It’s nearly impossible to grasp how quickly my son is growing. All the cliches about time flying, etc. etc. are so true. It really does feel like yesterday that I held him for the first time and now somehow he has turned six. A third of the way to (technical) adulthood.  I suppose I should order graduation announcements soon.  Other than his calendar age, further evidence of time flying is the fact that he is old enough to have friends sleep over.  This is so fun, I can hardly stand it.  I love seeing them play together, whisper things to make each other laugh, and hear them giggling in their tent way past bedtime.

When I was a kid, my friends and I had gajillions of sleepovers.  One of my best friends’ mom baked us cinnamon rolls every morning after we spent the night at their house.  It must have really stuck with me because now whenever I decide what to make for the boys in the morning, cinnamon rolls are the first thing that comes to mind.  This is my favorite classic cinnamon roll recipe.  It has been deeply buried in the archives of this site for a long time and deserved to be brought back to life.  This is exactly what you expect a classic cinnamon roll to be – warm and fluffy, chewy and sweet. I hope your family loves these as much as we do.

Mix it Up – Some variations to try:

  • Fresh fruit: You can add up to 2 cups of fresh berries along with the cinnamon-sugar mixture before rolling up the dough. Fruits that work especially well are fresh blueberries, fresh raspberries, roasted cherries or cranberries.  I’ve even done caramel apple – oh yeah.
  • Nuts or chocolate: Chopped nuts add a nice hearty crunch to the filling, but be sure to toast them to enhance their flavor. You can also get really wild and add a handful of chopped chocolate, kind of like these chocolate swirl buns.
  • Whole wheat: If you are partial to whole grains, you can replace up to 1½ cups of the bread flour in the recipe with white whole wheat flour.  If you use a greater percentage than that, the soft, chewy texture of the rolls will be compromised.
  • Yield 8-12 large or 12-16 smaller cinnamon rolls


For the dough:

  • 6 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 5 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract or 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 1 1/8 to 1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

For the filling: 

  • 6 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Other spices to taste (ginger, cardamom, allspice, etc.)

For the icing: 

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½-1 tsp. lemon or orange extract
  • 6 tbsp. to ½ cup warm milk


  • 01

    Cream together the sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and lemon zest/extract until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. (You may have to add a little flour or water while kneading to achieve this texture.)

  • 02

    Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

  • 03

    Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don’t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces about 1 ¾ inches thick for larger rolls or 12 to 16 pieces about 1 ¼ inches thick for smaller rolls.

  • 04

    Line one or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately ½ inch apart so they aren’t touching but are close to one another.  Proof at room temperature for 75-90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size.  (You may also retard the shaped buns in refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pan out of the refrigerator 3-4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.)

  • 05

    Preheat the oven to 350° with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the rollss in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the rolls are warm but not too hot (see instructions below). Remove the buns from the pan and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.

  • 06

    Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the warm milk slowly, briskly whisking until all of the sugar is dissolved.  Only use as much milk as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.  Blend in the vanilla and/or lemon or orange extracts. When the rolls have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops.