My sweet man absolutely loves cinnamon rolls. He can hardly ever pass up a particularly good looking one in a pastry case, so it was really surprising when I realized that I've never actually made homemade cinnamon rolls. For myself or for him! So the other day when we had some leftover cream cheese frosting from another project, and he quickly mentioned cinnamon rolls being a good project to use it up - I got right to work! Mostly because I wanted to make his favorite for my love, but also because I knew I would eat the whole container of frosting in one sitting if I wasn't careful! 

I started with the enriched dough recipe from The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook... because it is my bible and I always trust it for classic pieces of a recipe like this. In making the dough, I promptly remembered why making yeasted doughs is basically the best thing to do in the kitchen. Dough Therapy - I'm talking about those blissful minutes spent kneading the perfectly elastic dough in preparation for the first rise. Few baking moments make me happier, and I bet a lot of folks would agree with me! 

I rolled out all the beautiful pinwheels of cinnamon heaven this recipe makes, but only left four of them for baking immediately. The rest I spread on a Silpat covered baking sheet and froze, tossing them in a freezer bag once they were solid. I'll pull them out as needed, defrost in the fridge overnight, then rise and bake! Who needs Pillsbury for cinnamon rolls on demand? 

If you've ever been overwhelmed by the idea of cinnamon rolls or thought you wouldn't be able to achieve a perfect one at home - I'm hear to tell you that you can! There may be a lot of steps, but it really isn't that hard! Plus, I've divided up the tasks for you so you can make the dough ahead and finish the process in the morning. Just-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls are the perfect way to impress your friends at brunch! 

So here you have it - a classic homemade cinnamon roll slathered in cream cheese frosting. If you can manage to slip out of bed and pull them out of the fridge to rise early in the morning (then head back to bed of course), you'll have a warm breakfast before you know it! Just don't turn your early morning alarm off like we did... or your other half will be at home eating all the cinnamon rolls while you're at work! 


Enriched Dough


1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water 

 2 - 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 

1 Tbsp active yeast 

1/3 cup sugar 

1 tsp salt 

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

2 large eggs


  • Warm milk and water in a small pot over medium heat to 110 degrees. 
  • While the milk and water are heating, combine whole wheat pastry flour, 2 cups all purpose flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if you're doing this by hand). 
  • Once milk and water have reached 110 degrees, whisk together with eggs and melted butter. 
  • Using the dough hook, or a wooden spoon if you're doing this by hand, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry with the mixer running on low speed. Let the mixer incorporate all of the ingredients, occasionally stopping the machine to stir up the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. 
  • Once a shaggy dough has been created, run the mixer on medium and knead until a smooth and satiny dough is created, about 5 minutes. If after a few minutes, the dough still looks wet, slowly add additional flour (a few Tbsp at a time) until it is no longer overly tacky. (knead by hand if not using a mixer). 
  • After 10 minutes, dump dough out onto lightly floured surface and hand-knead for 5-10 additional minutes. You could do this in the mixer, but it is so much more fun by hand! 
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic or a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

Filling & Forming


3/4 cup brown sugar 

2 Tbsp cinnamon 

1 tsp ground vanilla (or extract) or seeds from 1 scraped vanilla bean 

6Tbsp butter, melted


  • When the dough is close to finishing it's first rise, make the filling by stirring together all ingredients in a small bowl until fully combined. 
  • When the dough finishes rising, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a 12 by 16 inch rectangle as rectangular as you can get it. Spread the filling as evenly as you can covering the entire rectangle except for an inch along one of the long edges. 
  • Starting at the long edge across from your clean edge, carefully roll the dough into one giant log. A bench scraper is a great tool to use if your dough is sticking to the counter at all. Brush the clean edge with a little milk when you're getting lose to it, and press to seal the roll together. 
  • Using a sharp serrated blade, cut the long in half. Cut each of those pieces in half to give you four even sections, then cut each section into three equal pieces to give you 12 total rolls. 
  • Lightly grease the pan you plan to use. A 9x13 will work great for baking all the rolls at once, and whatever size will allow you to place them with an inch or two of spacing will work if you're baking a smaller number right now. Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap. Freeze any rolls you want to save for another day. 
  • To bake the same day: Let rise in a warm place for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the rolls have doubled in size. Then bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown. 
  • To bake the next day: Place covered pan in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge about 3 hours before you plan to serve the rolls, and place on the top rack of your oven with a bowl of boiling water beneath to warm the space. Let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size (replacing the water partway through to speed up the process). Remove from oven, preheat, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. 

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting


8oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup maple syrup  

1 1/2 tsp vanilla (or 1tsp ground vanilla) 

pinch of salt 

3-4 cups powdered sugar 

1 Tbsp milk


  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a medium bowl with a strong arm, beat together cream cheese and butter until fully combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add maple syrup, vanilla, and salt and mix to combine. 
  • Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully combined with each addition. Alternate with the addition of 1tsp of milk at a time. Once 3 cups of sugar has been added, check the frosting for texture, and continue adding remaining cup a little at a time if needed. 
  • Frost cinnamon rolls while still warm!