Bake

Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls From King Arthur Baking Company

March 14, 2021
6 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.
Author Notes

Raise your hand if you don't want one of these right now. (Didn't think so.) And even better: This is the brilliant sort of fluffy cinnamon roll that you don't have to wake up early to make, or eat all at once, thanks to a simple, time-honored technique that keeps them pillowy-soft for days. (No wonder this is King Arthur Baking Company's 2021 Recipe of the Year.) Don’t be deterred by the length of the recipe—much of the time is hands-off, and the method is very forgiving.

As the King Arthur team writes: “There’s something magical about warm-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls. Unfortunately, that magic often evaporates as the rolls cool. If only it were possible to serve fresh, soft rolls first thing in the morning—without getting up at midnight to make them! Enter our 2021 Recipe of the Year. Whether you enjoy these pillowy cinnamon rolls hot from the oven or up to a week later (if they last that long!), they retain their wonderful soft texture. Paired with classic bold cinnamon flavor and rich vanilla icing, the result is truly the ultimate cinnamon roll.”

A few tips from King Arthur’s bakers:
—While kneading by hand is definitely doable (see Kristen’s tips in the video below), since this is a sticky dough, a stand mixer is recommended if you have one.

—With origins in Japan's yukone (or yudane), tangzhong is a yeast bread technique popularized across Asia by Chinese cookbook author Yvonne Chen. Tangzhong involves cooking some of a bread recipe’s flour in liquid prior to adding it to the remaining dough ingredients. Bringing the temperature of the flour and liquid to 65°C (149°F) pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which makes them more able to retain liquid—thus enhancing the resulting loaf’s softness and shelf life.

—Use the lesser amount in the recipe for stronger cinnamons, like Vietnamese (Saigon); the larger amount for milder cinnamons, like Indonesian/Ceylon.

—Do you enjoy your cinnamon rolls with tangy, thick cream cheese frosting instead of vanilla icing? Stir 4 to 6 tablespoons (57g to 90g) softened cream cheese into the icing along with the other ingredients. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier this will be to do. Resist the urge to add more than 2 teaspoons of milk until the icing is fully mixed. If it’s too thick for your liking, add more milk a teaspoon at a time to get it to the consistency you prefer.

—Many of you have asked how to turn this into an overnight cinnamon roll recipe. It's simple: Make and bake the rolls the day before you want to serve them. The rolls stay wonderfully soft for at least 3 days, and we've found the best way to enjoy them for breakfast is to bake them the day before, store them tightly sealed (and un-iced) at room temperature overnight,. The next morning, lightly cover the rolls with foil and warm them in a 300°F to 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Spread with icing and enjoy.

Recipe adapted very slightly from King Arthur Baking Company.

Want to hear more about this recipe? On The Genius Recipe Tapes, Kristen goes behind the scenes with the geniuses themselves. Check out the show here. Genius Recipes

Watch This Recipe
Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls From King Arthur Baking Company
  • Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 18 minutes
  • makes 8 large rolls
Ingredients
  • Tangzhong:
  • 1/2 cup (113g) whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons (23g) bread flour (preferably King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
  • Dough:
  • 2/3 cup (151g) whole milk, cold
  • 2 1/2 cups (300g) bread flour (preferably King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) salt
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, softened
  • Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (107g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons (15g) bread flour (such as King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons (8g to 10g) cinnamon (see note)
  • 1/16 teaspoon (pinch) salt
  • Icing:
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) butter, melted, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon (pinch) salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (170g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons (14g to 28g) milk, cream, or buttermilk; enough to thin to desired consistency
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. To make the tangzhong: Combine both the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened, paste-like, and the spoon or spatula leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. This should take 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the strength of your burner.
  3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl, the bowl of a stand mixer, or the bucket of a bread machine (whatever you plan to knead the dough in).
  4. To make the dough: Add the ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed; the heat from the tangzhong will help to warm the cold milk.
  5. Mix — by hand, on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, or in a bread machine set to the dough cycle — to bring the dough together. Next, knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and tacky. This will take up to 15 minutes by hand, 10 to 12 minutes on medium-low speed of a mixer, or the length of the dough cycle in a bread machine.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover.
  7. Let the dough rise until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 to 90 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen).
  8. To make the filling: While the dough is rising, put the melted butter into a medium bowl and add the remaining ingredients, stirring until the mixture is the texture of damp sand. Set aside.
  9. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.
  10. To assemble the rolls: Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and press it into a 10x12-inch rectangle that’s about ½-inch thick. For evenly shaped rolls, try to pat the dough into an actual rectangle (with corners), rather than an oval.
  11. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, covering all but a ½-inch strip along one long side.
  12. Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log.
  13. Score the dough lightly into eight equal 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces; this will make large, saucer-sized cinnamon rolls — their generous size is part of their charm. Cut the dough at the score marks. Dental floss will give you the cleanest cut: pull off a long piece of floss, loop it underneath the log at the score mark, and pull the ends in opposite directions to cut the dough. Repeat until you've cut all of the rolls. If you don’t have dental floss, a bench knife or sharp knife will work.
  14. Place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them so there’s at least 2 inches between each one and they’re 2” away from the edges of the pan; a 3-2-3 arrangement works well on a half-sheet pan. To prevent them from unraveling while they rise and bake, tuck the ends of the spirals underneath the rolls so that they’re held in place.
  15. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap or a reusable cover and let them rise for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). The rolls should be puffy and the dough shouldn’t bounce back immediately when gently pressed.
  16. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the top third of the oven. (If you need to use two sheet pans, either keep one sheet in the fridge while the first bakes, or bake them on racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, rotating halfway through baking.) Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  17. Bake the rolls until they’re a light golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one roll reads 190°F, for 14 to 18 minutes, or less if you’ve cut the rolls thinner than 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Bake for the lesser amount of time for extra-soft rolls, and the longer amount of time for rolls with a bit more color and slightly firmer texture.
  18. Remove the rolls from the oven, place the pan on a rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 1/2 tablespoons (21g) of the melted butter. Let the rolls cool for 10 to 15 minutes before icing.
  19. To make the icing: Combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (21g) melted butter with the remaining icing ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing with a spatula until smooth. Milk makes a lovely frosting; using cream in place of milk creates an extra layer of richness, while substituting buttermilk adds subtle tang, a nice counterpoint to the icing's overall sweetness.
  20. Ice the rolls and serve immediately. If you’re planning to serve the rolls later, wait to ice them until just before serving. Store icing at room temperature, tightly covered, until you’re ready to use it.
  21. Store completely cooled rolls, un-iced and well wrapped, for a couple of days at room temperature; or freeze for up to 1 month.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • kaycipharaon
    kaycipharaon
  • David H Goldstein
    David H Goldstein
  • Jamie Kantoris
    Jamie Kantoris
  • Ed Crespo
    Ed Crespo
  • Samvidaananda Saraswati
    Samvidaananda Saraswati
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

31 Reviews

Darchiu April 18, 2021
First time I made cinnamon rolls and glad I chose this one to try. It was great! Easy recipe to follow and the results were amazing. My husband is a very particular cinnamon roll connoisseur and he gave me so many compliments! Make sure you add cream cheese to the frosting. This recipe is staying in my box!
 
Becky April 15, 2021
I had seen this on Genius Recipes and wanted to make them ever since. I signed up this week to make these cinnamon rolls for a brunch so I knew I needed to make a test batch beforehand. I made them today for my family and I’m so glad I did. They were too! I only have two left! They will be my go to cinnamon roll recipe now as they were so simple to make and well worth the time spent making them. I made them exactly as written but when I make them for the brunch I will make smaller rolls. I can’t wait to see how those turn out!
 
Valencia W. March 29, 2021
It is with a heavy heart that I report my dislike of this amazing recipe. As a school trained Pastry Arts Chef, I have to say I made these rolls yesterday purely for the experience. I’ve used the same cinnamon roll recipe for over 20 years and they have become one of my signature recipes. I am always looking to expand my knowledge base as well as my treasured recipes collection. What I do not like about this recipe is the lack of buttery taste but a yeast taste instead. For myself, the frosting is the best part (I’m going to eat that right out of the ziplock I have it in). From this recipe experience I learned about the process of using a tangzhong and it’s benefits. So now I will wait for the 2022 King Arthur recipe of the year and in the meantime I’m gonna get that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza from 2020 ready for dinner tomorrow.
 
JLH March 29, 2021
Why is it an amazing recipe if you don't like it, if it tastes like yeast rather than butter?

Share your recipe if you would, I haven't found the perfect cinnamon roll recipe. Yours has been successful for 20 years, would you be willing to share it?
 
Valencia W. March 30, 2021
I did state that I made these purely for the experience. I have never used a tangzhong. So for myself this was a learning recipe. I like a more substantial cinnamon roll with a firmer structure and a lot more cinnamon and buttery taste. I am a bit weird when eating some things like I can be sensitive to tasting baking soda in some cake like a white cake my family loves but all I taste is baking soda. In this recipe, I can smell and taste the yeast at the front so it was off putting to me. Maybe if it had more cinnamon and butter the yeasty taste would be more in the background or not at all. And yes, I will gladly tell you that my favorite recipe for 20 years is the Cuisine at Home cinnamon roll recipe. I am no longer web savvy so I have no clue how to send it in this post, but if you cannot locate it for free, please just email me at [email protected] and I will figure out how to send it to you.
 
JLH March 30, 2021
I googled "Cuisine at Home cinnamon roll" and found it. It's at https://www.cuisineathome.com/recipes/breakfast-brunch/classic-homemade-cinnamon-rolls/ if that's the one you're referring to?

They put oats in it? And 12 tablespoons of butter in the filling? No cream cheese in the frosting either. I think cinnamon rolls need the cream cheese in the frosting because otherwise it's too sweet for me. I'm wondering how oats work in a cinnamon roll though!

 
Valencia W. April 1, 2021
The recipe I use is from Cuisine At Home 1996. You probably cannot find it online because its subscription. https://1drv.ms/w/s!AvqRrXpX3IvHpAajlp4jExuWni8w?e=iBwSGY
 
monica March 19, 2021
Wow! I'm so impressed with this tangzhong technique. I've been making cinnamon rolls for over 50 years utilizing countless recipes along the way while trying to perfect the perfect outcome. I can finally end my crusade. These rolls really do remain soft, in fact, they're almost better the second day after the moisture from the filling and icing equalizes throughout the roll. Soft, chewy, savory, sweet, and, if using the cream cheese in the icing, salty with a slight tang. My one caveat is a response to the reviews commenting on the downsized ingredients in the filling is to trust the suggested measurements. If you use too much butter in the filling, it will liquefy the brown sugar while baking, resulting in a glazed bottom, which in itself isn't a bad thing if you've intended to serve them upside down, as in pecan rolls. The same thing goes with an increase in brown sugar, you'll end up with an overly sweet roll that will make you wish you'd skipped the icing.
 
JLH March 16, 2021
Why is there so little butter in the filling? Do they really come out well? Every cinnamon roll recipe I've ever made has 4-6 tablespoons of softened (not melted) butter in the filling that you mix the cinnamon and sugar with and then spread it on the dough. These seem to lack filling although they look good. I noticed the melted butter being brushed on them, not surprising given the relative lack of filling. They are also smaller in terms of roll form, mine usually are rolled up more.

If these are really good, let me know and I'll give them a try. I like the idea of a recipe that makes 8 instead of a dozen.
 
lplynch March 16, 2021
I had the same reservation before I made them. They are not super-gooey filled rolls, but definitely amazing. I recommend trying them.
 
JLH March 17, 2021
But would you double the filling or increase it by half? I don't need it to be super gooey but I do want it to taste like a cinnamon roll. If you tell me not to I'll trust and make it as written. The genius recipe from last year was very good, it was a deep dish focaccia pizza that called for putting the cheese directly on the dough and then less sauce on top of that.. That one is on rotation here, I make it every few weeks.
 
lplynch March 17, 2021
My advice is to try it as written first, and make adjustments to your second batch if needed. I thought the amount of filling ended up being right, and they really did taste like cinnamon rolls. There is A LOT of cinnamon in the filling--more than I've usually used. The one change I made was to brush the rolled dough with a little butter before putting down the layer of filling--I was worried that the filling just wouldn't have anything to stick to. I don't think I actually needed to do that, now that I've made them a couple of times, but it made me feel better.
 
kaycipharaon March 10, 2021
Oh wow, I'm in love with these cinnamon rolls. I only like canned cinnamon rolls, as much as I hate to admit it, but I've been converted and love this recipe. The dough is beautifully soft and easy to work with and the icing is my new go-to recipe. I baked the rolls on a Saturday night, covered them overnight and reheated them the next morning and they were delicious. I thought they tasted the best on the third day for a heated up quick breakfast. You won't be disappointed!
 
Stephanie March 7, 2021
Delicious - made as per recipe except that I added some raisins and did not ice them. Stayed fresh for at least 3 days (they were gone on day 3). I am looking forward to using this technique on other breads!
 
David H. March 5, 2021
Could this recipe possibly work using King Arthur Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Mix?
 
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
King Arthur recommends this gluten-free recipe instead: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/gluten-free-cinnamon-rolls-recipe
 
Christine B. March 13, 2021
The only gluten-free cinnamon roll recipes I've had luck with have been using Better Batter brand flour; either the "cinnabon copycat" rolls on the flour's site, or Sarah Kieffer's brioche cinnamon rolls. I preferred the flavor and texture of the latter and actually used to make these for a farmer's market in the Before Times. (Not sponsored, I promise, just trying to advise someone with my experience.) I've never used King Arthur's gluten-free flour mixes, but if they've published a recipe on their site, as Kristen M. replied, it should work.
 
Jamie K. March 2, 2021
Made these this weekend and they are still great three days later. Great recipe!
 
Ed C. March 1, 2021
This is such a delicious recipe. I
Froze the rest along with the cream cheese icing and will enjoy next weekend. We ate two each. Lol
 
Samvidaananda S. February 28, 2021
These were delicious! Soft and tender. My family likes lemon cream cheese frosting, so my frosting was made with butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon juice - a little more tangy than regular cream cheese. But other than the frosting, I followed the cinnamon roll recipe exactly and it was straightforward and easy and wonderful - this will be our new go-to.
 
lplynch February 27, 2021
These are quick to make (other than rising time), delicious, and they really do stay soft. I first made them as an evening surprise for my family--thought it would be great to knock on the kids' doors with warm cinnamon rolls instead of the usual questions about whether or not homework had been completed! The rolls were great again for breakfast. These are going to be part of our regular rotation now.
I used my KitchenAid for kneading, so they were spectacularly low-effort and clean-up was easy.
 
Gracie S. February 25, 2021
Why did you not record the making of the filling?
 
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
I believe we did—it's a simple stir-together operation we did quickly before filling them so you might have missed it.
 
Heather G. February 25, 2021
how much cream cheese for the frosting, please?
 
Ed C. February 25, 2021
Here is the Tip from the actual recipe Food52 is referencing on The King Arthur Website for “Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls.” Go to that website for pictures of every step.
Do you enjoy your cinnamon rolls with tangy, thick cream cheese frosting instead of vanilla icing? Stir in 4 to 6 tablespoons (57g to 90g) softened cream cheese to the icing along with the other ingredients. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier this will be to do. Resist the urge to add more than 2 teaspoons of milk until the icing is fully mixed. If it’s too thick for your liking, add more milk a teaspoon at a time to get it to the consistency you prefer.
 
Heather G. February 25, 2021
Thank you!!!
 
Susang March 1, 2021
My finger hit “flag” by mistake and I couldn’t undo! Yikes! So sorry.
 
Ed C. March 1, 2021
I got a Food52 email and I don’t know if you’re the one who accidentally flagged my comment. Haha. I didn’t know what that meant so i went back to my comment and EYE accidentally flagged myself as well. And it doesn’t let you unflag. Oh well. I hope the site doesn’t ban me. Lol. I sent an email to them that yiu should be able to toggle that back in case we tapped it by mistake.
 
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
The cream cheese version is listed in the Author Notes above, and of course on King Arthur's site, too!
 
Melanie February 24, 2021
Made as directed and they were utterly delicious! Dough was so easy to work with. Used my Kitchen Aid to knead. Will definitely be making these again!
 
KatieB March 5, 2021
Melanie what speed and time did you use with mixer? Recipe says 10 to 12 minutes on medium low. I stopped after 5 min since it seemed to be so much kneading. They did not turn out light, more dense, but still delicious.