My flaky Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing deliver on their promise of flaky layers. These rolls have that familiar flavor (and aroma) we all know and love even though they are prepared with a small twist. Cream Cheese Icing sweetens the deal, but is totally optional. You can make these the night before you plan to serve them, too, which makes them lazy day-friendly.
Kids, Dads, Baby’s Daddies, Baby’s Daddies Daddies, listen up! I speak on behalf of all the moms out here. We don’t want your bootleg greeting cards (we don’t care if you bought or made them, we don’t want ’em this year). You can also keep the stale ice cream cakes. What we want for Mother’s Day this year is to receive these flaky Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing… IN BED. Without having to help you figure it out.
Your job is to read on to figure out, step by step, how to make these.
What You Need to Make These Cinnamon Rolls
Since moms always seem to be the ones prepping for everything, this year it’s her turn to chill. Because I’m such a gem of a friend, I’m going to break down everything you need to do to honor her with a gift she really wants. Breakfast in bed.
Begin by making your shopping list for the recipe: active dry yeast, whole milk, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and unsalted butter for the dough. The cinnamon-sugar filling has more unsalted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Finally, the cream cheese icing ingredients: cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.
You can do this! You are going to do this and it’s going to be epic. (I’m your hype-woman)
Bloom the Yeast in Warm Milk
First of all, you need to activate the yeast that’s going to help the cinnamon roll dough rise. I use Fleischmann’s active dry yeast. In a small mixing bowl combine the yeast, a pinch of sugar, and the warm milk. The yeast feeds on the sugar and boosts its rising power a bit more than it would without. While you leave these three to do their thing, move on to making the rest of the dough.
Mix the Cinnamon Roll Dough
In your stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream together the granulated sugar, salt, and room temperature unsalted butter. With the mixer on medium-high speed, beat these three together until they are light yellow and fluffy, which takes about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle midway during the mixing, once will do.
Once the mixture appears light in color, add the eggs, one at a time to the bowl- scraping down the bowl and paddle after each addition. After the eggs have been added, increase the speed and beat the butter-egg mixture for another 3 minutes. The mixture may look slightly curdled at this point. That’s okay.
Add 1 cup of the flour and the warm milk-yeast mixture to the bowl, mix until a thick paste forms, then add the remaining flour. Once the dough becomes too stiff to mix with the paddle, switch to the dough hook attachment. Knead the dough on second speed for 5-6 minutes, or until the dough climbs up the hook, is slightly elastic, and tacky to the touch. The dough should not be sticky, if it is, knead in a bit more flour.
Give the Dough a Rise
After you mix the dough and it feels right, remove it from the bowl. Lightly grease the mixing bowl before returning the dough to the bowl. Turn the dough over so the oiled part is on top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place it in the warmest area of your kitchen. Since my microwave is a controlled environment- temperature-wise- I put my bowl in there.
The dough will need an hour to double in bulk.
Whip the Cinnamon Roll Sugar Filling
While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, mix the butter-cinnamon schmear. This filling is what turns your rolls into cinnamon rolls.
In a mixing bowl, use an electric hand mixer to whip together the remaining stick of butter, light brown sugar, and cinnamon. Beat on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture goes from dark to very light brown in appearance. Most, if not all, of the sugar crystals will be completely dissolved. As always, scrape down the bowl and beaters a couple of times while mixing.
Fill and Roll the Cinnamon Rolls
After the dough has finished rising, punch it down to expel the gases that have built up. Allow the dough to rest on the counter for 15 minutes while you gather what you need to roll it out- just flip the bowl upside down over the dough to keep it from drying out.
Lightly flour your work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle that measures approximately 17″ x 14″. It should be no thicker than 1/8 of an inch.
Use an off-set spatula to spread the cinnamon schmear over the surface of the dough. Leave a 1″ margin on one long (17″) end. This is needed for sealing the dough after we’ve rolled it.
Fold over a 1/4″ of dough on the schmear-covered long end. Tightly roll the dough to the un-schmeared end and pinch the seam against the roll to seal it. Position the dough so the pinched seam is on the bottom.
Cut to Suit Your Preference
Before you slice your rolls, lightly grease a 9″x13″ casserole dish with non-stick baking spray.
Use a very sharp knife to cut anywhere from 6 to 12 cinnamon rolls from your long log. Now, I, personally, prefer a big, obnoxious cinnamon roll for breakfast. You may want one that’s a little more demure. If you opt to cut a dozen out, you’ll need to divide the rolls between two baking dishes or a half sheet pan.
Arrange the rolls in the pan. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and put the pan in a warm area to rise for 30 minutes.
The rolls will rise slightly, but won’t double in size. Pop the pan into an oven that’s been preheated to 350°F after the rolls risen a second time. Bake them for 25-30 minutes or until they’re golden brown and risen. Also, keep in mind the larger the rolls, the longer you may have to bake them to cook them throughout. It may take 35 minutes. If you find they’re getting too dark after 25 minutes of baking, lightly cover them with foil and finish baking.
Prepare the Cream Cheese Icing
Prepare the cream cheese icing while the cinnamon rolls are filling up your home with the smell of love.
In a mixing bowl, blend together the soft cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Once the sugar is incorporated into the mix, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters. Increase the speed to high and whip the icing for 2-3 minutes. Set the icing bowl aside while you grab the cinnamon rolls from the oven.
Ice the Cinnamon Rolls
To achieve a nice thick layer of icing on the cinnamon rolls, allow them to cool down (for about 15 minutes) before you spread the icing on them. Spread the icing on as soon as they come out of the oven if you want more of a glaze.
Serve the Cinnamon Rolls Warm
Serve the cinnamon rolls while they’re still warm!
My favorite way to BE SERVED these cinnamon rolls is with a side of crisp bacon and fresh fruit, Héctor. HÉCTOR!! Somebody, go get him!
The rolls are best enjoyed within 48 hours of baking, but a quick zap in the microwave will restore them to their “freshly baked” glory.
Tips for Preparing Your Cinnamon Rolls Ahead
If you’re the type who doesn’t do early morning prepping, just make the rolls the evening before and bake in the morning.
Instead of allowing them to rise a second time, arrange the rolls in the baking dish, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Place the pan in the fridge overnight. In the morning, put the unwrapped pan in your cold oven. Allow it to hang out in there for ten minutes before turning the oven on to 350°F. Once the oven reaches temperature, set your timer to 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, check on the rolls. If they’re brown, pull them; if not, allow them to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Ice as instructed.
Make these for the mom in your life. She wants these more than she wants to go wait in a virus-infected restaurant for some mediocre brunch. Trust me, I’m a professional.
Pin the recipe so you don’t lose it and share with the others who need to know this important info.
Pumpkin Caramel Sticky Buns
- rolling pin
- electric mixer
- stand mixer
Pumpkin Sweet Dough
- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk warmed to 110°F
- 1 tablespoon (8g) active dry yeast
- 6-6 1/2 cups (750-815g) all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
- 1 tablespoon (6g) Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend see note for making your own Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 teaspoon (7g) kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar separated
- 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1 cup (230g) pumpkin puree
Spiced Sugar Filling
- 1 1/2 cups (170g or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup, packed (100g) brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (12g) Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend see note for making your own Pumpkin Pie Spice
Caramel-Pecan Syrup Glaze
- 1 cup (315g) Karo Syrup
- 2/3 cup, packed (145g) brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 cups (220g) pecans chopped
Prepare the Pumpkin Sweet Dough
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together the yeast, a pinch of the sugar, and the warm milk. Allow the yeast to bloom for five minutes. The mixture should begin foaming and smell like bread. If it doesn't foam after 5 minutes, your yeast is dead and you'll need to restart with new yeast.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, the pumpkin pie spice blend, and the salt. Set this bowl aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl and using an electric hand mixer), beat the granulated sugar, butter, and the egg on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, or for 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle midway during the mixing.
- Once the mixture appears light in color, add the pumpkin puree. After the pumpkin has been added, mix the butter-pumpkin mixture on medium speed for another minute. The mixture may look slightly curdled at this point.
- Add 1 cup of the spiced flour and all of the warm milk-yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix until a thick paste forms, then, with the mixer on low speed, continue adding the remaining flour mixture.Once the dough becomes too stiff to mix with the paddle, switch to the dough hook attachment (or turn it out onto a lightly floured surface). Knead the dough on second speed for 5-6 minutes (or knead with your hands for a full 10 minutes), or until the dough climbs up the hook, is slightly elastic, and feels tacky to the touch.The dough should not stick to your fingers, instead it should feel clammy and supple. If it does stick to your fingers or to the bottom of the bowl, knead in more of the flour- a tablespoon at a time. The amount of flour you use will depend on how humid the environment is.
- After the dough has reached the proper consistency, remove it from the bowl. Lightly grease the mixing bowl with butter or non-stick spray before returning the dough to the bowl. Turn the dough over so the oiled part is on top. This step lubricates the surface of the dough, which keeps it from drying out and cracking.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place it in the warmest area of your kitchen- a microwave or cool oven works best. Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in bulk.
Prepare the Pumpkin Pie Spice Schmear
- In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, light brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture goes from a dark to a very light-brown in appearance. Scrape down the bowl and beaters a couple of times while mixing.
- After mixing, the schmear will be light and fluffy. Set this aside while you prepare the caramel pan glaze.Don't put the schmear in the fridge, you're going to use it and you don't want the butter to get hard.
Prepare the Caramel Pan Glaze
- In a saucepan, combine the unsalted butter, brown sugar, Karo Syrup, and the water. Bring the mixture up to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture boils, allow it to cook it for 30 seconds.
- Remove the pot from the stove and allow the caramel to cool for 1-2 minutes to allow it to thicken slightly. While the caramel cools, sprinkle the chopped pecans onto the bottom of a 9"x13" baking pan in an even layer. After scattering the nuts, pour the caramel syrup over them. Make sure the caramel coats the pecans and pan evenly.Set the pan aside while you roll the pumpkin dough.
Roll, Fill, and Cut the Pumpkin Sticky Buns Dough
- After the pumpkin dough has finished rising, punch it down to expel the gases which have built up. Allow the dough to rest on the counter for 15 minutes (flip the bowl upside down over the dough to keep it from drying out) while you gather what you'll need to roll it out.
- Lightly flour your work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 17"x 14" rectangle. The dough should be an 1/8" thick. Use an off-set spatula to spread the pumpkin pie spice schmear over the surface of the dough. Leave a 1" margin on one of the long (17") sides for sealing the roll.
- Roll over a 1/4" of dough on the schmear-covered long side. Continue rolling the dough tightly towards the un-schmeared end, pinching the seam against the roll to seal it once you've reached the end. Roll the dough so the pinched seam is on the bottom.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut the pumpkin dough log into 12 equal portions. Nestle the rolls in the caramel-pecan syrup in the bottom of the pan. Be sure to place the rolls where you want them the first time. The caramel is sticky and the rolls will be difficult to move once they touch the caramel.
- Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, then put the pan in a warm area to rise for 30 minutes. The dough will rise slightly, but won't double in size.
Bake, Cool Slightly, and Unveil the Pumpkin Caramel Sticky Buns
- While the rolled dough is rising for a second time, preheat your oven to 350°F. After the buns have risen for 30 minutes, pop the pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sticky buns are golden brown and have risen.
- Because the caramel will be hot when you remove the pan from the oven, allow the sticky buns to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving them (I recommend 20 minutes for little ones or the elderly). Alternatively, you can flip the sticky buns onto a large platter 10 minutes after they come out of the oven. Serve the Pumpkin Caramel Sticky Buns while they are warm.
- In lieu of the second rise, arrange the sliced dough in the caramel-filled baking dish, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the unbaked dough overnight.
- In the morning, put the unwrapped pan in your cold oven for 10 minutes before heating the oven to 350°F.
- Once the oven reaches temperature, set your timer for 20 minutes. Check the buns after 20 minutes. If they're brown, remove them from the oven; if not, allow them to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Cool, then serve as instructed.
- Any leftover buns should be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for 2 days.
- Storing the buns in the refrigerator is not recommended because it causes the buns to go stale faster.
- The rolls are best enjoyed within 48 hours of baking, but leftover buns can get a quick zap in the microwave, which restore them to their "freshly baked" glory.
Freezer Storage (only recommend after baking):
- If you plan the freeze any leftovers, cool the buns completely.
- Once cool, transfer the buns to a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze for 2 months.
- To thaw the buns, place them on the countertop. Once thawed completely, pop them into the microwave to warm them.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls as instructed. Cool the rolls to room temperature.
- Transfer the rolls to a freezer bag and freeze for 2 months.
- Thaw the rolls at room temperature before icing as instructed.
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