How do you make a genuine Cinnabon at home, and how did Cinnabon come to be as we know it today? Glad you asked; join us on a sweet journey…
How Cinnabon started
In 1984 a couple of restaurant entrepreneurs who had enjoyed visiting a cinnamon roll joint in Tennessee, agreed to a franchise deal. That eventually fell through, but these Seattle folks had already signed a lease for a spot in the Sea-Tac mall for their new venture; Cinnabon. With necessity being the mother of invention, they used their cooking contacts, worked through a couple hundred (!) versions arriving at their sweet spot only two weeks before opening. And thus, a legend was born.
Pro Tip; having lived in the area then, this was the perfect addition to the exploding coffee scene with Starbucks and other local competition.
What is so special?
There are two main distinguishing components of their successful and delicious roll. A very specific cinnamon flavor, and cream cheese frosting. They ended up with their own proprietary blend of cinnamon called Makara. I found that Korintje cinnamon, named after the area that grows a lot of cinnamon, is the closest to their blend. Their blend has been said to contain at least a portion of this variety of cinnamon. You could also use cinnamons grown in Viet Nam to get similar flavor profiles. As for cream cheese frosting, we just say yes please, the more the better! Another trick of theirs, making additional frosting available because why wouldn’t you?
In actuality, the biggest part of a cinnamon roll is the dough. Make a bread dough, then make it rich with milk, eggs and butter. This is what delivers an exceptional texture, with subtle flavors that are a perfect vehicle for the real goodies of a cinnamon roll. It is a variation on the theme of a brioche , the classic French dough used mostly as a sweet, but also for savory bread and bun choices.
Secret to the iconic Cinnabon rise
One key to a silky texture in the bread part of your cinnamon roll is to let the dough have an extended primary fermentation. That’s a fancy way to say wait, let it sit. In this case 12 or more hours in the fridge will go far to improve your results. Since cinnamon rolls are the ultimate brunch treat, this dovetails well to producing a morning food extravaganza. Remember, this is a rich dough, those tasty oils and fats get stiffer when cold. Straight from the fridge the dough will roll out thinner and stay that way while you make it into rolls. An overall win situation.
Pro tip; lightly grease your loose plastic cover, or a plastic bag with another over the open end, giving the dough room to expand.
One of the other unique aspects of a Cinnabon roll is the number of ‘rings’ it has in the spiral. We’ve all enjoyed a great sticky roll that has three, maybe four, chubby rings of dough across 4-5”. Cinnabon is double that with 6-7 ‘rings’ across the same surface area. Yes, we are geeky enough to have counted them…it matters. Thinner dough means more surface area for the cinnamon filling and flavor. Remember rolling chilled dough goes thinner, now you see how it all comes together.
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1-1/2 Cups warm milk
- 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 Cup melted butter
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 6 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 Cups granulated sugar
- 4 Tablespoons cinnamon
- 1/2 Cup butter nearly melted
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 Cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 Cup butter
- 8 Oz package cream cheese
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 2 Teaspoons milk
- Melt the butter, set aside to cool somewhat
- In your mixing bowl combine milk, yeast and sugar
- Let it sit for about 10 minutes until foamy
- Add eggs and one half of the flour
- Mix well then add butter and remaining flour
- Mix to create a shaggy dough
- Use a dough hook or turn to a lightly floured board
- Knead until smooth, 2-5 minutes by machine
- Let rest for 30-45 minutes, the refrigerate
Build & Filling
- Warm butter until nearly melted
- Line two 9×13 baking pans, or one deep sheet pan, with parchment paper
- Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl
- Pull dough from refrigerator and put on lightly floured counter
- Roll out to approximately 30×24 inches
- Spread butter evenly over dough
- Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mix evenly, using all of it
- Roll the dough creating a tube 30 inches long
- Cut into 24 even slices
- Distribute evenly in baking pan(s)
- Let proof 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350
- Bake 20-25 minutes until browned
- Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes
- Have butter and cream cheese at room temperature
- Cream butter, cream cheese vanilla and salt together
- Sift in one cup powdered sugar, blend well
- Sift in remaining and blend again
- Blend for 5 minutes until fluffy
- Add milk to desired consistency and frost the rolls
- Serve and enjoy