Carl's Cinnamon Rolls

star rating (25) rate this recipe »
Recipe photo

Carl's Cinnamon Rolls

star rating (25) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

Cinnamon rolls -- what better way to wake up early on a sunny winter morning than with the smell of cinnamon wafting through the house? The following recipe comes from Carl Nelson of Whittier, California, who wrote to thank us for our catalogue, and to say he appreciates "the interesting items and ingredients that are not easy to find locally." He also sent a photo of himself with the note, "Enclosed is a photo of me proudly displaying my last batch of cinnamon rolls. They made quite a hit with our family and friends."

Carl also wrote the following: "My dad and mother were born in Sweden, where Dad had a seven-year apprenticeship in baking before he came to this country. Dad and I operated, for a number of years, the largest Swedish bakery in the West. It was located in Los Angeles, and we enjoyed having some interesting customers: Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman (she didn't come in person -- her uncle shopped for her), and each week we delivered an order to Mary Pickford at Pickfair. There were others, of course.

"I miss the baking business, but try to keep my hand in the dough at home. A couple of years ago I purchased a Zojirushi bread machine. Our friends thought I had gone bonkers. Although I did use the machine for a time to bake bread from start to finish, I was not pleased by the fact that, with the pre-timing of the process, loaves would not be uniform in size. Therefore, when I use the machine (and I still do occasionally), I use it for preparation of the dough only, after which I mold the loaf and place it in a regular bread pan. This way, I can adjust the rising time according to weather conditions, etc. And not only that, with this method it resembles a traditional loaf of bread -- I like that!

1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm milk
8 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional)
1 teaspoon dry malt powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid (optional)

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
grated zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico, or almond liqueur, such as Amaretto

Manual Method: Dissolve the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in the lukewarm water. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix until fairly smooth. Knead the dough, by hand for 10 minutes, or with your mixer equipped with the dough hook for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple. Turn the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until puffy, 1 to 2 hours.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Check the dough during the final 10 minutes of the kneading cycle, adding additional flour or water as needed to produce a smooth, supple dough. Allow the machine to complete its cycle.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat and then roll the dough into an 18 x 24-inch rectangle.

Filling: Brush the dough with the butter, leaving a 1-inch bare edge along one long side. Combine the remaining filling ingredients -- sugar, salt and cinnamon -- and sprinkle them evenly over the dough.

Assembly: Starting with a long edge, roll the dough into a long log (not too tightly, or the centers of the rolls will pop up during baking). Make sure to finish up at the edge that isn't brushed with milk or butter. Brush that edge with water and pull it up over the log, pinching to seal. Roll the log so it's seam-side-down on your work surface.

Use a ruler to mark off 1 1/2-inch intervals, then use a serrated knife to gently cut 20 rolls; you may also loop dental floss around the log at each interval and pull, which gives you a nice, clean cut. Transfer the rolls to lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between each roll. These will fit on a full-sheet pan or two half-sheet pans.

Brush the sides of each roll with melted butter or vegetable oil, if desired; this makes the rolls easier to pull apart after they're baked. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap, and set them aside to rise until puffy but perhaps not doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Bake the rolls in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, reversing the pans midway through. They should be golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool slightly, as you prepare the frosting.

Frosting: Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt, orange juice and rind (or orange oil), and liqueur. Beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture should be of spreading consistency, like a soft butter cream frosting.

Using a metal spatula, frost the rolls while they're warm. Remove them from the pan, and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Eat them soon, or freeze them, well wrapped, for later use. (If you're going to freeze the rolls, it's better not to frost them before freezing.)

To Reheat Rolls: Remove the rolls from the freezer, and allow them to thaw, in their wrapping, at room temperature. This will take 1 to 1 1/2 hours, more or less. Remove the wrapping, and bake the rolls in a preheated 350°F oven for about 7 minutes, or until they're very hot. Remove them from the oven, and frost them. To reheat in the microwave, remove the rolls from their wrapping and microwave for no more than 30 seconds. Better still, heat them in a microwave set on defrost until they're warm. Serve rolls immediately. Yield: 40 rolls.

Note: If orange juice and zest are omitted, add a little more of the liqueur.

Carl's Cinnamon Rolls, Reduced Yield Version

Even cutting Carl's recipe in half, the above recipe will feed a crowd. The following is our adaptation -- which includes a few ingredient amount changes, makes a more manageable amount, and can be prepared with the help of a bread machine. We print the two sets of ingredients, and one set of directions, which remain the same no matter which version you use. We think you'll find these rich swirls of cinnamon and sugar a delight, and we thank Carl for his generosity in sharing.

Our Version
(To make 20 rolls)

    1/4 cup (2 ounces) water
    2 teaspoons instant yeast
    1 cup (8 ounces) milk
    4 3/4 cups (20 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
    1 egg, well beaten
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter, melted

    2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
    3/4 cup (5 5/8 ounces) light brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 1/2 tablespoons (5/8 ounce) ground cinnamon

    1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) confectioners' sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    3/8 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons orange juice
    1/8 teaspoon orange oil
    1 1/2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico, or almond liqueur, such as Amaretto


1 23  All  
  • star rating 12/06/2014
  • from
  • star rating 12/06/2014
  • from
  • star rating 09/28/2014
  • Nov from Greenville, SC
  • This was my first time making any kind of cinnamon roll. I picked this recipe because it seemed easy. It was and I enjoyed the process. I will definitely make this again!!! I only had KAF white wheat flour but it came out great! I think I'd like to try a different icing because my family thought it was sweet (thankfully I only drizzled it on). And I read reviews about the length of baking time-And knowing my oven and my not being able to put all in one pan- one cooked perfect at 24 minutes the other at 27.
  • star rating 06/05/2014
  • from

  • We'd love to know more about this rating. There sure are a lot of options for making this yeast dough either by hand, stand mixer or bread machine. The constant with those methods is to strive for a soft and supple dough. Wishing you happy baking and successful cinnamon rolls! Irene@KAF
  • star rating 03/26/2014
  • char from nj
  • This was my first time making these. I have to take issue with the directions for the smaller batch. 4 3/4 cups of flour was way too much. I threw that dough out & started over, using only 4 cups the second time. That gave a much nicer, workable dough. The cooking time as specified burned my rolls, & I even took them out of the oven 5 minutes early. That being said, the bit that I did eat was very good, & I will try them again.
  • star rating 09/22/2013
  • Tya from Ware, MA
  • This recipe adds just enough sugar to the dough to yield a slightly sweet roll and not just a bread with icing on top as so many cinnamon roll recipes do.
  • star rating 09/14/2013
  • member-cmarias from KAF Community
  • Definitely use superior quality cinnamon and don't be stingy with it! I made Carl's version of the recipe but divided it into two groups for assembly and baking. The first ones rose a little more than I expected during baking & so I used a hamburger bun pan for the next group so they would be a little more uniform. (Yep! This pan isn't just for hamburger buns!) If you use the bun pan, you may want to fill it only half-way or they will be really big--not that that's a bad thing!
  • star rating 03/16/2013
  • Rickedge from KAF Community
  • Love the soft dough and intense cinnamon. We will be adding some ginger next time.
  • star rating 03/05/2013
  • Amanda from Seattle, WA
  • I'm honored and proud to say that the Carl of these cinnamon rolls was my great uncle, and what a cook he was. Not only did he make delicious food with his wife Esther, but Uncle Carl always had a story and a joke to go along with his treats. So what a joy it was to find this recipe here! We did the halved version, and especially loved the orange in the frosting, it was a perfect accent to these wonderful rolls.
  • star rating 12/31/2012
  • from KAF Community
  • This is a wonderful recipe that I've been using for years. However, I have to take issue with the instructions. They aren't exactly the same for both the large and smaller quantity version. In the large version, the dough is divided in half and each half rolled and cut. For the smaller quantity version, If you divide the dough in half and roll to the given dimensions, you will end up with very skinny layers in your rolls and probably overcook them. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I made this recipe before it dawned on me that the smaller quantity of dough should NOT be divided in half. Another mistake I made with the smaller quantity recipe: I added the milk to the filling ingredients. This accually works very well. The filling can be spread evenly over the dough with a frosting spatula.
1 23  All