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Holiday Baking Guide: Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls

Her Campus at U Ottawa is located on the unceded, unsurrendered land of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. I recognize the valuable past and present contributions of all Indigenous peoples to this land, whose presence here reaches back to time immemorial.

In the Holiday Baking Guide series, I share my best recipes, ideas, and troubleshooting tips for your favourite holiday treats. I hope you have a sweet tooth—bon appétit!

Christmas mornings always feel magical. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is preparing breakfast early in the morning while watching the snow fall outside. If you’re a morning bird and have an hour or so to spare on Christmas morning, whip up some cinnamon rolls! They taste especially amazing with a piping hot latte.

cinnamon roll Recipe

Cinnamon roll ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided in half
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided in half
  • 2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Egg wash ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water

Icing ingredients (optional)

  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk

Instructions

  1. Place milk and 1/4 cup of butter together in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time (stir the mixture in between) until the butter is completely melted. The temperature should be around 110 F.
  2. Combine flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt in a separate bowl to form a flour mixture.
  3. Beat together yeast, milk/butter mixture, flour mixture, and egg until combined.
  4. Using a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, knead on low-medium speed for five minutes. Form a ball with the dough, place it in a bowl, and cover the bowl with a damp towel for 15 minutes
  5. To make the cinnamon roll filling, combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon.
  6. Once the dough is ready, roll it into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread 1/4 cup of softened butter evenly over the dough (even at the edges) and sprinkle the filling on top.
  7. Starting from the longest side, roll the dough as tightly as you can and seal the roll by pinching the dough together. You should be left with a long cylindrical roll. It’s okay if it looks a little messy at this point!
  8. Slice the dough into roughly 12 rolls. Place each roll onto prepared baking sheets and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 F. While you wait, combine your icing ingredients and your egg wash ingredients in two separate bowls. For the icing, start with at least 2 cups powdered sugar and slowly add milk until you reach your desired consistency. More powdered sugar will give you thicker icing, while more milk will give your icing a liquid consistency.
  10. Brush each roll with egg wash and bake on the centre rack for 15-20 minutes. Drizzle with icing and enjoy!

Cinnamon roll waffle recipe

If you love cinnamon rolls but are looking for a more traditional breakfast idea, try making cinnamon roll waffles instead!

Waffle ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cinnamon roll topping ingredients (optional)

  • 3/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Either by hand or with a hand-held/stand mixer, beat together warm milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Follow the instructions for your waffle iron and bake the waffles. While you wait for each one to bake, combine the cinnamon roll topping ingredients (optional) to drizzle on top of your waffles. Enjoy!

Troubleshooting

Like any other baked good, cinnamon rolls come with their own set of potential problems. But luckily, they’re all super easy to fix!

If your cinnamon rolls won’t hold their shape, your dough is probably too wet. To fix this problem, all you need to do is add more flour while the dough is kneading.

If your cinnamon roll dough won’t roll flat or seems rubbery, you probably added too much flour. To fix this problem, gradually add water (one tablespoon at a time is plenty) to the dough as it kneads.

If your cinnamon rolls don’t rise while baking or deflate, you may have a problem with your yeast! Make sure that when you combine the yeast with the warm milk/butter mixture, the milk/butter is hovering around 110 F. If it’s too hot, you risk killing the yeast, and if it’s not hot enough, the yeast won’t activate!

If your cinnamon rolls aren’t browning in the oven, use more egg wash. Make sure the entire roll is coated! If you’re worried about the egg taste, you can also brush the rolls with milk. But be careful, using milk might harden the rolls!

If your cinnamon roll layers are too thick, you need to roll the dough out even flatter before rolling. The flatter the better, since the dough will puff up a little anyway while baking!

Although cinnamon rolls aren’t really a traditional breakfast food, I think we can make an exception for Christmas morning. After all, can you imagine anything cozier-sounding than biting into a warm, freshly baked cinnamon roll on a cold winter day?

Check out the rest of the Holiday Baking Guide series:

Make your day bread-er with my favourite gingerbread cookies!

Hungry for more? Come back soon for the next recipe in the Holiday Baking Guide series!
Gwen is a fourth-year student at the University of Ottawa majoring in health sciences. In her spare time, she enjoys café hopping, travelling, and baking way too much bread.