (2 teaspoons, or one package)

  11. Mommy's Kitchen says:

    Thank you Drew I am getting started right now. I will let you know how it goes.

  12. Mommy's Kitchen says:

    Drew so far so good. I have them rolled up up and wrapped in plastic wrap and foil. Cant wait till morning.

  13. Cue Carly Simon:

    An-ti-cipa-tion … An-ti-cipa-ya-tion is … making me wait …

  14. A topping I love on my cinnamon rolls is cream cheese frosting. It’s so rich but pairs perfectly (in my opinion).

  15. I had a kick ass one rise cinnamon roll recipe ages ago that I lost. I’m wondering if this is it. I LOVE this bakery treat.

    Ali @ Moon Garden

  16. Mommy's Kitchen says:

    Drew they turned out awesome. I just did a regular vanilla glaze since my kiddos are not to kean on Lemon. These cinnamon rolls were scrumptious.

  17. r, I’ve seen lots of recipes with cream cheese frostings. I think I should add that to my list.

    Ali, if this isn’t the recipe you lost, it’s still a good one.

    Tina, check back next week. I’m hoping to try something that might change your kids’ minds.

  18. Mommy's Kitchen says:

    Ok Drew my turn.

    Cue Carly Simon:

    An-ti-cipa-tion … An-ti-cipa-ya-tion is … making me wait …

  19. Wonderful recipe! You are so right. This is how my grandma cooked and baked and now, so do I. I see everyone getting back to the basics. Heck, I never left!! I love your writing, very clever. I can’t wait to get back to read more and find something else good to cook.

  20. Polly, I’m always jealous when someone tells me that they remember this stuff from their childhood. My only real food memory of my grandmother is Thanksgiving.

    • Bakery Girl says:

      I did not put them in the fridge and thye came out real good. i can’t let em sit over night, really i die for deserts, espacially sinomon rools. lol, i love speling micetakes

  21. theLUCKYcharm says:

    i was wondering what kind of yeast did you use? they look delicious and easy enough to do for a first attempt. Hopefully I get it right for my cousins from far away and my family!

  22. That was Red Star active dry yeast.

  23. TinyBaker says:

    Exactly how long is overnight?

  24. For me, six to 10 hours. I’m guessing you want to get this done in one day, so I’d say at least two hours.

  25. TinyBaker says:

    Whats skimming? is that removing the skin formed on top of the milk

  26. Yes, that’s all it is.

  27. TinyBaker says:

    Oh! Yah i forgot how long did you knead the dough? I wanna know cuz i want my cinnamon rolls to be perfect thanks drew for answering my questions!

  28. Hello, Thanks for the recipe :) , your lessons are very clear, I wonder if we can keep the dough 3 nights and bake it after? or how long can we keep it in fridge ?

  29. Yesim, you should be able to keep it for several days as long as it’s wrapped air-tight to keep it from drying out. You could even freeze it if it’s wrapped really well. Just give the dough time to come to room temperatrure and rise before trying to bake.

  30. Drew, these cinnamon rolls look amazing! I had a teach in high school who had a wife who made cinnamon rolls that look like this so it brought back so many delicious memories. She put nuts on them. I wanted to ask if you put nuts on top or inside the rolls?

  31. No, I didn’t do any nuts this time. The girls don’t like nuts so much.

  32. Drew, is it possible to make these with soy milk? And if so, do you think the milk need to be scalded?

  33. Kelly, I’ve never baked with soy milk, so I can’t speak to what it will do to the texture. I do know, though, that you won’t have to scald it. I’ve seen some pretty convincing arguments that you don’t need to scald pasteurized milk, either.

  34. Ivie Budka says:

    how many cinnamon rolls does this make?

  35. Ivie, you can see in the pictures above that I got 21 out of it. You can make the roll a lot shorter and fatter, but I prefer more manageable size rolls.

  36. Drew may I ask how do you check if the bread has risen enough?

    • First rise, you want it to double in volume. After they’re rolled out, cut and on the pan, the more they rise the lighter the texture will be. Until they rise too much and fall over on themselves, that is.

      The cooler it is where they’re rising, the slower and more controlled it will be. Let them rise someplace really warm and they’ll rise fast but can overshoot and deflate like a souffle.

      It’s a bit of a judgment call, but shoot for roughly doubled in size (again).

  37. Thanks Drew! 😀

  38. I made those cinnamon rolls this evening just because my husband was craving them. They turned out very yummy

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