Overnight Cinnamon Rolls are the perfect make-ahead option for holiday breakfasts and brunches. My recipe makes incredibly soft and tender sweet rolls topped with an easy cream cheese frosting. Recipe includes a how-to video!
Easy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
There are few things better than fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm and gooey cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but considering the process of preparing these decadent sweet rolls takes several hours, this would typically require you starting the project at 4AM. I’m not sure about you, but that’s about the last thing I want to be doing Christmas (or any) morning.
Enter these overnight cinnamon rolls. With just a bit of planning, all the heavy lifting can be done the day before and they can complete their final rise while your oven preheats the next day.
My recipe yields twelve pillowy-soft and fluffy cinnamon rolls with perfectly gooey interiors. The base of today’s recipe is the same versatile and simple sweet dough I used in my sticky buns. It’s accented with a rich, buttery cinnamon swirl and topped with my easy and incredible cream cheese frosting that you’ll have to fight yourself to keep from devouring by the spoonful.
What You Need
Between the dough, filling, and frosting, there are quite a few ingredients in this recipe. Let’s go over a few of the important ones:
- Yeast. Active dry yeast is best for overnight cinnamon rolls. If you want to use instant yeast, try my 60-minute cinnamon rolls instead. Note that if your yeast doesn’t foam after 10 minutes, it’s likely dead and you must start over with fresh yeast.
- Brown sugar. I prefer to use light brown sugar for my filling. Dark brown sugar could work too, but the filling will be richer and sweeter.
- Egg + egg yolk. An extra egg yolk tenderizes the dough and makes it melt in your mouth. Don’t skip it!
- Whole milk. I prefer to use whole milk for this recipe and recommend it for best results. A lower fat or non-dairy milk could be substituted but will yield slightly less tender rolls.
- Flour. I’m using regular all-purpose flour here, though bread flour could be substituted (usually yields chewier results). You will notice that I include a range measurement for this ingredient; this is because you may need more or less flour depending on the conditions in your kitchen.
SAM’S TIP: Cinnamon is obviously a staple in any cinnamon roll filling, but I also like to add some allspice to my overnight cinnamon rolls for a slightly festive flair. You can certainly skip this though!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
- Activate the yeast – Heat the milk and water to 105-115F, then add the yeast and sugar and let this sit for 5-10 minutes until it is foamy.
- Start the dough – Stir in the melted butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and 2 cups of flour.
- Add the flour – Add more flour until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, then stop.
- Knead the dough – Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in size.
SAM’S TIP: You’ll know you’ve added enough flour when your dough begins to cling to itself and form a ball. If your dough is sticky while kneading, feel free to add more flour until the dough is more workable, but be careful not to add too much!
- Prepare the filling – Make the filling while the dough rises and grease your pan with butter (pictured in the corresponding photo above is dough that’s doubled in size).
- Deflate the dough – Gently deflate the dough and roll it into a 20 x 8 inch rectangle.
- Add the filling – Spread softened butter over the dough, then sprinkle and press your prepared filling evenly over the butter.
- Roll it up – Roll the dough into a log, starting with a long end. Slice the log into 12 even pieces (I hope you’re better at doing this than I am, mine always come out different sizes!).
- Cover and chill – Place the rolls in your prepared baking dish and cover with plastic before placing in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Second rise – Preheat your oven and let the rolls rise (covered) for about 1 hour or until puffed.
- Bake until golden – Bake the rolls for 30 minutes or until they are a light golden brown.
- Frost and enjoy! Let the rolls cool for 15 minutes before topping with frosting.
Speaking of frosting, I love using cream cheese frosting here because, while vanilla frosting or vanilla glaze are certainly an option, I feel they make things a tad too sweet. Cream cheese complements the cinnamon flavor and tones down what could be excessive sweetness, making for not-too-sweet, breakfast-worthy results.
Frequently Asked Questions
No! If you want to enjoy your cinnamon rolls the same day you make them, simply let them rise for 30-60 minutes after rolling and cutting, then bake as usual.
This can happen if your rolls are over-baked or if your flour was over-measured.
Make sure to keep an eye on your rolls and take them out when an instant read thermometer shows 180F when inserted into the center of a bun. You can also check for doneness by sticking a knife between two sticky buns–take a peak inside and make sure they look done, not doughy.
Knowing how to measure flour the right way is important, but with yeast doughs like the one we’re making today, you may need more or less than the recipe calls for. I suggest watching the video below to see exactly how your dough should look when you’ve added enough flour.
Yes, this is often known as “over-proofing”. Placing our overnight cinnamon rolls in the fridge before their second rise will prevent this from happening.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
- 1 cup whole milk (236ml)
- ⅓ cup water (80ml)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast One 7gram or 0.25oz packet
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar divided (70g)
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter melted (5 ⅓ Tablespoons or 75g)
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour plus additional as needed (500-625g)
- Cooking oil for greasing bowl I use olive oil
- ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed (100g)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice optional
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter very soft (57g) (plus additional butter for greasing pan)
- Combine milk and water in a microwave-safe measuring cup and warm until liquid is between 105-115F (40-46C).
- Pour into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast and a teaspoon of your granulated sugar over the surface and stir to combine. Let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, until yeast is foamy (if your yeast doesn’t foam after 10 minutes, it is likely dead and you will need to start over).
- Add melted butter, egg and egg yolk, sugar, salt, and about 2 cups (250g) of your flour. Stir until well-combined.
- Gradually add remaining flour as needed until dough clings to itself in a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl when mixing.
- Transfer dough to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead (adding additional flour if dough becomes too sticky) until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). If using a stand mixer, knead with the dough hook attachment (about 5 minutes).
- Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat all over with a light layer of oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours). Prepare filling while dough rises.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and allspice until well-combined. Set aside.
- Butter should be soft enough that it can easily be spread. If yours is cold, pop it in the microwave for several seconds at a time until it is easy to spread. Set aside.
- Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 13×9” (33x23cm) with butter. Set aside.
- Punch down dough to deflate and transfer to a clean, lightly floured surface. Use your hands or a rolling pin to form into an even 20×8” (50x20cm) rectangle.
- Spread the surface evenly with your 4 Tbsp of softened butter, leaving a ½” (1.5cm) perimeter around the edges.
- Sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter and use your hands to gently press it into the butter.
- Starting with a longer end, tightly roll the dough into a log.
- Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 even slices and transfer to prepared baking dish in four rows of three, spacing cinnamon rolls evenly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- If baking the next day: Place rolls in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking. The next day, preheat oven to 350F (175C) and remove rolls from the refrigerator. Keep rolls covered and let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour or until puffed and the space between the rolls has been mostly filled, then proceed with the recipe. I usually prepare my cream cheese icing at this point as well, see note.
- If baking the same day: Let rolls rise in a warm place until puffed (30-60 minutes). While rising, preheat oven to 350F (175C).
- Once rolls have risen, uncover and bake in center rack of oven on 350F (175C) for 30 minutes or until tops are beginning to turn a light golden brown (note, if you are using a dark colored metal baking dish, start checking at 26 minutes). While rolls are baking, prepare frosting.
Cream Cheese Icing
- Combine softened cream cheese and butter and stir until smooth and creamy.
- Gradually stir in sugar until completely combined, then stir in vanilla extract and milk.
- Allow cinnamon rolls to cool for 15 minutes in their pan before spreading frosting over each roll.
Cream Cheese Icing (Preparing in Advance)I will typically make this the same day I make the rolls then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate while the rolls rise. When I pull the dough out of the fridge to bake it, I’ll pull the icing out as well to soften.
StoringStore baked rolls in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Rolls will also keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, but note that the fridge can dry them out and they should be re-warmed before serving.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.