Breads · Breakfast/Brunch

Alton Brown’s “Overnight Cinnamon Rolls”

Alton Brown's "Overnight Cinnamon Rolls"

<Sigh>…….I had high hopes for these. My boy, Alton Brown, rarely leads me astray. But after a 14-hour process that included triple proofing of the dough, these rolls just fell short.

In truth, I’m not sure what went wrong. The reviews of the recipe were raving and I even watched the video. I followed every detail to the tee (something you definitely need to do when making Alton’s recipes) and used newly purchased yeast. The rolls did rise but not nearly as high as the ones from the show—despite the extra time I gave, too. And the end results were rather dense….no soft pillows of goodness as I had hoped. I did, however, like the icing as the cream cheese gave the slight tang that was a nice addition.

Will I try it again? Eh…I’m not sure. I’ve been eyeing  America’s Test Kitchen’s Cinnamon Rolls for some time now and I’m more inclined to give that one a spin before coming back to this one. Especially since there’s no yeast or proofing involved!

Sorry Alton….you’re still my Boo though. 🙂


Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
From Alton Brown


4 Large Egg Yolks, room temperature
1 Large Whole Egg, room temperature
2 Ounces Sugar, approximately ¼ cup
3 Ounces Unsalted Butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 Ounces Buttermilk, room temperature
20 Ounces All-Purpose Flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 Package Instant Dry Yeast, approximately 2¼ teaspoons
Teaspoons Kosher Salt
Vegetable oil or Cooking Spray

8 Ounces Light Brown Sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
Pinch Salt
¾ Ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1½ tablespoons

2½ Ounces Cream Cheese, softened, approximately ¼ cup
3 Tablespoons Milk
5½ Ounces Powdered Sugar, approximately 1½ cups

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Alton Brown's "Overnight Cinnamon Rolls"A shame really as they don’t look too bad. <Sigh>…back to the drawing board!


35 thoughts on “Alton Brown’s “Overnight Cinnamon Rolls”

  1. Oh, isn’t that the worst?! It’s one thing for a 30 minute dish to not turn out… but overnight! I applaud you for trying and sharing. I find we sometimes learn more by failing. Maybe the recipe was written wrong? Maybe your fresh yeast had been stored wrong in the grocery store? Nevertheless, even dense cinnamon rolls must have some yumminess. 🙂

      1. I proof the yeast separately with some of the sugar and warm buttermilk at 100 to 105 degrees. I also don’t refrigerate them – I bake them the same day. This is my go to!

  2. I have 2 really great cinnamon roll recipes. One is the Cinnabun knockoff and the other is from Peter Reinhart. Try it. it will result in the pillowy softeness you’re looking for.

  3. It may be unnecessarily extravagant, but I use Peter Reinhart’s Rich-Man’s Brioche as my go-to recipe for sweet breads. For example, if I want cinnamon rolls, I would make a batch of the brioche dough and fill it up with cinnamon sugar for the filling. It has never failed me, and the flavors of that bread is unbelievable.

  4. I had the same problem with this recipe. Definitely not a favorite, and a huge bummer! I’m sorry they didn’t work for you, but at least they look pretty, right? Nice photos 🙂

    1. Thanks for the support Kaitlin! Sorry to hear yours didn’t work out well either. But some folks have given me some great ideas for my next batch of cinnamon rolls—and I can’t wait to get back to trying it!


  5. I have made this recipe several times and had a glorious outcome every time. I make these for the monthly men’s prayer breakfast at our church, The men think that I spoil them, incredibly. Try again, exactly as the recipe instructs and you will not be dissapointed.

  6. I am on the hunt for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe. I have been wanting to try both Alton’s and America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes too. I guess I’ll try ATK’s first. Thanks for being honest with the results.

  7. What a shame. They are gorgeous. So glad you were ‘straight up’ about your experience though. Often we assume recipes from the big food chefs WILL be perfect everytime and how awful to make it when you really needed it to learn all of this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so we can consider them when trying to make!

    1. Thank you!!! It was all really strange as so many ppl had positive results with this recipe. I think I will try it again though—-this experience (including everyone’s postiive thoughts) has really motivated me 🙂


  8. Just this morning, I made ATK’s Quick Cinnamon Buns, which use baking powder to get rise instead of yeast. The whole process from start to finish takes just over an hour, and the results are amazing! Tall, soft rolls with plenty of sugary goodness, and a cream cheese glaze very similar to this AB one. So, give that one a try!

  9. I tried these, too, and was not overly impressed either. It was nice to have all of the work done by morning, but it was a lot of work for them to not exactly blow my mind. I thought maybe it was because I didn’t have a stand mixer…

    I, too, might give America’s Test Kitchen cinnamon rolls a go. I’ve always liked that show..

    1. I totally agree with you Michaela–Loved that the work was minimal in the AM!

      America’s Test Kitchen has done me well in the past—especially with breads. So I”m hoping for good results next time 🙂 Cheers!

  10. i ate them and my family didn’t find them as dense as described. however, things always tastes better to me when someone else makes them! : P

  11. Did you use instant yeast, rather than active dry yeast? It can make a big difference if you don’t proof, which AB’s recipe doesn’t do. If you do sub active dry for instant, that might have accounted for the lower, slower rise and the density.

  12. Wow! I totally disagree. My cinnamon rolls turned out soft, pillowy and delicious. I’ve made several other recipes and these were my favorite. I thought the dough was literally perfect. Did you weigh out the ingredients? You really have to with his recipes. Don’t just follow the measurements – even if he says “about 1 1/4 cup”. Weight it out in ounces. Idk. To each their own i guess lol.

  13. I tried this recipe for the first time and I had a similar experience. I even let the dough rise overnight and it did not rise. I used Red Star yeast. I ended up adding more yeast the next day and the dough did rise. I just cut them and they are on their second rise. I hope they turn out. I doubt I will use this recipe again. I agree, the Clone of the Cinnabon is usually my “go to” but I thought I would try something different.

  14. I make Alton’s overnight cinnamon buns all the time & the recipe is PERFECT ♥️ Always fluffy and yummy 😋

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