Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls

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Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls — The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you’ve never made cinnamon rolls and there’s a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Homemade cinnamon rolls are a luxury that I don’t often take the time to make, but these easy cinnamon rolls reminded me that I need make homemade cinnamon rolls more often!

I used my 2013 recipe for Overnight Buttermilk Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls and simply added rainbow sprinkles. I also used this recipe for Overnight Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls for the holidays. No cake mix here!

The beauty of this recipe is that you can start it the afternoon or evening before you want to wake up with a batch of freshly made cinnamon rolls. This is especially handy for holiday mornings or special mornings like Easter, Mother’s Day, a special brunch or birthday, or Christmas morning.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Or if you want to make the recipe straight through, you can do it that way, too.

I chose this dough recipe because of any cinnamon roll I’ve ever made or tasted, this is my absolute favorite dough.

It’s soft, fluffy and tender with the perfect amount of chewiness. It’s a buttery, rich, and moist dough thanks to well, the butter, three eggs, and buttermilk. If you’ve ever had a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, it’s similar to that, but lighter and fluffier and these Funfetti cinnamon rolls just melt in your mouth!

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

The interior of each buttermilk cinnamon roll is abundantly flavored with cinnamon and sugar, brown sugar, and rainbow sprinkles to create birthday cake cinnamon rolls.

Of course I topped my homemade cinnamon rolls with homemade cream cheese frosting. There is nothing better than the tangy sweet and buttery flavor of cream cheese frosting with cinnamon rolls.

Although you could use buttercream frosting or Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting instead.

Ingredients in Rainbow Sprinkle Cinnamon Rolls

To make overnight cinnamon rolls with rainbow sprinkles, you only need a handful of common refrigerator and pantry ingredients.

If you’re a baker, you probably already have many of these staples on hand including the following:

Cinnamon Rolls

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Instant dry yeast
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk

Filling

  • Unsalted butter
  • Light brown sugar
  • Cinnamon

Cream Cheese Frosting

Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

How to Make Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls

Follow these straightforward steps to ensure your Funfetti cinnamon rolls turn out perfectly. Much more detailed directions and instructions are in the actual recipe card below.

Dough

Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 2: Melt the butter in a separate small bowl.

Step 3: Crack and lightly whisk the eggs in another small bowl.

Step 4: Warm the buttermilk to the temperature indicated on the package directions based on the brand of yeast you’re using and take the temperature with a thermometer.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 5: Add all the wet ingredients to the dry and using a dough hook, knead for 10 to 12 minutes until a dough forms. By hand, it’ll be 15 to 18 minutes.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 6: Add a bit more flour if the dough is overly sticky.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 7: Allow the dough to rise in a large mixing bowl sprayed very well with cooking spray for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Shaping The Rolls

Step 1: After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 2: Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it by hand for 2 minutes.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 3: Roll it out to a 16×12-inch large rectangle.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 4: Brush or spread softened butter over the surface.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 5: Add sugar, brown sugar.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

And the cinnamon.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 6: Sprinkle the birthday cake sprinkles.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 7: Roll it up vertically or “the long way”.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 8: Slice into 12 pieces.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 9: Place in a large baking dish, 9×13-inch pan, or jelly roll pan. Cover with plastic wrap and now it’s decision time.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

If you’re doing the overnight make-ahead option, slide the pan into the fridge and keep it there for up to 16 hours before baking the rolls. When it’s time to bake the next day, allow the rolls to come up to room temperature and rise for 1 hour on the counter, or until almost doubled in size. And then bake.

If you’re making them straight through, allow the rolls to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60 to 90 minutes, or until almost doubled in size. And then bake.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Baking

Bake them at 350ºF for 22 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and cooked through, but not overly browned. Rotate your pan midway through.

While they cool, make the frosting.

How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting for Cinnamon Rolls

Making your own frosting is a cinch! Simply do the following:

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Step 1: Beat together the butter and cream cheese.

Step 2: Beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy/

Step 3: Spread over the cinnamon rolls.

Step 4: Add the sprinkles and serve!

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

What Type of Yeast Should I Use? 

I used Red Star Platinum Instant Dry Yeast. It’s an instant dry yeast, so you don’t have to proof it first with water and wait for it to get bubbly and foamy like you do with active dry yeast.

Just sprinkle it right into the bowl with the other ingredients and then pour the liquids over the top of everything.

When I deviate from Platinum and use other yeast, my dough doesn’t rise as well and doesn’t bake up as puffy and fluffy. However, you can use any brand of instant dry yeast you like.

The recipe has been written and tested with instant yeast so if you want to use active yeast, you would need to experiment on your own. However, I suggest just sticking with instant yeast to remove all the guesswork for yourself.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

How to Tell If the Buttermilk Mixture is Warm Enough to Activate the Yeast

Yeast needs to be activated by a warm liquid. However, if it’s too hot you can kill the yeast. But if it’s too cold, the yeast won’t activate.

Therefore, use a digital thermometer for cooking and make sure your mixture of melted butter, eggs, and buttermilk is heated to the temperature that the brand of yeast you’re using calls for.

Tip – Temperature Varies By Brand

Not all brands of yeast calls for the same temperature of the liquid to activate the yeast. For example, Red Star Platinum Yeast calls for warmer temperatures than most, 120 to 130F.

Other brands and yeast call for much lower temperatures, about 95 to 105F.

Warm the buttermilk according to manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging. One size does not fit all here!

Some people just dip their finger into the liquid and if that’s the method you’re using, err on the side of warm bath water rather than hot because you don’t want to risk killing the yeast. However, in bread-making, baking, and candy-making knowing the actual temperature based on a thermometer is something I never just guess with.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Do I Have to Use Buttermilk?

Buttermilk helps the dough rise and also gives it a bit of extra special flavor that you can’t get from dough made without it.

This recipe was designed and developed using real buttermilk and you need to use it. You cannot use regular milk or water.

I buy my buttermilk Trader Joe’s because I find they have the best prices and good quality.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Here’s what to do if you don’t have any traditional buttermilk on hand:

  • Make your own buttermilk with whole milk and vinegar. Add 3/4 cup of 2% or whole milk to a large measuring cup. Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Let that mixture sit for 2 minutes before using in the recipe.
  • You can use powdered buttermilk. You’ll mix how many ever tablespoons the package calls for, with 3/4 cup of water, to yield 3/4 cup of buttermilk. For those who bake with or use buttermilk semi-frequently, but not so frequently to keep in in your fridge, keeping a tub of powdered buttermilk in your pantry is very handy. 

What Else Can I Make With Buttermilk?

If you’re wondering what to do with your leftover buttermilk, I’ve got you covered!

Check out The Best Buttermilk Recipes or every single Buttermilk Recipe I’ve ever posted for plenty of easy and delicious recipes.

Don’t let that buttermilk go to waste when there are so many possibilities!

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

How to Encourage Your Dough to Rise

A trick for creating a warm environment for the dough to rise in is to turn on the oven for one minute to 400ºF, then turn the oven off.

Repeat: don’t leave the oven on, you are just blasting in hot air for one minute only!

Quickly slide your bowl into the oven and let it stay there to rise. It will be about 85ºF inside the oven after the brief one-minute blast. This tricks the yeast into thinking it’s a nice, warm summer day in your kitchen, which is how yeast can do their best work.

For the 2 1/2 hours the dough bowl was parked inside my powered-off oven, I powered it on 3 times, every 45 minutes or so, for 1 minute each time. This kept the oven toasty because it was a cold night I made the dough and the oven and my “warm environment” was non-existent.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Cinnamon Roll FAQs

Can I make cinnamon rolls by hand if I don’t have a stand mixer?

Yes you can. Obviously it will be more work and actual elbow grease. When kneading the dough, you’ll want to knead by hand for 15 to 18 minutes, whereas in a stand mixer with the dough hook 10 to 12 minutes is a good benchmark.

Can I add Sprinkles into the dough?

I don’t add sprinkles into the dough and instead add them when I am about to roll up the large dough cylinder when I’m adding the butter and cinnamon and sugar mixture.

This is because if they’re kneaded into the actual dough, I find that the color from the sprinkles tends to run and bleed and visually things can turn unattractive.

You’ve also got sprinkles sprinkled on top the frosting so rest assured, there’s no shortage and you don’t need to knead them into the dough.

Can I omit the sprinkles?

Yes you can omit them. At that point you’ll have my Overnight Buttermilk Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls which are amazing, sans sprinkles.

Can I use different colors or types of sprinkles?

By all means, yes you sure can. If you want to make these for Christmas brunch, use red and green sprinkles like I did in this

How to Store Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are always best eaten warm and fresh, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I zap leftover rainbow cinnamon rolls for a few seconds in the microwave before enjoying the leftovers.

If you have issues with keeping cream cheese frosting at room temperature, you can refrigerate the leftover rolls. However, refrigeration dries them out and I don’t bother. Also my leftover cinnamon rolls never last more than 36 hours!

Can I Freeze Cinnamon Rolls?

Yes, most cinnamon rolls freeze well and these overnight birthday cake cinnamon rolls are no exception.

You’ll want to prep and bake the cinnamon rolls as written, and then freeze the the cooled rolls without the icing.

When you’re ready to eat the frozen cinnamon rolls, set them on your counter to thaw and make a fresh batch of icing.  

Do not freeze unbaked dough.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Tips for Making Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Birthday Cake Sprinkles

Stand Mixer

A stand mixer will make your life immensely easier because the dough needs to be kneaded for a minimum of 10 minutes.

However, you can also do it by hand — and in the process, you’ll burn off enough calories that you easily deserve a couple rolls. 

Do not use a handheld electric mixer

It’s too small for the job. Either use a stand mixer or your own elbow grease.

Do Not Over-Flour The Dough

The most important thing you can do in this entire recipe is trust that the moisture level of the dough is high and not over-flour it. The more flour you add, the denser the dough becomes, and the heavier the rolls will be. It’s nice in theory to have a smooth, round, mound of satiny, non-sticky dough, but that’s not this cinnamon roll dough.

The cinnamon roll dough in this recipe is wet, gloppy, moist, messy, sticky, and of all the bread I’ve ever made, this dough gets the award as the sloppiest.

When kneading in a mixer, the rule of thumb for this type of dough is that it clears the sides of the bowl, but sticking the bottom of the bowl is fine.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

But… Know When to Add Flour

If baking is an art, bread-making and cinnamon roll making is a higher art form. That’s because only with practice will you know when and how much flour to add. Based on the brand of flour you use, the amount of humidity in the air, sometimes the 4 1/2 cups of flour called for may just not be quite enough.

So you need to add more. If the dough is just too wet and sloppy and you can’t work with it or get it from mixing bowl to rising bowl, it’s too wet so add flour.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I simply used butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar in my homemade frosting. Adding a splash of milk, cream, or buttermilk if necessary for consistency; or orange zest or almond extract or whatever you may enjoy for flavor enhancement is up to you.

Buttercream frosting or Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting are also good options if you don’t opt for cream cheese frosting.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Quantity of Frosting

The amount of cream cheese frosting for cinnamon rolls I made could be in excess of what you may need for your rolls if you don’t like a lot of frosting. However we are frosting people and like a lot!

You could halve the recipe, although personally I don’t think you will have quite enough.

Leftover frosting keeps for a couple weeks in the refrigerator and I have also frozen it for months. When I am dirtying the mixer to make it, I may as well make a decent amount.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

Read Well

I wrote the recipe below as clearly and descriptively as possible. Before making these homemade cinnamon rolls, read it over at least three times so you know where you’re going, what’s next, and how much butter you need to set aside.

This is the type of recipe that’s not “hard” but there are a lot of steps and details so it’s important to have a mental map in advance of what you’re going to be doing.

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls - The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!

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4.50 from 2 votes

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls

By Averie Sunshine
Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls – The softest, fluffiest, most tender cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon-and-sugar and rainbow sprinkles! Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and more sprinkles! The recipe is EASY to follow even if you've never made cinnamon rolls and there's a MAKE AHEAD overnight option!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 52 minutes
Servings: 12
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Ingredients  

Dough

  • up to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast, one 1/4-ounce packet, I use Red Star Platinum
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (3/4 of one stick)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • ¾ cup buttermilk*, See Notes

Filling

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, 1 stick, very soft – let it sit out while dough rises
  • 1 to 1 ¼ cups light brown sugar, packed (granulated sugar or a half-and-half combo of white and brown sugars may be substituted)
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste (I use 5 teaspoons)
  • ½ cup rainbow sprinkles

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, 4 cups
  • ½ teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
  • ½ cup rainbow sprinkles

Instructions 

Make the Dough

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 4 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, yeast, salt to taste; set aside.
  • Place 6 tablespoons butter in a small microwave-safe bowl, and heat to melt, about 45 seconds; set aside.
  • Crack eggs in another bowl and whisk; set aside.
  • Add buttermilk to a glass measuring cup and warm to temperature, about 45 seconds on high power in the microwave. Tips – Based on the type of yeast used, milk temperatures will vary. Red Star Platinum yeast calls for warmer temperatures than most, 120 to 130F; other brands and yeast call for much lower temperatures, about 95 to 105F. Warm milk according to manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging. Taking the temperature with a digital thermometer is highly recommended, but if you’re not, make sure the milk is warm, not hot. Err on the cooler rather than hotter side so you don’t kill the yeast. If the milk separates or gets a little funny looking after being warmed, whisk it to smooth it out.
  • To the dry ingredients in the stand mixer, add the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and beat on medium-low speed for about 1 minute, or until combined.
  • Switch to the dough hook (the dough will have stuck to the paddle and just pick off what you can and put it into the bowl) and knead for 10 to 12 minutes (15 to 18 minutes by hand).
  • If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom. Tips – This is a very sticky, tacky, moist, and borderline sloppy dough; don’t be tempted to over-flour it. It’s supposed to be that way. The more flour you add now, the less fluffy and more dense the rolls will be. Dough should clear the sides of the mixer while kneading but sticking to the bottom is fine. However, if the dough is simply too sloppy to work with, you can't move it from mixing bowl to rising bowl, it does need more flour so add some, as little as you can get away with, until you can work with the dough more easily.
  • Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray, and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or doubled in size. I keep my bowl inside a powered-off oven. Every 45 minutes or so, I power on the oven for 1 minute to 400F, as if I am preheating it, then I power it off. Do not, repeat not, keep the oven on. These short bursts of 1 minute of heat create a stable 85F-ish warm environment, ideal for the yeast. If your rising spot is cold, it will take longer than 2 1/2 hours.
  • Prepare a 11-by-17-inch or similar sized jellyroll pan or sheetcake pan with a raised edge, or use a 9-by-13-inch pan. I prefer a jellyroll pan because it’s slightly larger so the rolls are less squished, have more room to rise, and bake more evenly. Line pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.

Shape the Cinnamon Rolls

  • After dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Turn dough out onto a floured Silpat or floured countertop. Knead it lightly for about 2 minutes.
  • With a rolling pin, roll it out to a 16-by-12-inch rectangle; just slightly larger than a standard Silpat.
  • With a knife, butter the dough with 1/2 cup soft butter, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edges.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar over it. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the brown sugar; I was very generous with the cinnamon and used almost 5 teaspoons and recommend at least 3; just eyeball it and shake it on.
  • Evenly sprinkle the rainbow sprinkles.
  • Loosen the dough from the counter using a bench scraper (or metal spatula), and starting with a long edge, roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and turn log so seam side is down.
  • Gently stretch the log to be 18 inches in length with an even diameter all the way around and pat the ends to even them up. Don’t fret if your log isn’t perfect; it’s okay.
  • Slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized rolls (about 1 1/2 inches wide) using a bench scraper, serrated knife, or plain unwaxed dental floss (works great to not squish and compact the log).
  • Arrange the rolls cut side down in the prepared baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap.
  • If making the rolls straight through: Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • If making the rolls overnight: Don’t let rolls rise after they’ve been sliced and placed in covered pan. Place pan in refrigerator for up to 16 hours. Before baking, let the rolls sit at room temperature until they have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Bake the Rolls

  • For either version, bake at 350ºF for 22 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and cooked through but not overly browned.
  • While the rolls cool, make the frosting.

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1/2 cup butter, cream cheese, and beat on medium speed to combine, about 1 minute.
  • Add the vanilla, 3 cups confectioners’ sugar (I don’t bother sifting), and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add remaining 1 cup of sugar (or more, or none) as necessary, to taste, based on desired frosting consistency and flavor.
  • Spread the frosting over the tops of the semi-cooled rolls. Tips – Make sure they're not too warm or the frosting will melt. You may not use all the frosting if you don't like a lot of frosting on your rolls. That's fine, you don't need to use it all. Extra frosting will keep airtight in the fridge for many weeks or you can freeze it.
  • Evenly sprinkle the rainbow sprinkles over the top and serve the rolls.

Notes

Buttermilk: You need to use buttermilk and I use fresh buttermilk (Trader Joe's brand). However, if you don't have fresh buttermilk on hand I recommend the following because you cannot just use regular milk or water.
  • Make your own buttermilk with whole milk and vinegar. Add 3/4 cup of 2% or whole milk to a large measuring cup. Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Let that mixture sit for 2 minutes before using in the recipe.
  • You can use powdered buttermilk. You’ll mix how many ever tablespoons the package calls for, with 3/4 cup of water, to yield 3/4 cup of buttermilk. For those who bake with or use buttermilk semi-frequently, but not so frequently to keep in in your fridge, keeping a tub of powdered buttermilk in your pantry is very handy. 
Storing these rolls: Rolls are best eaten fresh, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Reheat leftover rolls for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. If you have issues with cream cheese frosting at room temperature, then refrigerate the leftover rolls; I don’t.
For longterm storage, I recommend making the rolls as directed and then freezing unfrosted rolls; allow to thaw at room temp prior to serving and frost as directed. I prefer freezing finished rolls rather than freezing uncooked dough.
For the cream cheese frosting: I recommend making this at night if you’re doing the overnight version, refrigerating it, and taking out along with the rolls as they rise so when you need it, it’s well softened.
Frosting may be halved (makes about 3 cups as written), but unused frosting can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and I have frozen frosting for up to 3 months; I’d rather have too much than not enough.
All measurements and ingredients are to taste; consider adding buttermilk, almond extract, orange zest, heavy cream, or your other favorite specialty tweaks as desired. I keep it very simple.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 832kcal, Carbohydrates: 118g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 19g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 117mg, Sodium: 279mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 70g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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