This easy cinnamon roll recipe makes just 6 rolls - perfect for a small group! Ready from scratch in just a few hours. Perfect for holiday brunch or breakfast on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or birthdays!
I've fallen in love with small batch baking recipes lately (Exhibit A: Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies) and this easy small batch cinnamon roll recipe is my new favorite thing. They're perfect as a cozy breakfast on Christmas or Mother's Day, but easy enough to throw together any time your sweet tooth comes a-calling.
This recipe makes just six cinnamon rolls: Perfect for a small gathering or if you're cooking for two. It's ready in just over 2 hours start-to-finish, and you can even start the dough the night before to save some time the next morning (we'll show you how!)
We're working with a simple enriched dough here, and filling it with a bit of melted butter and a quick cinnamon sugar mixture. Brush the cinnamon buns with a bit of heavy cream right before baking to help the tops stay soft, and finish with a swirl of cream cheese frosting for the ultimate brunch treat.
You can see the full ingredients list and exact amounts in the recipe card below, but we wanted to call out a few important details:
- Use high quality flour for soft, stretchy dough. We recommend King Arthur Flour or Bob's Red Mill: They have a high protein content in their all purpose flours, which works really beautifully here (you can also use bread flour instead of all purpose flour!)
- We use and recommend Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. If you use another brand of salt, you may want to reduce the amount of salt in this dough as saltiness can vary between salt styles.
- Let your egg come to room temperature if you can: Just set it on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour before you mix your dough to let some of the ice-cold-fridge-chill dissipate. A room temperature egg will mix more seamlessly into the dough, making it softer and easier to work with. (This is a useful tip, but not a dealbreaker - don't worry if you're short on time and need to skip this step!)
- We use honey in the dough to help the yeast activate more quickly (yeast loves sugar!) We love the subtle depth of flavor you get from using honey here, but you can swap the honey for sugar in the dough if you prefer.
- We prefer unsalted butter in our baking recipes (it gives you better control over the final product!) but if you only have salted butter, go ahead and use it (just use a tiny bit less kosher salt).
- Warm milk is an important component here, because it helps the yeast activate and "bloom" (which ensures our cinnamon rolls will rise). Heat milk in the microwave or a small saucepan until it's warm (but not hot!) to the touch - somewhere between 95° and 110° F. Use a kitchen thermometer to get an exact temperature if you like! If your milk is too hot, it can kill the yeast and prevent your cinnamon rolls from rising. Use whatever milk you have on hand here: 1% and 2% are our go-tos, but you can use whole milk for a richer dough if you like.
- Don't skip the heavy cream. You'll brush a bit of heavy cream over the tops of these cinnamon buns just before baking - this step is the key to keeping the tops of your cinnamon rolls soft as they bake!
Pro Tip: Use a Kitchen Scale
Measuring by weight (with a scale) is much more accurate than measuring by volume (with cups). If you have a kitchen scale, please use it! (No kitchen scale? Measure your flour with the scoop and level method for best results!)
Our basic baking timeline
These cinnamon rolls come together pretty quickly; most of the time is inactive (you're just letting the dough rise!) Here's a bird's-eye view of our process:
- Mix the dough (10 minutes) Proof your yeast, then stir the dough together. We like to knead the dough for a few minutes once it's mixed, but you don't have to!
- Let it rise (1 hour) Cover your dough and let it rise on the counter. The dough won't rise a ton - this step is more about developing flavor than anything.
- Shape the cinnamon buns & final rise (30 minutes) Roll out the dough, then top it with some melted butter and your cinnamon sugar filling. Roll it up into a tight coil, then slice it into rolls, pop them in a baking dish, and let them rise again while you heat the oven.
- Bake (30 minutes) Brush a bit of heavy cream over the top of your cinnamon rolls, bake until they're just barely golden brown, then mix up a quick cream cheese frosting and spread it over the rolls while they're still a little warm.
These cinnamon rolls have a lot of steps, but we promise they're deceptively simple! Here's our basic order of operations:
Make the dough
Start by proofing your active dry yeast in a large mixing bowl. We'll mix it with a bit of honey (Image 1, above) - which helps speed the yeast activation along - and some warm milk (Image 2), then let it sit until it's foamy.
Note: Yeast that proofs in warm milk won't foam up as dramatically as it does when it proofs in water (like in our Crusty Artisan Bread recipes). It will foam up a little bit, but mostly, it will just look soft. You shouldn't see any sharp granules of yeast on the surface or around the sides of the bowl - just soft, light blobs around the bowl, with a few larger, foamier areas on the surface. If your yeast doesn't activate and soften during this step, it may be expired, or the milk may have been too hot and killed the yeast (which means your rolls may not rise).
When the yeast is active and foamy (Image 3, above), add a large egg and some melted butter. Next, stir the flour into your yeast mixture (4) until it just starts to come together (Image 5, below).
Add a bit of salt (6, above), then continue mixing until no dry flour remains (7, below).
At this point, we like to transfer the dough to a cutting board and knead it for a minute or two (8) to smooth it out: This makes it a little bit easier to roll out later (and helps keep a smoother, more uniform shape), but you can skip this step if you need to!
Let it Rise
Once your dough is mixed, cover the mixing bowl with a clean tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for an hour (I like to place my dough next to the oven or near a radiator in the winter to keep it nice and cozy).
Because this is such a small quantity of dough, and because it's enriched (weighed down by our egg and butter) you won't see a super dramatic rise here - it isn't like artisan bread recipes where you can expect the dough to double in size. The small quantity also means it can be tougher to gauge growth, especially in a large mixing bowl. Look for dough that's puffed up, smoothed out on the surface, and very soft when you press it.
Make the Filling
Stir a bit of brown sugar, white granulated sugar, and plenty of cinnamon together in a small bowl. This filling is pretty forgiving - feel free to adjust it however you like! Dial the cinnamon up or down, or add extra spices (we love it with a pinch of cloves, nutmeg, or ginger!)
Fill and Roll the Dough
When the dough has risen, roll it out into a rough rectangle. Use a rolling pin here if you have it; if you don't, just pat it into shape with your hands like it's pizza dough!
Pro Tip: You can add a bit of flour to your cutting board to make this easier if you like - although if you kneaded the dough before its first rise, we find that the extra flour usually isn't necessary! If the dough sticks at all, use a bench scraper to coax it off the cutting board.
Brush melted butter over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle on your cinnamon brown sugar mixture. Leave a small open strip along one of the long sides - this exposed dough will help you seal the dough once it's rolled up!
Then, it's time to roll! Go slowly, and try to roll this dough as tightly as possible for best results. When you get to the end, pinch the final edge into the log to seal it up as best you can.
If the dough log looks too long and skinny once it's rolled, gently push each end in towards the center to squish it into a smaller roll. You're aiming for a thick dough roll that's about 6-8 inches long.
Cut the cinnamon rolls
Time to slice! Slide a long string of dental floss under the dough roll, then pull each end towards the opposite side (kind of like you're tying a knot) to slice the dough. You can also just slice these cinnamon rolls with a very sharp knife! Cut the dough into 6 equal portions.
Spread some softened butter over a small baking dish (or spray it with cooking spray) then arrange the cut cinnamon rolls in the dish, leaving an inch or two of space between each roll. Cover the baking pan with a clean tea towel and let it rise for another 30 minutes while you heat the oven.
Again, you're not going to see a really dramatic rise here - that will happen once these cinnamon rolls hit the oven (thanks to a fun phenomenon known as oven spring, which we talk about in our Everyday Artisan Bread course). After this final rise, the rolls should look a bit puffy and soft, but there will likely still be a bit of space between them.
Bake and Frost
Time to bake! Brush the tops of your cinnamon rolls with a bit of heavy cream (this will keep them soft and prevent the tops from browning too much!) then slide them into the oven and bake until they're just barely golden brown.
Mix a quick cream cheese frosting while the rolls cool, then pour the frosting over the top and spread it over the rolls while they're still a little bit warm.
Riffs and Substitutions
This is a great base recipe, and it's easily adapted to suit your tastes! A few of our favorite swaps:
- Mix up the filling. We love this classic cinnamon and sugar mix, but you can also fill these rolls with homemade apple butter, nutella, or leftover cranberry sauce. You can also add extra spices to the filling: We love adding a pinch of cloves, nutmeg, or ground ginger.
- Use a different frosting. Cream cheese frosting is a classic choice for cinnamon rolls, but we also love this recipe with a thin maple frosting or simple vanilla icing on top!
Cinnamon Roll FAQs
Yes! Mix the dough as directed, then cover with an airtight cover (or a piece of plastic wrap) and transfer to the fridge for up to 24 hours. The time in the fridge takes the place of the first rise on the counter. When you're ready to shape the rolls, pull the dough out of the fridge, let it warm up for an hour or so on the counter, then roll, fill, and bake normally.
Yes! These rolls freeze quite well. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the freezer for 1-2 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and pop into a 325° F oven for 3-5 minutes to warm the rolls back up when you're ready to eat. We recommend freezing cinnamon rolls unfrosted, and adding the frosting when you reheat them later.
Absolutely! You can use the 2x or 3x buttons in the recipe card below to scale this recipe.
Nope. It makes them a little prettier, and cuts a little cleaner - which is why I love using floss to cut cinnamon buns for photographs - but it really doesn't matter. If you don't feel like using floss, just use a very sharp knife or a thin serrated knife. The rolls might squish down a little as you cut them, but they'll pop back into shape in the oven. I also don't bother to use unflavored dental floss when I cut my cinnamon rolls - I honestly can't tell a difference, so I just use whatever minty floss I have kicking around in my cabinet.
We prefer to mix this dough by hand. Since we're working with such a small quantity, a stand mixer (whether it uses a dough hook attachment or a paddle attachment) can struggle to pick up and incorporate everything here - you end up spending so much time scraping down the sides of the mixer that it doesn't save you much effort in the long run. Fortunately, this recipe is very easy to mix by hand!
Have another question?
Our Everyday Artisan Bread online course is an incredible resource for all things baking. We go into so much more detail about why and how doughs like this work, and we also have a private Facebook group where our team helps you out with any questions you might have!
Love this recipe? Try our easy cinnamon scones →Print
This easy small batch cinnamon roll recipe makes just 6 portions - perfect for a small group!
For the dough:
- 4 grams active dry yeast (1 teaspoon)
- 50 grams warm milk (¼ cup), see recipe notes
- 40 grams honey (2 Tablespoons)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (43 grams)
- 180 grams flour (about 1 ½ cups when measured correctly by scooping and leveling)
- 1 gram kosher salt (¼ teaspoon)
For the filling:
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 45 grams brown sugar (3 Tablespoons)
- 45 grams sugar (3 Tablespoons)
- 9 grams ground cinnamon (2 Tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the baking pan (you can use cooking spray if you prefer)
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
For the frosting:
- 110 grams powdered sugar (about 1 cup)
- 2 grams vanilla extract (½ teaspoon)
- 20 grams cream cheese (about 2 Tablespoons)
- 1-2 Tablespoons milk
- Pinch of kosher salt
Make the dough and first rise
- Stir warm milk, yeast, and honey together in a medium mixing bowl.
- Let the yeast proof for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture looks soft and foamy.
- Add egg, melted butter, and flour to bowl. Stir until not quite combined, then add salt and mix until no dry flour remains.
- Optional: Transfer dough to a large cutting board and knead with clean hands for 1-2 minutes, until dough is smooth (it should be tacky, but not sticky). Kneading this dough will make it a bit smoother, more elastic, and easier to roll out, but these cinnamon rolls taste great with or without this step!
- Return dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour. Note: This dough won't rise too dramatically - just look for it to puff up and smooth out a bit.
Make the filling
- Mix brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
Shape the rolls and second rise
- When dough is risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured cutting board (if you kneaded the dough before it rose, you can usually skip the extra flour on the cutting board). Gently roll the dough out into a rough rectangle, about 8 inches long and ¼ inch thick.
- Spread the melted butter evenly over the dough. Make sure you go all the way to the edges.
- Spread cinnamon sugar mixture evenly across the top of the buttered dough. Leave about ¼ inch of space along one long edge to help the dough seal together when you roll it up.
- Time to roll! Starting on one long side, gently roll the dough into a log. Go slowly and roll the dough as tightly as you can without tearing it. When it's all rolled up, gently pinch along the seam to help the log stay together. The roll should be about 6-8 inches long; if it's too long and skinny, gently press each end in towards the center to squish it into the right shape.
- Use a sharp knife or a strand of dental floss to cut the dough into 6 equal pieces, each about 1-2 inches thick.
- Spread softened butter (or spray cooking spray) over the inside of a small baking dish. We used an 8-inch round ceramic pan here, but you can also use a square cake pan, small casserole dish, or a cast iron skillet. Arrange the cinnamon bun pieces in the pan, leaving 1-2 inches of space between them, then cover with a clean tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven.
- Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
- When rolls have risen slightly and the oven is hot, it's time to bake! Brush the top of each roll with a bit of heavy cream, then transfer the baking dish to the hot oven. Bake at 350° F for 20-25 minutes, until rolls have risen and just barely begun to brown.
- Remove cinnamon rolls from oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before you prepare the frosting.
Make the icing
- Mix vanilla extract and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. (We like to use a hand mixer for this, but you can also do it with a spoon or whisk and some elbow grease!)
- Add powdered sugar and stir to combine. Mixture will be a bit clumpy; that's ok.
- Add milk a Tablespoon at a time, stirring well between each addition, until icing is smooth and has reached your desired consistency. We like a thin, drizzle-able icing here, but you can make it as thick or as thin as you'd like!
- Spread icing over the cinnamon rolls. (We like to add the icing when the cinnamon rolls are still slightly warm, but you can wait until they've cooled completely if you prefer). Serve and enjoy!
Additions and Substitutions. Use more or less cinnamon in the filling to suit your tastes. Use additional brown sugar in place of the white sugar if you prefer. Use apple butter, nutella, or cranberry sauce in place of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Add a pinch of ground cloves, nutmeg, or ground ginger to the cinnamon sugar mixture if you like. Swap the cream cheese frosting for a bit of maple frosting or plain vanilla icing. Use granulated sugar or brown sugar in place of honey for the dough if you need to. Add chopped toasted walnuts or pecans to the filling for extra texture.
How warm should my milk be? Heat milk in the microwave or a small saucepan until it is warm to the touch - between 95° and 110° Fahrenheit. Use a kitchen thermometer to take an exact temperature if you'd like.
Please use a kitchen scale for best results. Measuring ingredients - especially flour - by volume (with cups) is notoriously unreliable. For best results, use a kitchen scale and follow the gram measurements in the recipe above to measure your ingredients by weight!
Be sure to read the full post above for plenty of notes, tips, and step-by-step photos!
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 391
- Sugar: 39.1 g
- Sodium: 383.9 mg
- Fat: 13.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 63.9 g
- Protein: 5.3 g
- Cholesterol: 64.5 mg
Keywords: breakfast, brunch, christmas
PS - Love this recipe? Try our small batch chocolate cupcakes next →