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Overhead photo of a small batch of cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting in a baking dish.
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Easy Small-batch Cinnamon Rolls

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!
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Rise Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 28 minutes
Servings 4 rolls
Calories 556kcal
Author Tracy

Ingredients

Special Equipment

  • 6 to 7-inch baking dish

Dough

  • 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

Filling

  • cup (66g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) salted butter softened

Frosting

  • 3 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) salted butter softened
  • 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

Make Dough

  • 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).

First Rise

  • 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.

Shape Rolls

  • 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.

Same-day Rolls

  • 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.

Overnight Rolls

  • 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. 

Frosting

  • 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!

Notes

*If your yeast and milk mixture does not foam, your yeast may be bad or may have been killed if the milk was too hot. Toss and try again, making sure the milk is just lukewarm.
*If you'd like to make the frosting the night before, store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container and set it out on the counter when you take out your rolls so it has time to soften.
For a Faster Rise for the Overnight Rolls: If you need a faster second rise in the morning, take the rolls out of the fridge and remove the plastic wrap.
Put the rolls on the top shelf of your cold oven. Place a baking dish on the bottom shelf. Fill the dish 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 and the dish of water from the oven, preheat the oven to 375°F and bake according to the recipe instructions.

Nutrition

Calories: 556kcal