Cinnamon rolls that rise overnight in the fridge so all you have to do in the morning is bake and ice them! These are great for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, weekends, or any time you just want to have a special breakfast or brunch with minimal work the morning-of.
I learned a vital lesson my first Christmas morning at home as an adult: I don't want to do any breakfast work on Christmas morning.
This lesson was learned as I stayed up late Christmas Eve to make dough for sticky buns, then set my alarm for early Christmas morning to have time to assemble the buns, make the sticky topping, let them rise a second time, and bake them before breakfast. All the while thinking, there must be a better way.
The dichotomy: wanting to have a celebratory and special brunch, while also not spending all my holiday time in the kitchen. Here is my submission: these easy overnight cinnamon rolls.
The beauty of these babies is that you don't have to do anything other than bake and ice them the morning of. You don't even have to wait for them to proof or come to room temperature, just set them on the counter while the oven preheats, then bake. You can get them assembled and ready to go the day before and then gear up to enjoy your morning at a leisurely pace while eating some delicious cinnamon rolls.
HOW TO MAKE OVERNIGHT CINNAMON ROLLS
Cinnamon rolls tend to be a lot of steps, but the rhythm of this recipe is so easy! Get the sweet dough started, make the filling and icing while the dough rises, assemble the rolls, then refrigerate or freeze until you're ready!
This dough is a sweet dough that's enriched with butter and milk. It's soft while still being easy to work with, and makes the most pillowy cinnamon rolls.
You'll start the dough by blooming the yeast in warm milk, melted butter, and sugar. If you're being really precise, the milk should be between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit for this step. I like to feel it with my finger and if it feels like good bathwater temperature, I know it's warm enough - if it feels hot, let it cool down a bit. (Milk that's too hot could kill your yeast.)
The dough in this recipe uses less yeast than typical cinnamon roll recipes, which allows them to rise slowly in the fridge overnight.
Once the yeast bubbles a bit, stir in the salt and flour until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes. If dough is overly sticky, you can dust with additional flour as needed, but be careful not to add too much! The dough will get less sticky as it's kneaded more.
Place your dough in a buttered bowl, cover tightly, and let it rise for about 30 minutes while you make the filling and icing.
I'm firmly in the camp of not using cream cheese frosting for cinnamon rolls. I just don't think you can beat the classic here! This is a really good icing with powdered sugar, milk, butter for extra body and flavor, and lots of vanilla.
Whisk all the ingredients together vigorously until completely smooth. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to ice the cinnamon rolls.
Brown sugar and cinnamon are all you need for cinnamon rolls! Spread a bit of melted butter over the dough before so the sugar mixture has something to stick to.
ASSEMBLING CINNAMON ROLLS
Once you've got your dough, icing, and filling made, you're ready to assemble!
Start by rolling your dough out into roughly a 24- by 20-inch rectangle. Spread with melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Start at one of the longer ends of the rectangle and roll into a tight log.
Cutting Cinnamon Rolls
Use flavorless dental floss or fishing line for the most perfectly shaped cinnamon rolls. Wrap around the roll, cross the ends, and pull. Since the force is evenly distributed around the whole roll with this method, you'll have a perfect spiral.
Aim for 14 rolls, about 1 1/2-inch each.
It's important to use a metal pan! Ceramic or glass that's been chilled in the fridge overnight will take much longer to heat through than metal and will throw off your bake time.
You'll want 2 (9-inch) round metal cake pans. Butter them well and line with parchment paper.
Does it seem like overkill to butter the pans and line with parchment paper? It's important to do both. The butter's job is to prevent the rolls from sticking. The parchment's job is to prevent the bottom of the rolls from browning too much. Both important!
Place 7 rolls in each pan.
Refrigerating or Freezing for Later
For the next day: Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. You can bake them anywhere from 8 to 24 hours later.
To freeze for later: Double wrap the cake pan in plastic wrap and cover with foil. Freeze the icing in a freezer bag. You can freeze these for up to 3 months.
I like to use one of my pans the next day and freeze one for later. Be sure to split up the icing if you do this!
BAKING CINNAMON ROLLS
From the fridge: Place cinnamon rolls on the counter while your oven preheats to 350 degrees. Bake 35-40 minutes, until lightly golden brown and cooked through.
From frozen: Place the rolls in the fridge to thaw at least overnight, preferably 24 hours before baking. Place on the counter while the oven preheats to 350 degrees. Bake 40-45 minutes until lightly golden brown and cooked through.
Let your cinnamon rolls cool for a few minutes before icing, otherwise the icing will melt right off.
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
FOR THE DOUGH
- 2 cups warm milk (see note)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 6 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
FOR THE ICING
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
FOR THE FILLING
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Make the Dough
- Butter a large bowl and set aside. In a second large mixing bowl, stir together the milk, butter, and sugar. Sprinkle with the yeast and set aside until the yeast begins to froth - about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and flour until a shaggy dough forms. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes - until dough is smooth and soft. Add additional flour to the worksurface or your hands as needed to prevent sticking, but be careful no to add too much - dough will become less sticky as it's kneaded. Place dough in the prepared buttered bowl and cover. Set aside to rise while preparing the icing and filling - about 30 minutes.
Make the Icing
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Filling
- Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Assemble Cinnamon Rolls
- Butter 2 (9-inch) round metal cake pans and line with parchment paper. I like to ball my parchment paper up a couple of times and straighten it out - this will make it less rigid and allow it to better fit into the edges of the pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle roughly 20-inches wide by 24-inches long and 1/4-inch thick. Brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon, leaving about a 1-inch strip of dough on one of the longer sides of the rectangle free of the filling mixture (this will form a nice seam once it's rolled up). Rub the cinnamon-sugar mixture into the butter so it sticks. Roll the dough into a tight log beginning at one of the longer sides of the rectangle. Use dental floss or fishing line to trim uneven edges, then slice into 14 rolls - about 1 1/2 inch thick each. Place in the prepared cake pans and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8-24 hours, or wrap with additional plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
Bake Cinnamon Rolls
- From fridge: Uncover rolls and place on counter while oven preheats. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake rolls 35-40 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before icing.From freezer: Thaw rolls in the fridge at least overnight, up to 24 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before icing.