Best of Swanky Recipes/ Bread/ Breakfast/ Christmas/ Desserts/ Holiday Food

Maple Cinnamon Rolls {BEST EVER}

Soft and fluffy yeast cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese icing. These Maple frosted Cinnamon Rolls are a classic Christmas breakfast recipe.

Incredibly soft and fluffy buttery rich Maple Cinnamon Rolls. A delicious frosted cinnamon bun recipe that’s perfect for special occasions like Christmas and family breakfast. Plus, I answer your questions about the entire process from the yeast, dough, baking, frosting, freezing, and making in advance.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from scratch is the ultimate American breakfast. Traditionally, the small frosted sweet buns are a classic pastry that’s served for breakfast, brunch, or dessert. Even more common, they are made for special holidays and occasions like Christmas breakfast or a special family brunch. Because cinnamon rolls can take several hours to make, it’s pretty common to make them in large batches that can then be frozen and used at a later date. My ‘small-batch” recipe includes 12 classic cinnamon rolls, however, it can easily be doubled to make more.

The most incredibly soft Cinnamon Rolls recipe with Maple buttercream icing. Make these sweet rolls for Christmas breakfast!

How to Make Yeast Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve included a step-by-step recipe tutorial guide to making cinnamon rolls pictured below. You’ll find numbered images to every step of the process.

  1. Proof the yeast using warm water, sugar, and active dry yeast.
  2. Add to a mixer with a dough hook, butter, egg, additional sugar, warm milk, salt, and flour. Knead the dough with hook until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Place dough ball in a greased bowl covered with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size; about 1-1.5 hours.
  4. Mix together brown sugar cinnamon filling.
  5. Lightly flour a workspace. Use a rolling pin to roll out dough or pat dough into a 14X10-inch rectangle. TIP: Roll dough slightly larger than 14X10-inches. Then, use hands to gently pat and bring in all edges until flush and nearly squared.
  6. Smear soft butter over dough.
  7. Evenly spread and pat pastry filling into butter.
  8. Roll the dough up tightly without pulling it. Start at one long end and roll the dough to the other side. Pinch the seams together.
  9. Cut dough roll into 12 pieces. Start in the center. Then cut those to halves in half again. Then, cut those halves into 3rds.
  10. Place individual rolls in a buttered casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location for 1-1.5 hours or until dough is doubled in size.
  11. Bake in the oven. Make maple glaze and spread it over the cooled cinnamon rolls.
Easy from scratch soft cinnamon rolls with maple icing recipe. Homemade Yeast Cinnamon Rolls recipe step by step photo instructions guide. Make in advance cinnamon roll guide for Christmas.

Baker’s Yeast Variations: Proofing Yeast Dough

To start, dry baker’s yeast comes in “active” and “instant” forms. Each serves a different purpose in a yeast-risen bread recipe. The difference between active dry yeast and rapid yeast is that active dry yeast needs to bloom while instant yeast doesn’t need activation and can be added directly to other ingredients. I use Fleischmann’s or Red Star’s active dry yeast. Since I have been using this recipe for a while, I have experience using both active dry yeast and instant “bread” yeast. As for me, I prefer using active dry yeast. Traditionally, this comes packaged in a red label called “active dry yeast”. This type of yeast needs time to activate or “proof”. I find the dough is softer and easier to work with. Rapid rise yeast doesn’t need proofing and will work in this recipe, too. I include directions for both yeasts below.

ACTIVE DRY YEAST DIRECTIONS

Heat 1/4 cup water between 105°F -115°F. Yeast won’t rise in water that is below 70°F and it will die if above 138°F. To speed things up I place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it at 30-second intervals. Use a meat or candy thermometer to correctly gauge the temperature. The thermometer should not touch the bottom of the bowl, sides, or the top of the water. It needs to be inserted and held halfway through the liquid. It may need to cool down for a few minutes if it’s too warm.

Next, stir in the yeast until completely dissolved then stir in granulated sugar. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free location to help is foam faster. Yeast, warm water or milk, and sugar will create foam or frothy bubbles, about 5 minutes. Once frothy, the yeast can then be used in the recipe.

Although this type of yeast can rise in warm milk, too, it’s better to check that it’s not dead in water than to have to throw out the milk. Typically, a yeast that does not foam or froth means that it is dead and cannot be used in the recipe. Instead, you’ll need to redo the yeast step using new yeast, warm water, and sugar.

Because of the added liquid, this recipe will need more all-purpose flour but still between 3-4 cups. Normally, I use closer to 4 cups.

RAPID RISE YEAST “BREAD YEAST” DIRECTIONS

Rapid rise yeast doesn’t need warm water to activate it. Instead, the step will be skipped including the addition of water to the dough. Rather, this type of baker’s yeast doesn’t need proofing (time to active through warm water and sugar). To start, heat the milk between 105°F -115°F on the stovetop or until it’s scalded, right before it simmers. Still, use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. Then, pour the warm milk into a mixer with a dough hook. Turn dough hook on and mix in butter, sugar, and salt. Once melted, whisk in egg and yeast. Next, gradually add the flour. Typically, you’ll need between 3-4 cups of all-purpose flour. Normally, I use closer to 3.5 cups of flour.

Soft Cinnamon Rolls recipe with yeast. Brown sugar cinnamon filling with maple cream cheese frosting.

Baking for the Holidays

Made at home cinnamon rolls can seem intimidating, especially if you have failed yeast dough recipes in the past. However, I include plenty of tips to help guide the process including pro tips for dough that’s not rising.

Christmas is coming up soon and one of our classic family Christmas recipes include homestyle cinnamon rolls just like Mom used to make the old-fashioned way. If you plan on making a pan of them this year to celebrate with family, I have plenty of making in advance tips and questions I answer in the below paragraphs. If you’re really nervous about making your first cinnamon bun recipe for the holidays, try making a batch in advance to better understand the yeast dough process.

Yeast Cinnamon Rolls made with active dry yeast or instant yeast. A sweet roll recipe with maple buttercream glaze.

Classic Cinnamon Roll Icing with Maple

My favorite part of a cinnamon roll is the frosting and lately, I cannot get enough of this maple cream cheese buttercream glaze. Going into fall and winter seasons, this is the BEST flavor spread to ice warm rolls. Sometimes, I grab a spoon and have a go at it while the rolls are baking. While classic cinnamon roll dough traditionally uses yeast, milk, butter, sugar, salt, egg, and flour, the icing usually is made of butter, powdered sugar, milk, a flavoring extract and sometimes, cream cheese.

To being, start with cold butter and cream cheese. Cube both dairy products into smaller sizes. For starters, I find that using cold products seems to blend the powdered sugar better resulting in a less grainy texture of icing that can otherwise be unappealing with American buttercream recipes.

Maple extract adds flavor to the icing as a topping spread. Most stores carry this flavoring next to other extracts. Not only does it strongly flavor the cream icing, but your house will smell like a sugar confectionery bakery. Alternatively, use pure maple syrup in place of milk and maple flavoring. You might even find yourself using it as a frosting to these Italian Sugar Cookies, Maple Bacon Cupcakes, or this Christmas morning Pecan Pie Monkey Bread.

How can I use real maple syrup in the frosting? Replace the milk and maple flavoring with pure maple syrup. Adjust sweetness by reducing powdered sugar if needed.

The BEST Maple frosting. A quick cream cheese buttercream frosting with maple flavoring. Perfect on cinnamon rolls, cake, cupcakes, and as a pastry filling.

Cinnamon Rolls Tips & Questions

BASIC YEAST QUESTIONS

How can I measure how warm my water is? Use a food thermometer that you would use to measure the temperature of meat or candy. Simply hold it halfway through the liquid, making sure to not touch the bottom. When it measures between 105°F -115°F, stir in the yeast and sugar.

I’m using active dry yeast and my yeast is not frothing/proofing. You’ll need to start over. Typically, a yeast that does not foam or froth means that it is dead and cannot be used in the recipe. Instead, you’ll need to redo the yeast step using new yeast, warm water, and sugar. If yeast is alive, it will start to consume the sugar and froth/foam. In this step, it releases carbon dioxide. Those are the bubbles that form when active dry yeast is proofed.

Should I use rapid rise yeast or active dry yeast for cinnamon rolls? You can use either one to make the dough. Use what you have on hand, as long as it is not passed the expiration date. Most important, follow the steps based on which yeast you’ll be using. They have different methods of preparation.

DOUGH QUESTIONS

My yeast-leavened dough is not rising well. How can I get yeast dough to rise in a cold house? First, yeast dough rises in 80°F-90°F temperature. I’ll need a draft-free location, too. If it’s winter and you’re house cold, you’ll need to create a warm environment. If your laundry dryer is nearby, simply turn it on and use this method for the first and second dough rises. Alternatively, you can rise yeast dough in the oven. Turn your oven to the lowest temperature for a few minutes then turn off. Place the dough/rolls in an oiled and oven-safe dish for both rises until the dough has doubled in size.

What is my cinnamon roll dough supposed to feel and look like? How do I know if I have enough flour? First, with the dough hook and mixer on medium-low, slowly add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. You’ll need between 3-4 cups of all-purpose flour but the sweet spot is usually between 3 1/2 to 4 cups. Once the dough starts to come together and it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, feel how sticky the dough is. If it’s really too sticky to work with, carefully mix in a little more at a time until the dough comes together. If the dough is “cracking” and not fully formed together, turn the mixer off and knead it in the bowl by a hand a few times.

Why did my cinnamon rolls deflate or rise poorly while baking? It’s possible that the second proofing was too long. If the dough starts to smell like beer or an intense yeast scent is present, it means that the yeast doesn’t have enough sugar to stretch the gluten further.

OVEN BAKING & PAN QUESTIONS

Can I bake them in a round cake pan? Yes, but use two pans. The second dough rise means that they will spread and double in size. It’s best to use two pans otherwise the individual dough buns will compete for space. As a result, the coiled buns will expand by spiraling upwards and become unwound.

The BEST soft and fluffy Cinnamon Rolls with an easy Maple frosting. A small-batch cinnamon roll recipe with warm cream cheese glaze and filling.

MAKING CINNAMON ROLLS IN ADVANCE

Can I freeze cinnamon roll dough and bake at a later date? Yes, but it’s not recommended for longer than 1 month. You’ll want to freeze the cinnamon rolls after the second dough rise. Space them equally apart on a lightly greased baking sheet and allow the cinnamon rolls to rise in the refrigerator overnight. Then, place the baking sheet in the freezer until frozen. Finally, wrap them in plastic wrap and a freezer safe bag then freeze them until ready to use. You’ll need to allow them time to defrost; about 2-4 hours at room temperature before baking.

My dough is not rising well. How can I get yeast dough to rise in a cold house? Yeast dough rises in 80°F-90°F and humid conditions. I’ll need a draft-free location, too. If your house is cold, use these yeast tips.

  • If your laundry dryer is nearby, simply turn it on and place it nearby or ontop.
  • Turn oven to the lowest temperature for a few minutes then turn off. Place in an oiled and oven-safe dish for both rises until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Set oven temperature to 350°F. Dampen a large kitchen towl with warm water. Cover the bowl with the towel and set near the oven until double in size.

Can I freeze baked cinnamon rolls that are frosted? Yes, flash freeze them on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 30 minutes. Wrap the fresh cinnamon rolls in plastic wrap and seal them in a freezer-safe bag. When ready to use, unwrap and warm in microwave 1-2 minutes.

Can I make Cinnamon Rolls in advance, like for Christmas? Yes. I recommend using active dry yeast if you know in advance they will be refrigerated overnight. Follow the recipe by cutting into individual buns. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet lightly greased with butter. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap. Refrigerate the unbaked cinnamon rolls (or any yeast dough!) overnight or up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, take the rolls out and allow them to warm and rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 casserole dish and bake them according to directions.

Do I need to let refrigerated dough rise? I don’t want to get up at 5 AM to take the dough out to rise, can I just bake them? Short on time, place them in a cold oven. Turn on the oven to preheat to 350°F. Allow the dough to quickly rise while the oven is preheating. No time adjustments needed.

For yeast, dough, and oven baking questions, see the paragraphs ABOVE THE PHOTO. For making cinnamon rolls in ADVANCE, see the paragraphs ABOVE this sentence.

Maple Cinnamon Rolls {BEST EVER}

Incredibly soft and fluffy butter-rich Maple Cinnamon Rolls. A maple frosted cinnamon bun recipe that's perfect for special occasions like Christmas and family breakfast. Plus, I answer your questions about the entire process from the yeast, dough, baking, frosting, freezing, and making in advance.
Course Breakfast, Breakfast & Dessert, Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword Cinnamon Rolls, Maple Cinnamon Rolls, Maple Frosting, Small-batch Cinnamon Rolls, Soft Cinnamon Rolls, Yeast
Prep Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 12
Calories 478

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1/4 cup warm water thermometer should read between 105°F-115°F
  • 3/4 tbsp active dry yeast see notes for instant dry yeast
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (½ stick)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon Filling

  • 6-7 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup + 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp + ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour

Maple Frosting

  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 9 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 ¼ cups + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tsp maple flavoring extract

Instructions

  • USING ACTIVE DRY YEAST: Heat 1/4 cup water to 105°F-115°F in microwave at 15-second intervals. Use a kitchen themometer to ensure the correct temperature.
    Stir and dissolve active yeast in the water. Stir in 1 tsp granulated sugar. Allow yeast to activate; about 5 minutes. Yeast should foam/froth and double in size, if not see notes below.
  • USING INSTANT YEAST: Skip above step and continue below.
  • Heat whole milk in microwave for 30-45 seconds. Add butter, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and ½ tsp salt. Stir to dissolve. Cool until warm to touch.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or by hand) pour in milk mixture.
  • Turn mixer on medium-low. Add egg and yeast (actively proofed or instant) and mix until combined.
  • Add ½ cup flour at a time to bowl. Slowly add flour until dough forms and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is incredibly sticky, add a little more flour. Dough should only lightly stick to fingers.
    NOTE: Active dry yeast usually uses closer to 4 cups flour due to extra proofing liquid while instant yeast will use closer to 3.5 cups flour.
    Turn off mixer and lift dough hook. Use a closed fist to knead the dough a few times.
  • Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl, move it around then flip it over to ensure it's lightly covered in oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
    Place in a warm, draft-free location with a house temperature of 80°F-90°F. See notes for easy solutions to a cold house.
    Allow dough to double in size; about 1 hour.
  • Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour; set aside.
  • Lightly dust work surface with flour. Take dough out of bowl and knead a few times into a ball. Place in center of work surface.
  • Using a rolling pin or your hands, roll/pat the dough into a 14X10-inch rectangle. It's okay to roll the dough past this size. Use hands to reshape by patting the outer dough inward into a 14X10-inch rectangle.
  • Smear soft butter over dough. Evenly spread then pat cinnamon sugar filling into butter.
  • Roll the dough up tightly without pulling it. Start at one long end and roll the dough to the other side. Pinch together at the seam.
  • Use a serrated knife to cut dough roll into 12 equal rolls. Make first cut in the center. Then cut those to halves in half again. Then, cut those halves into 3rds.
  • Place individual rolls in a buttered 9X13-inch casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location until dough is double in size; about 1-1.5 hours.
  • To make the maple frosting, cube cold butter, and cream cheese. Beat on high with mixer until combined. Beat in maple flavoring, salt, milk, and powdered sugar and mix until fully combined and smooth.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake rolls for 18-28 minutes. At the 18-minute mark, check rolls. Watch carefully and bake until only a few very very light golden spots appear on crust super. Do NOT bake until fully golden.
  • Allow rolls to cool; 15 minutes. Spread maple icing evenly over rolls.

Notes

For more cinnamon roll questions about the yeast, dough, frosting, baking, freezing and making in advance, read post.
My dough is not rising well. How can I get yeast dough to rise in a cold house? Yeast dough rises in 80°F-90°F. I’ll need a draft-free location, too. If your house is cold, use these tips.
  • If your laundry dryer is nearby, simply turn it on and place it nearby or ontop.
  • Turn oven to the lowest temperature for a few minutes then turn off. Place in an oiled and oven-safe dish for both rises until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Set oven temperature to 350°F. Dampen a large kitchen towl with warm water. Cover the bowl with the towel and set near the oven until double in size.
Can I make Cinnamon Rolls in advance, like for Christmas? Yes. I recommend using active dry yeast if you know in advance they will be refrigerated overnight. Follow the recipe through cutting into individual buns. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet lightly greased with butter. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap. Refrigerate the unbaked cinnamon rolls (or any yeast dough!) overnight or up to 24 hours.
When ready to bake, take the rolls out and allow them to warm and rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 casserole dish and bake them according to directions.
Do I need to let refrigerated dough rise? I don’t want to get up at 5AM to take the dough out to rise, can I just bake them? Short on time, place them in a cold oven. Turn on the oven to preheat to 350°F. Allow the dough to quickly rise while the oven is preheating. No time adjustments needed.

Nutrition

Calories: 478kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 192mg | Potassium: 103mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 715IU | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 2mg

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Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls with Maple cream cheese icing. These maple frosting cinnamon rolls recipe are the BEST EVER and perfect for Christmas breakfast.
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