Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls {photo tutorial}

Hands down, Cinnamon Rolls are my favorite breakfast. If we’re being totally honest, they’re my favorite lunch, dinner, and snack, too. Everyone needs the perfect cinnamon roll recipe (from scratch!) in their arsenal.

This is that recipe for you.

The Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls plus a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make them!

Until a few years ago I was pretty freaked out about yeast. I was afraid I’d kill it and be labeled a yeast murderer. My first foray into yeasted bread was pizza crust using a recipe I’d found in the Rachael Ray Magazine. It was love at first bite.

Shortly thereafter I began making yeasted cinnamon rolls and over the past year I’ve developed a dough recipe that I absolutely love. It works every time, winter or summer, and it’s so much fun to play with the filling. In fact, I very rarely make “plain old” cinnamon rolls. I make versions like carrot cake or bacon maple.

My only complaint with making your own yeasted cinnamon rolls is the time. Start to finish, making cinnamon rolls from scratch can take up to 4-5 hours. If you’re making them for breakfast, that would mean you have to get up at 4am. Or earlier, if you have a daughter like mine who wakes up with the birds and demands breakfast before most people have even hit the snooze.

This recipe takes time – but the best thing about it is that these are OVERNIGHT Cinnamon Rolls. Which means all the hard work is done the day before and the day of you just have to bake them. They’re done in about 30 minutes, which is even doable for me if I bribe Jordan with a turkey breakfast link or 2.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls: perfect for the mom who’d rather be sleeping!

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

These rolls have a rich, buttery egg dough and are filled with a buttery, sugary, cinnamony filling. I added nuts to these because I was in the mood for them, but they’re not mandatory.

Great, you’re thinking. Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. Perfect. But I’m still afraid of working with yeast!

Don’t be. You have to start somewhere, and this recipe is what you should start with. To prove it to you, I took some process shots to tutor you in all things cinnamon roll. Follow my steps and you’ll do just fine.

{Bear with me. Process shots and I are not BFFs. In fact, I think of them as the mortal enemy that stole my strawberry shortcake eraser in the 3rd grade. Also, the lighting in my kitchen sucks.}

Okay, let’s get started. I present you with “The Anatomy of a Cinnamon Roll”…

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (1 of 27)

First, you need yeast. My favorite is Red Star Active Dry Yeast. I use it for all my yeasted recipes. You can find it in the regular grocery store and in my experience it performs better than the other brand. I usually buy the jars, because I go through it so fast. 1 packet = about 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast.

In order for your rolls to be successful, you have to wake up the yeast using warm liquid. I use nonfat milk that is heated in the microwave to about 120°F. If you have an instant-read thermometer, that’s the best thing to use. If you don’t, a candy thermometer or a meat thermometer will work too.

Once your liquid is hot, you add the yeast and let it sit.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (3 of 27)

After a few minutes it looks like this. I know it’s not all super frothy, but it’ll get the job done. While the yeast is doing it’s thing, you start mixing the butter, egg, and salt, and sugar in a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer.

Make sure your butter is soft, and it helps if the egg is room temperature. Mix it until it’s chunky, then add the yeast to the butter mixture.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (4 of 27)

Next, you add your flour. I add 3 cups of all-purpose flour. At this point, my mixer has the paddle attachment attached to it. I mix the liquid with the flour until it gets sticky and is all over the paddle.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (5 of 27)

At that point, it’s time to switch to the dough hook. This is how you’re going to knead your dough. Kneading by hand is so old school. 😉

If you don’t have a stand mixer, go buy one. Kidding, you can do it by hand. Use your hand mixer until you can’t anymore, then use your hands to knead it.

Most of the time I only use 3 cups of flour, but occasionally I have to add 1/4 cup more. When I made these, I had to do that. When you’re running your mixer with the dough hook, the dough will ball up onto itself and no chunks of dough should stick to the side (there will be flour residue, but no chunks of dough). It should be a little sticky, but not so much that your hands get covered when touching it. If it still feels wet or too sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more flour and continue the kneading process.

Once the dough has come together in a ball, transfer it to a new bowl that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. After using your hands to maneuver the dough out of one bowl and another, your hands should be relatively clean, like this:

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (7 of 27)

That’s how you know you used enough flour.

Spray the top of the dough lightly with cooking spray and tightly cover with plastic wrap.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (8 of 27)

Set this bowl in a warm place. If it’s summer and where you live is warm, this won’t be an issue. In cooler climates or times of year, set it in the sunlight, near a preheating oven, or near a heater vent.

It will take anywhere from 2-4 hours to rise to double it’s size, depending on the warmth in your house. In summer, I can count on it rising in 2 hours. In winter, it takes longer. If you leave the house for awhile and get home from Target several hours later and think Oh no! I forgot about the dough! Don’t worry. It won’t hurt it.

After a few hours it looks like this:

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (9 of 27)

Now it’s time for fun. While the dough is rising, I mix up my filling. For a traditional cinnamon roll filling, I use brown sugar, softened butter, cinnamon, flour, and salt. I mix it with a fork and it creates a grainy paste. Also chop your nuts if you’re using them.

You know what would be another good mix-in? Chocolate chips. #justsaying

Okay, so your dough is ready. Roll it out into a rectangle, about 10×14.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (10 of 27)

Then spread the filling over the top. It won’t spread like butter, but be crumbly over the top. You’ll spread it a little with your fingers. Sprinkle with nuts, if you’re using them.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (11 of 27)

If you’ve floured your board, it should roll up, no problem. The dough is very stretchy. Roll it as tightly as possible into a long log.

Then slice it into 9 pieces.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (12 of 27)

You can also slice it into 12, for more rolls. But then you need to use a 9×13″ pan. Your choice!

Place them in your pan.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (13 of 27)

Here’s where the overnight part comes in. Cover that pan with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight. I usually make my rolls in the afternoon/evening and then bake them around 6-7am. They’ll rise a little in the fridge. Here’s what they look like in the morning (under my horrible 7am kitchen lighting):

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (14 of 27)

At this point, take them out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake, frost, and serve!

I absolutely love that all the hard work is done the afternoon before. I always make my frosting the day before too, then I cover and chill it overnight. Who wants to clean up powdered sugar mess at 6am? Not me! I leave it on the stove to come to room temperature while the rolls are baking, or heat it for a few seconds in the microwave.

This is my favorite cinnamon roll frosting of all time. I use melted butter and very soft cream cheese. If the cream cheese is soft enough, you can just whisk them together and then add the powdered sugar and vanilla. One bowl, no mixer.

Cream cheese frosting just belongs on cinnamon rolls, don’t you think?

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

I’ll eat these warm from the pan or reheated later in the day. They’re best on the day they’re made, but are okay day 2 with reheating.  They’re ooey gooey in the center and full of cinnamon flavor. And the frosting.

Get me a spoon!

The Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls plus a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make them!

Besides the fact that they rise overnight for a special but quick morning breakfast, I love how versatile this recipe is. Fill it with whatever you want. Different kinds of chips or candy. Lemon zest, orange zest. Berries. Make your favorite cinnamon roll.

Just don’t do it at 4am. Please. Get some sleep.

The Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls plus a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make them!


**Notes, updated May 2015**

  • You can make 12 cinnamon rolls and bake in a 9×13 (instead of 9 rolls).
  • Make mini rolls by cutting the large rectangle of dough in half before rolling, then cut each into 9 or 12 rolls.
  • Make them and FREEZE them! Make the cinnamon rolls, place them in the pan, wrap them well with plastic wrap and freeze the unbaked rolls for up to 2 weeks. Let the rolls completely defrost before baking as directed (about 1-2 days in the refrigerator). The frosting can also be made ahead and frozen!

If you love cinnamon rolls like I do, try these too: Lemon Blueberry Sweet Rolls, Almond Sweet Rolls, or Better Than Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls.

Did you make this recipe?

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

These are the perfect cinnamon rolls! Make them in the afternoon and bake them the next day for an easy special cinnamon roll breakfast!


For the Dough:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup warm non-fat milk (heated to about 120 degrees, about 30-45 seconds in the microwave)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • Paddle attachment & dough hook for your mixer

For the Filling:

  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

For the Frosting

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the Dough:

  1. Place milk in a microwave safe measuring cup. Heat for 45-60 seconds in the microwave, until it’s about 120°F. (The time you heat it will need to be adjusted depending on your microwave. You can use a candy or a meat thermometer to test the temperature.) Add yeast and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Place sugar, butter, salt, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is distributed throughout the liquids, although it may be chunky. Pour in the milk/yeast mixture and stir for a few seconds.
  3. Add flour and stir with the paddle attachment just until the mixture starts to stick to the paddle. Then replace the paddle with the dough hook. Continue mixing on low speed until the dough forms a ball in the center of the bowl. If dough is still very sticky, you can add an additional 1/4 cup of flour.
  4. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough ball in it. Spray the top of the dough ball with cooking spray (lightly) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for 2-4 hours until it doubles in size. Note on rising: if your house is warm, it should rise no problem. If it’s cold in your house, it may take longer for the dough to rise.


Prepare your Rolls:

  1. Stir together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour until it forms a paste.
  2. Once the dough is risen, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, about 10” by 14”. Spread the filling as evenly as possible over the rectangle, making sure to reach to the sides so the outer rolls have enough filling. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts.
  3. Roll the dough up tightly from the long end. Slice it into 9 equal rounds. Place the rolls into a 9” pan or 9 1/2” round pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. (Alternately you can cut the roll into 12 rolls and bake them in a 9×13″ pan.)
  5. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them warm up to room temperature while the oven is preheating. Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until they are golden brown. (Bake a 9×13 pan of rolls 20-28 minutes depending on your oven.)

Make the frosting:

  1. Whisk the melted butter and softened cream cheese until mostly smooth. If your cream cheese is too stiff, you can use a hand mixer. Whisk/beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour over warm rolls and serve.


These rolls can be made and frozen before baking! Prepare the cinnamon rolls through Step 4. Wrap the pan very tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let completely defrost before baking. (I had them in the regfrigerator for about a day and a half from the freezer before baking.) Let them come to room temperature while the oven is preheating and bake as directed in step 6. Great for gifting or because you want to get prepped ahead of time for a holiday! The frosting can also be made ahead and frozen, then defrosted. For best results, place the frosting on the stove while baking so it gets gooey.

All images and text ©. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Use this same dough to make the following variations:

Gingerbread Spice Cinnamon Rolls

Gingerbread Spice Cinnamon Rolls (4 of 4)w

Zucchini Cinnamon Rolls

zucchini cinnamon rolls (2 of 7)w

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Rolls

peanut butter cinnamon rolls (3 of 7)w

Bacon Maple Cinnamon Rolls

Bacon Maple Cinnamon Rolls 1 words

Or check out my Round-Up of OVER 70 Cinnamon Rolls from me and my friends!

Sweets from friends:
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls by Something Swanky
Strawberry Sweet Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze by Averie Cooks
Butterscotch Pecan Cinnamon Rolls by Mom on Timeout


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  1. Ooh, now I know what breakfast will be on Sunday! I’m dying to try the PB version! And thanks for the process shots. They are super helpful!

  2. These look so perfect! Can’t wait to try them.

  3. Ok, so I don’t know if you know how much I love donuts, but it’s like, a THING. And as much as I love donuts, I actually love homemade cinnamon rolls 10 times more than that!! *swoon* A fresh, warm, gooey, homemade cinnamon roll makes my heart skip a beat 🙂 Pinned!

  4. I was scared of yeast for a while too, and of the mess, but I’ve recently embraced it and started making my own pizza doughs and I’m experimenting with breads. I really messed up a cinnamon roll recipe before, so I’m eager to try a new one. These instructions look like they will help a lot! And I love that they are overnight…I like to get up and eat shortly after…and don’t want cinnamon rolls for lunch!

  5. These do look perfect! I have actually never made overnight cinnamon rolls, but it’s so smart to have them all ready for breakfast! Love all the step by step photos and instructions 🙂 Pinned!

  6. There’s never a bad time to eat cinnamon rolls! These look amazing, and definitely perfect! Thanks for the photos too, helps a lot with those of us hesitant to work with yeast! Pinned!

  7. I have been meaning to bake with yeast for so long – I don’t know why it is so intimidating! Thank you for the wonderful step by step photos and the wonderful simplistic recipe! They look fabulous (haha, my mouth was actually watering by the final shot)! Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls! Pinned 🙂

  8. These cinnamon rolls are seriously on my list of things to try! I want this now! Carb overload in effect for sure!

  9. Overnight rolls are the best so that you have a huge headstart on things for the next morning. Always the best way to go! Your rolls look amazing Dorothy! So soft and fluffy and all the step shots (such a huge pain to do) but are really appreciated 🙂 And thanks for the linky love to my rolls, too! You’re the best 🙂 pinned!

  10. Yeast scares the crap outta me. I don’t know why. I think it’s the timing. BUT, I am the biggest bread whore in all the land and I REALLY want to start making my own dinner breads. This recipe, with all your photos, seems really approachable. I’m adding yeast to my grocery list, dammit. These will be mine.

  11. Great tutorial, and these I definitely need to make! 🙂

  12. Keep the yummy recipes coming. I think these Wouk actually make me want to get up in the morning. Haha, yummy!

  13. This is fantastic! I love your photo tutorial – so helpful! I love love LOVE cinnamon rolls…Pinning this!

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You are so right about being afraid of yeast. Once I see yeast in the recipe I immediately skip it. But I think this is the one that I WILL try. Thanx for the great tutorial shots.

  15. I love that these are overnight!! I never make cinnamon rolls because they take forever. Great for holidays too! Pinned!

  16. These cinnamon rolls look perfect! Thanks!

  17. LOVE THIS!!!! I’m baking these as soon as I can!!

  18. Why have I never made cinnamon rolls?! How is this missing from my arsenal?! I am a failure. But! I plan to fix that ASAP with these rolls. I love that they are overnight, because, let’s be honest, I’m not waking up several hours before breakfast just to make cinnamon rolls. Not a morning person.

  19. These really do look perfect! I loooove a good cinnamon roll, and also love that I can make this the night before 🙂

  20. These do look perfect! I am such a sucker for cinnamon rolls and love that you can get a head start the night before. The step-by-step photos are awesome and so helpful too – pinning 🙂

  21. Oh these look soooooo yummy!!! But it’s already breakfast time. 🙁

  22. yes they do look perfect. i’d love one for breakfast (or two).

  23. You know I love a good cinnamon roll and overnight rolls are my FAVE! Love all the process shots and tips Dorothy. Thanks for the linky love too! Pinning and sharing a gazillion times cause I think everyone should have cinnamon rolls AND sleep!

  24. I love overnight cinnamon rolls! It’s so nice to have them ready to go in the morning!

  25. PHENOMENAL! Love this recipe and that you can just prep ’em the night before and then get yourself some cinnamon roll goodness in the morning!!!

    My first vernture into yeast was also through pizza dough-funny 😛 Like the training wheels of yeast I suppose!

  26. Love that you make these the day before and bake them off in the morning! This is perfect for me since I am so not a morning person!

  27. This recipe looks much richer than the one I used to have. Can’t wait to try some. I wanted to ask you, what kind of camera do you use? Hmmm, I don’t think you give yourself enough credit on your pic’s. They are spectacular. My crew on the other rig Loves them. Offering a photographic tutorial is a a valuable tool for my team when “tackling” new baking items. They are always hungry for new ideas and hopefully they are still checking out your blog while I am overseas on this Transit. I don’t have a blog of my own, so if you give me the green light, I could post some of the desserts that we make from your recipes to your FB page.
    Be safe,

    • Hi JP! I use a Nikon D3100 with a 17-55mm lens. Before Christmas last year I was shooting with a 35mm prime lens. I’d love for you to share some of the recipes you make! Maybe I can make them too. Enjoy!

  28. Your first paragraph made me laugh. I actually did that one day! I baked cinnamon rolls for a blog post (from a tube, of course), then ate the leftovers as fruit-filled sandwiches for lunch, and then polished off almost all of the rest as dessert. Seriously the best day ever. 😉 I just discovered the magic of overnight sweet/cinnamon rolls, and ohmygosh I am HOOKED. For life. I was kind of scared the first time I put them in the oven because they hadn’t risen as much in the pan as normal cinnamon rolls, but it’s almost as if the oven works serious magic and makes them puff up to normal size. So cool! And Jordan definitely sounds like my brother and me as kids. We woke up before 6 am, but we weren’t allowed out of our rooms before then… But by the end of middle school, we loved sleeping in, so there’s still hope for Jordan too!

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  30. These look amazing! I have no idea if I should try these first or the peanut butter ones or the bacon maple ones. This will be tough decision! 🙂

  31. Those look so good! I’ve been wondering if they can be made overnight. I’ve always made them the day before and then warmed up up slightly the next morning.

    Also, instead of using a knife to cut the cinnamon dough log, I use thread. Slide it underneath, cross at the top, and pull tight to cut. That way it doesn’t smash the roundness out. Might not make much difference, since they bake into squares, anyway! 🙂

  32. Looks pretty good. I loved the mix cinnamon and nuts.

  33. I don’t mind working with yeast, but definitely not up for getting up at the crack of dawn to make cinnamon rolls. I think I’m in love with these. Pinned!

  34. Now made these twice as an indulgent Sunday morning breakfast and they are amazing. My husband thinks they are fantastic and was quite disappointed when I shared a tray with friends! I don’t normally work with dough but these are so easy they will be a regular in our house.

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  36. My first foray into yeast and I remembered rule #1 of yeast; No shortcuts! I only let it rise for 1h 45min but as it was outside in the Texas summer heat I thought maybe it was enough. The flavor of the rolls was outstanding! The roll itself was heavy. But now I know and now I’ve learned and now…i’m excited for my next recipe!

  37. Made these yesterday, and my bf and I thought that these are just divine! You should’ve seen our reactions after we took the first bite. It was a long pause of devouring and chewing, and during the process, we looked at eat other with big eyes. Haha! We couldn’t stop ranting and raving on how delicious these rolls are. Then he says, “Cinnabon who?” I lol’d! I could t agree more. 🙂 Anywho, this IS and WILL be my go to recipe for the “Perfect Cinnamon Rolls.” Thank you so much for the recipe! Xoxo

  38. Great tutorial and fab photos! Pinning for later 🙂 I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before!

  39. Pingback: Super-Easy Overnight Cinnamon Buns, for a 9×9 Pan | sophisticatedjerseygirl

  40. I’m so excited to try this recipe out! One question though-is whole milk a deal breaker? I can obviously buy a small amount of non-fat but won’t if I can use what we always have. Thanks so much!

  41. This is a wonderful tutorial, thanks so much! I’ve been trying to conquer yeast but have been feeling a bit like a yeast murderer these last couple weeks – I think maybe my yeast was just old and not working right, but want to keep trying! I’ll have to try these next, they look fantastic. 

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  45. Mmm thanks! I made these for my husb’s b-day. I added raisins instead of nuts. He hates when a fuss is made, so this was the perfect sneaky surprise for birthday breakfast. He was too sleepy and equally hypnotized by the scent to object to his favorite breakfast pastry being served. He was extremely happy when he ate them! 🙂 

    Those afraid of yeast dough: because I’d made pizza crust earlier in the day, I flaked and forgot to add the egg until I was getting ready to stash the ball of dough to rise. Even though I mashed it in late and had to adjust the flour again, they still came out great. In other words, you can do this! 

    Tip for those in cold kitchens: I also use my oven for the first rise, but I put a 9×13 metal pan in the bottom with about an inch of water. That little bit of moisture during the brief oven warm up (170 in mine) helps it hold a nice temp for the rise. My dough ready to roll out in an hour. 

    Tip to thin the butter/cream glaze: mine was pretty solid after an overnight stint in the fridge. I warmed it on the stove by just plunking the bowl it was in on the stove top during the oven’s pre-heating in the morning, BUT I also added about a TBS of half and half (milk would do too) to make it liquid-y for drizzling. 

    Tip: plan on skipping lunch, because you’ll eat more of these than you think you will. 😉 

  46. These are truly PERFECT!! I’ve tried three other popular recipes for cinnamon rolls and always been disappointed. My quest ends here! This recipe is wonderful thank you so much for sharing!!

  47. I have made these before and they are AWESOME. My question is can you double this recipe or is it necessary to make two separate batches? I never know the rules with yeast!

  48. I’ve been making cinnamon rolls 40 yrs. hint: let rise in oven with oven light on. Just enough warmth & put butter in with it to soften. Perfect. 

  49. Can you let it rise in the fridge longer than overnight? (2-3 nights?)

  50. I love the concept of the overnight version of cinn. rolls. About how long do you knead with the dough hooks? I am not good in judging doneness by the dough texture, as I have learned. My bread-making friends say to knead until dough is stretchy, or smooth. This has never helped me. Thanks!

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