These small-batch cinnamon rolls for two make a rich and indulgent breakfast with outrageously amazing cream cheese frosting. Make the rolls the night before, throw them in the oven in the morning, and enjoy your breakfast in bed. No fuss, stress, or mixer needed!
Cinnamon rolls are my go-to special occasion breakfast. Christmas? Cinnamon roll breakfast. Easter? Cinnamon roll breakfast. Valentine’s day? Cinnamon roll breakfast. And it’s great.
There’s nothing like eating in your PJs and tucking into a warm, gooey cinnamon roll straight out of the oven.
The only problem is that most cinnamon roll recipes make a dozen or more, which is fine if you’re feeding a whole family, but if it’s just you and your partner, a dozen is a little bit much.
This post and its photos have been updated. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place.
The Best Small-batch Cinnamon Rolls
So I present to you, my small-batch cinnamon rolls. These things are so, so, so good. They are fluffy and gooey and rich and yield just four.
And the cream cheese frosting? This is not your thin, drizzly glaze that melts daintily over your rolls. This is thick, amazing, cream cheese frosting that’s not going to play second fiddle to anything it’s slathered on.
It will knock your socks off.
- Active dry yeast: If you don’t usually bake with yeast, you can find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store either in a glass jar or little packets. Stick with the packets since you’ll need very little for this recipe.
- Milk: I prefer to use whole milk in this recipe, but any milk will work.
- An egg yolk: Because this is a small-batch recipe, we don’t need a whole egg, just the yolk. For ideas on what to do with the leftover egg white, check out my post What to Do With Leftover Egg Whites (I recommend a quick small batch of banana muffins).
- Cream cheese: Philadelphia cream cheese is my favorite cream cheese brand. Make sure to allow it to come to room temperature before using it in the frosting so you don’t end up with cream cheese lumps (the same goes for your butter).
How to Make Small-batch Cinnamon Rolls
1. Proof the yeast in warm milk: Add the yeast and a pinch of sugar to milk that’s just slightly warm. After 10 to 15 minutes, the yeast will foam slightly letting you know it’s good to go.
2. Make the dough: This dough comes together fast and easy. Simply mix the dough ingredients together until you get a sticky dough. Use a plastic bench scraper or rubber spatula to help turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead the dough until it becomes smooth and is no longer sticky.
3. First rise: Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a towel and allow it to sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour to 90 minutes.
4. Shape the rolls: Roll out the dough and add butter and cinnamon sugar before tightly rolling and slicing. These can now go into the refrigerator overnight or start their second rise.
5. Second rise: A second rise allows the rolls to puff up before baking. Cover them and place them in a warm spot until fluffy, 45 minutes to 90 minutes.
6. Bake: Bake until the rolls are lightly golden. While the rolls bake, make the cream cheese frosting. Spread frosting on the warm rolls and enjoy!
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls for Two
These rolls are a fantastic make-ahead breakfast. You can make and shape them the night before and then pull them out of the refrigerator when you wake up to complete their second rise.
This second rise will usually take between 1 and 2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen, but if you’re in a hurry, you can also put the rolls in your cold oven on the top shelf and place a baking pan on the bottom shelf. Fill the pan with boiling water and close the oven.
The heat and steam from the boiling water will help the rolls rise more quickly, and they should be ready to bake in just a little over half an hour.
Once the rolls are fluffy, remove them from the oven, preheat the oven to 375°F and bake according to the recipe instructions.
My yeast didn’t foam. What went wrong?
If it didn’t foam there are couple things it might be:
- Your milk was too hot and killed the yeast. Try again and use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of your milk. It should be between 105 and 115° F. If you don’t have a thermometer, feel the water, and it should feel like lukewarm bathwater. It should not be hot, and definitely not steaming!!
- If you’re sure the milk temp is good and the yeast still doesn’t foam, your yeast is no good. You’ll need to replace it before you can start again.
I don’t have a 6-inch baking dish. What can I use instead?
You want to use a small baking dish for these rolls because being packed together helps them stay moist while baking and prevents the filling from running out and burning. Don’t try to bake them on a baking sheet or large baking dish.
A square or circular 6-inch cake pan is perfect for these, but if you don’t own either of those, you can use a 7×5-inch rectangular baking dish or any oven-safe dish that is between about 28 and 40 square inches.
Can I double this recipe?
Yes! This recipe doubles with no preparation changes needed. You can bake the doubled recipe in a 9-inch round cake pan. Just extend the baking time slightly.
Why is this called a recipe for two when there are four cinnamon rolls!!??
(I actually get this question a lot.) When I call this a recipe for two, I don’t mean sit down and eat two cinnamon rolls each for breakfast (you probably shouldn’t—they’re really rich).
I mean this is the perfect number of cinnamon rolls for two people to enjoy over a day or two. Maybe you have one for breakfast and split one for dessert. Maybe you have cinnamon rolls for breakfast two days in a row. And if four is really too many for you, freeze half of them. They freeze really, really well.
How to Freeze Cinnamon Rolls
I prefer to freeze the cinnamon rolls un-frosted, so if you plan on freezing some of the rolls, don’t frost the entire batch right out of the oven.
- Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag.
- Spread single servings of cream cheese frosting on parchment paper and freeze until solid, before wrapping and placing them in the bag with the rolls.
- When you are ready to eat, heat frozen rolls in the microwave for 30 seconds. Put a dollop of frozen frosting on the top. Microwave for additional 30 seconds. (The frosting might still be a little cold, but spread it over the top of the hot cinnamon roll and it will heat up quickly.)
More Small-batch Breakfast Ideas
More Small-batch Favorites
Easy Small-batch Cinnamon Rolls
- 6 to 7-inch baking dish
- ⅓ cup milk any percentage
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon (13g) granulated sugar plus a pinch for proofing yeast
- 2 tablespoons (28g) salted butter melted and slightly cooled
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup and 1 tablespoon (150g) all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (66g) packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons (28g) salted butter softened
- 3 ounces cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoons (42g) salted butter softened
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Pour your milk into a mug and microwave it for about 20 seconds until it is lukewarm, NOT HOT (about 105-115 degrees F). Stir in yeast and a pinch of sugar and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes until the top of the mixture looks foamy.*
- In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and yeast mixture with melted butter, sugar, egg yolk, and salt.
- Add the flour and use a spoon to mix well, until a thick, sticky dough forms and all the flour is incorporated. Drop the mixture onto a well-floured work surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky and forms a ball (about 10 to 15 folds).
- Place dough into a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour to 90 minutes, until doubled in size.
- Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Once your dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface and squish and stretch it GENTLY (we don't want to rip it) into an oblong shape and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 5 by 15 inches. Gently manipulate the corners and sides so you have a nice rectangle.
- Spread butter over the entire thing and top with the brown sugar mixture. Roll into a tight log from the short side. Use a serrated knife or dental floss to cut the roll into quarters.
- Place the rolls in a 6 to 7-inch greased baking dish. Cover with a towel, place them in a warm spot, and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until puffed up and fluffy.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake cinnamon rolls for 15-22 minutes, until the tops are golden and centers cooked through. Allow rolls to cool for 5 minutes before frosting.
- After shaping the rolls, transfer them to a greased baking dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight, up to 24 hours.
- In the morning, take rolls out of the fridge and set them in a warm spot (leave plastic wrap on). Allow them to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until puffed up and fluffy.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Remove plastic wrap and bake cinnamon rolls for 15-22 minutes, until the tops are golden and centers cooked through.
- While your rolls are baking, in a medium bowl, whisk together softened cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt, until well combined.
- Spread frosting over rolls, serve, and enjoy!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using them. There is absolutely no additional cost to you.
This post was originally published on 2/12/16. It was updated on 10/26/20 with new photos and additional information and tips. The recipe was also modified in the following ways:
- Cut the yeast. For a recipe this size, it did not need as much as it was using.
- Added a pinch of sugar to the milk when proofing the yeast. This is not actually necessary but makes the yeast foam more dramatically so it’s easier to tell that it’s alive.
- Added time for a second rise. Originally these rolls went straight from the fridge into a cold oven and did a sort of abbreviated second rise as the oven preheated. This always worked for me, but it didn’t work well with all ovens.
- Decreased the baking temperature.
If you loved the original recipe, you can still find it here.