Perfect Small Batch Cinnamon Rolls {Best Cinnamon Rolls Ever}

When you don’t want 4 dozen cinnamon rolls staring you in the face, what do you do? You make this amazing small batch cinnamon roll recipe and then gaze lovingly at 12 of the most perfect cinnamon rolls ever!

Small batch cinnamon roll recipe with dough baked and frosted in white pan.

Listen, I love cinnamon rolls just like the next person. And I love to make cinnamon rolls. The are probably one of my favorite baked goods to make ever because nothing makes you feel quite like a kitchen rock star as combining a few innocent ingredients together and a few hours later pulling fluffy, fragrant, perfect cinnamon rolls out of the oven.

Well, assuming they are perfect. I’ve had a lot of cinnamon roll mishaps over the years. Surprisingly, though, except for the time I forgot the salt and the sugar in the dough and then burned them crisp, they’ve all been mostly edible. Mostly. Maybe my family just has really low standards when it comes to cinnamon rolls??

But even with my love of cinnamon rolls, I recognize, it isn’t always the, well, healthiest and wisest decision to make an enormo batch of cinnamon rolls and have them stare me in the face all day. My self-control has a very short shelf life in the face of cinnamon rolls I’ve learned over the years.

Taking a layer off of small batch cinnamon roll.

Sure, there’s always a time and a place to whip out Gloria’s recipe and make two huge sheet pans (or more) loaded with the best cinnamon rolls in the land. Who knows, we may all be called upon at some point in our lives to bring cinnamon rolls to a work/church/school/friend/family function, and we need to be prepared with a recipe that can feed the masses.

However, on those days you want a simple cinnamon roll fix without making a bazillion dozen of them, this small batch cinnamon roll recipe is where it’s at. And you’re still going to get some of the best cinnamon rolls of your life.

I fully recognize many of you have been varying and cutting down that aforementioned recipe for years to make smaller batches. But in the interest of making my own life easier so I’m not fussing with the recipe every time I just want to make a 9X13-inch pan of rolls, I’m posting the official pared down recipe just the way I make it when I want a small batch.

It makes 12. Twelve perfect cinnamon rolls nestled together in a basic 9X13-inch pan. They’re amazing. And I’m going to show you just how easy they are to make.

How to make small batch cinnamon rolls!

This smaller dough amount works great in a Kitchenaid, and while I usually use my Bosch mixer for all my dough mixing needs, for this tutorial, I whipped out the Kitchenaid since the original large batch recipe already has a picture tutorial with the ol’ Bosch and I know many of you are loyal Kitchenaid owners.

Mix the dough ingredients in the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. This includes scalding the milk, which I’m not picturing here for sake of post length, but it’s detailed in the recipe and is nothing to be afraid of.

The thing to keep in mind is that you want to achieve a soft, smooth dough that isn’t over floured (dry rolls!) or under floured (sticky, doughy rolls!). This may seem like a stressful place to get to, but my advice is to focus on the feel of the dough rather than the exact flour amount in the recipe. Good news! I rarely ever give an exact flour amount in yeast dough recipes because so many factors go into how much flour you’ll need to add.

Ultimately, when the dough goes from lumpy and shaggy to smooth and soft and forms a ball that doesn’t leave a lot of sticky residue on your fingers, you’re good to go.

Small batch cinnamon roll recipe dough mixed in Kitchenaid.

You can see that this beautiful lump of cinnamon roll dough holds it’s shape and isn’t sticky, but it is still stretchy and soft. Holding it up like this, if it starts pulling and sagging without sticking to your fingers, you have yourself a really good cinnamon roll dough.

Stretching the dough for the perfect small batch cinnamon rolls recipe.

Plop the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rise until noticeably puffy and pretty much doubled in size. Exact time will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, but right around 1 to 1 1/2 hours is a safe bet.

Dough rising for small batch cinnamon rolls recipe.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop (I prefer using nonstick cooking spray over using flour so the rolls stay soft and not over floured). This dough is so malleable and easy to work with that I never mess with a rolling pin. I just pat it into a rectangle, about 14X10-inches, and call it good.

Spread about 6 tablespoons of softened butter on top. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon together (and the little bit of flour, if using – more details on that in the recipe below) and sprinkle that lovely concoction over the butter.

Small batch cinnamon rolls recipe with dough spread out with butter and brown sugar and cinnamon.

Starting with one long end, roll up the cinnamon rolls. The key to this rolling action is to roll them up as tightly as possible without stretching the dough. Stretching and pulling on the dough while rolling them up will cause the rolls to shrink weirdly in the oven and can cause some of those dreaded gaps in the rolls after they bake and cool.

Once rolled, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. I find it’s easiest to use a serrated knife (I have this inexpensive one and love it; it’s amazing – aff. link). I cut the long roll in half and then each of those halves in half and then each portion into three rolls. Clear as mud? Basically, just cut ’em up.

Rolling up and cutting the cinnamon rolls.

Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan with cooking spray and place those cute rolls evenly in the pan. I like to tuck the ends of the rolls underneath. Habit, I guess. Also, this is one of my favorite 9X13-inch pans {aff. link} especially for cinnamon rolls and the one I’m using in these pictures.

Let the rolls rise until puffy. I know they’re ready when they are starting to get in each others’ personal space. Sides touching and they’re ready to go!

Small batch cinnamon rolls rising in white pan.

Bake the rolls in a 350 degree F oven for about 18-20 minutes. A tiny bit of browning on top is ok, but don’t let them bake too long or they might be dry.

While they are cooling, I like to whip up the icing and slather it on when they are just warm. Not too hot, not too cold. It’s the perfect frosting situation. The frosting recipe in the large batch recipe is divine. It’s a tasty cream cheese icing (with maple flavor, if you want – delicious!).

But this is where I diverge just a bit. After making these Yukon Gold cinnamon rolls (seriously, how many cinnamon roll recipes does a girl need?), I was swiftly converted to the perfect cinnamon roll icing in that recipe.

So that’s the adapted recipe I included with today’s small batch cinnamon roll recipe. But feel free to use your own fave cinnamon roll icing.

Small batch cinnamon rolls recipe with dough baked and frosted in white pan.

And that’s basically a wrap. See? A small pan of cinnamon rolls is totally doable!

The rolls themselves are smaller in size than the gargantuan rolls you get out of Gloria’s large batch recipe (I didn’t scale down that recipe straight in half – it took more finagling than that to get a recipe to fit exactly in a 9X13-inch pan), but they are just as delicious.

I’ve made these several times over the last few months just for our family to enjoy on a Saturday morning. The recipe is the perfect size without too many dangerous leftovers.

It’s really easy to make cinnamon rolls ahead of time, too. I have a whole post about it here, but basically I make this entire recipe through the point where the rolls are placed in the pan. Before they rise, I cover them and put them in the refrigerator to pull out the next morning for a quick rise (you can speed this along with a warm oven) and bake.

So easy, you’ll be asking yourself why you aren’t making cinnamon rolls every day! Haha. Ok, that was a stretch. But maybe cinnamon rolls every couple weeks/months is a very, very good idea. 🙂

Half eaten cinnamon roll from small batch cinnamon roll recipe.

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Perfect Small Batch Cinnamon Rolls

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Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 cup milk (see note)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces) butter
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (see note)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour (see note)

Filling:

  • 6 to 7 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons flour (optional; see note)

Frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. For the dough, heat the milk in a medium saucepan until the milk is scalded (which is basically heating it until right before it simmers – it will start steaming and little bubbles will form around the edge of the pan; you can also do this in the microwave). Pour the milk into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or you can do this by hand with a large bowl and wooden spoon).
  2. Add the butter, sugar and salt. Mix until the butter is melted and let the mixture cool until warm but not hot. Add the yeast and egg and mix until combined.
  3. Gradually add the flour until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. The exact amount will depend on the temperature, humidity and how you measure flour. I usually end up with right around 3 1/2 cups of flour. The dough should be soft and just slightly sticky without leaving a lot of residue on your fingers. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rise until doubled, about an hour.
    Roll or pat the dough into about a 14X10-inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter evenly across the top.
  5. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon (and flour if using) and sprinkle it evenly over the butter. Pat it in slightly with the palms of your hands. Starting with one long end, roll up the cinnamon rolls as tightly as possible without stretching the dough, pinching the seam lightly to seal.
  6. Using a serrated knife, cut the large roll in half. Then cut each half in half again (forming four equal portions). Cut each of the four portions into three rolls for twelve cinnamon rolls total.
  7. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish. Place the rolls in the pan (3 across, 4 down), tucking the loose end of the cinnamon roll underneath, if desired.
    Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let the rolls rise until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls for about 18-22 minutes until only very slightly golden on top.
  9. While they cool (or before), prepare the icing by adding the cream cheese and butter to a medium bowl. Whip with a handheld (or stand) mixer until creamy. Add the salt, milk or cream, and vanilla. Mix again. Add the powdered sugar and whip until light and creamy. Spread the slightly warm rolls evenly with the icing. Serve immediately or let cool completely and serve at room temperature (or warm lightly before serving).

Notes:

I prefer using whole milk or 2% milk in this recipe. If you don’t have instant yeast and want to use active dry yeast, use the same amount and dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water with a pinch of sugar. If doing this, you may need to add a bit more flour due to the extra water. 

Don’t worry so much about the exact amount of flour called for in the recipe and instead judge the dough by the feel of it. It should be soft and smooth and stretchy without leaving an overly sticky residue on your fingers. Elevation, humidity, exact temperature of the milk, how we each measure flour – all of these things can affect the precise flour amount, so don’t worry if you have to add a bit more or less than the recipe calls for.

I like adding a tiny bit of flour in the filling (thanks to this recipe). It helps bind the filling together so the rolls don’t gap as much after baking (like sometimes happens). It’s definitely optional whether you want to add it or not.

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Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (adapted from this favorite recipe)

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