I’m not even sure this really qualifies as “baking,” unless you consider making brownies from a box “baking.” It is hard to screw up, I’ll tell you that.
Finny is a connoisseur of cinnamon rolls; he will roll out of bed on a Saturday morning and proclaim, “Let’s go to Ikea! I need a cinnamon roll!” Flat-pack furniture doesn’t have the same draw on him that it does me… He’ll endure a forty-five minute drive to get a cinnamon roll. They are okay, but they aren’t THAT good.
But a Cinnabon? Oh, goodness. Cinnabons. They are good enough to drive that far for. Come to think of it, they are one of the few reasons to brave the mall for any reason.
I’m known to avoid the mall at any cost; and by jove, I’ll make a Cinnabon at home if it means I can skip dragging a screaming, writhing Finn by the arm while trying to navigate the stroller. Although these are not quite as good as the original (THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE HIGHLANDER!), they come pretty darn close.
I made a double batch and froze half of them; so beware. This recipe will make 16 mini-sized Cinnabons. (Has anyone ever even bought a mini Cinnabon?)
2 loaves of frozen bread dough
1 stick of butter – room temperature
1 handful of white sugar (about 1/2 cup)
2 handfuls of brown sugar (about 1 cup)
1 heaping spoonful of cinnamon (1-2 Tbsp?)
1/2 of package of cream cheese
3 cups of powdered sugar (give or take)
Vanilla extract (1/2 tsp?)
Splash of milk
First, I popped my frozen dough in a giant bowl, covered it with some plastic wrap and let it defrost and rise, which took most of the day. Once it had risen well over the top of the bowl, I popped it into the fridge to be dealt with the following day.
Once Alice was down for a nap, I got a little extra help from Finn. One of his favorite parts of making cinnamon rolls is punching the dough down. Making superhero sound effects are optional.
Onward with the rolling pin! I split my dough in half; it is much easier to work with one loaf at a time. I floured my work surface and rolling pin (handed down from Grandma Mary after my rolling pin bit the dust) and set on rolling the dough out into a somewhat rectangular shape. Really, it doesn’t need to be anywhere near perfect.
Then, I slathered on a hunk of butter – almost all the way to the edges. You really could go to town with the butter, but I have scaled mine back to roughly 1/4 of a stick.
For the cinnamon filling – I just throw a bunch of sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. I save my measuring for making the batter/dough/crusts of baked goods – the fillings are just cobbled together with however much sugar I feel like taking the liberty with that day. I pour half the sugar mixture onto the buttered dough, spread it almost to the edges and pat it down as best as possible.
Part of what makes a Cinnabon a Cinnabon is all those countless, gooey layers. To Get them nice and thin, I pull the dough tight when I roll it up. Pull and roll, pull and roll. If you are going for eight little rolls like I did, I roll from the long side. If you want fewer GIANT rolls, roll from the short side and cut it into four rolls.
After it is all rolled up, pinch the end tight.
Cut the log in half, line them up, cut those in half. Then cut them all in half again. This will assure that your eight mini rolls will be more or less the same size. This is the moment where I realized I could have done a little more pulling when I rolled it up, and made sure to do that on my second batch.
If you are planning on freezing any of them, this is where you’d pop them on to a cookie sheet, cover them with plastic wrap and pop them into the freezer. Once they are solid, I transfer them into an airtight container and keep them for up to a month – but they never sit for that long.
If you are ready to bake them, pop them into a greased pan, close together, and cover them with plastic. Set them in a nice, warm spot on the counter and wait for them to RISE AGAIN (like Jesus, hooray!!) until they have doubled in size. Push them together so they are as close as best friends snapping Instagrams in their prom dresses.
Another essential trait of a true Cinnabon is this; they aren’t baked all the way through. They are doughy and a little chewy. This totally grosses some people out (Gwen), so you can always bake them until they are done-DONE… For chewy goodness, uncover them and bake them at 325 degrees for twenty minutes. Are you like Gwen? Uncover and cook them at 350 for twenty-five. (Keep in mind I’m at 6,000 feet; shave a few minutes off if you live closer to sea level.)
While they are baking away, spewing intoxicating aromas through your home, whip up the frosting. I am pretty sure Cinnabon uses a ton more butter than I do – maybe twice as much or more – but I eyeball my proportions like so: Half a package of cream cheese, half a stick of butter, a little splash of vanilla extract and a splash of milk and enough powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks when whipped. This is all totally up to you – if you want a glaze, use more milk. If you want it creamier, use more cream cheese. If you want your teeth to hurt afterwards, use more sugar.
To make the frosting, beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla together until smooth. One cup at a time, slowly beat in the powdered sugar. If you’ve never done this before, it will eat up way more sugar than you’d ever imagine. I end up putting 6 giant scoops in (3 cups, give or take). Then whip in a bit – just a tiny bit at first, TRUST ME – of milk. Once I’m happy with the consistency, I pop it into the fridge where it is out of reach of little fingers (and my sight).
For the rolls I am freezing, I pop a dollop of frosting on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Once they are nice and firm, I transfer those to a ziplock bag and keep them out of sight next to my frozen rolls.
P.S. – the fork is for show. You don’t need that. Just dig in with your fingers. Or bend down and eat it straight off the plate, no hands, Finny-style.
Frost your rolls when they are piping hot and eat all of them straight out of the pan – try not to burn yourself. I’m kidding…. Save one so you can take a picture of it for the good ‘ole blog. Then eat that one, too. Wash all the dishes, open the windows to dissipate the wonderful smell, and NEVER tell your husband you just ate your daily caloric intake’s worth of cinnamon rolls.
To bake the frozen rolls, I place them in a greased pan and keep them in the fridge the night before. If you have the patience, let them rise before you cook them. If not, go ahead and pop them into the oven right away – they won’t get as big and will be super chewy, but they are still to die for. Two minutes before I take them out, I place one of the frozen dollops of frosting on top. By the time they come out, the frosting has oozed all the way into the cinnamony goodness.
Oh, and here is the link for Weight Watchers… I’m not going to pretend these are low-cal, vegan-friendly or healthy in any way… In fact, they are probably jam-packed with fat and calories, and it is difficult to eat only one.
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.