Homemade Cinnamon Rolls – cool rise sweet dough

Years and years ago, when I was ten years old, I had the exciting privilege of spending the day with Auntie Joan, learning to make homemade cinnamon rolls. I was ecstatic. (The thing that bends my brain a bit is that doing the math tells me that Joan was only in her early to mid-twenties at that time! I remember her being the font of all baking wisdom!) To this day, I have this recipe on a smudged 3×5 card, printed out in my own 10-year-old manuscript.

Cool Rise Sweet Dough for Cinnamon Rolls

Stir together in a bowl:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 T. yeast

Cut in 1 stick of butter or margarine.

Pour in 1 1/2 c. very hot water.

Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.


  • 2 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 c. flour

Mix on high speed for 1 minute.

Gradually add in 2-3 more cups of flour until the dough is thick and elastic, pulling away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto counter. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. (NOT longer–letting it rest more than 20 minutes will affect the flavor adversely.)

Divide the dough into two balls. Roll out one ball at a time. Roll out into a rectangle that is roughly 10×14 inches. Spread melted butter over the top of rectangle to within 3/4″ of edges. Sprinkle sugar on top of the butter. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of that. Distribute raisins over the butter/sugar/cinnamon. Starting with one side, roll up the dough into a long, thick roll. Slice into individual rolls and place in a 9×13″ pan on their sides. I try to get 12 rolls out of each ball of dough and put them 12 to a pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. The flavor really improves if you refrigerate this recipe overnight. Before baking, remove from fridge and let sit on the counter for at least an hour.

Bake at 350° until golden brown. Remove from oven. While they’re still hot, drizzle some glaze over them. Serve warm. The really decadent among us like to smear a little butter on the top….to put these OVER the top in terms of caloric heaven.

Glaze: a cup of powdered sugar, a drizzle of melted butter, and just enough milk to make a runny glaze.

This dough also makes lovely coffee cakes. I won a first prize ribbon at the Arizona State Fair when I was 12 when I used this dough to make almond coffee cake. Doing this requires some of the almond paste filling from banket-making. I roll the dough out into a rectangle, put a line of almond paste down the center and braid the dough into a pretty coffeecake. (See how Laura did the braid on her pear cake.)

Over the years I’ve made countless different cinnamon roll recipes, but I keep coming back to this one. And the memories of being invited by Auntie Joan into that magic world of yeast breads are as fragrant as the rolls baking in my oven.


35 thoughts on “Homemade Cinnamon Rolls – cool rise sweet dough

  1. Hi Barb! Went online yesterday to find a wonderful recipe using almond paste, and one of my great goals in life is to make good cinnamon rolls. I realized last eve that you had just put the very 2 concepts in my mind online the same day I searched! Thank you. Your directions are very well expressed.

    Do you bake with filo too? It is amazingly easy, and the fat can be cut back easily. Using pam rather than butter on each sheet crisps in the oven too. Even the torn pieces which occur when picking up/peeling forever oh so carefully. Line the little cups on the muffin sheets with the shredded/small irregular pieces the scraps! Prebake and fill with pudding or fruits or chocolate mousse. tre bien!

  2. Oh honey, I am so honored that you remembered that long ago day of baking with me. Yes, I wasn’t all that much older than you and actually did a lot more baking back then than I do now. But you and my girls have carried on the baking traditions. Julie served us those rolls when we were there visiting last month.
    I also used that dough for almond coffee cakes. Another use was to roll it much like Nate rolls his squirrel bread and coil it in a circle. Then cut about every inch and twist it on its side….looks like a bouquet of flowers when the dough raises. For that I used either raisins and cinnamon or apricot preserves.
    Love, Joan

  3. when u say 2T baking powder doy ou mean teaspoon or tablespoon. can you also replace the cinammon with strawberry jam? my children do not like cinammon?

  4. Maria,

    This recipe doesn’t call for baking powder. Are you wondering about another ingredient or another recipe? Yes, you can use strawberry jam in the place of cinnamon in the rolls. It will give you an entirely different end result, but it should be yummy.


  5. Joan, I know that it was at least 35 years ago because I caught my fingers in the electric mixer when I was 11 in August. The reason I was using Grandma’s mixer was to show off my cinnamon roll prowess. I suspect that I was about 10 when you gave me my first baking lesson, which puts it at a little more than 35 years ago. I think that qualifies as “years and years” don’t you?


  6. Barb, Hi and a Big thank you for your easy approach to baking, which helped me to not obsess about the temp. of the liquids and over-doing the addition of flour!
    Your recipe is the First with which I have been successful!! Since it was in December when I found your story re Auntie Joan and the great method to mix the ingred. together, and now it is Easter, and the cinn. rolls, and an almond and cherry sweet roll braid are in the oven.(before the ham!!4 my husband the carnivore.)

    Where do you live? I lived in Ariz. as a young child, and now I am in Buffalo, ny.

    Wishing you and your A. Joan a wonderful Spring!

    Thanks! Trish

    And I love cinnamon rolls. Good ones!

  7. Hi Trish,
    It’s Laura here, sneaking in and editing your comment, because I don’t think you REALLY want your email addy hanging out here in public (but it’s duly noted, thanks! 😉 )

    Barb is on her way back to NC today or tomorrow (I think) from Easter celebrations with family. She’ll stop in when she gets home.

    We grew up in Phoenix, and both of us graduated from ASU before moving to other states. I visited Buffalo on choir tour when I was in grad school at the Univ. of Wisconsin–we did a concert at some really old historic church in downtown Buffalo, and went on from there up to Niagara, and over the Canada route on the way to MI. I liked Buffalo a lot, what I saw of it.

    Anyway, hope you had a happy Easter, and I hope your family enjoyed your baked goods. We are always delighted to hear when people make a success from something we’ve posted here.


  8. Dear Trish,

    Thank you for your sweet note. I’m delighted that you’ve had success with sweet dough! As Laura noted, we both lived in Arizona for a lot of years before we found greener places to live! Did you attend high school in AZ?

    Wishing you much baking success!


  9. Dear Trish,
    Glad you liked the cool rise recipe. Our family has used it for many years with success. Barb, I think your bread baking visit had to be in our little apartment on Alameda Ave before you left for Arizona. We moved from there in 71, so yes it was “years and years”.
    Love, Joan
    Sorry about the ‘fingers in the mixer blades incident’…it’s a wonder you still bake so much.

  10. My kids love your cinnamon roll recipe, I have taught my 11 & 12 year old girls to make it and now they can do it with out looking at the recipe card, We make them at least once a week.
    Thank you for bringing a family tradition into our home here in Tennessee.
    God Bless,

  11. Love the recipe for Aunt Joan’s cinnamon rolls, and for your philosophy about food in general. That said, do you have a recipe for sugar free cinnamon rolls? My son in law is diabetic and feels left out a lot when it comes to desserts or that “something special” dish. We are having a family reunion soon and I’d like to make something that even HE can have!
    Thanks in advance.

  12. Hi, I am planning to use your cool-rise recipe for Thanksgiving. But, I have a question: when you say 2 T yeast, what kind of yeast do you mean? I am assuming instant…. Thank you!

  13. Hello there,
    I stumbled upon your recipe for cinnamon rolls last week and made them for breakfast with my boyfriend this past weekend – I had a very good feeling about them by the way you talked about them and my feeling was right – those were the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had!
    We now have a new “family recipe” to make into a winter-time tradition~ thank you so much!

    -Andrea and Dennis in Boston

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  15. Thank you so much for this recipe. I LOVE to bake, but always seem to have a hard time with anything bread-based. Because of this, I have avoided homemade cinnamon rolls…forever! This was my first attempt (for Christmas breakfast) and they turned out amazing. I made these yesterday, and cooked them this morning. My husband and children loved them, and they were unbelievably easy…no yeast drama, which I LOVE. Thank you so much for posting this, they will be my new (and only) cinnamon roll recipe!
    Happy Holidays!

  16. I had been wanted to try your recipe when I first saw it a few months ago and I finally tried it this weekend. This is by far the best cinnamon roll recipe that I have ever tried. (eating one now!) I only added a little cream cheese to my frosting.

    Thanks for a great keeper recipe!

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  18. 2 questions; 1) The rolls rise in the frig., do you leave the plastic wrap loose over the top and then just let them grow? 2) I make sticky buns, putting a Karo syrup & brown sugar mixture in the baking pan, then put the rolls on the mixture. ….. they are in the frig now to ‘cure’. I’ll post back how they turn out.

    • Ray, keep the plastic wrap loose enough to allow the dough to rise. It’s hard to keep vigorously rising dough down, so even if you get the plastic wrap too tight, the dough will still do its thing. The tricky part is making sure that the dough doesn’t stick to the plastic wrap if it rises up against it. A quick shot of non-stick cooking spray will take care of that.

  19. Do you have a recipe for brown and serve rolls? We will be traveling six hours on Thanksgiving day and I would like to make my rolls ahead but not finish baking them until we reach our destination.

    Have enjoyed your website and the hints and recipes, especially the Amish Friendship Bread.
    Thank you for any help you can give me and Happy Thanksgiving

    • Hi Betty,

      Here’s what *I* would do. I’d make this cool rise sweet dough recipe into cinnamon rolls. I’d FREEZE the pans of rolls the night before, tightly wrapped with plastic wrap. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, I’d take the frozen rolls out and put them in the trunk of the car or somewhere not in direct sun. After six hours of traveling, the rolls should be just perfect and ready to bake. If you live in a really cold climate, then you wouldn’t need to freeze the rolls. Just refrigerate and let them travel in the trunk. The only thing to be really careful with is that the rolls don’t get squished while you travel. I think this will work out just fine. Let us know how this turns out for you, okay?


  20. I made these this morning to bake tomorrow morning. But I put all the rolls in one 9×13 pan. I’ll let you know if this was a HUGE mistake or what when I bake them tomorrow. 🙂

    We are cooking dairy free so I used a soy type butter substitute in the dough and coconut oil for the ‘filling’.

    • So, putting all the rolls in one pan, not a huge mistake. I think my mistake was not letting the rolls come to room temp for an hour before sticking them in the oven. They turned out very fluffy and delicious but somewhat dense. I also maybe didn’t use enough sugar in the ‘filling’. But lots of icing made up for that mistake. All in all a very delicious recipe I loved because of the long rise in the refrigerator. Thanks!

      • I’m glad it worked out okay. You’re right that letting them warm up to room temperature would have made a difference. It’s possible, though, that they would have grown ENORMOUS if you had done that. Generally I get two very full pans from one recipe of the cool rise dough. I have two pans in the fridge right now, languishing overnight in anticipation of tomorrow’s Easter brunch.

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  24. Merry Christmas! Well, I just got done making the dough and my rolls are sitting in the refrigerator waiting until tomorrow morning. I am going to deliver some to my Mom and a few friends early in the morning so I can get back and start making dinner for everyone. Thanks for a go-to recipe I have been using since 2009!

  25. August 18 2016 Salt spring Island, BC Canada. I was looking for a refrigerator dough for cinnamon buns. I like recipe a lot but I don’t have space to refrigerate the rolls. I dough have space to refrigerate the dough. I’m thinking I can refrigerate the dough, roll it into rectangles, let it come to room temp, and then make the buns from that point. Have you ever done this? do you have suggestions? Toby

    • The way you suggested will work too. Refrigerating the dough slows down the rising process dramatically and that increases the flavor of the dough. Changing the order up won’t hurt anything but they may taste just a little less yeasty.

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