Cinnamon rolls with brown butter frosting are a delicious twist on the classic sweet roll. Warm gooey cinnamon rolls are drenched in heavy cream, baked until golden then slathered with a decadent, finger-licking good brown butter icing. With a bit of patience and a whole lot of love, you’ll have a tasty treat that’s perfect for casual mornings, brunches, and holidays.
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These cinnamon rolls with brown butter frosting started with a “what if?” Like many, I love a freshly baked, sticky cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting. But then I got to thinking, “What if I paired these dessert rolls with brown butter frosting instead?”
Brown butter instantly elevates this traditional dessert as browned butter adds a toffee-like, almost caramel flavor–instantly taking the icing up a notch. It has a warm, nutty, sweet yet salty flavor profile that enhances whatever it is added to. So warm cinnamon rolls are no exception!
Why This Recipe Works
- Better than Store-bought – Back away from the Pillsbury canned rolls and Cinnabon because nothing beats homemade cinnamon rolls. I promise that the final result is worth the extra effort.
- The Perfect Shareable Treat – This pull-apart snack was made to be shared so you’ll be the most popular person at the party. It will be highly requested every Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and special occasion.
- A Decadent Dessert – Fluffy, warm, mouthwatering, and sweet, cinnamon rolls are packed with sugar and spice then rolled, baked to golden brown perfection, and iced with the best brown butter cream cheese frosting you’ve ever had. After the first bite, you’ll be in buttery bliss!
What is Brown Butter?
Brown butter is butter that is cooked until it releases milk solids. Those toasted brown bits that form at the bottom of the pan are as good as gold. It releases a nutty aroma and the butter takes on an amber hue. It smells yummy and tastes even better!
Brown butter adds a depth of flavor to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Not convinced of how versatile brown butter can be? Check out my Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats and Brown Butter Sage Butternut Squash recipe, next!
Tools You’ll Need
Ingredients You Will Need for Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Frosting
Brown butter cinnamon rolls require simple ingredients that you probably already have. This section details what you will need to make this recipe, the use of each ingredient, and substitution options. For the exact measurements, see the recipe card below.
Proof yeast by adding it to water and sugar. After about 15 minutes, you will notice a a foamy top, which means the yeast has bloomed.
- Active dry yeast – This must be dissolved into a liquid before being added to the other ingredients.
- Warm water – The temperature should be between 110°-115°F.
- Sugar – Acts as fuel for the yeast and assists with the proofing process.
- All-purpose flour – Be sure to spoon and level the flour as you do not want to overpack the measuring cup.
- Fresh nutmeg – You can use ground and bottled nutmeg, but if you can get your hands on whole nutmeg, freshly grated is even better!
- Sugar – Added to sweeten the rolls.
- Kosher salt – I use Diamond Crystal brand.
- Salted butter – Melted, but temperature should not register over 110°F.
- Eggs – You will need 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk (for added richness), both at room temperature.
- Whole milk warm – Warmed to 110°F.
- Heavy cream – The trick to getting ULTRA MOIST rolls. This should be used at room temperature and is poured over the rolls after they have risen for the second time, just before baking.
- Salted butter – Use at room temperature.
- Light brown sugar – Packed.
- Cinnamon – A necessary ingredient for that sugar and spice flavor.
Brown Butter Frosting
This brown butter icing is the perfect consistency to glaze over warm cinnamon rolls.
- Salted butter – Use at room temperature.
- Cream cheese – Make sure it is full-fat and room temperature for smooth mixing.
- Pure vanilla extract – I use this Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract.
- Kosher salt – I use Diamond Crystal brand.
- Powdered sugar – Sift when adding this to the frosting mixture.
How To Make Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Frosting
A sweet labor of love, but it is truly worth it! This recipe calls for a decent amount of steps, but I’ve made it straightforward and easy to follow.
This section is a brief overview, showing how to make brown butter cinnamon rolls. See the recipe below for detailed instructions.
- In a small bowl, add yeast, warm water, and sugar then stir well. The yeast will double in size in about 15 minutes.
Make the Cinnamon Rolls
- Mix dough. Mix the dry ingredients (just 2 cups of flour) together in a standing mixer bowl. Add the yeast mixture and wet ingredients to that bowl. Use the knead hook to turn the mixer on low and slowly add the rest of the flour. Once ingredients form into a dough, let it sit for 5 minutes, to allow flour to absorb wet ingredients.
- Knead the dough. Knead for 7 minutes under speed 4 setting. Form it into one large ball.
- First rise. Add dough to a greased mixing bowl. Coat with plastic wrap then place it somewhere warm for 1½-2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size. Then remove the plastic wrap and punch down the dough to remove air.
- Add cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll dough out on a well-floured surface with a rolling pin. Spread the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving the border clear of the mixture.
- Starting on the short end, roll the dough into a log and pinch the seam to keep the log sealed. Trim and discard uneven pieces.
- Slice. Cut the log into 12 pieces using unflavored dental floss.
- Second rise. Place rolls into a baking pan, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and keep it in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until rolls have doubled in size. 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375°F. While waiting, assemble brown butter frosting.
- Add heavy cream and bake. Remove plastic wrap or towel from the pan. Pour heavy cream over rolls and bake for 26-30 minutes or until lightly brown, turning the pan at the halfway mark.
- Frost and serve. Remove from the oven. Immediately slather the top with half of the brown butter frosting. Top with more frosting after serving, if desired.
- Add butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon to a bowl. Use a fork to mix ingredients until well combined. Set aside.
Brown Butter Frosting
- Make the brown butter. Keep a small heat-proof bowl next to you as you will need to pour the butter into a bowl. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add butter to the saucepan, and whisk. As it melts the butter will begin to foam. Then brown specks will start to form. Pour browned butter into the heat-proof bowl and set aside. Browned butter must be thoroughly cooled and slightly solid before adding it to the frosting ingredients.
- Form the frosting. Whisk room temperature cream cheese in the standing mixer on high until it is light and fluffy. Add cooled and slightly solid brown butter, kosher salt, and vanilla. Whisk on high again just until the ingredients come together.
- Add powdered sugar and milk. Add sifted powdered sugar in small batches and whisk until ingredients come together. Repeat until all sugar is added. Add milk and whisk again to combine. Set frosting aside.
Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Frosting
- Don’t skip the heavy cream. This is key to getting mega soft and moist cinnamon rolls.
- Use warm ingredients. As it aids in the proofing process.
- Temperature is very important. If your water, milk, or butter are too hot or too cold, the cinnamon rolls will be affected. If the ingredients are too hot, it will kill the yeast. And if they’re too cold, the yeast won’t activate.
- Don’t skip the second rise. Allowing the dough to rise twice results in a lighter, chewy texture. You definitely want your cinnamon rolls to have those qualities.
- Dough should have a tacky, not sticky texture. If the dough is still sticky, refer to the remaining ½ cup of flour and add in increments of 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer sticky.
- You’ve kneaded enough when the dough is smooth. It should also spring back when you poke it.
- Be patient. Keep in mind that dough is rich so it may take some time to rise. If your oven has a proof setting, use that because a warm environment will encourage rising.
- Place foil over the rolls. If rolls begin to brown too quickly when baking, lightly place a piece of foil wrap on top.
- Don’t burn the brown butter. Watch it carefully as you make it. Once you smell a nutty aroma, remove from heat and immediately pour into a bowl to cease further cooking.
- Prepare the brown butter before you do anything else. It will need to be close to room temperature when you are assembling the frosting. I recommend making it the night before.
Making Cinnamon Rolls Ahead of Time
Prepare cinnamon rolls ahead of a leisurely holiday like Christmas. Then all you’ll have to do Christmas morning is allow time for a rise, pop them in the oven and spread icing on top.
Can cinnamon rolls be made ahead of time?
Yes. Assemble dough and stop at step 8. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, then place in the refrigerate for up to 12 hours before baking.
Then, let them rise at room temperature (place in a warm place) until doubled in size, which will take 1-2 hours. Proceed with remaining steps (pouring heavy cream and bake.)
Can I freeze cinnamon rolls?
Absolutely! There are two ways to freeze them:
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze cinnamon rolls before the second rise. Thaw in the fridge the night before you want to bake them. The next morning, place the pan somewhere warm and and leave until rolls have doubled in size, then bake.
- Freeze cinnamon rolls after baking. If choosing this method, do not glaze the rolls. Top them with brown butter frosting after they have been reheated. Be sure to tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and foil before freezing.
Cinnamon rolls are best served warm so reheat them in the microwave using 10-second intervals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I upgrade my cinnamon roll icing?
Add brown butter to cinnamon roll icing to take this cozy treat to the next level!
Do you put the icing on cinnamon rolls before baking?
Place icing on baked cinnamon rolls. Otherwise, the dough will absorb the frosting as it bakes.
Why are my cinnamon rolls not fluffy?
If your rolls did not puff up while baking, you may have added too much flour to the dough. Good dough will always feel light, and warm with just a bit of stickiness.
Can I use dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar in cinnamon rolls?
Yes, you can use either. Dark brown sugar has a more robust, sweet flavor. Whereas light brown sugar has a more subtle sweetness.
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Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Frosting
- Stand mixer
- Kitchen instant thermometer
- 13×9 baking pan
- 1 packet active dry yeast (equals 2¼ teaspoons)
- ¼ cup warm water, (110°-115°F)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, spooned and leveled
- pinch fresh nutmeg, grated
- ½ cup sugar
- 1¾ teaspoon kosher salt, I use Diamond Crystal brand
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, melted, 110°F
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk warm (110°F)
- ¾ cup heavy cream, (SAVED FOR POURING OVER RISEN ROLLS) room temp
- 1 stick salted butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1½ tablespoons cinnamon
- See brown butter section and do this part first, as the browned butter will need to be close to room temperature when assembling frosting. You can also make the brown butter the night before (recommend!).
- Prepare yeast. In a small bowl, add yeast, warm water (110°-115°F), and sugar. Stir well. Will take roughly 15 minutes for yeast to double in size
- In a standing mixer bowl, add 2 cups of all-purpose flour, sugar, freshly ground nutmeg, and salt. Whisk until ingredients are well mixed.
- Add 5 tbsps of melted butter, yeast mixture, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, and warm milk. Using your knead hook, turn standing mixer on low and slowly add remaining 2 cups of flour. Once ingredients form into a dough, leave to sit for 5 minutes to allow flour to absorbs wet ingredients.
- Knead for 7 minutes under speed 4 setting. Dough should have a tacky, not sticky texture. If dough is still sticky, refer to remaining ½ cup of flour and add in increments of 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is not longer sticky. Form dough into one large ball. You will know when you've kneaded enough when the dough is very smooth and spring back after poking it.
- First rise: Grease mixing bowl with ½ teaspoon of butter. Add dough, cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1½-2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size. Keep in mind that since dough is rich, it may take a little time to rise. If your oven has a proof setting, use that as a warm environment will encourage rising.
- Once dough has doubled in size, remove plastic wrap and punch down the dough to remove air.
- Place dough on a well-floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a large square that is ¼ inch thick.
- Spread cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a ¼ inch border clear of the mixture. Starting on the short end, carefully roll the dough into a log and pinch the seam to keep the log sealed. Trim the uneven pieces and discard.
- Cut the log into 1½ inch thick pieces using unflavored dental floss. You should end up with a total of 12 pieces. Place rolls into a prepared 13×9 baking pan (leaving room between each roll).
- Second rise: Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and keep in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until rolls have doubled in size. 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375°F.While waiting, assemble brown butter frosting.
- Remove plastic wrap or towel from pan. Pour heavy cream over rolls and bake for 26-30 minutes or until lightly brown, turning the pan at the halfway mark. If rolls begin to brown too quickly, lightly place a piece of foil wrap on top.
- After removing from the oven, immediately slather the top with half of the brown butter frosting. Serve warm. Top with more frosting after serving, if desired.
- In a bowl, add room-temperature butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Use a fork to mix ingredients until well combined. Set aside.
Brown Butter Frosting
- Keep a small heat-proof bowl next to you as you will need to pour the butter into a bowl.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add butter to saucepan and whisk to encourage melting.
- Once melted, butter will foam a little bit (that's normal). Carefully swirl the pan. Watch carefully as brown specks will start to form and you will begin to smell a nutty aroma.
- Pour browned butter into the heat-proof bowl and set aside. Browned butter must be completely cooled and slightly solid before adding to frosting ingredients.
- Add room-temp cream cheese to a standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high until light and fluffy.
- Add completely cooled and slightly solid brown butter, kosher salt, and vanilla. Whisk on high again just until ingredients come together.
- Add sifted powdered sugar in small batches and whisk until ingredients come together. Repeat until all sugar is added.
- Add milk and whisk again to combine. Set frosting aside.