The Best Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

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Pillowy soft, the perfect amount of gooey cinnamon filling and a delicious cream cheese icing make these sourdough cinnamon rolls the best ever. Follow these directions to make them with 100% natural yeast and bake them in time for a weekend brunch. We love eating these sourdough cinnamon rolls on holidays and whenever we have a hankering for an incredible sweet roll.

Something magical happens when you add sourdough to cinnamon rolls. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but my goodness, these are the best cinnamon rolls ever. We have a family favorite tried and true cinnamon roll recipe that I’ve been making for years. Think: ooey, gooey, perfectly baked and just incredibly delicious. I took that favorite cinnamon roll recipe and converted it to these amazing fluffy cinnamon rolls and it was a really good idea. Pillowy soft, the perfect amount of gooey cinnamon goodness and a delicious cream cheese icing puts these cinnamon rolls over the top. I hope you love this version for the best sourdough cinnamon rolls. Dare I say it – I think it’s even better than the original recipe.

Sample Sourdough Baking Schedule for the Best Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.

A few notes: This schedule assumes the dough temperature is 78 degrees F throughout the process. If you’d like to make the best sourdough cinnamon rolls all on the same day, skip the cold bulk fermentation and go straight to shaping the cinnamon rolls (you will still need to make the levain the night before and let it rise overnight).

Day 1Levain
8 PM -8AMMake Stiff Sweet Levain. Let rise overnight.
Day 2Mixing/Bulk Fermentation
8 AMMix Dough
8:15 AMBegin Bulk Fermentation
12:15 PMEnd Bulk Fermentation
Option 1: Refrigerate the dough for 12-24 hours and shape rolls the next morning
Option 2: Shape Rolls and continue with the recipe
12:15 PM – 7:00 AMCold Bulk Fermentation
Day 3Shaping/Baking
7:00 AMShape Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
10:00 AMRise in a warm (78 degree F) place for 3-4 hours until puffed up and touching. Do not bake unless dough has puffed up and risen.
10:30 AMBake and frost. Serve warm.

Making a Sweet Stiff Levain

One of the reasons I advocate for making a levain instead of using straight sourdough starter is in cases like these sourdough cinnamon rolls. Maintaining a sourdough starter at 100% hydration makes it easy for me to create a stiff sweet levain when I need it for an enriched dough. I also use a stiff sweet levain for enriched breads like this cinnamon sugar babka. A stiff levain is a levain that mixes up to a firm consistency and is anywhere from 50%-65% hydration. It adds elasticity to dough and helps temper the acid in the sourdough, which gives all the benefit of sourdough fermentation without the tang. The sugar in the levain helps counteract the acidity and creates a more mild flavor. My sometimes picky kids are especially grateful for this! To make a stiff sweet levain:

  • Use 100% hydration sourdough starter at its peak
  • Add 20 grams of ripe sourdough starter to 100 grams of all purpose flour, 50 grams of water and 20 grams of sugar. Mix together.
  • A stiff levain will be a little more difficult to mix together, because it forms a dough ball instead of a batter. Knead the ball of dough a few times until smooth.
  • Place the stiff sweet levain in a liquid measuring cup and set in a warm (76-78 degree F) spot for 12 hours.
  • Stiff Sweet Levain is ready to use when it has doubled in size and has a rounded top. Using it right when it reaches its peak will help decrease the acidity in the dough.

Mixing the Dough

I use a Bosch mixer or KitchenAid mixer to mix this dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use your hands, though it will take longer. Add all the dough ingredients to the mixer and fit it with a dough hook. Reserve a little bit of the flour to add toward the end of mixing the dough as needed. Weight measurements are always more accurate than volume, but I always like to reserve a bit of flour (about a half cup) so I don’t over-flour my dough. Varieties of flour and weight of eggs can impact the amount of flour added to dough, so I play it safe. It’s easier to add more flour than to fix over-floured dough. Mix the dough on low speed for about 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky. Continue kneading about 5 more minutes until smooth, elastic and it passes the windowpane test. Place in a container or bowl for bulk fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation

Bulk fermentation is the name for when the dough ferments in one big mass. Put the dough in a container and cover it. The entire bulk fermentation should take about 4 hours at 78-80ºF. Take the temperature of the dough, it should be between 78-80ºF. If your dough is significantly colder, bulk fermentation will take longer. If it’s warmer, the bulk fermentation will be a bit shorter, however wild yeast perform best in the 76-78 degree F range, so do your best to keep the dough in that range. I use a dough proofer or the inside of my oven with the light turned on (don’t turn the oven on!) to keep my dough warm. Let the dough sit for 4 hours in that warm place. By the end of 4 hours it should have puffed up and risen a bit.

Cold Bulk Fermentation

After the initial 4 hour bulk fermentation is finished, my favorite way to make these rolls is to put the covered container in the refrigerator overnight. This allows me to shape the rolls the following morning and we can enjoy some of the best sourdough cinnamon rolls to start the day. I also think this step improves the flavor of the cinnamon rolls. If you want to make them all in the same day, that works too. Just skip the cold bulk fermentation and proceed with the rest of the recipe (you will still need to make the levain the night before and let it rise overnight). The cinnamon roll dough can stay in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before using. When you’re ready to shape the cinnamon rolls, pull the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes while you prepare the cinnamon roll filling and the baking sheet.

Cinnamon Roll Filling

Throughout the many years of making cinnamon rolls, I’ve learned a few tips that have upped my cinnamon roll game. Many cinnamon roll recipes will have you spread butter over the dough and then add the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Instead, I like to mix together soft/melty butter in a bowl and mix cinnamon, brown sugar and a little bit of flour into the butter. Then I spread the cinnamon-sugar paste over the roll dough. I think this gives a more even flavor, and that little extra flour helps keeps the rolls from gaping open when baked. If you want to add nuts or raisins into your rolls, you can add them right on top of the cinnamon-sugar paste and roll them right up. For pecan lovers, I’ll add some toasted pecans on top of the baked rolls.

Shaping the Best Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe makes 12 large cinnamon rolls or 24 regular-sized cinnamon rolls. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured countertop or pastry mat about 20 inches by 10 inches. Spread on the filling and then roll up, pinching the seam together. To cut out the cinnamon rolls, you can use a sharp knife, bench cutter or even dental floss. Cut the log in half and then cut six equal-sized rolls from each half. Place the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you have any wispy cinnamon roll ends, go ahead and tuck them under the roll so they don’t come loose during the bake.

Proofing Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

The best sourdough cinnamon rolls need more time to rise than traditional cinnamon rolls thanks to the sourdough. They also require a warm environment to rise–right around 80-85ºF. Make sure that you put your pan of shaped rolls in a warm spot. I often use the oven with the light turned on. Let the rolls rise and get puffed up. Lightly touch the rolls and they will feel soft and airy. If they feel dense–do not bake them yet! Let them rise. This final rise is a very important step in the process. Take a finger and gently press into the side of the roll. If it springs back right away, you need to let the dough rise longer. If it stays indented with just a little bit of spring, they are ready to bake.

Baking Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Preheat your oven to 350ºF (make sure you take the risen cinnamon rolls out if you are using your oven as a proofing box). Bake the rolls for about 20-25 minutes. Ovens all bake differently. Some ovens bake hotter in the back and cooler in the front. If you want an even bake on your rolls, rotate your pan 180º after the first ten minutes of baking. This will keep half of your rolls from getting too dark or the other half being too light. Check the center of one of the cinnamon rolls after baking to make sure that the middle isn’t raw. Sometimes you need to let them go a minute or two longer to make sure they are completely baked through.

The Best Cinnamon Roll Frosting

The frosting on these rolls is amazing. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m not a huge fan of overly “cream cheesey” tasting frosting, and the ratios on this icing are just perfection. More butter than cream cheese, when all whipped together the frosting takes these rolls to an ethereal level. I also highly recommend adding in the maple flavoring that really gives a unique taste to the entire cinnamon roll. It is just divine! Whip the frosting until it is thick and creamy. Let the cinnamon rolls cool about 5 minutes before spreading a large dollop on each roll.

Have I convinced you yet? You need these cinnamon rolls in your life, and your family does too. I love the sourdough version so much that I don’t even feel guilty about feeding this decadent treat to my family because: sourdough!

Frequently Asked Questions

I want my cinnamon rolls to be touching. What pan should I use?

I’ve experimented with a couple different options. I found that when the rolls are touching, they need a little bit longer to bake through completely. These are some examples of pans I’ve used for cinnamon rolls:
Pie Pan (7-8 inch): You will need 2 pans, 4 rolls to a pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes.
Pie Pan (10 inch): One dish will fit all 8 rolls snuggly. If you like the look of rolls all baked together, use a large circular pie pan. Bake 45-50 minutes.
Glass Baking Dish (9 by 13): Bake for about 30-35 minutes
Half Sheet Pan: Rolls will not be touching. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

How do you store leftover cinnamon rolls?

Place any leftover cinnamon rolls in a ziplock bag and store them in the freezer. When you want one, take one out of the freezer and warm up in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute and enjoy.

My sourdough cinnamon rolls didn’t rise. What went wrong?

Make sure you use your starter and levain when they are ripe and activeTemperature also has a large impact on how long it takes for sourdough to rise. Keep your rolls warm during the proofing process, 80-85ºF should get them rising well.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

The Best Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Amy
Pillowy soft, the perfect amount of gooey cinnamon filling and a delicious cream cheese icing make these sourdough cinnamon rolls the best ever. Follow these directions to make them with 100% natural yeast and bake them in time for a weekend brunch. We love eating these sourdough cinnamon rolls on holidays and whenever we have a hankering for an incredible sweet roll.
4.82 from 11 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 22 minutes
Fermentation Time 1 day 13 hours
Total Time 1 day 14 hours 22 minutes
Course Breakfast, brunch
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cinnamon rolls

Ingredients
  

Sweet Stiff Levain (10-12 hours/overnight at 78ºF)

  • 20 grams sourdough starter
  • 20 grams granulated sugar
  • 100 grams all purpose flour
  • 50 grams water

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

  • 180 grams levain
  • 440 grams warm whole milk about 1 3/4 cup, see recipe notes
  • 113 grams unsalted butter, melted about 1/2 cup
  • 115 grams granulated sugar about 1/2 cup
  • 2 large eggs about 100 grams total
  • 12 grams salt about 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 950 grams bread flour about 6-7 cups

Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 113 grams  unsalted butter  very soft or melted, 1/2 cup
  • 200 grams packed brown sugar about 1 cup
  • 8 grams ground cinnamon about 1 Tablespoon
  • 10 grams all purpose flour about 1 Tablespoon

Cinnamon Roll Frosting

  • 113 grams unsalted butter softened, 1/2 cup
  • 57 grams cream cheese softened, 1/4 cup
  • 250 grams powdered sugar about 2 cups
  • 30 grams heavy cream about 2 Tablespoons
  • 5 grams vanilla extract about 1 teaspoon
  • 2 grams maple extract about 1/2 teaspoon
  • pinch of salt to taste

Instructions
 

Levain (12 hours, overnight)

  • Mix together ripe sourdough starter, all purpose flour, granulated sugar and water. Knead the levain until it forms a cohesive ball. Set in a liquid measuring cup and cover for 10-12 hours until the levain has doubled in size and the top is rounded.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

  • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. It should be around 90-100 degrees F, no warmer than that. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the ripe levain, warmed milk and melted butter.
  • Add the sugar, eggs, salt and most of the bread flour. Turn on the dough hook and knead for a few minutes. Add the remainder of the bread flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky and should all cling to one side of the bowl (or away from the edges depending on your mixer). Knead for a total of 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth.
  • Bulk Fermentation: Put the dough in a container and cover. Set the dough in a warm, 78-80ºF place for 4 hours. Take the temperature of the dough as needed to make sure the dough temperature stays right around 78-80ºF. This temperature is optimal for fermentation.
  • At the end of about 4 hours, the dough should be puffed up and feel very elastic. If it doesn't feel this way, let it bulk ferment for another half hour and check again.
  • Overnight Refrigeration: At this point, after the bulk fermentation has finished, cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator. Proceed with the recipe the next day, shaping and proofing the rolls before baking. This allows you to time the cinnamon rolls for breakfast or brunch if desired. If you prefer to shape the rolls and bake them the same day, skip the overnight refrigeration and proceed with the recipe.
  • Mix up the Filling: Near the end of bulk fermentation, mix up the cinnamon roll filling. To a small bowl, add the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix together. Set aside.
  • Shaping: Line a half sheet pan (18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper. Roll the dough out into an approximate 18 by 12 rectangle. Spread the cinnamon filling all over the dough with your fingers, making sure to cover up to the edges of the cinnamon roll. Starting with the dough closest to you, roll up the cinnamon roll and pinch together the seam. Flip the cinnamon roll over, seam side down. Cut the long log of cinnamon roll dough into 12 equal pieces. Place the cinnamon rolls on the parchment paper, snuggling all 12 rolls together on the pan.
  • Proofing: Cover the pan and let rise in an 80-85ºF place until puffed up and risen, about 3-4 hours. Do not bake these rolls if they have not risen.
  • Baking: Pre-heat the oven to 350º F. Bake for about 22-25 minutes until baked all the way through.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: Using a hand mixer, whip together softened butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar, heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, maple extract and salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The frosting should be light and fluffy.
  • Spread frosting over the tops of the cinnamon rolls while they are still warm. Enjoy!

Notes

Bread Flour: I always think it’s wise to use the best possible flour for a great product. Bread flour creates dough with more elasticity thanks to the higher protein content, and I prefer the texture of cinnamon rolls made with bread flour. If you don’t have bread flour, you can use all purpose flour and substitute some vital wheat gluten to increase the protein content of the flour.
Whole Milk: 2% milk can be substituted
Keyword artisan sourdough, cinnamon roll, easy sourdough recipe, homemade sourdough, natural yeast cinnamon rolls, natural yeast recipe, sourdough cinnamon roll recipe, sourdough cinnamon rolls, sourdough recipe
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58 Comments

    1. I have a pumpkin roll recipe I’m playing around with. Basically adding in pumpkin puree to the dough and increasing the flour or decreasing some of the liquid in the dough. I haven’t solidified the recipe yet. Hopefully will have one to share this fall.

  1. 5 stars
    These were some of the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made! I was worried when I took them out of the refrigerator, the dough was very stiff. But with a little work I was able to get them to roll out. Thank you for the recipe!

  2. can you freeze some of the proofed dough if you want to make a smaller batch another time?

  3. I see other recipes do the overnight fridge portion after the rolls have been filled and cut, and then let them rise for 1-2 hours at room temp. Could that work with your recipe? Trying to cut down on time in the morning before I bake them.

    1. What I have started doing when I want them right in the morning is making them all the way through the rise the day/night before. I let them proof until almost doubled in size. Then I cover them and stick them in the fridge. When I wake up in the morning I can bake them straight from the fridge. That’s what I would recommend. You can portion them and stick in the fridge but I’ve found that can sometimes make the rise take even longer in the morning unless you find a way to warm them up fairly quickly. They don’t rise very much in the fridge.