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Just Enough Cinnamon Rolls

I was never big on breakfast growing up, but I always had a soft spot for cinnamon rolls. Still do!

A compact pastry square that's toasty on the outside and delightfully doughy on the inside. Swirled with cinnamon brown sugar and topped with a thick, decadent frosting, you just can't go wrong with the treat.

Every now and then at my big age, I crave a homemade cinnamon roll. The issue that often gets in my way of making them is that I don't want to eat two dozen rolls from a giant pan; my sweetness threshold is getting lower as the years go by.

I decided to experiment and make a tiny batch of cinnamon rolls. The recipe yields 4 large cinnamon rolls, and it's just enough to enjoy over a few days or share with whomever you're quarantined with right now.

Embrace the arrival of fall and cozy up on the couch with one (or two) of these delicious rolls!

Just Enough Cinnamon Rolls


For the Dough

  • ½ c. warm milk

  • 2 tsp. instant dry yeast 

  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature

  • 2 tbsp. salted butter, melted and cooled

  • ¼  tsp. salt

  • 1 tbsp. + 1.5 tsp. granulated sugar 

  • 1-2 c. of all-purpose flour

For the Filling

  • 3 tbsp. salted butter, softened

  • ⅓ c. packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

For the Frosting

  • 4 tbsp. cream cheese, softened

  • 3 tbsp. salted butter, softened 

  • 1 tbsp. milk or heavy cream

  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1 c. powdered sugar


  • ¼ cup heavy cream, room temperature (pour over rolls)

  • ½ tsp. maple extract/flavoring or orange zest (for frosting)


  1. If you're using active dry yeast, in a medium bowl, let the yeast bloom in warm milk with ½ teaspoon of sugar for 5 minutes, and then proceed with the rest of the steps.

  2. How much flour is needed in the dough will depend on factors such as weather, humidity and much more. I start with 1 cup and gradually add more as needed. I suggest adding in tablespoon increments. This batch ended up needing about 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons.

  3. I usually stick to unsalted butter with baking, but I used salted butter to help balance the sweetness. If you only have unsalted butter, add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the filling and a healthy pinch of salt to the frosting.

  4. If you want a really gooey center á la Cinnabon, pour room temperature heavy cream over the rolls just before baking.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Rest Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hours and 30 minutes

Yield: 4 large cinnamon rolls

Special Equipment: Small bowl, medium bowl, large bowl, stand mixer (optional) and 6"-7" square baking dish.

Pour the warm milk (110°F) in a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and sprinkle yeast on top.

Now add in the eggs, butter, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine.

Add in 1 cup of flour. If hand mixing, whisk until the ingredients are barely combined. If using a stand mixer, mix using the beater paddle attachment just until the ingredients are barely combined. It's going to be a little shaggy and sticky. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so the flour can soak up the liquids.

If kneading by hand, dump the mixture onto a well-floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky and forms a ball. It should be elastic and smooth. If it's still too sticky, you can add more flour in tablespoon increments. If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and beat the dough on medium speed. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and smooth.

Spray a clean bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. Let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

While waiting on the dough, make the cinnamon filling. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Set aside.

Line a clean surface with parchment paper or a pastry mat. Sprinkle the surface generously with flour. Turn out the dough and also sprinkle the top with a little flour. 

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into about a 16x4" rectangle. It doesn't need to be exact, but aim for these dimensions. Now spread the cinnamon filling over the whole dough rectangle.

Starting from the short end, roll the dough up tightly and cut the roll into quarters, or 4 rolls. It's easiest when using a very sharp knife or unflavored dental floss.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rolls into a greased 6"-7" square baking dish. Cover the dish loosely with a towel or plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for 20 minutes, or until doubled, away from the oven.

Optional: Once the rolls have risen, pour the heavy cream over the top of the rolls, allowing it to soak down in and around the rolls.

Place the cinnamon rolls in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the rolls are lightly golden brown and the center is cooked through.

While the rolls are cooking or cooling, you can prepare the cream cheese frosting. In a bowl, vigorously whisk together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and no lumps are present. Next whisk in the milk and vanilla until combined. Lastly, add in the powdered sugar and beat until combined.

Spread the frosting over the cinnamon rolls and enjoy!


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