Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls


If you have a big soft spot in your heart for ooey gooey breakfast pastries, then you will no doubt fall in love with these at first bite. And if you don’t have that big soft spot, take one bite of these and I guarantee you will be a convert. Cream cheese is rolled into the pastry dough (much like laminated dough) and creates a soft and flaky dough. That, combined with the incredible filling, makes for the most flavorful cinnamon rolls that I have ever tasted. While these require you to set aside some time and involve multiple steps, they are not difficult and without a doubt absolutely worth it. If you have overnight guests and they wake up to these fresh from the oven, you will score some serious points and may have to start turning house guests away. Everyone will want to stay over!


I saw these a couple of weeks ago and immediately couldn’t wait to make them. They sounded fabulous and looked even better. I have made cinnamon rolls before, but they were a pretty “standard” recipe. These rolls really caught my eye for two reasons: (1) there is cream cheese rolled right into the dough, and (2) the filling was much more complex and sounded infinitely more flavorful than the standard cinnamon and sugar filling. These are, hands down, the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had. They put the ultra-popular mall types to shame.

Need more evidence? My 89-year old grandma adores cinnamon rolls – they might be her most favorite thing in the world. Sadly, she doesn’t eat much anymore – she just really picks at her food when someone fixes her a plate. I went to visit her and brought these cinnamon rolls figuring she would enjoy them. She polished one off within 15 minutes. And these are HUGE. What more proof do you need that something is fabulous?


Notes on the recipe:

♦ Rolling the cream cheese into the dough is much like laminating pastry dough with butter, except that all of the refrigerating and re-rolling steps aren’t needed here. The result, however, is much the same – a light and flaky pastry dough that melts in your mouth.

♦ When rolling up the dough, try to keep it as tight as possible. I had some trouble doing this, and as you can tell, mine don’t “swirl” as much as I would have liked. Still tasted fabulous though, of course!

♦  Use the quantities for the icing as a guide – some people like it thinner, some thicker. And drizzle on as much as you want – again, totally up to you!


Want more breakfast sweets? Take a look at these recipes:
Brioche Raisin Snails
Blueberry Crumb Cake
Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

For the Dough:
1 package (2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
½ teaspoons, plus ¼ cup sugar, divided
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
¾ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Filling:
½ cup sugar
¼ dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Other Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided in half, melted

For the Icing:
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk

1. To Make the Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115°F. Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Fit the bowl onto the mixer, fitting with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the machine on medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.

3. Add the butter and continue to knead for about 6 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough. The dough still might be a little sticky, which is ok. Set the dough to rest in a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

4. While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon, salt and cloves in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set aside.

5. When the dough has doubled in size, dump it from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. Work the dough for about 1 or 2 minutes. Once it’s no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out.

6. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10 x 10-inch square.

7. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with a knife until it’s smooth and spreadable.

8. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square. Fold the square into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square.

9. Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll it into a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. You may find that some cream cheese sneaks through. Be as gentle as possible with the dough, but continue to work it until you reach the size you need.

10. Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you.

11. Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. We’ll use the rest of the butter after the rolls are baked.

12. Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch boarder at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough.

13. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.

14. Cut the cylinder into 8 equal slices. Nestle the slices, cut side up and evenly spaced in a butter 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate rolls overnight.

15. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

16. Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes.

17. Make the icing: Whisk together the sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth, adding more sugar or milk to reach your desired consistency.

18. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle over the rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Adapted from Joy the Baker)


120 Responses to “Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Eliana on June 29, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I feel om love with these after just seeing them. AMAZING!


  2. Katie on June 29, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Oh wow! My mouth started watering! Good job. I will have to try these!


  3. Mara on June 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I swear you are reading my mind lol. I have a to do list and Cinnamon rolls are one of the top items that I want to make. Cinnamon rolls are the comfort food for my son and I. When we have have mommy and son day we love our cinnamon rolls. I just had not found a recipe that seemed as if it would suit my taste buds. But since I love cream cheese. This may be the ticket. I will have to add this to my list. Thanks for the inspiration.


  4. Michelle on June 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Mara – A mommy and son day sounds like a great time, and if you both love cinnamon rolls, you’d definitely be a fan of these. Let me know how you like them!


  5. Joelen on June 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Looks perfect Chelle!


  6. Reeni on June 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    These are heavenly treats! How scrumptious!


  7. KrisKishere on June 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    My mouth is watering! That looks amazing. Definitely saving the recipe :)


  8. Valerina on June 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I wish I had had this recipe Saturday. I made some cinnamon rolls which I thought were quite good at the time, But after reading your recipe I don’t think I can go make to the ‘other’ kind. :)


  9. Erin on June 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    These look delicious! There’s nothing like cream cheese to make cinnamon rolls even more decadent!


  10. Judy on June 29, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Look amazing!!!


  11. Kerstin on June 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I just saved this recipe – they look absolutely incredible!! I can’t wait until we have company to try these!


  12. Mathilde's Cuisine on June 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Love it, love it, love it…Reminds me the Hot Crossed Buns you find here in the UK


  13. Susie on June 29, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I WANT!
    MY goodness they look great.
    Lovely and great baking along with you.


  14. Tracey on June 29, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Oooh, I saw these on Joy’s site also and really want to make them. Yours look fantastic!


  15. kamaile on June 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    These sound absolutely fabulous. I love cream cheese!


  16. Ann on June 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    O my God! this is soo moutn watering and such a wonderful pics to tempt me!


  17. Memoria on June 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Oh, I saw these on Joy the Baker’s blog, too! I wanted to make them right there and then, but I didn’t. Now your rolls are making me want to get up right now and make them. I will have to force myself to wait until the weekend!

    Tempting photos!! YUMMY!


  18. ashley on June 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    these are totally drool worthy! they looks SO good!


  19. Sarah on June 29, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    These look so good!! My little boy and husband are allergic to nuts– do you think they’d still be okay without the nuts in the filling ?


  20. Michelle on June 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Mathilde – I’ll have to do some research on Hot Crossed Buns in the UK – sounds right up my alley!


  21. Michelle on June 29, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Sarah – I think these would certainly still be fabulous without the nuts. Please let me know what you think after you make them!


  22. Fera on June 30, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I should try this for sure…yuummiiiiiiiiiii


  23. stephchows on June 30, 2009 at 10:32 am

    you seriously outdo yourself with these pictures! I want to take a bite out of my screen!


  24. Katerina on June 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

    These look amazing! I have only made the “bready”
    ones myself, rather then the flaky mall kind. Yum.


  25. Jen @ MaplenCornbread on June 30, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    WOw those pictures are amazing!!! I LOVE cinnamon rolls!!


  26. Michelle on June 30, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks so much for the compliments on the pictures!


  27. Katrina on June 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    YUM! I’ve seen this cream cheese recipe before and I really need to try it. Looks so flaky and yummy!


  28. Becky on June 30, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    oh dear…cinnamon rolls are my absolute weakness and these look particularly delicious.


  29. Butterfly on July 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    My mouth is watering right now and i can’t stop looking at these delicious flaky rolls. OMG….i really want one like right now.


  30. mermaid sweets on July 1, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Oh my goodness – yummers. I want one now, these turned out fantastic.


  31. Lizzie on July 2, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Um, yeah, these pictures are divine. My mouth is literally watering!!


  32. Memoria on July 13, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I saw these on Joy the Baker’s site, too and made them today. I used half-n-half in my glaze instead of buttermilk. I also subtracted out the nuts and kept the raisins. I prepared the rolls and let them rise in the refrigerator overnight and baked them this morning. They were perfect and flaky. Since i live alone, I plan to freeze the other rolls and microwave them whenever I feel like having another one. Thanks for the lovely photos. YUM!


  33. Laura on July 15, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I do not have a stand mixer. I am planning to make these by hand. How long would I knead them?


  34. Michelle on July 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Hi Laura – I would recommend at least 10 minutes after you add the flour, and then probably another 10 minutes to add in and knead the butter. This dough is a rather sticky one, so keep in mind if you’re kneading by hand you may need to add a bit more flour. I hope that helped! Please let me known if you have any other questions. I hope you enjoy :)


  35. Yum Yucky on July 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Your food pics are flawless. I hate to admit it, but I’m salivating.


  36. Michelle on July 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Yum Yucky – Thanks so much for the compliment on my photos!


  37. Anna on August 9, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I cannot wait to try these out – if they look half as good as your photos, I’ll be thrilled! I shall be making them to take to MIL this weekend. It’s a long journey to MIL’s, so we might have to eat some on the way there…


  38. Janene from Ellinwood Kansas on August 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I just made these cinnamon rolls first of all they look exactly like the pictures! Second, they are delicious and really quite easy to make. You made the directions so easy to follow. Thanks for the recipe.


  39. Michelle on August 18, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Hi Janene, Thanks so much for coming back and letting everyone know what you thought of the recipe. Thrilled that you enjoyed it!


  40. Hot Polka Dot on March 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I haven’t had a real cinnamon bun in years I think. I’m due for one. Must make these!


  41. superyenny on April 18, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I just made these today and they were terrific – absolutely the best I’ve ever tasted! The only adjustment I made was to roll them along the long side, so that I ended up with 12 smaller rolls – easier to share! Fantastic, thanks for the recipe.


  42. Kate on May 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Oh my! These are the best cinnamon rolls ever! My husband said they were even better than the ones you buy at the mall. I definitely will be making these again!!!!


  43. Jessiker @ Jessiker Bakes on June 29, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Goodness!! These look amazing! I hate saying lame common words like that but wowwwwweeee beautiful!


  44. Sharon on July 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Two days ago I made cinnamon rolls with a recipe from another website that had hundreds of 5 star reviews. Long story short… the cinnabons are in the trash!! Well, yesterday I found your recipe and W’O’W! These are delicious. It is exactly what I was looking for. The bread is flaky, soft, moist, not buttery and the filling is just PERFECT! I could not believe my ears when my brother (the critic) said they tasted exactly as the Cinnabons (we all love cinnabons). Thank you sooo much for sharing the recipe and specially for writing the instructions foolproof. The instructions were so easy to follow, specially for a beginner like me. Thank you, thank you!!! They are absolutely delicious! P.S I did use another recipe for the icing… a cream cheese icing.


  45. Choco on August 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I just put the rolls in the refrigerator & I have to tell you I’m not satisfied with the result they’re not baked yet but a lot of things went wrong with me & I don’t know why :”(
    1st my dough didn’t rise, so I panicked & called mom but she said it’s ok it doesn’t look bad go on working.. I tried my best to be gentle with the dough but the cream cheese kept on sneaking which was really annoying >_>
    anyway I’ll bake them tomorrow, hope the result will be satisfying 😛


    • Choco on August 23rd, 2010 at 1:21 pm

      A reply to what I wrote yesterday XD
      I baked them & thank god they were edible LOL
      no honestly even though I made a lot of mistakes but my family loved the cinnamon rolls & my sister couldn’t stop eating & thanking me ^__^
      I’m thinking of making them again ^____^
      thank you Michelle,,


      • Michelle on August 25th, 2010 at 10:20 pm

        I’m so glad they ended up working out for you! Sometimes if a room is too cool or the yeast is old, it can effect dough rising. But so happy that everyone loved them in the end!


  46. Christopher // Enjoy Life With Breakfast on September 12, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    These look phantasmagoric!


  47. Erik on September 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I was wondering if you’ve ever tried this recipe using a breadmaker to mix and knead the dough? Other than switching to instant/rapid rise yeast, can you think of any other modification that might need to be made to use this method? My current favorite cinnamon roll recipe uses a breadmaker and I really enjoy the time savings. That being said, I’m always up for a great cinnamon roll recipe and I’m planning to try this one – heck if it has the approval of you and Joy, it’s got to be good.


    • Michelle on September 16th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Erik, I have never used a breadmaker so I can’t really give you very good advice unfortunately! This recipe does already call for instant yeast though so you won’t have to make any modifications in that department. If you go the breadmaker route I’d love to hear the process you use. And if not, you should totally give it a try anyway, mixing and kneading the dough by hand isn’t too difficult.


  48. Erin R on December 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I would love to make these for Christmas morning (Sat) … but I am not sure I have time to make them the night before … can I make them Thursday and have them refidgerate for 2 days?

    Thanks … your cinnamon swirl bread is in the oven as I type!


    • Michelle on December 10th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Erin, If it’s going to be 2 days, I’d probably pop them in the freezer, then the night before you want to bake them, put it in the fridge, then let them sit out 15-30 minutes Christmas morning before baking. I’m thinking of making these for Christmas morning too! :)


  49. kirsten chay on December 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I made these two days ago! They were delicious! and tasted even better the second day! Nice and flaky dough, perfect sweetness. I would maybe double the cinnamon next time! Loved them! They are allll gone, so I better make more! haha


    • Michelle on December 13th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      Oooh yes, more definitely! Send me one while you’re at it, I haven’t had them in awhile :)


  50. Num Num on December 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Hi Michelle,
    Your recipes never seem to fail! This one was OMG heavenly. If you’d like you can check them out on my blog.


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