UPDATED: Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
(or – Cinnamon Rolls That Are Actually Possible to Make When You Have Five Kids)
**updated with directions for freezing and baking from frozen — see below**

Homemade cinnamon rolls are one of our Christmas morning traditions. They also take hours and hours to make. Once upon a less-than-five-kids time, that was dandy, even blissful. An afternoon in a freshly scrubbed kitchen working with dough? Yes, please! But these days I’m lucky if I can grab an hour, and I’m even luckier if I can find a clean work surface.

That’s why I buckled down and found the world’s fastest way to make homemade yeast-dough cinnamon rolls. Because if I can keep a tradition alive with a little modification, then, by golly, that’s what I’m gonna do.

This recipe, which I concisely titled Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls – (I know; I’m the Queen of Brevity) – takes 1 hour and 15 minutes from gathering ingredients to serving my kids piping hot rolls. And, by kids, I mean mostly Greg and me. But whatever.

Christmas 2013 UPDATE: Many thanks to reader Christin McIntyre who has made this recipe EVEN FASTER. Thanks to Christin, I now combine Steps 2-4 of this recipe. That’s right. You can just dump all of these things STRAIGHT INTO the mixer, in order of ingredients, without doing the separate water/honey/yeast/waiting steps. Just make sure your bowl is warm(ish – I rinse mine in hot water first), dump everything together and mix it all up; then follow directions from Step 5 on. IT WORKS JUST FINE. 

Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast (yeah – that’s a lot – guess why it rises so fast?)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 5 cups flour

Dough, Step One: Remove Spiderman from the mixing bowl.

You want to know who this sort of thing doesn’t happen to? The Pioneer Woman. That’s who. She does not find Spiderman stickers in her mixer. That’s one of one hundred reasons why I love her, and one of one thousand why I stopped trying to be like her. When Step One of making cinnamon rolls = “remove Spiderman from the mixing bowl,” it’s time to face the music. This isn’t that blog. This will never be that blog. And here’s a link to the Pioneer Woman’s GORGEOUS cinnamon roll instructions if you need to stop reading now. Do what you need to do; I understand. I really do.

Dough, Step Two: Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey into 2 cups of warm water.

Yes, I know I’m supposed to tell you what warm water means. Most people do it by degrees, but, honest to God, I’ve never used a water temperature thermometer while baking. I’m more of a “Hail, Mary” baker myself. There’s just no time in an hour and 15 minutes to be precisely measuring water temperature, folks. But I won’t leave you high and dry. Here’s how you figure out if the water’s warm-enough-but-not-too-warm: if you would stick a baby in it, it’s good.

Now stir together honey and water ’til the honey is dissolved. I’d show you a picture of how to stir, but I’m on a timeline, folks.

Dough, Step Three: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast on top of your honey water and let it sit there for 5 minutes ’til it gets foamy on top, like this:

It also gets pretty stinky. Bring a kid over to smell it. When they go “EW!” you’re probably about done. Even if the yeast isn’t all dissolved and foamy, I pretend I’m done ’cause 5 minutes is all I’m willing to invest in this step. That’s 3 minutes longer than I gave myself to go to the bathroom today, so I feel pretty good about it.

Dough, Step Four: Into your Spiderman-free mixer equipped with a bread hook*, dump 5 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoon of softened butter and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.

(*Note: If you’re absent a mixer and a bread hook, you can bypass steps 4 and 5 in favor of dumping everything into a giant bowl and mixing it together with your Spiderman-free hands. It’s WAY messier, and WAY more fun. Don’t let the absence of overly-involved kitchen equipment deter you.)

Dough, Step Five: With your mixer turned on low, add the yeast and honey-water mixture to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

You guys, please listen closely: This is not an approved ingredient-mixing method, and I’m quite certain that it’s terribly WRONG. I’ve never heard of starting with the dry ingredients and adding the liquid, and better bakers than me can probably tell us exactly why.

But here’s the thing: I used to create giant nuclear cloud plumes of flour in my kitchen when I started with the liquid and added the dry by the cupful. We ran family emergency baking preparedness drills, and my kids learned to hide under the kitchen table and never look directly at the mushroom cloud. It was a dark and scary time.

We do everything else in our house backwards, so I’m not sure why baking should be any different. Starting with all of the flour in the mixer and damping it down with liquid – kind of like spraying a dusty road with water in the summer time – not only saves me mess and hassle, it significantly cuts down on TIME. What can I say? I’m a sucker for easy time-savers.

Dough, Step Six: Knead the dough. I’m almost positive you’re supposed to do this on a well-floured surface with your hands, but I let my mixer do the work. I just keep that bread hook going ’til everything’s combined, sticky, and pulls like this:

Dough, Step Seven: Dump the dough into a buttered bowl, stick a kitchen towel on top of it and let it rise in the warmest part of the kitchen (for me, that’s on top of two or more wrestling children, but I’ve found that neither the dough nor the bowl hold up well in that environment, so now I stick it on top of my stove) for 20 minutes.

Dough, Step Eight: Roll into a giant rectangle on a well-floured surface.

I roll it to the full size of my cutting board, which is about as big as a bed pillow. While you’re doing that, try not to think about how much you’d like for it to BE a bed pillow. Then try not to fantasize about getting more sleep in your life. Then try not to think about thousands of nights of lost sleep and how desperately you need a nap. Then try to not think about all those people who tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps” (HA!) and the horrific things you’d like to do to them. And good luck with all that, because even though this is the easiest dough I’ve ever rolled out, the rest of this step’s a doozy.

Congratulations! The dough is done! Now it’s time to fill it, roll it, and bake it.

Here’s what you’ll need for the filling:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter
  • 2 handfuls of brown sugar (if you can borrow someone with huge hands, it makes this recipe 10x yummier)
  • a sprinkling of cinnamon

Filling, Step One: Using your hands, smear that stick of softened butter all over the rolled-out dough.

Filling, Step Two: Using your hands, spread at least two handfuls of brown sugar all over the dough, thusly:

Filling, Step Three: Sprinkle cinnamon all over the brown sugar. Then sprinkle some more. Mmmmm.

Rolling, Step One: Starting with the long side, loosely roll up your dough ’til you have a long, skinny tube.

(Psst… It’s OK if the roll is uneven; I just cut off those uneven ends and toss ’em in a bowl – I chop them into pieces later, add more butter and sugar, and bake them as Monkey Bread. But that’s a message for another time.)

Rolling, Step Two: Cut the long tube o’ dough into four equal pieces, and then cut those four pieces into three pieces each. 4 x 3 = 12 total.

Baking, Step One: Place your rolls in a 9×13 buttered baking dish and cover with a kitchen towel.

Let rise for 10 minutes while preheating your oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking, Step Two: AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP… stop everything while the most adorable, blond neighbor children come a-knocking on the back door with plates of freshly decorated, personalized, gingerbread people.

If you miss this step, the cinnamon rolls will be ruined.

But, seriously – how cute are these?

That rather wide lady on the left is yours truly. The guy with the stunning glasses is Greg. And I’ll bet you can tell who’s on the right due to the very fine handwriting (someone has a serious cake-decorating future, I tell you). They were the sweetest!

Baking, Step Three: Bake your pan of rolls at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes ’til golden brown and bubbling.

Baking, Step Four: Flip the rolls out of the pan upside down onto a cutting board so the sugar drips delightfully through the rolls… and sneak a hot one before your kids can catch you. My kids think that a dozen rolls looks like this:

It’s kind of like a baker’s dozen (13), except it’s a mama’s dozen (11). What they don’t know can’t hurt ’em, eh?

I swear it took longer to read this post than it will to make the rolls.

Coat these babies with icing… if they last that long… otherwise, just eat ’em while they’re hot, and…

Merry Christmas!
Beth

……….

Easy-peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Ingredients and Directions: The Concise, Boring Version

Dough:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 5 cups flour

Dough Directions:

  1. Dissolve honey in water. New, improved 2013 directions: Pour warm water and honey into mixing bowl. Stir.
  2. Sprinkle yeast on top of honey-water and let sit for 5 minutes ’til yeast is foaming. Sprinkle yeast on the honey water. No need to wait ’til the yeast foams.
  3. Dump remaining ingredients in a mixer. Add wet ingredients. Mix with a dough hook ’til everything is combined and sticky.
  4. Dump (dumping’s really key to this recipe) sticky dough into buttered bowl. Cover. Let rise 20 minutes.
  5. Roll dough with a rolling pin into a huge rectangle on a well-floured surface.

Filling:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter
  • 2 handfuls of brown sugar or lots more
  • a sprinkling of cinnamon

Filling and Baking Directions:

  • Spread softened butter, then brown sugar, then cinnamon on your rectangle of dough
  • Cut into 12 equal pieces and put them into a buttered 9×13 pan
  • Cover and let rise for 10 minutes
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes ’til golden and bubbling
  • Flip rolls upside down, out of the pan, onto a cutting board
  • Ice them or just eat ’em hot!

……….

NOW UPDATED with FREEZER DIRECTIONS: Did you know you can make these ahead of time and freeze them? You can!

Simply make these through the step that reads “cut into 12 equal pieces and put them into a buttered 9×13 pan.” Next, cover and FREEZE. That’s less than an hour of work time.

To bake, pop your FROZEN 9×13 pan of rolls into a COLD oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Allow oven to preheat with frozen rolls in the oven… this accomplishes both thawing and the second rise. Once the oven is heated to 400 degrees, set your timer for 20 minutes and bake as directed. VOILA!

……….

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
67 comments
  1. Thank you. I used the dough feature on my food processor and they came out great. Very good recipe

  2. Beth, you are like my own personal Christmas miracle!!! Thank you!!!! This is gonna be awesome 🙂

  3. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has to remove toys from the mixer bowl before working. I’m also glad you included that step because I’ve tried both ways (ignoring the items vs removing them) and I’ve never been sure which was more appropriate. My kids like surprises in their treats.

    I had to share one tip about letting bread rise – I put mine in the oven with the light on and get a perfect rise out of all rising bread products. I flip the light on as I’m starting a recipe (or if I forget, I turn the oven on warm for just a few minutes then turn it back off but do keep that light on) then I slide my covered bowl into the light-warmed oven. This also keeps most of the cat hair that flies through the air from settling in or around our bread. Would you believe I was about to do a blog post on this little tip when my darn oven light burned out? I keep forgetting to get a new one too … maybe I’ll beg the hubs to let me out of the house for 20 minutes this afternoon so I can go buy one (in all fairness, he’s usually the one pushing me out of the house so I can get some me time, I tend to forget to take that periodically). Oooh, an outing.

    Merry Christmas! I love your blog, thank you for sharing your life.

  4. This is a great post!! I love ur humor!! U have got to post more!! As a mom of 7 I can totally appreciate this!! And I usually have all kinds of strange stuff in my mixing bowl 🙂

  5. […] Easy Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls — yep, from scratch to table in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Like a Christmas miracle. […]

  6. Dude! You make monkey bread with the ends? You’re a better woman than I…those have always just been the ugly ones I eat before anyone finds out the rolls are done…..:-)

  7. I recently came across this blog, and found this recipe while catching up on past posts. I made them this morning and they are great!! The easiest and best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made. I admit I made a slight change though…. I used a whole 2 packets of yeast because I didn’t want to waste the rest of the yeast in the second packet. I know, I could’ve saved it to make them another time, but then the open packet would get shoved in the cupboard, jostled around, eventually spilling all over…. So I just used it up instead!

  8. I just made these and they are the absolute best cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted (and the easiest to make)!! I ended up with 16 rolls (12 regular and 4 mini). I’m making them for a dinner with friends for tomorrow and I wanted to be able to test them, so the little leftover end pieces were perfect for that. Thank you for sharing (even though it’s been almost a year), this recipe (the boring, short version, unfortunately) has made it’s way into my recipe book!

  9. OMG, I just made these and ate one… and it was a piece of HEAVEN! Thank you so much for this recipe – everything was easy as pie (after I had googled how much is one stick of butter…) and didn’t really take long either. I have to say I wonder what size your rolls are, because I only made half portion of the dough and decided to make 8 rolls instead of 6.. and even then they turned out HUGE 😀

  10. Hello Beth,

    I just wanted to “Thank You” for the GREAT time I had while making your WONDERFUL, DELICIOUS!!! and truly QUICK AND EASY cinnamon roll recipe. It’s the night before Father’s Day and I remembered as we were putting the kids (4) to bed…that I forgot to pick up some special treat for my husband and kids for breakfast….(cinnamon rolls are our favorite !)…Soooo…after the kids were down, I decided to hop on the good old internet and find a “Quick and Easy” recipe for them…..When I ran across yours, the humor and simplicy made the time of night and task ahead actually seem tackleable, (is that a word???) very easy and exciting!!!!…..So I got to work…..and it WAS easy and fun :)…..!!!
    My wonderful , homemade (with love of course)breakfast treats are cooling as I type….and I’m SO grateful for your wonderful recipe posting…..(Your pictures are awesome!)

    Thanks Again….Can’t wait to surprise everyone with them in the morning!!!!!!!!
    Cathy 🙂

    1. LOVE LOVE this comment Cathy – thanks!

      As for me, I tried a longer, more complicated version of cinnamon rolls this afternoon in preparation for Father’s Day, and I TOTALLY WRECKED THEM. It’s 9:30pm now, and my mixer’s mixing THIS recipe, which is what I should’ve done all along. Nice thing is, I can still be in bed by 10:30pm. Love this recipe and glad you do, too!

      B

  11. Sounds wonderfully easy. Can’t wait til my new mixer comes then I’m gonna try this!

  12. […] week, I told you about my easy-peasy recipe for FAST homemade cinnamon rolls that even a mama of five rambunctious kiddos can make from start to finish in 1.25 hours. And […]

  13. Hi Beth!
    I came over from Gypsy Mama’s list of “the post you wish more people had read” and I got caught up in your blog … perhaps it was the gooey brown sugar in this recipe (which I will try). I’m not a Mom but I could be the next door neighbor who makes a kick-a cup of coffee and will sit your kids in a pinch! We’d laugh a lot … or cry … whichever is your pleasure. PS: I really like your blog!
    Many Blessings,
    Felecia

    1. Felecia, what a kind comment to read! Please feel free to move right in – we have an empty lot on one side of our house… I’ll reserve it for you. 🙂

  14. I’m making these right now, sans mixer. I gotta say, its been easy so far, except, silly me, I didn’t actually print out the recipe and was trying to use my phone. So I was trying to mix and kneed while my 4 year old was trying to scroll down for me. He had a little too much fun with that! will post pics in your fb page when i’m done. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. OH, HOW I LOVED READING THIS. Thanks for sharing, Kristen! Too funny… and exactly how I do things. Please do post the pics!

  15. Great rolls-saved my butt this morning! Fantastic blog – looking forward to following you more!

    1. Hooray! Thanks, Ang! This Christmas Day comment made my day!

  16. I just stumbled across your blog through a link from Kelleigh Ratzaff Design. Love the recipe and the real life humor. We have six kids so I have a pretty good idea of what you are talking about. The kicker was the stocking header across the top of the page. I just bought the book for the stocking designs and started the first one for my youngest son last night. Crazy coincidence!

    Hope your Christmas is very merry and thanks again for the laughter!

    1. Isn’t Kelleigh the best? She’s really very good at linking people to each other, and I’ve been so grateful for her support. Thanks for taking the time to comment here, Carla, and to say how you got here.

      Six kids! My hat is off to you! (And those stockings are my fave! Still working on the 5th kid’s stocking, actually.)

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, Carla.
      B

  17. Thanks for adding the note to do it with my hands if once again Santa didn’t bring me a fancy mixer with bread hook! I usually forlornly stop reading recipes at the mixer/bread hook part. Also, I love your “mama’s dozen” comment!! That’s how I roll!!

    1. Yippee! I loved this comment SO SO much, Amber!

  18. Fabulous – written and photographed exactly the way I would have tried to explain it to someone (minus the cute blond neighbor kids – mine are dark-haired. I wonder if that would affect the cinnamon roll taste?). Had so much fun reading, hope making is just as fab – and I’ll be back again!

    1. Thanks, Hilary.

      I imagine that having dark-haired neighbors would affect the recipe in the same way that dark brown sugar differs from light brown sugar… still delicious! 😉

      Let me know how it worked out!
      B

  19. Love the longer, more verbose, and more realistic version of the recipe. I might just try this. One BIG problem though- I don’t have any cute blonde neighbor kids. The only neighbors I have I would not dare eat anything from- it might get me arrested. You say the part about delivered gingerbread cookies is very important…how do I go about that then?

    1. Shoot! Did you figure out your dilemma? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure not having the neighbor kids delivering the cookies will ruin this recipe. Of course, I don’t know for sure, so if yours worked out, do tell. 😉

  20. Beth, so I am not kidding…my recipe for cinnamon rolls is the oh so famous Pioneer Woman’s recipe that you posted the link too (and holy crap, they are good)…but I am headed to the kitchen to make these in about ten minutes (only because it just so happens to be nap time). We have the “Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas Morning” tradition too, but heck, I don’t have all day any more either! If I can master these today, they will be gracing our tabletop on Christmas morn’! XOXO

    1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

      Merry Christmas. xoxoxo

  21. How many packets of yeast is 1 Tablespoon? I want to try this!

    1. Use 1 and 1/3 packets of dry active yeast to equal 1 Tablespoon.

      (1 packet = 2.25 teaspoons)

      Send me a picture!

      1. OK I will, but I do not have the fancy-pants photo-taking phone, so I am not sure the photos will be of such magnificent quality.

  22. Thanks, Cathie! Especially for putting up with me for the long haul now! 😀

    Merry, merry Christmas to you & yours… ’til the season for angels Gabriel. 😉

    Beth

  23. Oh, Beth – you are so funny.
    I have always cut corners while baking, and I am a darn good baker if I do say so myself. Something I recently discovered, although I haven’t tried yet, is that you can throw all of the ingredients in your breadmaker and it will mix and knead for you, and then you can just go straight to the rolling out stage, and not mess up your mixer. Seriously, everything I bake usually ends up as a one-bowl recipe. And still yummy. Cinnamon rolls were on my list of things to make for Christmas morning, so thanks for the recipe!
    Merry Christmas to your gang!

  24. Thanks so much for this! They look gorgeous and I shall be trying them later. We’re potty training so I need recipes that take a minimum of time. I giggled out loud about the “Mama’s Dozen” – hilarious. Happy Christmas Beth and thank you so much for everything you give us through this blog! xxx

    1. Happy Christmas to you, Fiona! And thanks for all of your beautiful and encouraging comments. I’m grateful for you.

      xxxooo

  25. Those pictures are so clear I can almost smell the rolls!!!! mmmmmm good 🙂

    1. Thanks, Betty! I’m a little bit photo handicapped, what with the jostling children and the fact that my phone *is* my fancy camera… so this compliment means a lot to me.

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