Molly Wizenberg’s Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

Molly Wizenberg cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

A couple of Sundays ago over a plate of freshly baked French toast, Ben confessed that what he had really wanted to make me for my birthday breakfast was a batch of cinnamon rolls but couldn’t find a straightforward recipe on my blog. Before I bit his head off, I took a sip of coffee and a deep breath, allowing myself time to digest the comment. I didn’t have much of a defense I realized. The single cinnamon roll recipe I have posted about does require making a four-pound batch of dough first.

I assured Ben I would do something about that. The Essentials page definitely deserved a straightforward cinnamon roll recipe and better still one that could be prepared in advance and baked off in the morning.

Instead of flipping through my cinnamon roll file — an exercise that always makes me sleepy — I turned to google, which led me to epicurious and 159 rave reviews of Molly Wizenberg’s cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing. It seemed like a safe bet. I printed the recipe — I still print, do you? — took out some butter to soften and went to bed.

The next morning I set to work kneading dough in the stand mixer, mixing brown sugar and cinnamon, whipping up cream cheese icing. By noon, nine incredibly delicious cinnamon rolls graced our kitchen table and nine more rested in the fridge, an experiment I hoped would yield freshly baked buns the following morning, too.

The experiment worked. My only worry — that the cinnamon rolls, even in the cold environment of the fridge, would balloon to an undesirable level — was for naught. The next morning the rolls rested at room temperature for about an hour, baked for twenty minutes, and cooled for ten. It worked like a charm, but just be warned: no ten minutes of your life might pass so slowly; no single baked good might disappear so quickly. Iced or not, these rolls go down fast.

Molly Wizenberg cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

making the cinnamon rolls

cinnamon rolls, ready to rise

cinnamon rolls, just baked

inverted cinnamon rolls, cooling

 cream cheese icing

Molly Wizenberg cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

Note: Because I do not own a microwave, I did not warm the milk and butter as the directions suggest. I warmed them in the oven in a Pyrex measuring cup, but I barely left them in the oven long enough to get warm — the mixture still felt cold to touch when I poured it in the stand mixer. I am telling you this only because the temperature of the milk affects the rising time. Because my milk was cold, the initial rise took longer than two hours — more like four in fact.

Also, there are two ways to make these in advance. 1. You could do the initial mixing at night and let the dough rise overnight in the fridge. This would require a little bit of work in the morning — punching down the dough (provided it has risen sufficiently), rolling it out, rolling it up, cutting, etc. Your rolls won’t be ready first thing in the morning, but they’ll be ready soon enough. 2. The second way is how I described in the post — follow the recipe until the rolls are cut and placed in their baking pans, then stick them in the fridge to rest overnight. As far as timing goes, allow yourself about four hours to mix the dough, let it rise, assemble the rolls, etc. — so if you go to bed at 10, make sure you’ve started the rolls by 6, and if you have the time, you’re best off starting them even earlier in the day.

Cinnamon Rolls

Source: Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appetit & Epicurious
Yield = 18 cinnamon rolls

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray (I used butter)

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (I used 5 tablespoons…just used the rest of the stick from the dough recipe)

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar*
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*I happened to be out of powdered sugar, so used about a half cup of granulated, but if you have powdered sugar that is preferable.

1. Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. (I don’t have a microwave, so I just warmed this in the oven in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup until the butter looked melted. I didn’t check the temperature, but the mixture was basically cold when I put it the stand mixer.) Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. (I added an additional 1/4 cup flour.) Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. (I just left it in the mixer, switched to the dough hook, and let it mix for 8 minutes.) Form into ball.

2. Lightly oil a large bowl with nonstick spray (or with butter or oil). Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. (I forgot to leave a border.) Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

4. Spray two 9-inch square (I used 8-inch square pans and buttered them) glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

5. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze:
6. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. (Note: if ingredients are at room temperature, you can whisk by hand.) Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

cinnamon rolls on cake stand


  1. says

    Oh, Ali, these look absolutely delicious! Did Ben help you with these, too? I’m away all week for business and I could do with one of these for breakfast tomorrow… I guess I’ll have to wait for the weekend – these clearly need to be made ASAP!

    • says

      Darcy — Ben did not, but he did make me the baked French toast, and it was absolutely delicious. I didn’t pipe in at all. I think you should definitely give these rolls a spin. They are so yummy!

  2. says

    Thanks for the cinnamon roll recipe and Pictures! Yes, I still print your recipes. What treasures you have added to our life!!!!! An aside – I’m still harvesting zucchini and use my mandoline every day to slice them. I love the spaghetti and zucchini recipe you shared but your video on how to use the mandoline inspired me.


    • says

      Diana, I am so happy to hear this! You are so nice to say such things, too. Well, it was YOU who inspired the whole mandoline post, so thank you for that. What fun to hear you are still harvesting zucchini!

  3. says

    Wait, so by telling you he wanted to bake for your birthday, he suckered you into making him fresh cinnamon rolls?! The man has style! These do look fabulous though! I like my recipe, but I will give these a go too.

  4. Trish says

    This is a great recipe. I don’t always have great luck with dough but I have been making these for a few years and they have never failed. I, also, let the Kitchen Aid do the kneading with the dough hook for 8 minutes. Works like a charm! Thanks for all of your tips, too. I think you have answered any question that could possibly be asked. :)

  5. says

    These look utterly spectacular!

    I remember the first time I made Cinnamon buns…I couldn’t believe how easy they were.

    I’m always eager to try a new recipe though, so am excited to try yours.


  6. says

    I am so torn, I am tempted to make this but also found the Artisan Bread recipe on your site which one to make this weekend?!?!

    I don’t have a microwave either, I usually pour the milk/butter into a bowl and put it into a hot water bath for it to warm. It heats up surprisingly quickly but you have to chop the butter up into smaller pieces so it melts quicker. It makes my kitchen look like I’m conducting a science experiment.

    • says

      Chantelle — Definitely. I think the original recipe calls for kneading by hand in fact. So, I would just place all of the ingredients (following the 1 cup of flour first step) in a mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until they are combined; then I would add the remaining flour and mix as much as you are able to again with the spoon; then I would turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it by hand. Good luck with it!

  7. says

    I’m trying to find the right words to describe what I’m feeling when looking at your cinnamon rolls…I guess I can’t find the right ones, yet. In the meantime I’m just gonna say that those are possibly the most good-looking ones I ever saw. They’re superbe, in all respects!

  8. Karen Wilson says

    they look amazing! nicely done photos. :)
    just a little FYI…if you run out of xxx sugar again. if you have a good blender or food processor you can make powdered sugar…1 C sugar/2 t cornstarch and blend until powdery!

  9. says

    Dear Alexandra Hi! Congrats on your wonderfull blog, your cooking and recipes. You and your family are an inspiration.I was wondering what your photographic setup is (camera, lens etc.) You have very nice pics of your food with a flattering bokeh. Keep up the good work. Greetings from always sunny hearted Greece!

    • says

      Gio — hi! I wish I were in Greece! I have some family in Athens, and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. I use a Canon Rebel xt that is about five years old now. It is great. I do not use the flash, and I shoot everything on automatic — I still haven’t learned fstop and aperture :(. I basically just set up my cutting board next to the sunniest window in the kitchen and always shoot when there is enough light coming in the window (but never direct light.) I use the lens that came with the camera. I hope that helps! Thank you for your nice words about the blog.

  10. Kathleen says

    Thank you SO MUCH for this recipe. I mixed them together on Christmas Eve morning and stuck one pan in the fridge for Christmas morning and baked the other up right away. I took some to my parents for our annual Christmas get together and they disappeared with pleas for the recipe. I feel like every recipe we try from your blog turns out beautifully and is delicious. Thank you for your amazing recipes :). Happy New Year!

    • says

      KAthleeen — So happy to hear this. I don’t think anything could be more special than homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. So glad it turned out well. I need to make a batch soon. Happy 2013!

  11. says

    Ive just gone on a little pin-fest with many of your recipes, including this one! So beautiful! The only issue with cinnamon rolls is that long advance prep/planning. I recently made some buttermilk based yeasted rolls that I figured out how to do an overnight option for so that they require no work and no fuss the next morning. Your photos are stunning!

    • says

      Averie — thanks so much for your nice comments today! And I couldn’t agree more about the advance planning — if you want them at a normal breakfast hour, you have to get up at 3am to start preparing them. The overnight option is ideal.

    • says

      Laura — these are awesome! And if you don’t feel like making a big batch of the artisan bread in five dough (I saw your comment on that post), these are the way to go. So delicious!

  12. liz says

    This recipe was my second attempt at making cinnamon rolls and I really enjoyed it. I finished just a little before midnight! I couldn’t help myself and ate one already. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Dustin says

    I realize this is an old post, but I just broke one of my wives cake stands and I am looking for a replacement.

    Her cake stand looks almost identical to the one you have pictured under the cinnamon rolls; any thoughts where it came from?

    By the way, cinnamon rolls look delicious, and now I want some….

  14. Mama Poule says

    Ali, my comment on here keeps disappearing so I hope you see it, but I have made these four times in the past 10 days for various family gatherings. And they are awesome! And people walk out of here with the recipe! And even my mother who kneads and bakes multiple times a week is hooked!
    One of the 4 times I only put in a heaped spoonful of sugar in the dough and put in crumbled feta as the filling. Came out great (yeah yeah, they could have been a bit softer yadda yadda but the pan was empty at the end…)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *