Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

from 8 votes

Take the stress out of the ultimate breakfast treat with an easy recipe for Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cinnamon rolls in a white baking dish are partially frosted with cream cheese frosting. A wooden bowl with cream cheese frosting and a spatula is nearby.

Few store-bought sweets captivate my attention like Cinnabon cinnamon rolls.

There’s just something about the freshness factor of the cinnamony swirls, whether I spot them at a kiosk in my local mall, or smell the aroma of that classic frosting from 14 gates away at airports across America.

No matter the Cinnabon locale, I concede to my cravings, approach the counter, and greet the friendly face that’s rolling, filling, slicing and icing cinnamon roll after cinnamon roll after cinnamon roll. The rolls are fresh. I mean F-R-E-S-H fresh. 

There’s only one other option when it comes to achieving that level of fresh: the DIY route! 

Check out the swirled beauties above. You can make them today and stash them in your fridge, which means you’re 90% of the way there. Then all that’s left to do in the morning is pop them into the oven and start sippin’ on your mimosa while you whip up the topping.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Make ahead. These overnight cinnamon rolls will rise in the fridge all night so the only thing you have to do in the morning is pop them in the oven and mix up the frosting.
  • Better than a bakery. This from-scratch recipe for soft and fluffy cinnamon rolls is sure to rival those from your favorite bakery.
  • Enough for a crowd. You’ll get a dozen rolls out of the pan.
  • The best frosting. In my opinion, cream cheese frosting for cinnamon rolls is the only way to go!

Ingredients

Here’s everything you’ll need for these delicious make-ahead cinnamon rolls.

For the cinnamon roll dough and filling you’ll need:

  • Milk: Whole milk is best, as it has a high enough fat content that adds tenderness to the dough.
  • Butter: For baking, use unsalted butter so you can better control the salt content of your recipes.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar adds sweetness and tenderness to the dough, while light brown sugar lends a caramel note to the filling.
  • Yeast: Active dry yeast needs to be mixed with warm liquid before being added to the other ingredients, to begin multiplying.
  • Flour: Use the scoop-and-level technique to measure flour accurately.
  • Eggs: Don’t use eggs straight out of the fridge or they’ll cool your dough too much. Bring them to room temperature or warm them up for 10 minutes in a bowl of warm water before using.
  • Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon has a long shelf life, but if it’s older than two or three years, replace it for the best and most intense flavor.
  • Salt: Salt helps control the growth of yeast and also rounds out the flavor of baked goods.

For the frosting you’ll need:

  • Vanilla extract: This recipe would be a great place to show off homemade vanilla extract.
  • Cream cheese: Let the cream cheese soften completely to avoid lumps. 
  • Butter: The butter should also be quite soft for the creamiest, smoothest consistency.
  • Buttermilk: Thick and tangy buttermilk amps up the flavor of the frosting. If you don’t have any, you can use a buttermilk substitute. Save the remaining buttermilk for pancakes or salad dressing.
  • Salt: Just a pinch balances out the sweetness.
  • Confectioner’s sugar: For the smoothest frosting, sift the confectioner’s sugar before using. 

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to Make Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Are homemade cinnamon rolls a labor of love? You bet! But with a few simple tricks for how to successfully start and then stop the prep, you can in fact master Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls, a.k.a. Overnight Cinnamon Rolls.

  1. Activate the yeast. Mixing the active dry yeast with warm milk and sugar will activate it so it can start multiplying. The yeast feeds on the sugar to begin growing.
  2. Mix the dough. The dough hook attachment of the stand mixer is the best tool for combining the wet and dry ingredients and kneading it until it’s smooth. The dough should be proofed until it’s doubled in size (see my tip below for the weird place I’ve found to proof my yeast doughs!).
  1. Roll out the dough. Roll the dough into a rectangular, using flour on your work surface to prevent sticking. Brush with the melted butter. 
  2. Make the filling. Mix together the sugars and the cinnamon. As you sprinkle it over the buttered dough, be sure to sprinkle all the way to the edges so every bite is filled with the gooey goodness.
Cinnamon roll dough is rolled out on a white marble work surface. Glass bowls containing melted butter and a cinnamon sugar mixture are nearby.
  1. Assemble the rolls. Roll the prepared dough tightly and evenly, starting with the long side of the rectangle. Slice into spirals, arrange in the pan and cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rise again for about 30 minutes for puffy, airy rolls. At this point you can either refrigerate overnight or bake them.
  2. Bake and frost. While the rolls are baking, mix the frosting ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter and cream cheese together until no lumps remain before adding the remaining ingredients, for the smoothest frosting. It’s best to wait until the rolls are completely cooled before icing; otherwise, the icing will melt and slide off. 
A close-up of rows of baked, unfrosted cinnamon rolls.

To really master DIY dough, tune in below to discover the surprising place where I proof my cinnamon roll dough!

 

How to Make the Best Cream Cheese Frosting

Warm cinnamon rolls, meet the lightest, tangiest cream cheese frosting to ever slather your buns. When it comes to mastering cream cheese frosting, there are two key tips that will ensure perfection:

  • Beat the cream cheese first until smooth and then beat in the butter
  • Sift the confectioners’ sugar and then add it to the bowl in order to prevent lumps

Pro Tip: A silicone pastry mat is one of the best tools for rolling out dough. Some even have measurement markings so you can make sure you’re rolling to the correct dimensions!

Kelly’s Recipe Tips

  • Proof the dough in the dryer! It sounds odd but I’ve found that the dryer is the perfect warm and humid environment for yeast dough to rise. I run the dryer on empty for 5 minutes, then turn it off and set the bowl inside, covered with a towel or plastic wrap.
  • Keep it sticky. Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking too much to the work surface when you’re rolling it out. The dough will be tacky. If you use too much flour, your rolls could turn out dry. 
  • Use toothfloss to cut the rolls. Use a piece of unwaxed, unflavored toothfloss to cleanly cut the individual pieces. Place the center of the floss under the roll where you want to make the cut, cross the ends over the top, and pull ends in opposite directions.

How to Freeze Cinnamon Rolls

Baked cinnamon rolls can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap each individually in plastic wrap, freeze solid, then transfer to a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, unwrap and warm in the oven before serving.

You can also freeze the unbaked cinnamon rolls to bake later. I like to use a disposable foil pan for this. Form the rolls in the pan, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap, followed by aluminum foil.  Let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator or let thaw at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours and bake as directed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to use cream cheese frosting?

No! If a generous slathering of cream cheese frosting seems too decadent for you, you can leave your rolls unfrosted or make a lighter cinnamon roll icing with powdered sugar mixed with just enough milk until it’s a good consistency for drizzling (add a little vanilla in there for taste!). Or try the cream cheese glaze in my monkey bread recipe. A dusting of powdered sugar is also a nice finishing touch for a less-sweet cinnamon roll. 

How do I store leftover cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting?

Leftover cinnamon rolls will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Wrap them with plastic wrap before storing, and microwave them, unwrapped, for 10 to 15 seconds before eating to freshen them up. Because of the cream cheese in the frosting, the cinnamon rolls should not be stored at room temperature. 

Why Do My Cinnamon Rolls Rise Unevenly When Baking?

If your oven heats unevenly (and most do!) your cinnamon rolls could rise or cook unevenly. To avoid this, turn the pan around halfway through cooking. Also, make sure the oven is completely preheated before baking. 

Why Are My Cinnamon Rolls Not Fluffy?

When working with yeast, it’s important that it is activated in liquid at the right temperature, around 110˚F. Check that the mixture bubbles after 5 to 10 minutes — if it does not, your yeast could be expired. It’s also important to allow the full amounts of time for the dough to rise in a warm place both before and after forming the cinnamon rolls.

More Sweet Breakfast Treats

A white rectangular baking dish holds a dozen baked and unfrosted cinnamon rolls.

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Breakfast

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Take the stress out of the ultimate breakfast treat with an easy recipe for Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Author: Kelly Senyei
4.75 from 8 votes
A top-down view of easy Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting in a white baking dish next to a bowl of the best cinnamon roll frosting
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients 

For the cinnamon roll dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (one 3/4-oz. packet) active dry yeast
  • 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
  • 2 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons cinnamon

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions 

Make the cinnamon roll dough:

  • Warm the milk and butter on the stovetop or in the microwave until it is warm but not hot to the touch (it should be below 110°F). Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the yeast to the milk, stirring to combine, then set it aside for 5 minutes. 
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together the flour, cinnamon, salt and remaining ½ cup sugar. Add the yeast mixture and eggs and mix for 8 minutes until dough is smooth. (The dough will be slightly tacky.) Place the dough in a clean, greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, dark place to proof until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.  
  • Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter.
  • Lightly flour your work surface then scrape the dough out, and using a rolling pin, roll the dough into roughly a 12×20-inch rectangle that is 1/4-inch thick. 
  • Brush the melted butter generously over the dough. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle it atop the melted butter. Starting at the long edge of the rectangle, roll the dough up into a tight log, then using a sharp knife, slice the log into 12 2-inch rounds.
  • Arrange the rounds in the prepared baking dish (discarding any smaller ends). Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, dark place to allow the cinnamon rolls to rise a second time for 30 minutes. (Note: This is the point at which you can cover the pan securely with plastic wrap and refrigerate the rolls overnight. Continue with the recipe as directed on the day of baking.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Bake the cinnamon rolls until they are pale golden, 22 to 25 minutes. (Note: If you are baking the cinnamon rolls directly from the fridge, add about 10 minutes to your bake time.)
  • While the cinnamon rolls bake, make the cream cheese frosting.  

Make the cream cheese frosting:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. 
  • Add the vanilla extract, buttermilk, salt and confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined.
  • Spread generously over completely cooled cinnamon rolls. Best served immediately.  

Kelly’s Notes

  • The dryer is the perfect warm and humid environment for yeast dough to rise. Run the dryer on empty for 5 minutes, then turn it off and set the bowl inside, covered with a towel.
  • Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking too much to the work surface when you’re rolling it out. 
  • Use a piece of unwaxed, unflavored tooth floss to cleanly cut the individual pieces. Place the center of the floss under the roll where you want to make the cut, cross the ends over the top, and pull ends in opposite directions.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 593kcal, Carbohydrates: 81g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 98mg, Sodium: 335mg, Potassium: 166mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 45g, Vitamin A: 885IU, Calcium: 87mg, Iron: 2.5mg

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Comments

  1. Hi! I would like to prepare these for a vacation. Can you explain how and at what point I can freeze the dough/rolls? Can we completely make the dough, put the rolls in a pan & then freeze? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Megan! Yes, you can completely make the rolls, arrange them in the prepared baking dish and cover it with plastic wrap and aluminum foil to protect the rolls from freezer burn. When you’re ready to bake the frozen cinnamon rolls, remove the wrapped baking dish from the freezer and let it thaw at room temp for about 2 to 3 hours, or until the rolls have doubled in size. Once the rolls have thawed and risen, bake them until golden brown and cooked through. Hope this helps!

  2. 5 stars
    These are so so good!! I used the overnight method and they turned out perfect! Can these be frozen before baked?

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed the recipe, Kristin! And yes, the cinnamon roll dough can be frozen. The easiest way is to freeze the rolls, unrisen, in the pan. Cover them tightly with both plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Then you’ll just need to remove them, allow them to thaw and rise, and continue the baking process.

  3. I’ve made these a few tim s and they are great. However, the dough never seems to rise well for me. I’m proofing it in a warm spot. I’m an experienced baker so I’m puzzled this keeps happening. I’ve read that cinnamon in a dough will stunt the rise. Any feedback? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ann! Thanks for your comment! Cinnamon can technically stunt the rise, but I have never experienced this. Did you confirm the expiration date of your yeast and use a thermometer to ensure the liquid wasn’t too hot?

    1. That should work, Viv! You may need to adjust the flour but just do it based on how the dough feels when you’re kneading it and add more if it gets too sticky. :)

  4. 5 stars
    I like the detailed instructions, and especially the size of the cut on the roll for each cinnamon bun !! thank you

  5. 4 stars
    I leave 4 out of 5 stars because there’s no guidelines on how far a part to space the rolls in the dish to allow space to rise and bake thoroughly.
    Also tips on how to help the dough rise would be helpful for people like me that don’t know what they are doing.
    They are Very delicious rolls I’ve made them twice now, second time the spacing was much better!

  6. 5 stars
    I am using a different roll recipe and using your icing recipe for them because this one looks bangin’! Next time I make them (and there will be a next time) I will use your entire recipe. And just a quick note, if you buy yeast in bulk, freeze it. I bought my yeast 5 years ago and and it’s still good! Keep it in a sealed container. I just had mine in a Ziploc container. Thanks again Kelly!

    1. You are so welcome, Donna! I’m looking forward to reading your results in the future :)

  7. 5 stars
    Hi Kelly, I wanted to make these, like, now and I was wondering what dimensions should the rectangle be after rolling the dough out? This is my first attempt at making cinnamon rolls from scratch and I really don’t want to make them too doughy.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Donna! Roll the dough into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thick and measures about 12×18 inches. :)

  8. 4 stars
    I made these and left them in the fridge overnight! I baked them for a half hour and they are still pretty raw! Did I do something wrong?

    1. Hi Rebecca – Oven temperatures (as well as baking dishes) can cause great variances in the bake time. Do you have an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is running at the correct temperature? And was the rack in the center of the oven?

  9. Thank you for the recipe.
    A quick one though.
    Do i wait for the second rise (30 minutes) before placing it in the refrigerator overnight OR do i wrap with plastik wrap and immediately place it in the refrigerator without waiting for the second rise?

    1. Hi there! Option #1; wait for the second rise before covering the pan securely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

  10. I seem to be missing where the 1/2 chip of sugar goes in the dough mix?? It only says to use 1 tbsp and nowhere else in ther texture does it tell toy where tti use ther other 1/2 C.

    1. Thanks so much for catching this, Melissa! The remaining 1/2 cup goes in with the dough. The recipe has been updated!