I call this recipe The Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting because it is the very best one that I make. Forever reliable and always delicious, it produces 9 soft and pillowy spirals with just the right balance of sugar and spice.
My secondary school was slightly unusual in that for our first year, all of the year seven students resided in a separate building – far away from the throngs of the other 1000 students at the other end of town. Lower School was housed in the former Richmond Grammar School– a charmingly medieval-styled Victorian building on the banks of the River Swale in Yorkshire.
The site was split across two buildings – a modernish 60s/70s cube and the Victorian gothic old part with its spires, stone buttresses and Hogwarts-style mini great hall which was only really used for lunches. Most of the windows in the older part looked out across the playing ground, tennis courts and public common (locally called The Batts) towards the River. Being smaller and dedicated to an entire year group, it was a great way to make the transition from small primary to Big school – and a magical location to do so in.
Every morning at around 10.15am, you could queue up to buy an early morning snack – many of which had been baked by the cooks on-site. While I was always disappointed by the impossibly-fluffy-yet-flavourless Iced Buns that were on offer, I would look forward to the days when you could buy either a fruit-laden Chelsea Bun or a sticky and sweet Cinnamon Roll. One of these washed down with a mini carton of ice-cold milk was my idea of heaven.
In the intervening years since school, I have sought to replicate the perfect Cinnamon Roll from my early teenage years – only to be left disappointing. All too often, the dough is too brittle or tough – or the filling toothachingly sweet. The perfect recipe eluded me until a few years ago when I developed this version. I am so impressed with it that I might even say it betters its original source inspiration – but don’t tell anyone else I said that.
My top tip to making these Cinnamon Rolls is to use a round 25cm spring loaded cake tin. This forces the nine rolls to conjoin during the second prove and subsequent bake, resulting in fluffy dough edges when you tear the rolls apart for eating. I also spread the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting over the baked buns while they are still warm from the oven – allowing some of the frosting to gently melt down the spirals for a truly scrumptious treat.
Re the frosting – take all the ingredients out of the fridge at the same time as you begin to make the dough. Cream cheese has a habit of going grainy if you try and beat it while still fridge cold, so allow all the ingredients to come to room temperature before you try to work with them.
You can also use my Pumpkin Spice Mix instead of cinnamon for a spicier version of these rolls.Print
For the dough:
- 150ml whole milk
- 25g golden granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 7g dried active yeast
- 65g butter
- 10g salt
- 485g plain all-purpose flour
For the Cinnamon filling:
- 150g soft, light brown muscovado sugar
- 2tsp dried, ground cinnamon
- 65g softened butter
- 1tsp hot water from a just-boiled kettle
For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 60g softened butter
- 115g full fat cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1tsp vanilla bean paste (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)
- 85g Icing Sugar
- Gently heat the milk until it is just warm enough for you to comfortably hold your finger in it for around 15 seconds. I use the milk frother on my coffee maker to do this as it allows me to heat to a controlled 35C – but you can also use your microwave or a small pan to do the same thing. No need for thermometers – if your finger can handle the heat, so will the yeast. Once warmed, add the butter, cut into small cubes and stir until it melts. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and yeast and allow to sit on the side for 10 mins while it gets frothy and bubbly.
- Measure the salt and flour into a mixing bowl and stir together. Add the now frothy liquids and stir to bring together. I like to use my electric stand mixer for this but you can do it by hand if you wish. Knead until you have a soft, elastic dough – about 5 mins on medium/high in a stand mixer or 10 mins if doing this by hand. Return the dough to a bowl, cover and place somewhere warm to prove for 90 minutes – by which time the dough should have doubled in size. I use my oven to provide the perfect environment for this – just with the light left on which will give off sufficient warmth for the yeast to do its thing.
- To prepare the cinnamon filling, take your room temperature butter, muscovado sugar and ground cinnamon and beat with an electric hand mixer until it starts to come together. When you have a crumbly paste, add one tsp of hot water from a recently boiled kettle and continue beating on high until you have a creamy, smooth paste.
- After 90 minutes, your dough will be ready. Tip to dough onto a clean, dry worksurface and knead to knock the air out. You now need to roll the dough into a rectangular shape – roughly 40 x 30cm in size. To do this, draw your measurements out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper – using a similarly sized baking sheet as a guide. Flip the greaseproof paper over and use the drawn outline as a guide to help you get the right dimensions. Dust very lightly with some flour before rolling.
- When you are happy with the size and shape of your dough, spread the cinnamon butter paste across the dough, taking it all the way to the edge along both short sides and one of the longer ones. Leave a 2cm gap of clear dough at the other long end. To roll, fold 2cm of dough over along the long edge of dough with the cinnamon spread and use the greaseproof paper to help roll the dough into a tight spiral. Squeeze the dough sausage lightly with your hands and push the ends in a little with your hands.
- Line your cake tine with a circle of the greaseproof paper you used to roll the dough. Use a sharp serrated knife (I use my breadknife) to cut the sausage into 9 equal rolls before placing into the prepared cake tin – starting with one in the middle the other eight around the outside. Pack the rolls with a little gap between each one to allow the dough to spread out. Cover the tin and leave the dough to prove somewhere warm for 40-45 mins.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
- After 40-45 mins, check on the rolls. They should have risen again to squish together in the pan, leaving little-to-no-gaps between the rolls. Place in the preheated oven and bake for around 25 minutes. The rolls are ready when the tops are golden brown. Don’t worry if any of the inner spirals have sprung upwards during baking – you can gently tap them back down with the back of a spoon when you remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 mins while you prepare the frosting.
- Using room temperature ingredients, beat the butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla bean paste and icing sugar in a bowl using an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy. Spoon over the still warm rolls – placing a dollop in the middle of each roll and spreading liberally across all the rolls, right up to the edges. Allow the rolls to cool for a further 10 minutes before carefully sliding a blunt knife around the edges of the tin and removing the sides. Carefully remove the greaseproof paper and place onto a cooling rack.
- Serve while still warm or store in an airtight container where they will keep in a cool place for a few days.
- Category: Baking
- Cuisine: Scandinavian
Keywords: Cinnamon Rolls, Cinnamon Buns, Baking, Scandinavian Baking