Updated October 16, 2022
These overnight cinnamon rolls are the BEST gooey, soft, and fragrant cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. I make them year after year for their irresistible texture, smell, and outstanding brown butter cream cheese icing.
The dough rests overnight in the fridge to allow it to build strength after a few folds and more importantly, flavor.
Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.Lemony Snicket
One of the most popular recipes on this blog!
I first published this recipe in 2020 and it has been a Top 3 recipe on this blog ever since. I’ve made it time and time again with incredible, consistent results every time.
You’ll notice that I share a lot of troubleshooting notes throughout recipe & FAQs on what could go wrong, not to scare you, but to arm you with all the knowledge to make the best cinnamon rolls possible.
When you know what to watch out for, a bad batch of cinnamon rolls will be near impossible. So follow this recipe and its techniques closely, and your home will be flooded with not just warm cinnamony smells but also the sense of pride knowing you made something truly remarkable.
How to Make Homemade Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
There are three parts to these cinnamon rolls.
- Enriched Dough
- Cinnamon Sugar Filling
- Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing
This recipe requires that the dough rest in the fridge overnight or up to three days, so plan accordingly! Below is the schedule I normally use when I make these rolls.
The night before: mix dough at 6pm, finish folds by 8pm, and refrigerate overnight.
The day of: shape rolls at 9am, proof until 10:30am, baked rolls by 11am.
If you’d like the rolls for breakfast, you’ll just need to start a little earlier the day of. Now that we have our schedule laid out, here’s how it looks like to make my favorite cinnamon rolls!
How to apply folds to dough
Instead of kneading, this recipe uses the strength folding method for a simpler and cleaner way to build up gluten.
Use your fingers to pull up the dough from one edge and bring it to the center. Repeat until you’ve gone around the entire perimeter. This counts as one fold, and the recipe has a total of 4 folds applied in 30-minute increments.
Tips for making the best cinnamon rolls
- Don’t overheat your milk. Your milk should be between 100º F -110º F, not any hotter or it will kill the yeast. I use a thermometer to test this, but if you don’t have one, it should feel similar to bath water.
- Ensure your yeast foams before proceeding. To make sure your yeast hasn’t died, wait for yeast to get foamy in the warm milk and honey before proceeding. If it does not get foamy, the yeast is likely dead, so start over with fresh yeast. It’s much cheaper now to toss it out than to toss out a fully made dough.
- Use softened room temperature butter in dough. Butter gets mixed into the dough best when it’s softened and at room temperature, not melted.
- Roll out the dough when cold. This dough is extra sticky when at room temp, so rolling out the dough cold makes it much easier to handle, fill and roll.
Tried and tested recipe for delicious, soft and gooey overnight cinnamon rolls.
Example Schedule: Mix dough at 6pm the night before, roll out and cut at 9am, bake at 10:30am, finished rolls by 11am.
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (568g)
- 2 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand) or 1 tsp sea salt
- 3/4 cup warm whole milk (100-110º F)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 4 large eggs (room temp)
- 10 tbsp unsalted butter (room temp, cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/4 sticks or 142g)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (110 g)
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- pinch kosher salt or sea salt
- 2 tbsp salted or unsalted butter (melted)
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
- 4 oz cream cheese (room temp)
- 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar (156 g)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp whole milk
The Day Before: Make Dough & Brown Butter
- Bloom the yeast. In a glass measuring cup or bowl, add the warm whole milk (between 100ª F – 110ªF), honey, and instant yeast and whisk to combine. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes until foamy. If it doesn’t foam, your yeast may have died, so start over with fresh yeast! When the mixture is foamy, add the eggs (room temp) and whisk to combine.
- Mix the Dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, pour the wet ingredients into the flour to combine. Then add the room temp butter one piece at a time. When the butter is all in, increase the speed to medium, and beat for about 1 minute until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is stringy and very sticky. Use a spatula to spoon the sticky dough into a large greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
- Apply folds. After 30 minutes, apply the first fold by placing your fingers under one edge of the proofed dough, pulling the dough up, and folding it back over itself. Repeat this motion around the entire perimeter of the dough, turning the bowl as you go, until it’s completely folded over itself, about 6 times. Cover the bowl and rise for another 30 minutes. Repeat this folding step 3 more times, waiting 30 minutes in between each fold, for a total of 2 hours and 4 folds. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight or up to 72 hours.
- Brown butter. Use the downtime in between folds to brown some butter for the icing since it will need to solidify again. Melt unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter gets a tint of brown, not too dark, about 10 minutes. It will smell nutty and delicious. Pour into a heat-safe bowl and cover at room temp to solidify overnight.
The Day Of: Roll Dough & Bake
- Mix filling. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, melt the butter. Grease a 9 x 13 sheet pan and line with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Set aside.
- Shape the rolls. On a floured work surface, knead the cold dough about 10 times to wake up the yeast. Roll out the dough into a 14-inch by 16-inch wide rectangle, and brush the melted butter on the surface. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over the top, and press it in lightly with your hands to adhere to the butter. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a tight log. Keep the roll seam side down. Use a knife to create light indentations on the roll to create 12 equal pieces. Cut the rolls and place into the greased pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise one last time in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. While the rolls are proofing, make the icing.
- Make Icing. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add the solidified browned butter you made the night before and room temp cream cheese. Beat until combined. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Mix until just combined; we don’t need it whipped. Add more powdered sugar or milk as needed for desired consistency. This icing is more like frosting, so the consistency will resemble buttercream. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).
- Bake. Remove plastic wrap, and bake rolls for 27-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through until golden brown on top. When the rolls are done and still warm, spread a thin layer of icing (about 1/3 of your mixture) on the rolls. This keeps them soft and prevents the crust from developing anymore. Cool the rolls for at least another 15 minutes or until cooled completely, and spread on the rest of the icing. Enjoy!
Keywords: cinnamon rolls, desserts, dough, holidays, thanksgiving, fall baking recipes
FAQs – the dough
- Why do we knead cold dough? With enriched doughs, the butter and milk can sometimes inhibit the yeast’s growth. So, giving the dough a quick knead after it’s been in the fridge overnight helps waken the yeast and gives it a jump start.
- Is the dough supposed to be sticky? Absolutely! The stickiness gives the rolls their soft, fluffy and moist texture. I suggest rolling out the dough when it is chilled because it is much, much easier to handle.
- What does folding do? This builds gluten that helps build the dough’s structure, making it easier to handle and gives the rolls their pull-apart, stringy texture.
FAQs – Ingredients
- Can I add nuts or dried fruit to the rolls? Sure! But pay extra attention to the rolling process since the cinnamon filling is on the dry side. You’ll want to make sure your rolls are still tight and compact when you put them into the pan.
- What if I have active dry yeast, not instant? This is totally fine! You just need to let the active dry yeast rest in the warm milk and honey for 10-15 minutes until foamy, before the eggs are added. If the yeast mixture does not get foamy after 15 minutes, your milk might have been too hot and could have killed the yeast (been there!). Try the mixture again, making sure the milk is lukewarm (110 degrees F max).
A while ago, I bought a 1 lb bag of yeast and thought it was excessive, but I just hated buying the yeast packets one roll at a time. So I’ve just kept that bag of yeast in my freezer. When COVID struck in 2020 and yeast started selling out, I counted my baking blessings. Haha. If you bake at all, I would recommend purchasing in bulk and keeping it in your freezer. It’s perfectly fine in there and the $9 price tag will pay off in 5 bakes or so. Totally worth it. You can purchase the yeast brand I use, Red Star, on Amazon!
For High Altitude Bakers
I developed this recipe in my home in Louisiana but have made it successfully in my Colorado and California homes. If you live in an area that has a high altitude, the proofing times in between folds may be much quicker because the air pressure is lower. But you should definitely still refrigerate the dough overnight at minimum to develop flavor.
If you’ve had trouble with adjusting recipes for altitude before, I would recommend checking out King Arthur’s High Altitude Baking post before you make this recipe to plan for any minor adjustments.