How to Make Cinnamon Rolls

Because warm, gooey baked goods are the best presents you could give yourself.

An ooey, gooey batch of cinnamon buns is an iconic holiday breakfast treat—and, because they infuse the house with the most incredible aroma while they bake, the indulgent treat is truly a feast for all the senses. Though making them from scratch might seem tricky, there’s no need to be intimidated. All it takes is one foolproof recipe and four quick tips:


Planning Is Everything.

Photo by Samantha Seneviratne

Do yourself a favor: if buns are on your Christmas morning menu, make the dough ahead of time. Why? Cinnamon buns need two rises—one after the dough is made and another after it’s shaped. The trick is to break the process up. Prep the dough at least one day before you’ll want to dig in, and then wrap it well and pop it in the fridge for up to three days. (In fact, the longer the better; it’s time that helps the dough develop a delicious yeasty flavor.)

On the day you plan to bake the buns, simply roll out the cold dough, fill and shape it, and set it aside for a final rise. Plan to shape the dough 60 to 90 minutes before breakfast, as the cold dough will need a little extra time to warm up. You can always get up early, shape the dough and set it to rise, and then get back into bed!


Your Knife Matters.

Like wrapping a package with a silky ribbon, there are a few small touches that will make your buns as pretty as possible. First, use a serrated knife, not a chef’s knife, when slicing the dough log into rolls. The reason? Cutting with a sawing motion (as opposed to chopping) keeps the spirals intact and yields buns with an even, round shape. Finally, for an attractive finish, brush the dough with an egg wash after the final rise to give the buns extra color and shine.


Mind the Temperature.

The tastiest cinnamon buns are tender and pillowy—and the key to getting that perfect texture is knowing when to pull them out of the oven. That’s why a thermometer can be a lifesaver. Overbaking will yield dry buns, and underbaking will leave them gummy. To get it just right, insert a thermometer into the center of the batch at an angle, making sure not to touch the pan, and remove the buns when the reading reaches somewhere between 185°F and 190°F.


Frost Wisely.

While cinnamon buns are a treat on their own, a coating of cream cheese frosting can take them from tasty to downright delectable. But tread carefully: An icing that's too sweet can easily overpower the other flavors. When making the frosting, start by adding just ¼ cup of confectioners sugar to the cream cheese and give it a taste. Or, for a lighter glaze, combine a bit of confectioners sugar with a splash of milk and drizzle that over the buns instead.