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Whenever I need to make a special breakfast, I always turn to this homemade cinnamon roll recipe.
This particular cinnamon roll recipe is a step above the rest. With a few special (but not difficult) touches (which we'll discuss below), and an easy-to-follow method, you can make the best cinnamon rolls EVER, in the comfort of your own home!
Ingredients & Substitutions
This cardamom cinnamon roll recipe doesn't require a ton of ingredients; here's what you'll need:
- Milk: I recommend whole milk, but know that almond milk will also work just fine (I've tried it numerous times!)
- Granulated sugar: This is used to help activate the yeast and sweeten the cinnamon rolls just a tad.
- Instant dry yeast: Use instant yeast in this recipe to help the cinnamon rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but they'll take slightly longer to rise.
- Butter: The one and only. You'll need it for the dough, the filling, and the icing. Calories don't count here.
- Eggs: This recipe calls for two eggs for the perfect texture in the dough.
- All-purpose flour: I've experimented with different flours and find that all-purpose consistently leads to the best results; plus, that's what most people have on hand.
- Vanilla bean: Vanilla bean seeds are added straight to the dough for a sweet and fragrant vanilla note. Use one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste if you don't have any beans on hand.
- Brown sugar: I love using dark brown sugar for a more robust flavor, but light brown sugar will work too!
- Cinnamon: These are cinnamon rolls after all...
- Cardamom: YUM. Feel free to substitute completely with cinnamon for a traditional cinnamon roll filling; you'll be missing out though!
- Salt: Salt helps to control the yeast, so don't skip it.
- Heavy cream: You'll pour heavy cream on the cardamom cinnamon rolls before baking. This is the secret trick that makes the rolls so rich and gooey, but it can totally be left out!
The icing is truly amazing too! Just cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. UM YES PLEASE.
How to Make Soft Homemade Cinnamon Rolls?
To help ensure your success in making these Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls, we are going to walk through the significant steps in the process together! Starting with making the cinnamon roll dough.
1. The Vanilla Bean Brioche Dough
This is my go-to brioche dough for just about everything. I mean... the dough is full of little vanilla bean specks and is also incredibly soft and easy to work with. Basically... it's perfect.
Start by adding the milk, yeast, eggs, butter, flour, salt, and sugar to a large bowl and stir until just combined. After you let the mixture rest for 5 minutes to hydrate the flour, add the seeds of the scraped vanilla bean and knead the dough until a firm, but slightly tacky ball is formed. You should really only need 4 cups of flour; resist the temptation of adding too much!
Once the dough is kneaded and smooth, turn it out onto a well-floured surface and knead by hand, only adding more flour when it begins to stick. It should be smooth and elastic, but still a little tacky; then, place it in a lightly greased bowl to rise for about 30-45 minutes.
2. The Cardamom Cinnamon Sugar Filling
While the vanilla bean brioche dough is rising, make the cardamom cinnamon sugar filling. The cardamom in the filling adds a nice warmness and contrasting flavor to the cinnamon, so I encourage you to try it! You can leave it out and just use two tablespoons of cinnamon instead to make the best cinnamon rolls ever.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO MAKE THE CARDAMOM CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING:
- Combine all ingredients and then spread onto the dough. For this method, add softened butter, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon to a medium-sized bowl and combine with a fork until the mixture is homogenous and forms a paste. Then spread this mixture on the dough with an offset spatula.
- Melt the butter, brush it on the dough and sprinkle dry ingredients on top. For this method, combine the cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Then, melt the butter and use a pastry brush to brush it on the rolled out dough. Next, sprinkle the cardamom cinnamon sugar mixture over the melted butter and roll it out.
The second method is easier, however, I prefer the first method because I find the filling doesn't leak out of the cinnamon rolls to the bottom of the pan as much.
3. The Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing
Honestly, this icing should come with a warning that's how good it is. While the cardamom cinnamon rolls are baking, start browning your butter. Once browned and nutty-smelling, add to your softened cream cheese and stir to combine. Don't worry if the mixture looks a little curdled, it will smooth out! Add the powdered sugar, vanilla bean paste, and milk and stir until smooth and combined. Then, you're ready to drown your rolls once they're out of the oven!
How to Make Cinnamon Rolls Ahead of Time:
There are many ways to do this, here are my suggestions below. No matter which method you choose, always tightly cover the rolls so no air can get to the dough and dry it out.
1) REFRIGERATE DOUGH AFTER 1ST RISE BEFORE MAKING ROLLS.
- Punch down the dough after the first rise.
- Place the vanilla bean brioche dough in a large bowl and tightly cover it with plastic wrap and a tea towel or with a lid and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the dough the following day and proceed with the recipe. Keep in mind that assembled rolls will take longer on the second rise if the dough is cold.
2) REFRIGERATE ASSEMBLED CINNAMON ROLLS TO BAKE THE NEXT DAY
- Tightly wrap the assembled (but not risen) cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap and cover with a damp tea towel or the lid to the baking dish.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, remove the assembled rolls from the refrigerator. Loosen the plastic wrap and let the cinnamon rolls come to room temperature and complete their second rise covered with loose-fitting plastic wrap and a warm, damp tea towel.
- Bake the risen rolls according to the recipe!
3) FREEZE CINNAMON ROLLS TO BAKE AT A LATER DATE.
- Prepare the cinnamon rolls through their second rise.
- Instead of baking the cinnamon rolls for the entire time, just bake them partway (par-baking) for 10 to 15 minutes. The rolls should be raised and set, but not totally browned.
- Remove from the oven and let the rolls cool completely in the pan.
- Wrap the pan in two layers of plastic wrap or place them into a large plastic bag and seal. Freeze for 8 hours or up to 6 weeks.
- The night before you want to serve the rolls, take them out of the freezer and place them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator. They will thaw overnight.
- Unwrap the cinnamon rolls the next morning and bake them at 350°F until they are completely done and a light golden brown all over, 10 to 15 minutes.
Tips & Tricks to Make the Best Cinnamon Rolls
- Go easy on the flour. Too much flour and the rolls will be dry and tough. Not enough flour and the rolls won’t have enough structure to rise and will be dense and soggy. The dough shouldn't be sticking all over your hands, but it will be tacky.
- Spread the filling from edge to edge. Cover every square inch of the dough with your delicious cardamom cinnamon sugar filling! Just leave a small section along one side bare so you’re able to easily pinch and seal the seam closed once the dough is rolled.
- Slice the rolls with floss. An improperly sharpened knife will squish your rolls and ruin the uniformity of the layers. Instead, opt for a piece of dental floss to loop around the dough and cut through the cinnamon rolls.
Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls
For the Vanilla Bean Brioche Dough:
- 245 g milk warm (115°F)
- 7 g instant dry yeast
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 85 g unsalted butter melted
- 500 g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 100 g granulated sugar
- seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the Cardamom Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
- 115 g unsalted butter softened
- 220 g dark brown sugar
- 6 g ground cinnamon
- 6 g ground cardamom
- 80 g heavy cream warm
For the Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing:
- 85 g cream cheese softened
- 55 g unsalted butter
- 240 g powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 60 g milk
- Make the vanilla bean brioche dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, mix together the yeast with the milk. Add the eggs, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and vanilla bean paste and mix until the ingredients are just barely combined. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flour has time to hydrate.
- Using the hook attachment, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.*
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Make the cardamom cinnamon sugar filling: While the rolls are rising, make the filling. Add the softened butter, dark brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon to a medium bowl and combine using a fork until a thick paste forms. Set aside.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
- Spread the cardamom cinnamon sugar filling all over the dough. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18-inch-long log and cut into 12 even rolls. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan. Cover the pan and allow the rolls to rise for 20 minutes or until nearly double.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (191°C).
- Once the rolls have risen, pour the heavy cream over the top of the rolls, allowing it to soak down in and around the rolls. (The cream shouldn't be hot to the touch, just slightly warm.)
- Bake the rolls for 20-23 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden brown and the center rolls are cooked through. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes as you make the icing.
- Make the brown butter vanilla bean cream cheese icing: Cube the butter and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, the butter will start to foam. Keep stirring. After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning; you'll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan, and you'll start to smell a nutty aroma. Once browned, immediately remove from heat, pour into a medium heatproof mixing bowl.
- Add the softened cream cheese to the butter mixture and whisk to combine. Add the remaining icing ingredients to the bowl and whisk until smooth and combined. If the icing is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar; if it's too thick, add more milk. Drizzle icing over warm rolls. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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