Cinnamon Rolls & Christmas Traditions

If you grew up loving Cinnabon’s cinnamon rolls, I have perfected a cinnamon roll recipe that you have to try! These rolls are full of love and a lot of butter. They the perfect tradition for Christmas morning and will fill your home with the most delicious smells. But no one is judging, make these for any special morning or brunch!

Christmas traditions

As far back as I can remember, we ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning.

When shopping malls were still vacant and people still went Christmas shopping at them, it was also where we purchased our cinnamon rolls. There was a Cinnabon store at our local mall and it was the best place to buy them. My Dad and I would typically be the ones to go get them for Christmas morning.

Right about the time Cinnabon closed their store, I started teaching culinary arts courses and this tradition changed. We taught a unit on yeast bread and made cinnamon rolls in class. This gave me the idea that maybe I could make our rolls for Christmas morning.

I tweaked our classroom cinnamon roll recipe with a copycat recipe that I was given, so we could have rolls that tasted just like (if not better) than Cinnabon.

And not I’m here sharing it with you!

Labor of Love

These are no doubt a labor of love, but don’t be too intimidated! My high school students made these with a little knowledge on baking with yeast.

After years of perfecting these, I have made sure to include every detail and tip in this post.


As with any yeast bread, the results may be slightly different each time you make these. The good news is they will always be delicious!

The temperature and moisture in your home can impact how much flour to add to the dough, how quickly the dough proofs, and the size of the cinnamon rolls.

Just roll with it. (had to, sorry)

Yeast is an organism that when activated and fed it produces CO2. This CO2 is what helps your baked goods rise! The difference between using it instead of a chemical leavener is time it takes to rise and flavor.

There are several choices of yeast to buy in the grocery store…

Active Dry Yeast:
The most common & the kind used in this video. It’s fresh yeast that has been dehydrated & dormant state for shelf life. It requires warm water to activate the little organisms that give your bread its lift. After the yeast starts to come alive and bubble up (seen here) it’s ready to be added to dough.

Rapid Rise/Instant Yeast:
This yeast is milled to a fine texture and has other additives that allows it to activate much more quickly and without proofing it first. It’s best for quick baking projects, because it allows you to make bread with just one rise.

Fresh Yeast:
Less common. It’s found in the refrigerated section in grocery stores. The downside is it has a short shelf life and still has to be proofed like active dry.

I use active dry yeast for these cinnamon rolls, but next time I make these I may try to use the rapid rise and will report back!

Prep Time

I have made these rolls in one day and I have made them over 3 days. The biggest time sucker is proofing (double in size) the dough 3 different times. If you have a proofing setting on your oven, I have found this to cut the time a ton.

I 100% recommend eating them warm out of the oven, but because these are usually consumed for breakfast, warming them in the microwave the next day is what we normally do!

If you plan to make, bake, and eat them in one day, start early in the morning!

If you plan to take 2 days, make the dough and let it proof for the second time in the refrigerator overnight.

cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Full of love, butter, and a touch of cinnamon. Christmas morning has never smelled better!
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 day 20 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 rolls


  • 1 Stand mixer
  • 1 Rolling Pin
  • 1 Pastry brush
  • 2 8×12 baking dish
  • 1 8×8 baking dish



  • 1/2 c warm water 110-115
  • 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast or 2 envelopes
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3.4 oz vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 c milk
  • 1/2 c butter melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt omit if using salted butter

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened at room temp!
  • 1/2 c butter softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 c powdered sugar
  • 4 tsp milk


  • 1 c butter softened
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 4 tsp cinnamon



  • In a liquid measuring cup, activate the yeast in warm water. Add in the sugar. Allow some time for yeast to proof (volume has doubled in size).
  • Prepare the pudding with the milk in your stand mixer.
  • While the pudding is mixing, melt the butter.
  • Add the melted butter, eggs, salt, and proofed yeast to the pudding in the stand mixer.
  • Gradually add in the flour. Beat until smooth. At some point switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook. Knead the dough in the mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  • Grease a large glass or metal bowl. Add dough, cover, and allow dough to double in size. (May take a couple hours on the countertop or use the proof setting on your oven until it is doubled in size.)
  • Punch down the dough to release the bubbles. Cover and allow to double in size again. (May use countertop or proofing in oven method)


  • While your dough is proofing, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and milk. I prefer to whip it in my stand mixer for a couple minutes until smooth.
  • You can store in refrigerator once prepared, or leave out so it's soft when you need to frost the rolls.


  • Prep: Clean a large area on your countertop and dust with flour.
  • Make sure your butter is softened.
  • Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  • Grease 2 8×12 baking dishes and 1 8×8 baking dish.
  • Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (about 21" x 35").
  • Brush the softened butter on top of the dough.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon mix on top of the butter. Pat down.
  • Tightly roll the dough, starting from the shorter end for large rolls.
  • Cut on the log of dough, about every 2 inches.
  • Place rolls (6 rolls in 8×12 baking dish) into greased baking dish. Cover and allow to double in size. (May use countertop method or proofing setting on oven)
  • Bake for about 20-25 min. Rotate the baking dishes halfway through. The edges will be golden brown.
  • Frost when warm, not hot! Enjoy warm or reheat when you are ready to indulge!
Keyword breakfast, christmas morning, cinnabon, cinnamon, cinnamon rolls, dessert


Frosting: Store the extra frosting in the refrigerator. When you reheat them in the microwave, most people like to add even more frosting as they eat them.

Rolls: Baked and frosted rolls can be stored in a covered container (or foil over the baking dish) on the countertop for a day. Over the years, I have preferred to store them in a covered container in the refrigerator. They last a couple days in the refrigerator

Freezing: If you have leftover rolls, simply freeze in an airtight bag or container. Defrost and warm when ready to eat! If you know you will have leftovers, you can freeze them without the frosting and just frost them after you reheat them.

Feel free to DM me on Instagram (@gingerlymama) if you have questions and leave a comment if you try these!

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