Categorized | Baking

Cinnamon Swirl Buns for a Special Lady


I went on a baby shower baking blitz this weekend to honor a little lady we’ll be meeting in 2011. She’ll be the first baby born among our friends, and considering her mamma and I spend most days together, I’m especially excited to meet her.

We planned for the requisite brunch indulgences: cupcakes, bagels, cookies, etc., but we needed more. Something to fill the house with comfy smells; something nostalgia-inducing; something beyond the usual homemade fallbacks. Cinnamon was my only prerequisite. Cinnamon, to me, is comfort personified—especially when butter, sugar, and flour are involved. It’s my desert island spice, and one of the only smells that can actually change my mood. It seemed right to honor my future friend with this magical ingredient.

So I did what I always do when in a recipe bind: I consulted Smitten Kitchen. Fittingly, the first thing I ever baked from this blog was a wedding cake for the parents-to-be. A quick search for “cinnamon” brought me to exactly what I was looking for: Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Buns. Yeeeees. Even better, the recipe is adapted from another favorite blogger, Molly Wizenberg. Could this possibly have come together more gracefully?

These cinnamon buns changed my entire outlook on baking. Seriously. Imagine loving a food all your life, then one day, realizing you can actually make it yourself. Something you’d thought could only come from a box or bakery is now rising in your kitchen, making a mess on your floor, taunting your husband from across the room. It changes everything.

I stuck to the recipe almost exactly, except for the rising schedule. I meant to keep working after the two-hour rise period, but 1:00am snuck up on me. I just let the dough keep rising overnight and it still worked perfectly. The only difference is that it didn’t rise the second time, but it didn’t seem to matter.

My one regret is that I didn’t bake these at the party. Cinnamon buns should really only be eaten when warm, sticky, and melty. These were none of those things by the time we ate them. But considering you’re supposed to set them up in the pans and leave them to rise for 45 minutes, you could bake them on-site if you’re headed to a friendly kitchen. Just pack your purse with cream cheese icing and you’ll be all set.

Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Buns
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s recipe in Bon Appetit on March 2008 and Smitten Kitchen’s recipe on April 15, 2009

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 ¼ teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray


¾ cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon



Combine the milk and butter in a glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until the butter melts and the mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. This works just as well on the stove over low heat if, like me, you don’t have a microwave. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add 1 cup of your flour, and the sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed for 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour. Beat on low until the flour is absorbed and the dough is sticky, scraping down the sides of the bowl. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until the dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. You can also do this in your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Form into a ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours, or overnight.


Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Punch down the dough. Transfer to a floured work surface. Roll out to a 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter.

Starting at 1 long side, roll the dough into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut the dough crosswise with a sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about ½ to ¾ inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Aluminum cake pans also work. Divide the rolls between baking dishes, arranging them cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover the baking dishes with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes. If you’re taking them to a party, you can pack them up at this stage and bake them on site. The dough won’t rise much at this stage if you let it rise overnight.Position the rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto a cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread the glaze on the rolls. Serve warm.


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4 Responses to “Cinnamon Swirl Buns for a Special Lady”

  1. Anna says:

    These look amazing! These seem like a great Christmas morning treat, maybe I'll try 'em out. question: if I leave them rolled up overnight to make the next morning will they become too big?

  2. Celia says:

    These WERE amazing! They were the big hit at the party.

  3. Florence says:

    I've always wanted to try making these kind of buns but always thought it was much too complicated. But no more! I'm trying these this weekend- we have family coming in for the holiday a few days early. No more Cinnabun for me!

  4. Maria says:

    Hey Anna! I wouldn't recommend rolling them into swirls without letting them rise at all. The dough doubles in size so it's a huge difference. I think it's fine to leave them rolled overnight as long as you let them rise once before that. But don't make the dough, roll into swirls immediately, then rise. I think that will be trouble. Good luck!


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