5 Secrets to Perfect Cinnamon Rolls Every Time

Cinnamon roll craver and snob: That’s me.

five secrets to perfect cinnamon rolls

I may or may not have mentioned that since Ezekiel’s birth, I’ve developed an insatiable sweet tooth. Maybe it’s the nursing, maybe it’s less sleep, who knows. But I do know that cinnamon rolls stave off the cravings for a few hours — like between a midnight snack and breakfast the next morning. (I told you, it’s BAD.) I’ve made many batches in last few months.

Aside from the waiting-for-the-dough-to-rise factor, which is only hard in the patience department, cinnamon rolls entirely from scratch aren’t hard to make. They have only three components: dough, filling, and frosting.

Ohhhh, the frosting… Let’s not kid ourselves, what are cinnamon rolls if they aren’t the most delicious cream cheese frosting delivery system?

Anyway, through these many batches, I’ve picked up the following tricks to getting them just right every time.

Use a good recipe.

I love All Recipe’s Clone of a Cinnabon recipe. Usually, when a recipe has over 5,000 reviews and five solid stars, it’s at least worth a shot. And these are the best I’ve made. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people comment on recipes along the lines of, “This recipe was perfect. I just did thus and such and this and that. Here a little there a little. Excellent!”

But I’m about to do the same thing and offer you my own modifications:

  • Use butter instead of margarine.
  • Just make the dough in a regular mixer if you don’t have a bread machine.

Here’s how:

Don’t be afraid of yeast. Proof it.
cinnamon rolls baked from top

  • Put the warm milk in the bowl of your mixer.
  • Add the sugar and stir around a bit.
  • Add the yeast.
  • Wait until you see little bubbles forming.
  • Add the melted butter, eggs, salt, and flour.
  • Proceed according to directions.

What does this accomplish? Putting the yeast in the warm milk with the sugar gives it just the right environment to activate so you can be assured that your yeast is alive. The bubbling shows you that it’s alive. If it’s not alive, your dough won’t rise. Proofing it like this ensures that your yeast isn’t too old or that you didn’t accidentally kill it with milk that was too hot, etc. You’ll know that your yeast will “work” before you’ve wasted all your other ingredients in a bad batch. Did that get boring?

(Note: Yeast can be killed by being too old, not being stored properly, or by being put in liquid that’s too hot. Proofing it gives you the peace of mind that your dough will rise. It takes the mysterious, scary factor out of using it — at least it does for me.)

(Tip: If you don’t have a mixer, try Pionneer Woman’s cinnamon roll dough. It’s easy, and yields two whole batches of dough.)

Thin dough means more flavor.

The thinner you’re able to roll your dough, the higher the ratio of cinnamon sugar filling to dough and the more rings of cinnamon sugar ooey gooey-ness you have. But don’t go overboard; about a quarter inch is good. Flour your work surface and your rolling pin to help you roll the dough thin without it sticking. Using a bench scraper to shape your dough into a nice neat rectangle helps too, if you’re being persnickety.

cinnamon rolls dough

More is more.

When it comes to cinnamon roll filling, you can’t go wrong with too much of it. Be generous with the butter you spread over the dough, and don’t be afraid to use heaping measurements of the cinnamon and brown sugar. cinnamon rolls filling

Cut with a serrated knife.

The key to cutting perfect cinnamon rolls is using a serrated knife and a light touch. Pay attention to cutting the rolls of the same thickness so they cook evenly.

cinnamon rolls rolled

cinnamon rolls rising

Look at these beauties, straight out of the oven. Can you smell them or can you smell them?

cinnamon rolls baked from top

Don’t forget the powdered sugar-covered help. He will keep a very careful eye on everything.  With concentration tongue.

boy cooking

Next time we talk about cinnamon rolls: THE FROSTING. Subscribe by email so you don’t miss anything. And don’t forget to pin, share, like, email, tweet, whatever! See you soon!!

cinnamon rolls frosting




  1. Shifrah, You’re a dynamo! And these cinnamon rolls look good enough to eat–a whole pan.

  2. Amy Chen says:

    Hey, Shifrah. This is formerly Amy Tsai. Gloria Liao told me a couple months ago that you had a mommy blog, and i’ve been lurking :). Anyways, I couldn’t resist commenting to ask if you’ve tried making cinnamon pull-apart bread, ala http://joythebaker.com/2011/03/cinnamon-sugar-pull-apart-bread/ . Easier for portion control, since you pull the bread off in sheets, and just as good of a cream cheese delivery system! The dough from the recipe is a pain to mix by hand, but you could probably do it in a standing mixer; mine happens to be the husband :]

    • Shifrah Combiths says:

      Amy, so good to hear from you!! This pull-apart bread looks amazing! I’d probably keep going back for “one more pull,” hahaha!! The proportion of frosting to bread would be great 😉 I will have to try this. I also like the browned butter idea. Thanks for stopping by and for the suggestion!!

  3. Shifrah, this looks amazing. The cinnamon rolls look super-enticing (great shot). Will try this once I have shaved off some weight. Just like you, I have developed a sweet tooth since Adam’s birth (second child) over a year ago. Never in life have I craved for sweets the way I do today…sad. I still have a pretty big belly from pregnancy. Need to start doing some serious sit-ups!

  4. I have been looking for the correct* cinnamon roll recipe/guide for a looong time and finally I FOUND IT!! THIS IS IT!! I followed your instructions to a tee and the result was the soft moist perfect cinnamon rolls that I have been dying for. THANK YOU!

  5. When doing it in the mixer, do you still need to use bread machine yeast?

    • Shifrah Combiths says:

      Sorry for the really late reply! If you’re still interested, the answer is no. I just use regular yeast. Happy cinnamon rolling!