Vanilla Cinnamon Rolls

I consider myself to be an expert at making cinnamon buns – thanks to my summer working at CinnZeo after my first year of university. There I made it to shift supervisor where I not only trained others to make rolls, mini rolls, and pecan rolls, but I got to mix batches of dough and icing. I learned a few tricks, and to this day I make quite a few varieties of cinnamon buns. And as a bonus I have a pretty happy husband.

These cinnamon rolls have a double dose of vanilla – vanilla pudding mix goes in the dough, and vanilla extract in the frosting. They are delicious any time of day, and freeze well. Just package them up in some foil and reheat in the oven from frozen (takes about 30 minutes at 350F).  So while this batch makes 24 rolls (my hubby eats them 2-3 at a time), I sometimes bake them in one batch of 12 (enough for having friends over, and some leftovers for breakfast) then 2 foil tins with 6 each that go into the freezer.

One more note on storage – never put them in the fridge. They are good at room temperature for 48 hours (can microwave them for a few seconds) but then they should be frozen. Bread should NEVER go in the fridge. Yuck.

If you like you can substitute the white sugar for brown, it works well and is delicious, but you don’t get that vanilla flavour quite as much. So make a batch of each and see what you like. Around Christmas I like the brown sugar, and might add even more spices to the sugar mixture*.


  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (not hot!)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix (half of a package)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1½ cups icing sugar
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • 1 tsp  vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp lemon zest (I omitted it this time but usually add it – at my previous work they added in lemon extract along with the vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In the bowl of your mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water. Let proof.

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for about a minute. Let stand until soft-set. Add egg, melted butter & salt. Whisk together. Pour into yeast mixture – mix together with mixer.

Add in 2 cups flour; beat on medium until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Switch to your dough hook. Let the machine knead for a few minutes until it comes together nicely and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Keep adding bits of flour if it needs help.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. (I spray with cooking spray). Cover with a wet kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. I warm my oven, turn it off, then place the dough in there to rise. I also put a measuring cup with hot water in there to make it nice and moist.

While this is rising, I make my filling and my frosting.

For filling, in a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.

For frosting, beat together butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla, salt and zest. Then start adding in the icing sugar until you get the thickness you like. Set aside. And let your husband (or dog) clean out that bowl.


After an hour or so – Punch down dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a rectangle. For small rolls, it will be quite wide but not long (as in less to roll). For bigger rolls, make it longer and not as wide. I like using my hands to stretch and my french rolling pin.

Brush with butter to within 1/4 in. of bottom. It is important not to get butter or filling on the bottom as it helps the buns close up. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture. Lightly roll your rolling pin over to ‘set’ the sugar.


Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. Roll so seam is on the bottom before cutting. Cut into 24 slices (if making smaller ones). Use a serrated knife, and do in 3 motions – slice back, forward, back. Don’t saw!

Place all slices in a greased baking pan or pans, cut side down. Give them a little squish down with your hands. Cover with a wet kitchen towel again; let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. (Convect if possible). Below you can see how they have risen.

Bake 15 minutes (for small) or 20 minutes (for big) – or until golden brown. When they get out of the oven, immediately cut them with a sharp knife. Then frost with half your frosting while warm. I dollop each bun with a teaspoon of frosting, then the moment it starts to melt I spread it around. Let cool on wire rack.

Once cooled a bit, frost with remaining frosting. This is the trick to them being soooooo good. They absorb the first set of frosting, while the second set is all creamy on top.


Yum. You are getting fatter just looking at this!


Oh yum. Put on a pot of coffee. Invite over some friends. Enjoy!!!

*as a side note, I like to make cinnamon buns Christmas morning. Once my dough is mixed, I put it in a ziploc bag with the air pushed out in the fridge. I also mix the sugar (keep it one the counter) and frosting (put in the fridge – take it out to warm up in the morning). The next morning, I punch down the dough and roll them. While they rise I go get showered, etc. Then pop them in the oven and put the coffee on in time for opening gifts.


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