Gooey Cinnamon Rolls Recipe - Handle the Heat
Filed Under: Bread | Breakfast | Christmas | Dessert

Gooey Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

By Tessa Arias
  |  
August 13th, 2019
4.90 from 169 votes
4.90 from 169 votes

Gooey Cinnamon Rolls are ultra soft and tender, loaded with ooey gooey buttery cinnamon filling, and flooded with vanilla icing. Better than Cinnabon and can be made the night before!

Yield: 12 cinnamon rolls

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Sweet without being cloying. Tons of cinnamon goodness.
Texture: The best part. The rolls are ultra soft and pillowy and as you peel away the spiral the filling is insanely gooey and buttery. The flooded icing on top just sends the whole thing into dessert overdrive!
Ease: Takes a few hours but can be made the night before.
Pros: My new favorite scratch made cinnamon roll recipe.
Cons: NONE.
Would I make this again? Yes yes yes yes.

Is there anything more delightful and comforting than homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven?

I’m SO excited to share this particular recipe with you. I’ve shared a few recipes for cinnamon rolls in the past with various techniques, textures, and flavors. But I’m pretty sure this one is my favorite.

Cinnamon rolls in a baking dish with icing on top

In my family special occasions were marked with cinnamon rolls. But since neither of my parents are bakers, that usually meant prepared cinnamon roll dough from those crazy tubes at the grocery store.

My goal for this recipe was to get a similar ooey, gooey, doughy, and rich texture as the tubed cinnamon rolls… but with way better flavor. And no crazy artificial ingredients or overwhelming sugary sweetness. I also wanted that flood of icing that melts into the rolls in the most mouthwatering way.

If you take these cinnamon buns into work with you, they won’t last longer than an hour. True story.

Unbaked cinnamon rolls rising

And that’s assuming there’s any leftover to even take to work!

How to Make Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Here are my favorite tips and tricks for making the best cinnamon rolls ever. Recipe warning: your friends and family will be requesting these constantly!

Is active dry yeast the same as instant yeast?

Active Dry Yeast and Instant Yeast, also called ‘quick rising’ or ‘fast rising’ are actually much more similar than people think. They can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Active dry yeast simply works a little more slowly than instant yeast. For these cinnamon rolls, you can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast. To do so, add it in with the warm milk and butter mixture and a teaspoon of the sugar and allow it to proof for 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy.

Learn more about the differences between active dry yeast vs, instant yeast here.

instant yeast in a bowl next to active dry yeast in a bowl

Can I knead cinnamon roll dough by hand?

Yes! You can knead this dough by hand without a stand mixer and dough hook. It may take some more time and upper body strength! Check out my full tutorial on how to knead dough by hand here.

This is a very rich dough so it will take longer to knead than other recipes. ONLY add as much flour as needed to handle the dough. It’s better for the dough to be sticky at the start than to add too much flour and wind up with dense rolls instead of light and fluffy ones.

How long does cinnamon roll dough take to rise?

This dough is an enriched dough, meaning it has ingredients like milk, butter, sour cream, sugar, and eggs to make it ultra rich, tender, and soft once baked. But those ingredients can also slow down rising time. For me the dough took 2 hours for the first rise, and 90 minutes for the second rise.

Rising times will depend on the warmth and humidity of your kitchen so keep that in mind.

How to tell when the dough is risen?

The dough should double in volume for the first rise. I always like to use a glass mixing bowl to rise my dough in so I can see how much it’s risen more easily.

The best way to tell if the dough is risen enough to shape is to perform the ripe test. Press two fingers in the risen dough up to the second knuckle and then take them out. If the indentations remain the dough is “ripe” and ready for punch down. If not, cover and let the dough rise until the indentations do remain.

Now the dough is ready to be rolled out and shaped into rolls! Allow the shaped rolls to rise again until a gentle indentation from your finger remains.

How to Shape Perfect Cinnamon Rolls Spirals

Rolling up cinnamon roll dough

Rolling up your cinnamon roll dough nice and tight is the key to beautiful round rolls and visible spirals.  As you roll the dough up, stretch it towards you and over so it stays tight instead of floppy. Finish off the spiral with the seam side down to seal in the filling. Push the ends into the center slightly with your palms to create an even log shape then cut off the wonky end bits.

How to Slice Cinnamon Roll Dough

To get picture perfect cinnamon buns, it’s important to slice the log of dough without squashing it. The best tool for that is a very sharp chef’s knife that you use sweeping motions, not sawing motions. If you don’t have a super sharp knife you can also use a serrated knife and sweeping motions. Or you can use dental floss to slice the dough, but be sure it’s unflavored.

To get evenly sized pieces cut the log directly in half so you have two logs. Then cut each log in half again. Cut each remaining piece into 3 pieces for a total of 12. I know this sounds confusing to read but as you slice it’ll make sense.

Easy Cinnamon Roll Icing

I opted for a basic powdered sugar icing for this recipe. I love when the icing floods the cinnamon rolls and melts into them for the ultimate gooey bite. Kind of like the refrigerated cinnamon roll tubes from the grocery store. You want the icing to have a pourable consistency, not too thick and not too watery. Adjust the powdered sugar to milk ratio if needed.

Spreading icing on homemade cinnamon buns

Can I make Cream Cheese Frosting Instead?

Yes! Just combine the below ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high for 2 minutes, or until super smooth.

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup (125 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Check out the full Best Cream Cheese Icing recipe here.

How to Make Cinnamon Rolls Ahead of Time

Cinnamon rolls are best served fresh and warm. Right out of the oven if possible! You can store them covered at room temperature for a day, but I’d advise re-warming in the oven or microwave them before serving.

The fact is cinnamon rolls stale quickly. That’s why making them ahead of time is a great option!

Refrigerate the shaped but unbaked cinnamon rolls in the pans you plan to bake them in. I like to let them rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes before refrigerating to give them a jump start on rising, especially in the winter when it takes longer. Cover the rolls tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. The dough should continue to rise slowly in the fridge. You can also freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost overnight.

When getting ready to bake, loosen the plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. This will depend entirely on how much they rose in the fridge and how warm / humid your kitchen is. It may take just 20 to 30 minutes or it may take over an hour. Proceed with baking as the recipe is written.

Cinnamon rolls with icing on plates

More Sweet Breakfast Recipes

4.90 from 169 votes

How to make
Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 12 cinnamon rolls
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Rising time 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 55 minutes
Gooey Cinnamon Rolls are ultra soft and tender, loaded with ooey gooey buttery cinnamon filling, and flooded with vanilla icing. Better than Cinnabon and can be made the night before!

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast*
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cup to 4 1/4 cups (508 to 540 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt

For the filling:

  • 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, completely softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

For the icing:

  • 2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Make the dough:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter until the butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream until smooth. Let cool until lukewarm (about 110°F).
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, use a spatula to combine the milk mixture with the yeast, sugar, egg, egg yolks, and vanilla until well combined. Add in half of the flour and the salt and stir with the spatula until combined. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and gradually add the remaining flour until a dough begins to form. Only add as much flour as you need to form the dough. Knead at medium speed until the dough is very soft, smooth, pliable, and doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl, about 8 to 10 minutes. If the dough is unbearably sticky add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Only add as much flour as needed to create a smooth dough.
  3. Lightly grease a large bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Make the filling:

  1. While the dough rises, add filling ingredients to a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a hand held electric mixer on medium-high until very well combined, about 3 minutes.

To shape the dough:

  1. Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to shape the dough into a 16x12-inch rectangle, long side facing you.
  2. Spread the filling mixture all over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border at the far edge. Brush the border with water to help seal. Roll the dough up, pulling with your hands to keep it tightly rolled until it’s an even log shape. Press the border to seal. Trim the edges. Lightly flour the roll.
  3. Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish or two 9-inch pie pans. Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces using a sharp serrated knife or unflavored dental floss. Place the rolls cut side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. MAKE AHEAD: Allow the shaped rolls to rise until they’ve grown in size by about a quarter. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Allow to come completely to room temperature and continue to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours, before baking as directed below.

  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°Bake the rolls until lightly golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes.

For the icing:

  1. While the rolls bake, combine the icing ingredients in a small mixing bowl until a smooth pourable icing forms.
  2. Spread over hot rolls immediately after they come out of the oven. Serve warm the day they’re baked.

Recipe Notes

*You can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast. Add it in with the warm (110°F) milk and butter mixture and a teaspoon of the sugar and allow it to proof for 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy.
Course : Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine : American

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

September Baking Challenge

This was the recipe selection for the September 2019 baking challenge! Check it out here and see the entries below:

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Liz H. — November 14, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    These are absolutely delicious!

    In case anyone is like me, I used 2% milk because I didn’t have whole milk and it turned out just fine!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 15, 2022 at 9:40 am

      So glad you enjoyed these cinnamon rolls, Liz!!

  2. #
    Hannah — October 10, 2022 at 1:54 am

    Best cinnamon roll recipe I’ve found. They come out perfectly golden yet fluffy and gooey every single time. The first time I made these for my family there were only 5 of us but we got through all 12 rolls as people couldn’t stop going back for more!

  3. #
    Anne Chelekis — August 26, 2022 at 6:38 am

    OMG! I read the review that said you get the middle part (the best part) of the roll in every bite- and I thought how can that be? We’ll, I’m still not sure how Tessa did it, but it’s true! There is cinnamon goodness in every bite! This was my very first attempt at home made cinnamon rolls, and I will not be looking for any others. The dough is very forgiving. I forgot to put in the vanilla extract, so after the first rise, I added some and lightly folded it into the dough with just a little flour, and it was perfectly fine. Thanks for another great recipe!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — August 26, 2022 at 1:03 pm

      Yay!! So happy to hear this, Anne!! So glad you enjoyed these cinnamon rolls so much 🙂

  4. #
    Renee — July 8, 2022 at 11:28 am

    Love this recipe! Have made it many times and always comes out great.
    Question- can I cut them into 24 mini rolls? If so- what would be the baking time.
    Thank you

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — July 12, 2022 at 7:53 am

      Hi Renee! I’m sorry, but as we have not tried that, I cannot tell you exactly how long the bake time would be – but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work! You might need to roll the dough out a little longer, so you can more easily cut into smaller rolls. Watch the rise time carefully, as that might be shorter with the smaller size (but not necessarily; it all depends on your kitchen environment at the time!). Start the rolls at 15 minutes in the oven and just monitor carefully, and bake as the recipe states (until lightly golden brown). Let us know how they turn out!!

  5. #
    Miranda — July 4, 2022 at 10:33 am

    Literally…. The best cinnamon roll I’ve ever had. It was SO SOFT!!! So soft. You know how in canned cinnamon rolls the only REALLY good part is the center? Okay… well… with this recipe, the ENTIRE CINNAMON ROLL WAS THE CENTER!!!!!!!! Outrageously good. I wish it was a really easy simple thing to make because I’d make these every day. Lol. Did take a while but SOOOOO WORTH IT. and it was so much fun 🙂

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — July 7, 2022 at 10:26 am

      Wow, what a review, Miranda!! We are so thrilled you loved these cinnamon rolls so much!! Thanks so much for letting us know 🙂

  6. #
    Danny T — June 18, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    Hey guys n gals! I made your recipe on Friday and baked it on Saturday morning. I followed everything to a T but traded AP flour for KA bread flour and did a little more stretch and folding. I was NOT disappointed! It was still amazingly pillowy soft, but a little bit of pull in the bread part and did the cream cheese frosting from your other recipes for this one, made it totally divine. This was only my first time but killed Cinnabon , Costco or anywhere I have bought cinnamon rolls 😀

    1 Question: What do u use to spread cream cheese frosting? I totally had the wrong tool (plastic butter knife) and was not too ideal.

    2 Question: The sides were brown, and the bottom, but the top was pale but it was thoroughly cooked. How can I get the tops browner? Thankfully , it was only aeshetic and were among the top 5 things I’ve ever made lol. I’ll be posting this on Instagram too 🙂

    10/10 for this recipe!

    • #
      Danny T — June 18, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      https://imgur.com/a/pl79uw5

      PICS of the rolls I made!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — June 20, 2022 at 9:48 am

      Hi Danny! Our HTH Team saw your photo on Instagram – your cinnamon rolls looked fantastic! We find using something like this offset spatula to be the ideal tool for spreading the frosting, or icing any smaller cake/cupcake/etc – I use mine allllllll the time! As for your other question, what type of pan did you bake the rolls in? Perhaps your pan is a little dark, so the sides and bottom caught before the tops were done browning? A light-colored metal pan is ideal (this pan is Tessa’s favourite – I have the same one, and I LOVE mine too!), so the sides and bottom can bake evenly, along with the top! As long as the centers were baked and not undercooked, I honestly wouldn’t worry too much. They looked great, and it sounds like they tasted fantastic, and the frosting covers the tops anyway!! If you do wish to troubleshoot this more, though, please feel free to reach back out and we can try to troubleshoot further!! Happy baking 🙂

      • #
        Danny — June 21, 2022 at 8:18 pm

        Ah, yes! Other’s were also telling me that is normal for the tops to not really brown, and other stores might be glazing theirs as some optional step.
        Oh and I did mean to type “pretty brown” not “very brown.” They were brown enough but not overly so! Yea I’m using a light aluminum non stick WILTON pan, which seems to be working great.

        I will take your suggestion in case I need a 2nd pan, that one looks great! And yes, I will definitely buy that spatula. I will have a cleaner looking roll next time. I am glad they were so delicious, absolutely the best!

        • #
          Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — June 22, 2022 at 7:25 am

          Sounds like a plan, Danny! So happy you enjoyed them so much 🙂 Happy baking!!

  7. #
    Chaya — May 25, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    If I wanna freeze, I’m suppose to rise first for 2 hours and then roll with filling and after you freeze. Or you freeze the raw dough. Not understanding exactly the process when I wanna freeze. Can you please explain exact steps what I do? Thanks

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — May 26, 2022 at 7:28 am

      Hi Chaya! Tessa talks about this in the pink box, right above the recipe 🙂 Finish the first rise, fill the dough, shape them into rolls, and place the shaped (but unbaked) cinnamon rolls in the pans you plan to bake them in. Cover the rolls tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the fridge.

      When getting ready to bake, loosen the plastic wrap and let the rolls rise at room temperature until doubled in size. The length of time this will take will depend entirely on how much they rose before freezing, and how warm / humid your kitchen is. It may take just 20 to 30 minutes, or it may take over an hour. Proceed with baking as the recipe is written.

      I hope this answers your questions! Happy baking! 🙂

  8. #
    Maha — May 22, 2022 at 9:46 am

    I have made these numerous times as my husband keeps requesting them! They are better than store bought ones and pretty easy to make. Thank you for this recipe!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — May 23, 2022 at 8:06 am

      So excited that you and your husband love this recipe, Maha! Happy baking 🙂

  9. #
    Beatrice S. — April 10, 2022 at 3:12 am

    The first time I ate a cinnamon roll, was when I was on holiday at a Swedish patisserie. Since tasting Kanellbullar (right spelling?), as the Swedes call it, I have hankered after these. The frozen ones from Iceland are cold comfort. They also have an ingredients list consisting of alarmingly long and unfamiliar ingredients. Ever since I found out that the carmine in my sausages was made of beetles (and had a minor fainting fit in the process) I have become increasingly careful about the back of my shop-bought items. I made this recipe using honey instead of sugar ( I am trying, for the most part, unsuccessfully to be a little bit healthier by decreasing my refined sugar intake is one of my new year resolutions). I took these out of the oven and added creme fraiche frosting. (I know from experience icing MUST contain icing sugar). They looked perfect. I took a bite and… ugh! The thing was harder and more rubbery than the first short-crust pastry I baked at 8! I am soooo disappointed! What went wrong? Could the honey have caused any problems? The filling and frosting, licked off the bowls, were scrumptious but the pastry certainly was not.

    • #
      Emily — April 12, 2022 at 8:40 am

      Hi Beatrice, sorry to hear your rolls turned out hard and rubbery! Substituting the sugar could very well have been the issue. Sugar isn’t in recipes just to add sweetness, substituting it can actually affect the outcome as it helps to create a tender and moist texture, it assists in leavening your baked good (lift and rise for a taller shape and lighter texture), provides food for yeast fermentation in bread baking, along with so much more. Tessa actually goes into detail of the importance of sugar and other common ingredients in our Magic of Baking course, which you might find helpful. I completely understand your attempts to make healthier recipes, but to guarantee a better outcome, I’d suggest searching for a cinnamon roll recipe that contains the healthier ingredients you’re looking for. And come to us for full-fat, indulgent and very satisfying dessert recipes (with no substitutions) 🙂 Please let me know if you give this recipe another try!

  10. #
    Christi — January 5, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe! It produced amazing Gooey Cinnamon Rolls! Followed your recipe notes for using rapid rise yeast instead of instant yeast. Kneaded by hand. (Therapeutic, no stand mixer.) Topped with cream cheese frosting. Amazing! Looking forward to enjoying these again!
    **Hoping to be a little more familiar with this recipe, and have the timing down better the second time around. Never having made these before, I found myself rereading the recipe again and again. But the results were so worth the effort!

    • #
      Emily — January 5, 2022 at 5:05 pm

      Kneading by hand is so good for the soul! I’m glad your rolls turned out perfectly, thanks for letting us know! 🙂

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