The most irresistible, soft, and fluffy homemade cinnamon rolls! They’re the best cinnamon rolls – chewy and gooey with a delicious sweet cinnamon roll filling and vanilla cream cheese frosting.


When I re-worked this cinnamon roll recipe, I was hell-bent on making softer, moister, and longer-lasting rolls.

Of course, it goes without saying that these cinnamon rolls also had to taste scrumptious. Like over-the-top ‘Wow!’. And I’m so excited because I finally hit the sweet spot with this new and improved version.

Say hello to the softest, fluffiest, moistest, most delicious cinnamon rolls ever.

Are they sweet and buttery? You bet.

Do they taste rich, creamy, and cinnamon-ey? Absolutely.

Are they finger-licking good to the last crumb? Oh yeahhh.

The secret to softer, moister, longer-lasting cinnamon rolls: tangzhong (water roux)

These cinnamon rolls are easy to make, lots of fun to do, and more exciting than binge-watching my favorite episodes of Master Chef.

But there’s more! What if you could make cinnamon rolls that stay soft and moist for longer?

And what if I told you that the secret is a simple 5-minute step you can do with your eyes closed? (Okay, I don’t mean that literally, but you get the point.😉)

Cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing

This is a great recipe because it’s adapted from my red bean milk loaf recipe and used the tangzhong method (an Asian technique). With this easy 5-minute technique, you can be sure that your cinnamon rolls turn out extra soft and moist. 

Now, if this is the first time you’ve heard of the tangzhong method, trust me, it’s super easy.

Basically, tangzhong or water roux is a mixture made with one part flour and 5 parts water (or other liquid like milk) and gently heated until 65°C (149°F).

When heated, flour particles absorb water many times its weight, so a dough with tangzhong retains much more moisture and gives bread and rolls a better rise when that water converts to steam during baking.

Tangzhong: The 5-minute step that will transform your dough forever

  • Turns out softer and moister rolls
  • Keeps moisture in so rolls won’t dry out quickly
  • Makes dough less sticky, easier to knead and handle
  • Stays fresh longer

How do I use tangzhong for cinnamon rolls?

It’s simple. Cook the roux, let it cool, and simply knead it in with the rest of the dough ingredients as per the recipe instructions.

The flour and milk for the roux are part of the flour and milk quantities in the recipe, so the recipe stays in balance.

Just bear in mind that while incorporating a water roux will make these cinnamon rolls extra soft and moist, you can still end up with dry rolls if you add too much flour to the dough (more on that below) or don’t store them well to seal in their moisture.

How can I use active dry yeast in place of instant yeast?

Instant yeast, also known as rapid rise yeast or bread machine yeast, is yeast that can be used ’instantly’ out of the package. There’s no need to activate it, and you can mix it in together with the rest of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.)

If you’ve only got active dry yeast in your pantry, the good news is that you can use it interchangeably with instant yeast with no change to the recipe. You would just need to add 10 to 15 minutes additional proofing time.

However, it’s sensible practice to activate active dry yeast because it will ensure that the yeast is still -well – active. This way, you protect the dough by making sure your yeast is still good.

To use active dry yeast in place of instant yeast, sprinkle it over milk that’s slightly warm (40°C /110°F is ideal, anything hotter than 46°C/115°F will kill the yeast).

Allow the yeast to activate – it will foam up and smell ‘yeasty’ like a frothy beer – which is a good sign! This may take about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the temperature of the milk.

Then add the activated yeast mixture together with the cooled roux mixture (tangzhong) and melted butter into the dry ingredients.

Ingredients to make cinnamon rolls (cinnamon buns) with cream cheese frosting

  • bread flour. Bread flour can absorb more liquid than all-purpose flour so it retains a lot more moisture. This ensures moistness and softness in the baked rolls. If you happen to be out of bread flour, you can use plain flour instead.
  • milk. I personally prefer the richness and flavor of full cream or whole milk, but you can use reduced-fat or low-fat milk. For non-dairy options, almond milk or oat milk would work well too.
  • eggs. Use large or extra-large eggs, depending on how eggs are classified in your region. Choose eggs that weigh between 60 – 63 grams/ 2 – 2.25 oz each (still in its shell).
  • instant yeast. Instant yeast is yeast that does not need to be activated and can be used ’instantly’ out of the package. Active dry yeast can be used interchangeably, you’ll just need to activate it (instructions for doing this are detailed in the recipe card).
  • sugar. Granulated sugar is “food” for the yeast. It interacts to release carbon dioxide and alcohol, which is how a yeasted dough rises. But that’s not all – sugar enhances flavor, turns the crust a golden brown, improves the crumb texture, and helps retain moisture too.
  • salt. Salt improves the taste and flavor of these rolls. Without it, the rolls would taste pretty flat. It also balances the sweetness of the sugars, and accentuates the flavors of other ingredients.
  • unsalted butter. You’ll need butter for both the dough and the cream cheese frosting. I like to use unsalted butter but If you’re sticking with salted butter, do remember to omit the salt.
  • brown sugar. I use light brown sugar.
  • ground cinnamon. The star spice! For best flavor and aroma, make sure your cinnamon powder is still within it’s best-by date.
  • ground nutmeg. Nutmeg is the spice that really adds something extra special! Don’t skip it if you have it in your spice rack.
  • full-fat block cream cheese. I love Philadelphia’s full-fat cream cheese – it’s got a rich and creamy flavor. You can use your favourite brand of cream cheese, as long as it’s not the tub variety or spreadable cream cheese.
  • icing or powdered sugar. Icing or powdered sugar makes a smoother frosting because it dissolves easily and absorbs liquids.
  • vanilla extract (or lemon juice). Use a pure vanilla extract for a richer-tasting vanilla cream cheese frosting. If you like your cream cheese frosting a bit tangy, feel free to swap it for lemon juice.
Unbaked cinnamon rolls in baking tray

Step-by-step: The best cinnamon roll recipe

Here’s the process in a nutshell (most of the time, you’re hands-free too if you’ve got a stand mixer to do all the hard work!):

  1. Make the roux (5 mins)
  2. Knead the main dough – mix the roux and add it here (10 mins)
  3. Rest the dough [1st rise] – make the cinnamon roll filling (30 mins)
  4. Shape the rolls (30 mins)
  5. Proof the rolls [2nd rise] (30 mins)
  6. Bake (25 mins)
  7. Make the cream cheese frosting (10 mins)

Make the roux (tangzhong method): The secret to rolls that stay soft and moist

  • In a small saucepan, whisk together bread flour and milk until free of lumps. Cook it over medium heat, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens like a pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. 
  • Scoop the roux into a mixing bowl. Set plastic wrap directly on the surface of the roux (to prevent a skin forming). Cool to room temperature (or in the chiller – quicker).
  • Whisk the eggs and remaining milk into the cooled roux until the mixture is free of lumps.

Make the cinnamon roll dough

1. Mix the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, paddle 455 g / 16 oz of bread flour (save the balance and only add as little as you need to if required), instant yeast, sugar, and salt. Alternatively, you can stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk or wooden spoon.

2. Add the wet ingredients. Beat in the roux mixture and melted butter on low speed until barely combined. Then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids. Meanwhile, switch out the paddle for a dough hook attachment.

3. Knead until a smooth (but tacky!) soft dough forms. Knead until the dough becomes smooth, elastic, and tacky and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 -7 minutes.

4. Test for ‘windowpane’. Once the dough can be stretched to a thin, translucent sheet (‘windowpane’ – see picture #4) without breaking, the dough is ready for proofing. If not, knead for a few more minutes and test again.

5. First dough rise. Gather the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly greased large mixing bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel.

6. Set in a warm place to rise for 25 – 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Make the cinnamon brown sugar filling

While the dough rises, mix together the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg in a small bowl. Mix in the softened butter with a spatula until well combined.

Alternative method: Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, but leave out the butter.

Shape into cinnamon rolls

7. Roll flat. On a lightly floured surface or pastry mat, roll the dough into a 15 x 24 inch rectangle (38 x 60 cm) with a rolling pin.

8. Spread the cinnamon roll filling. With a rubber spatula, spread the cinnamon filling as evenly as you can, leaving 0.5″/1-cm on one of the long edges clean. Brush the clean edge with a bit of water.

Alternative method: Spread the softened butter all over the dough with a rubber spatula, leaving 0.5″/1-cm on one of the long edges clean. Then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture, covering the butter evenly and brush the clean edge with water.

9. Roll up. Roll up on the long side, Swiss-roll style , keeping it tight towards the opposite side that was brushed with water.

10: Cut into rolls. Slice a bit off both ends of the roll with a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss. Cut into 12 equal rolls.

Final rise for big and fluffy rolls

Second rise: Place the rolls in a greased 9″ x 13″ x 2″ (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking pan, spacing them a bit apart. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and proof in a warm place for 20 – 25 minutes.

Pour warm cream (optional): Just before putting the rolls into the oven, pour warmed cream over the top and all around the rolls. Allow the heavy cream to soak in for 1 minute (thanks to this brilliant tip by Lizzy@Tastes of Lizzy on how to make your rolls gooey!)

Bake. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes or until all the rolls are cooked through and golden brown. Once out of the oven, let the rolls cool completely in the pan.

Make the cream cheese frosting

In a stand mixer or with handheld beaters, beat softened cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. 

Beat in the salt (omit if using salted butter), vanilla extract or lemon juice, and icing sugar until smooth, about 1 minute.

Frost the rolls

Spread the cream cheese frosting over the cooled rolls. I personally like the frosting a bit melty and spread them over slightly warm (not hot) rolls so it melts into the gaps in between the folds.

For a thicker finish, set aside some frosting to spread over the rolls once more when they’ve completely cooled.

Cinnamon rolls with lemon cream cheese icing

How to store cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting

Store any leftover rolls in an airtight container or wrap individual slices tightly in cling wrap. When ready to eat, pop the rolls into a microwave for 20 – 25 seconds (if cold) and it’ll taste just as good as fresh-baked.

Frosted cinnamon rolls keep well at room temperature for 3 days, in the chiller for a week, and in the freezer for up to a month.

Make-ahead cinnamon rolls

How to make overnight cinnamon rolls

Want fresh-baked cinnamon rolls the next morning without starting at an early hour when you’d rather be snuggled up in bed?

Make the dough the night before as per the recipe instructions up to the point when you’ve got the rolls in the baking pan but before the 2nd rise. Cover the pan with a damp towel or wrap in aluminum foil and refrigerate. 

The cold temperature slows down the final rise by inhibiting the yeast, which is actually a good thing for your cinnamon rolls. A slow rise enhances the flavour and allows you to bake at a later time.

These rolls will still rise overnight, possibly doubling in size.

The next day, pull them out of the chiller at least an hour before. Allow the rolls to come to room temperature, about 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Then pour over the warmed cream (optional) and bake. If the rolls did not rise much overnight, let them sit out for an hour until they double in size, then bake.

How to freeze cinnamon rolls

As with the overnight rolls, make the dough as per the recipe up to the point when you’ve got the rolls in the baking pan but before the 2nd rise.

Place the pan, uncovered, in the freezer for about an hour. Keep the rolls in a freezer bag, seal the bag, and freeze.

The night before baking, pull them out of the freezer and place them in a greased baking pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator to thaw overnight, covered.

In the morning, pull them out of the chiller at least an hour before. Allow the rolls time for the final rise, 45 mins – 1 hour, then bake.

Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

With these make-ahead overnight and freezable options at your fingertips, it’s so easy to pop a ready-to-bake tray into the oven and have the softest, moistest, fluffiest cinnamon rolls ready when guests come calling.

These soft cinnamon rolls are a pleasure for the whole family especially on a special occasion or Christmas morning.

You couldn’t get more perfect cinnamon rolls than these, it’s one of those easy recipes you’ll come back to time and time again.

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The Best Cinnamon Rolls {Extra Moist, Soft, and Fluffy}

Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing
5 from 13 reviews
Prep Time: 35 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Proofing, filling and rolling:: 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Yield: 12 large rolls
The most irresistible soft, and fluffy cinnamon rolls! They're chewy, gooey, filled with delicious brown sugar and cinnamon filling, and generously slathered with tangy cream cheese icing.

Ingredients

For the roux

  • 25 g bread flour
  • 125 g full-cream milk

For the main dough

  • 2 large eggs, (each weighing 60 – 63 g/ 2 – 2.25 oz still in its shell)Note 1
  • 125 g full-cream milk
  • 455 g bread flour, (you may need between 455 g / 16 oz – 515 g / 18 oz, depending on the altitude where you live)Note 2
  • tsp instant yeast
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 115 g melted butter

For the cinnamon roll filling

  • 300 g brown sugar
  • tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg, (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 115 g unsalted butter, (softened at room temperature till almost melty)
  • 125 ml heavy cream

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 170 g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (I use Philadelphia's)
  • 75 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla or lemon extract
  • 200 g confectioner's or powdered sugar

Instructions
 

  • Lightly grease a 9" x 13" x 2" (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking pan.

Make the roux (tangzhong)

  • In a small saucepan, whisk together bread flour and milk until free of lumps. Cook it over medium heat, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens like a pudding, 3 to 5 minutes.
    Note: The roux is ready once the whisk leaves drag lines on the base of the pan, or when an instant-read thermometer reaches 65°C (149°F). Do not overcook.
  • Scoop the roux into a mixing bowl. Let it cool for a bit, 15 minutes at room temperature or quicker in the chiller, as long as it’s not hot.

Make the main dough

  • Whisk the eggs and remaining milk into the cooled roux until the mixture is free of lumps. (Note: If using active dry yeast in place of instant yeast, only whisk the eggs into the cooled roux, and use the milk to activate the active dry yeast in the next step).
  • In a stand mixer, combine 455 g / 16 oz of bread flour (save the balance and only add as much as you need to if needed later), instant yeast, sugar, and salt. Give it a good stir to mix well.
    Note: If using active dry yeast, sprinkle over the remaining milk that’s slightly warmed to 40°C /110°F (anything hotter than 46°C/115°F will kill the yeast). Allow the yeast to activate – it will look frothy and smell yeasty – a good sign! This may take about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the temperature of the milk. Add this with the roux mixture and melted butter in the next step.
  • Add the roux mixture and melted butter. Paddle the mixture on low speed until barely combined. Then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.
  • Scrape the dough off the paddle and switch it out for a dough hook. Start the mixer at medium speed and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 -7 minutes.
    Important tip: The dough should feel tackyNote 4 and leave the sides of the bowl mostly clean with bits still sticking to the sides, but the dough will stick to the bottom – this is OK! Do not be tempted to add more flour at this point. If you touch the dough and bits of it stick to your fingers, this is the time to add a bit more flour, 1 – 2 tbsps at a time, and knead it in for a minute to allow the dough to absorb it, and check again. Stop when it feels sticky but you can pull away your fingers cleanly.
  • Test for 'windowpane': Lightly grease your fingers and palms with some oil, take a small ball of dough and gently stretch it. The dough is ready for proofing when it can be stretched to a thin, translucent layer (‘windowpane’) without breaking. Otherwise, knead for a few more minutes and test again.
  • First rise: Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a large greased mixing bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a warm area. Let it rise for 25 – 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Make the cinnamon roll filling

  • While the dough is proofing, stir together brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg in a large mixing bowl until well mixed. Mix in the softened butter with a spatula until well combined.
    Alternative method: Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but leave out the butter. 

Make the rolls

  • Roll out the dough: Once doubled in volume, overturn the bowl to tip out the dough. Lightly flour the countertop (or a pastry mat) and rolling pin. Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 24" x 15" (60 x 38 cm).
    Note: The dough will be thin when rolled flat to the suggested size – this is OK. You also don't need to be exact here – so long as you get a good rectangular size to work with.
  • Spread the filling: With a rubber spatula, spread the cinnamon roll filling over the rectangular dough, leaving 0.5"/1-cm on one of the long edges clean. Brush this clean edge with some water to help seal the end when you complete the roll.
    Alternative method: Spread the softened butter all over the dough with a rubber spatula, leaving 0.5"/1-cm on one of the long edges clean. Then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture, covering the butter evenly. Brush the clean edge with water.
  • Shape into rolls: Starting on the long edge, roll up the dough tightly, Swiss-roll style. Cut a bit off both ends of the roll. Then cut into 12 rolls.
    Tip: Use a sharp, non-serrated knife or dental floss. To get 12 equal rolls, cut the long roll into two halves. Again, halve each of the 2 rolls so you now have 4. Then cut each of the 4 rolls into 3 equal rolls, so you end up with 12.
  • Second rise: Place the rolls in a greased 9" x 13" x 2" (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking pan, spacing them a bit apart. Cover with a tea towel and proof in a warm place for 20 – 25 minutes.

Bake the rolls

  • While the rolls sit, preheat the oven to 190°C (374°F) Optional: Just before putting the rolls into the oven, warm the heavy cream in a saucepan over low heat. Heat only until the chill is off – not to the point of simmering/boiling. Pour over the top and all around the rolls. Allow the cream to soak in for 1 minute.
  • Bake on the middle rack for 20 – 22 minutes or until the rolls have turned golden brown and the center ones are cooked through. Once out of the oven, let the rolls cool completely in the pan.
    Note: Baking times will vary, depending on the size of the rolls, the type and size of baking pan used, how the rolls are packed in, the type of oven, etc. Check at the 20-minute mark and if the rolls are not all baked through, extend the baking time by 3 – 4 minutes.

Make the cream cheese frosting

  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or using handheld beaters, beat softened cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Beat in the salt (omit if using salted butter), vanilla extract or lemon juice, and icing sugar. until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.Note 3

Frost the cinnamon rolls

  • Spread the cream cheese frosting over the cooled rolls (I personally like the frosting a bit melty and spread them over slightly warm, not hot, rolls so it melts into the gaps in between the folds. For a thicker finish, set aside some frosting to spread over the rolls once more when they've completely cooled.)

Store the rolls

  • Store leftover rolls in an air-tight container or wrap individual slices tightly in cling wrap. Frosted cinnamon rolls keep well at room temperature for 3 days, in the chiller for a week, and in the freezer for up to a month.

Notes

1. What size of eggs should I use?
  • Use eggs that weigh (still in their shells) between 60 to 63 grams.
  • In Australia, large eggs weigh 52 g, and extra-large eggs at 60 g each, so use extra-large in this case.
  • In the UK, medium eggs are classified as those that weigh (still in their shells) between 53 g and 63 g and large eggs between 63 g and 73 g. Use a digital scale, if you have one handy, to weigh the medium eggs in the box and use those that fall in the 60 – 63 g range in place of large eggs.
  • In the US, large eggs are defined as greater than 2 oz (56.8 g) and extra-large as greater than 2.25 oz (63.8 g), so large or extra-large eggs can be used.
2. Why does the amount of flour vary?
  • Flours processed in different regions can vary in their properties, for eg. how much more or less water they can absorb.
  • Baking at high altitudes can also make flours drier, cause doughs to lose moisture quicker, and rise or proof faster.
  • This is why this recipe starts with 480 grams (4 cups) of bread flour – which includes the 25 g for the roux- and recommends adding only as much as you need to if needed, to get a tacky but smooth dough.
3. How to store cream cheese frosting
  • You may or may not use up all the cream cheese frosting, depending on how sweet or less sweet you like your cinnamon rolls.
  • Either make half the frosting recipe amount or store the left-over cream cheese (without cross-contamination) in an air-tight jar or container. Store in the chiller for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month. 
4. What is the ideal dough texture?
  • The final dough texture should be smooth, elastic, and tacky, i.e. this is when you pull your fingers off the surface of the dough, your fingers stick a little bit but no dough comes off at all, and no sticky bits of dough stick to your fingers.

Shop this Recipe

Cake Pan 9 x 13 x 2″
Stand Mixer
Mixing Bowl Set of 3
Saucepan 2.5 Quart
Pastry Mat
Rolling Pin

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1roll, Calories: 639kcal, Carbohydrates: 93g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 98mg, Sodium: 417mg, Potassium: 217mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 59g, Vitamin A: 874IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 145mg, Iron: 2mg
Cuisine: American, Western
Course: Breakfast, Tea
Author: Celia Lim
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a review in the section below, and tag @foodelicacy on Instagram and hashtag it #foodelicacy so I can see!