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Overnight Cinnamon Rolls {Make Ahead Cinnamon Rolls}

Homemade Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls from scratch is an amazing treat to make for your loved ones.
two plates with overnight cinnamon rolls, a fork, and orange juice

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Imagine waking up to the amazing scent of soft, gooey, and delicious homemade Overnight Cinnamon Rolls baking in your oven. Spoil your family with these make-ahead cinnamon buns with homemade orange cream cheese frosting.

two plates with overnight cinnamon rolls, a fork, and orange juice

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Imagine waking up on a cold morning with a pan of make-ahead cinnamon rolls ready to pop into the oven.

Even though I can’t be in your kitchen when you make them, I have packed so many tips into this recipe that you will totally ace it. Don’t be scared. I’m here, we’re in this together. You’re about the be the most popular person in your house.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. Let’s do this.

Need a smaller version of this recipe that could also be cooked in an air fryer? Check out our small batch cinnamon rolls.

Can You Let Cinnamon Roll Dough Rise Overnight?

You sure can! Putting cinnamon roll dough in the fridge overnight will still allow for a strong second rise. But…most recipes that have the dough rise overnight in the fridge also recommend you take the dough out two hours before baking. Nobody has time for that.

The whole point of overnight cinnamon rolls is to not wake your butt up too early to do work! This recipe handles all the rises the day before. You just need to stumble out to the kitchen, pop them in the oven, set a timer, and go back to bed for 28 minutes.

Let’s Talk About Rise Times

If you’ve never worked with yeasted doughs before AND like exact directions, notations like “until doubled in size ~1 hour” might make your butt clench so tightly you could turn a grain of sand into a pearl. You want specifics. I get it.

But there are many factors that go into how your dough will rise. The temperature of your house is a huge part of it, as is the age of the yeast, how much the dough was kneaded, etc.

Pay attention to the cues I give you in the recipe (noted by “Looks Like”) and just embrace that sometimes little things in life are out of our control. But hey, at least in this instance those things contain cinnamon and brown sugar (related: Homemade Brown Sugar).

A tray of overnight cinnamon rolls covered in frosting

What Yeast Should I Use for Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls?

The two main types of yeast you can buy in most stores are active dry or instant (rapid rise) yeast. I use active dry for almost all my baking because of personal brand preference and what I can find locally.

If you already have instant yeast, you can skip step 1 of the recipe and just incorporate all the dough ingredients together. I’ll also make note of this in the recipe card so no need to start taking notes. Or…you don’t knead to take notes… <—dough joke!

Active dry yeast needs to be “proofed” and mixed with a liquid (warm milk in this case) to get the party started.

How Do I Know If Yeast is Active?

If your yeast doesn’t dissolve into the milk and start to produce some bubble action within 10 minutes, your yeast has passed on. If you know the yeast is new and worked recently, chances are the milk was too hot when combined with the yeast.

Here’s How to Make Them

I’ll walk you through this process with photos, and you’ll also find a printable and detailed recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Proof the Yeast

Whisk together warm milk, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it sit until foamy and doubled in size. Looks Like: the top of a super creamy root beer!

yeast being proofed for overnight cinnamon rolls

Make the dough

Add flour, sugar, eggs, salt, and butter. Using the bread hook attachment on the stand mixer, mix the dough until it is a solid mass and the sides of the bowl are clean (about 2 minutes). If the dough is still super sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticking to the sides.

Gather the dough in one hand and quickly grease the bowl (I use a drizzle of olive oil). Place the dough back in and cover the bowl with a clean damp kitchen towel. Let it sit until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour). Looks Like: a puffed-up mass of dough with the top sides pulling away from the bowl. Feels like: the super-soft underside of your granny’s squishy arm. You know what I am talking about. Just go with it.

Pro tip proofing dough in Instant Pot: you can also proof your dough in an Instant Pot using the yogurt setting and a glass lid. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the instant pot insert and add the dough. Cover with the glass lid and press “yogurt” and set the timer for 30 minutes. Check after 15. It took mine about 35 minutes to double in size.

Two photos of dough in a mixing bowl for overnight cinnamon rolls

Sprinkle a bit of flour onto a clean surface. Make a ball out of the dough and gently press it with your hands to create a rectangle. Pro tip: using the palm of your hand before using a rolling pin will save you a lot of work. Roll out the dough to make a large rectangle (about 18×22 inches).

two photos of flattened dough for making overnight cinnamon rolls

Spread softened butter over the dough, leaving a small butter-less perimeter around the outside. Cover with brown sugar and top with cinnamon.

dough covered with butter and cinnamon sugar for overnight cinnamon rolls

Starting with the long edge of the dough furthest from you, tightly roll the dough towards you until you have a solid “roll”.

Cut into 12-15 rolls. Pro tip: using a bread knife (aka serrated knife) will create the cleanest cuts. Some people use dental floss, but I am totally pro-bread knife for this step.

dough being rolled and cut for making overnight cinnamon rolls

Grease a 9×13 baking dish (pro tip: use the empty butter wrapper to use all up the leftover bits of butter). Place the rolls into the dish. Set aside in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size (about 1 hour). Looks Like: the dough will have “fluffed” up and are likely touching each other in the dish.

Two pans of dough proofing for making overnight cinnamon rolls

Tightly cover the pan and store in the fridge for up to 36 hours.

To bake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake! Smells like: heaven on earth.

Let’s Make the Frosting

While the rolls are baking, combine room-temperature butter and cream cheese in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium until soft and fluffy. Looks Like: whipped butter

Reduce the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time (related: how to make powdered sugar). Pro tip: taste as you go because not everyone likes their frosting the same level of sweetness.

Add in the vanilla (related: how to make vanilla extract) and almond extract and orange juice and slowly increase the mixer speed to medium until well combined. Pro tip: if you want a spreadable frosting, skip the orange juice. If you still want an orange flavor (you do!), add in 1 tbsp of orange zest with the vanilla.

three photos showing how to make orange cream cheese frosting for overnight cinnamon rolls

Pour/spread the frosting over warmed rolls. Then stand back while your family rushes the kitchen and then starts to loudly chant your name and slow clap.

A bowl of orange cream cheese frosting being poured over overnight cinnamon rolls

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes

  • This recipe has been written specifically for all-purpose flour because it is easy to find and economical. You’re welcome to use bread flour if you have any on hand. The extra gluten will create an even fluffier overnight cinnamon roll.
  • No stand mixer? You can technically mix the dough by hand, but be prepared for it to take about 10 minutes and for your arms to get freaking jacked.
  • Types of milk – I would recommend 2%, whole, or buttermilk. Results with 1% or lower are generally poor. I have not tested this recipe with non-dairy milk.
  • To freeze: press a piece of plastic wrap over the cinnamon rolls after the second rise. Tightly wrap the pan in foil and freeze unbaked rolls for up to two months. To thaw: place in the fridge overnight. Bake as normal.
a plate with an overnight cinnamon roll, a fork and orange juice
two plates with overnight cinnamon rolls, a fork, and orange juice
Print Recipe
4.91 from 20 ratings

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time28 mins
Rising time2 hrs
Total Time53 mins
Homemade Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls from scratch is an amazing treat to make for your loved ones.

Ingredients

Dough

Filling

Frosting

Equipment

Instructions

Proof the dough

  • Whisk together warm milk, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it sit until foamy and doubled in size. Looks Like: the top of a super creamy root beer! If you have instant yeast, skip this step and combine all the dough ingredients together and follow directions in step 2.
    1 cup milk, 1/4 cup honey, 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Make the dough

  • Add flour, sugar, eggs, salt, and butter. Using the bread hook attachment on the stand mixer, mix the dough until it is a solid mass and the sides of the bowl are clean (about 2 minutes). If the dough is still super sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticking to the sides.
    2 eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup butter
  • Gather the dough in one hand and quickly grease the bowl (I use a drizzle of olive oil). Place the dough back in and cover bowl with a clean damp kitchen towel. Let it sit until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour). Looks Like: a puffed up mass of dough with the top sides pulling away from the bowl. 
  • You can also proof your dough in an Instant Pot using the yogurt setting and a glass lid. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the instant pot insert and add the dough. Cover with the glass lid and press "yogurt" and set the timer for 30 minutes. Check after 15. It will take 15-40 minutes to double in size.
  • Sprinkle a bit of flour onto a clean surface. Make a ball out of the dough and gently press it with your hands to create a rectangle.
  • Roll out the dough to make a large rectangle (about 18×22 inches).
  • Spread softened butter over the dough, leaving a small butter-less perimeter around the outside. Cover with brown sugar and top with cinnamon.
    1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • Starting with the long edge of the dough furthest from you, tightly roll the dough towards you until you have a solid “roll”.
  • Cut into 15 rolls. Pro tip: using a bread knife (aka serrated knife) will create the cleanest cuts.
  • Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Place the cinnamon rolls into the dish. Set aside in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size (about 1 hour). Looks Like: the cinnamon rolls will have "fluffed" up and are likely touching each other in the dish.
  • Tightly cover the pan and store in the fridge for up to 36 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 28 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown.

Make the Frosting

  • While the cinnamon rolls are baking, combine butter and cream cheese in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium until soft and fluffy.
    3 oz cream cheese, 3 tbsp butter
  • Reduce the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time.
    1 cup powdered sugar
  • Add in the vanilla and almond extract and orange juice and slowly increase the mixer speed to medium until well combined.
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1/8 tsp almond extract, 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Pour/spread the frosting over warmed cinnamon rolls.

Notes

No stand mixer? You can technically mix the dough by hand, but be prepared for it to take about 10 minutes.
Types of milk – I would recommend 2%, whole, or buttermilk. Results with 1% or lower are generally poor. I have not tested this recipe with non-dairy milk.
To freeze: press a piece of plastic wrap over the cinnamon rolls after the second rise. Tightly wrap the pan in foil and freeze unbaked cinnamon rolls for up to two months. To thaw: place in the fridge overnight. Bake as normal.
Nutrition Facts
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Amount Per Serving (1 cinnamon roll)
Calories 406 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 62mg21%
Sodium 225mg10%
Potassium 112mg3%
Carbohydrates 60g20%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 31g34%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 530IU11%
Vitamin C 2.1mg3%
Calcium 48mg5%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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54 comments on “Overnight Cinnamon Rolls {Make Ahead Cinnamon Rolls}”

  1. I thought I was gonna have to fight someone because the fact that these have a 4.9 rating is a TRAVESTY. They are so worth the wait and I have been asked for the recipe every time I make them. I have also split the dough in half to make mini cinnamon rolls. I just use two dishes and take them out and put them in cupcake wrappers before I frost them. Have also freezed them and as long as you let them sit in the fridge overnight to thaw you will get a similar rise in the oven as fresh.5 stars

  2. I hope it is okay to leave a review twice. I did something a little different and wanted to update.  I made these a couple of years ago and loved them.  This Christmas, I decided to make them again.  The first time, I had made a note on my printed copy of the recipe to make a “half batch next time” as we (six people) did not eat all of them that day.  Well, THIS time, I still made a  full batch, even though there were only two of us eating them.
    I placed four in a pan and I placed the remaining cinnamon rolls on a parchment lined cookie sheet (not touching each other) for their second rising. After the second rise, I placed my pan in the fridge and I placed the cookie sheet right in the freezer.  Once they were frozen, I wrapped the rolls in “packs” of two.   Last night, I took a pack out of the freezer, placed each roll it a tiny casserole dish and popped them in the fridge overnight.  This morning, I took them out and let them warm up a little on the counter (I don’t like putting fridge-cold bakeware into a hot oven.  I worry that will shock and break the dish), then cooked them in my toaster oven for 14 minutes.  
    AMAZING!!!!!  Fresh-baked cinnamon rolls for one on a weekday morning! I will cook them a few minutes less next time because they were a little too browned for me.
    So, if a full batch is too many rolls for you, try this.  It works GREAT.
    (Now, I am wondering if freezing the frosting in portions will work to go with it….)5 stars

    • That’s a great idea, Ange!

      And yes, I think freezing the frosting in small portions would work great. As long as you have containers that small. 🙂

  3. These did come out light and fluffy. I did double the recipe to bring to work, I may have over filled the pans… they took nearly an hour to bake. After 45 minutes the center buns were quite doughy… I kept hearing Paul Hollywood saying “it’s Raw”. Hahaha.
    They were delicious when fully cooked, I frosted them while they were warm and they look lovely. I’m sure the nurses in the ER will be happy to devour them tonight.5 stars

    • Deana, I’m so glad you enjoyed them, and thanks for taking the time to leave a review!

      Many thanks to you and the team in the ER for doing what you do. And at my last job, I worked with 10 RNs, so I can confirm they will be gobbled up. 🙂

  4. Hi! I love this recipe and I make it every year for Christmas. As I prepare to make it this year, I wanted to ask, are all 12 rolls supposed to fit in the 9×13 pan? When I squish them all in there I always end up with 1 or 2 that are smooshed and I think they would all benefit from more room. I think 9 would fit better. Am I doing something wrong? Does anyone else have this problem?

    • Megan, I am able to fit all the rolls in 1 pan. Smooshing is fine unless you feel that they don’t rise or bake evenly. If that is the case, 9 rolls might be better for you. Or, try 6 rolls each in an 8×8 pan if you happen to have two of them.

      If you cut them into 9 rolls, each individual roll will be taller. Watch the tops for uneven browning as you bake them. You may need to put a piece of foil over them in the last 5-10 minutes.

      Hope this helps and happy baking!

  5. I can’t say these cinnamon rolls were the best I have ever had …just okay. The dough wasn’t light and fluffy…more dense. I think there should have been another rise before making the dough into buns. They were not light and airy. On a positive note I loved your directions and comparisons…very well explained! I also loved that they could be made ahead right up to the baking and then  refrigerated or frozen until needed. Very handy. I might try the recipe again but allowing a second rise before making them into buns…then the third rise once the buns are formed. 3 stars

    • Elle, they should be light and fluffy with just the two rises noted in the recipe.

      If you had issues with the rise, a few things to check: the age of the yeast and the temperature of the room they’re rising in. I often put my bowl on a heater vent to help during the rising process because my kitchen is COLD!

      If you know your yeast is fresh, double-check to make sure the milk isn’t too hot in the beginning as that can scald the yeast.