Grandma’s recipe: Cinnamon rolls


A few weeks ago, I made cinnamon rolls for my grandma’s 95th birthday party. I started them the night before the party, after Maggie went to bed. Although it did take a few hours including 1 hour for the first rise, it was totally worth it.

I only took a quick photo of the rolls at the party and went back to socializing. I didn’t take any the night before when I was making them because it was late and too dark. I guess if I want better pictures that could just be one more reason to make cinnamon rolls again.


When I was growing up, I lived only two streets away from my grandma and grandpa’s house. I lived in that home from the time I was brought home from the hospital until I was 20 years old.

With my granparents living so close, they often helped out my parents by taking care of me and my siblings. My grandparents would take care of my sister Mary and I after school and sometimes in summer when my parents were working.

I have a memory of making cinnamon rolls with my Grandma and Mary but I don’t remember when. I think it was in the summer and I might have been in middle school. we might have made them together more than once.

What I do remember is my grandma asking my sister and I to read off the ingredients and slowly adding things to the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. I remember placing the dough ball in a big bowl, covering it with a light towel, and placing it on a table in her covered patio for it to rise. When it had doubled in size, we (mainly Grandma, I think), rolled out the dough on the pull out breadboard in her kitchen. I thought it felt funny to spread the brown sugar on top of the butter and dough. Then came the rolling and cutting. My grandma would make an indent to mark where to cut and she would let us kids slice the dough. I loved all of it.

Of course, the cinnamon rolls are delicious and the frosting is amazing. I’m so glad I made them recently so I could share them with family. I got a few compliments. For me, the joy is also in the baking and not just the result. It’s like writing. It’s therapeutic. Dough is especially that way, more so than your basic cookie or cake. There’s a special reward that comes from the work of forming the rolls.

A few years ago, I put together a family cookbook of favorite recipes, including this one. I said “If you’ve never made cinnamon rolls before, you should really give them a try.” One of my cousins told me at the party that she thought about it but the recipe looked too long for her. I can understand that. It does take some time. I just love to bake so much that I even stayed up late to do it, although most nights I fall asleep on the couch around 10 pm.

cousins grandparents.jpg

Cinnamon rolls

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup margarine or butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 tablespoon half-and-half or light cream

In a large mixer bowl combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour and the yeast.

In a small saucepan heat the milk, the 1/3 cup margarine or butter, the 1/3 cup sugar, and salt just till warm (120° to 130°) and margarine is almost melted, stirring constantly. Add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 cups flour as you can.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl (I use Crisco), turning once. Cover; let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).

For filling, combine brown sugar, the 1/4 cup flour, and cinnamon. Cut in remaining margarine or butter till crumbly; set aside.

Punch dough down. Turn onto lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough square. Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch edges to seal. Slice roll into eight 1-1/2 -inch pieces. Arrange dough pieces; cut side up, in a greased 12-inch deep-dish pizza pan or a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.

To make mini rolls (they will still be a good size), follow above directions, but instead of rolling up the 12-inch square, cut it in half first. Then roll up each rectangle and continue on as normal.

Cover dough loosely with clear plastic wrap., leaving room for rolls to rise. Refrigerate dough for 2 to 24 hours. Uncover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Or, for immediate baking, don’t chill dough. Instead, cover loosely; let dough rise in a warm place till nearly double, about 45 minutes.)

Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick. Brush dough with half-and-half or light cream. Bake in a 375° oven for 25 to 30 minutes or till light brown. If necessary to prevent over-browning, cover rolls loosely with foil the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking. Remove rolls from oven. Brush again with half and half or light cream. Cool for 1 minute. Carefully invert cinnamon rolls onto a wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert again onto a serving platter. Drizzle with glaze or cover in icing. Serve warm. Makes 8 big rolls or 16 mini rolls.

For the icing, I used a new to me recipe, the Tangy Cream Cheese Icing recipe from It was so good.

I don’t know if my grandma had a certain icing recipe. Her memory isn’t what it used to be so I don’t think she could tell me. When I went though her recipe collection for the family cookbook, I found the cinnamon roll recipe she used. It was a black and white photocopy of a three page magazine spread, including a powdered sugar frosting recipe. However, I thought she made cream cheese frosting and I think it goes perfectly with cream cheese.

I would love to hear what you have to say. Leave me a comment and I'll try to write back soon.

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