This foolproof recipe for Overnight Cinnamon Rolls lets you get the work done a day in advance and bake fresh, warm cinnamon rolls with minimal effort in the morning. This step-by-step tutorial will teach even the most novice bakers how to make delicious cinnamon rolls from scratch.
For another deliciously sweet recipe and helpful yeast dough tips, check out my recipe for Pecan Sticky Buns.
Cinnamon rolls are an Easter tradition in this house and one that the boys would never let me forget. Especially Boy #2. I believe he might have given up half of the goodies in his Easter basket for a couple of these rolls warm from the oven. When they were very young and I was a seriously sleep-deprived young mother of four, I was thrilled to discover this fabulous method for make-ahead cinnamon rolls.
I tweaked the recipe over time and kept extensive notes each time I made them. I truly feel that this recipe is pretty much as good as it can get. And, if you read the reviews on this post, you’ll see that I’m not alone in this.
I’m including a lot of information in this post for anyone who feels uncomfortable working with yeast dough. It’s a lot of pictures and detailed instruction but I hope it encourages you to bake from scratch if you’re a first-timer.
Table of contents
For the Cinnamon Rolls
- Milk – I always use 2% milk but whole milk is great too. Just don’t go below 2% for the best flavor.
- Butter – Cut into small pats.
- Active dry yeast – This recipe calls for traditional active dry yeast. You don’t want rapid rise or instant yeast.
- Large eggs
- Granulated sugar
- All-purpose flour
For the Filling
- Melted butter
- Brown sugar
- Granulated sugar
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese – You can use full fat or ⅓ less fat cream cheese, whatever you like best! For a smooth, creamy frosting, it’s very important it is softened at room temperature. To soften cream cheese quickly, unwrap it and place it on a microwave-safe plate. Set on 50% power and microwave for 5-second increments until soft.
- Butter – If you forget to soften the butter, you can use the same quick method (above) to soften it.
- Pure vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar
- Fresh lemon juice – Just a little lemon juice helps to balance the sweetness in cream cheese frosting.
How to Make Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Make the Dough
- Heat cold milk in the microwave in a small bowl for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove it from the microwave and add the butter pats. As you stir it, the butter will melt into the milk. The warmth from this mixture will help the yeast activate.
- Transfer the milk and butter mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the surface. Let the yeast sit on the surface of the warmed milk for about 5 minutes or more until you see “signs of life”. When the yeast activates, bubbles will form on the surface and that tells you the yeast is happy, alive, and ready to go to work.
- Using the paddle attachment, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the sugar and salt and continue mixing until combined.
- Remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated.
- Add just enough of the remaining flour, in ½ cup increments, until the dough has come together and is mostly holding on to the hook with some pooling slightly at the bottom of the bowl. You may not need the entire amount. Continue mixing to knead the dough for about 5 or 6 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Scrape the dough from the mixing bowl and place it in a bowl that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Turn it once so the top is coated with oil.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. See the FAQ section below for dough rising tips.
- Press your fist into the dough to deflate it and set it on a lightly floured surface.
Roll Out, Fill, and Shape the Dough
- Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 14- x 18-inch rectangle. Pour the melted butter over the surface and use a pastry brush to coat the entire surface evenly.
- In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle it evenly over the melted butter.
- Roll up the dough, lengthwise, into a cylinder, forming and shaping the dough with your hands to make it as even as possible.
- Use a sharp serrated knife to trim and discard the uneven ends.
- Slice the cylinder in half, then, slice each half into 6 equal size pieces for a total of 12 rolls.
- Place the rolls in 13- x 9-inch baking dish that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight for the second rise.
Bake and Frost the Cinnamon Rolls
- The next morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap, and let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake the rolls at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese frosting ingredients in a small mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Spread them with the cream cheese frosting while they’re still warm.
FAQ and Valerie’s Tips
I don’t recommend this for food safety concerns and because the dough can over-proof if allowed to rest too long. The dough will fare much better if covered and refrigerated overnight.
Check on the dough after about an hour to see how it’s doing. Don’t be afraid to let it sit longer, if needed. It should be puffed up and nearly doubled in size. When you press into the dough with your fingers, it should leave indentations in the surface. If you have any issues with your dough rising, check out my Pecan Sticky Buns recipe for some great tips.
If they are not stored properly and exposed to air, they can become hardened over night. Transfer leftover cinnamon rolls to an airtight container or cover them tightly with plastic wrap.
Yes. After covering the baking dish with plastic wrap, wrap the entire dish in a layer of heavy duty foil, or two layers of regular foil. Freeze the uncooked cinnamon rolls for 1 to 2 weeks at the most to avoid killing off some of the yeast. Allow the frozen rolls to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before baking and frosting as directed.
If your kitchen stays somewhat cool, it’s probably fine to tightly cover and store your frosted cinnamon rolls on your kitchen counter. However, to err on the side of caution, you can store them in the refrigerator and warm them briefly in the microwave to soften them before serving.
More Holiday Brunch Ideas You’ll Love
- Apple Cider Coffee Cake
- Brioche French Toast
- Lemon Raspberry Bundt Cake
- Homemade English Muffins
- Raspberry Dark Chocolate Muffins
I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with your own traditions and some sweet treats!
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
For the Rolls
- 1 cup milk
- ⅓ cup butter, cut into ½-inch slices
- .25 ounces active dry yeast, (1 packet)
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup white sugar
- 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, as needed
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the Frosting
- 3 ounces cream cheese (⅓ less fat or regular), softened
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Make the Cinnamon Roll Dough
- Heat the milk (cold from the refrigerator) in the microwave in a small bowl for 1 minute 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and add the pats of butter. Stir until the butter has melted. Pour the milk and butter mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the mixture and let it sit for about 5 to 7 minutes or until you see bubbles on the surface.
- Using the paddle attachment, add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the sugar and salt and continue mixing to combine.
- Remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated. Add just enough of the remaining flour, in ½ cup increments, until dough has come together and is holding on to the hook. You may not need the entire amount. Continue mixing to knead the dough for about 5 or 6 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl and turn it over to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Spray a 9-x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Use your fist to punch down and deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it into a 14-x 18-inch inch rectangle.
- Pour the melted butter over the surface of the dough and use a pastry brush to coat the entire surface evenly. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over the melted butter.
Roll Out, Fill, and Shape the Dough
- Roll up the dough, lengthwise, into a cylinder, forming and shaping the dough with your hands to make it as even as possible. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the ends of the roll. Slice the cylinder in half, then, slice each half into 6 equal size pieces for a total of 12 rolls. Place the rolls in the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
Bake and Frost the Cinnamon Rolls
- The next morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap, and let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese frosting ingredients in a small mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to cool slightly, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Spread with the cream cheese frosting while still warm.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post was originally published on April 16, 2014. It has been updated with new text and images.
Adapted from Allrecipes