{recipe} Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

This was one of the most popular recipes on my old site, but I haven’t made it in years so I thought they deserved another go. Now I’m wondering: what took me so long? They are just fantastic.

The thinking is this: since you usually want to eat cinnamon rolls in the morning, it makes sense that you would need a recipe that you do mostly the day before so you can pop them in the oven in the morning, right? Well that’s what I thought, but I had a hard time finding a good recipe that let me do that. I will do many things to avoid waking up early, so figuring out a recipe for overnight cinnamon rolls was imperative. So all the hard work is done the day before, and then in the morning they just need 30 minutes to rise and 30 minutes to bake.

I make some plain, some with raisins, and some with pecans so everyone is happy. They have a bit of orange zest in the filling, which I think is key. I like them best when they’re warm and gooey but not too hot, about 20 minutes out of the oven.

Recipe: Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
makes 12 cinnamon rolls


for the dough:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
  • 4 cups flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 package instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • handful of chopped pecans and/or raisins (optional)
  • salt
  • Vegetable oil

for the icing:

  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or extract (optional)


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, buttermilk, and 6 Tblsp of the melted butter.
  • Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and 1 tsp salt. Mix to combine.
  • Add 1 1/4 cups flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough. The dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Add more flour if necessary. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl with vegetable oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover loosely with a clean towel and set in a high, warm place in the kitchen to let the dough double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  • Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and 2 large pinches of salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.
  • When dough has risen, use about a fourth of the remaining 2 Tblsp melted butter and a pastry brush to butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into an 18 by 12 inch rectangle.
  • Brush the dough with the remaining melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Sprinkle chopped nuts and raisins on all or part if desired.
  • Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

To bake, ice, and serve:

  • Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, uncover, and place in a cold oven on the top or middle rack. Fill a shallow pan (like a 9×13 pan or a roasting pan) 2/3 full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. (It’s easier if you put the pan in the oven first and then pour the boiling water in carefully.) Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove and cool on the counter.
  • While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

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