by Sep 17, 2021

I have great memories of making cinnamon rolls MANY times for Allen and his roommates when they lived in East Lansing.  There is something about the way a bunch of hungry college students devours homemade baked goods that makes you feel like you are the best baker in the world. 

Of course, all that positive reinforcement kept those cinnamon rolls coming regularly! What started out as an original recipe for two pans of cinnamon rolls quickly turned into a double recipe as the norm.  I think that was a pan for each man, minus the couple pieces they shared with me. 

When I worked as a teacher, I started making the rolls into coffee cakes. I would double the double recipe so I could distribute these beautiful fresh coffee cakes to the essential support workers in school just before Winter Break.  Custodians, secretaries, administrators, and peers all enjoyed the coffee cakes that were formed into wreath shapes and decorated with candied cherries. 

I used to get up early on the last day of work before the Holidays to start the dough and enjoy a cup of coffee in the peace and quiet before other household members stirred.  I arrived to work early so some favorite people could enjoy the coffee cakes when they were still warm.

One year, way before marriage, kids, and the instant communication of cell phones, I was so focused on the task at hand that I didn’t even notice how much snow we were getting.  I carefully wrapped up the coffee cakes and myself, piled everything in the car, and took off in my little four-wheel drive Fiat. 

I did notice how slow and carefully everyone was driving and just took my time.  When I got to work, I wondered why there were so few cars around.  Well–you guessed it–we had a snow day, and I had missed the phone call.  So, I shared a coffee cake with some of the few people that were there, passed out the other coffee cakes, then turned around and slogged on home to enjoy an early start to vacation.

Over the years, my children joined Allen in reinforcing my baking habit.  Cinnamon rolls became a regular Snow Day Treat. After all, carbs are good when you spend the day going in and out of the snow. Even now, when I make these, I make enough for four pans of rolls or coffee cakes.  It seems like there is always someone willing to take them off my hands.

Start by getting the yeast nice and bubbly: stir the yeast and a bit of sugar into very warm water. I just turn on the tap water to get it very warm, and sprinkle over the inside of my wrist to test and see if it feels warm, not hot. It always makes me think of testing a baby’s bottle for the correct temperature.  If you are uncertain, you can use an instant read thermometer and check to see that it registers 110-115 degrees. You can see how bubbly and active the yeast will get when properly dissolved.

Warm the milk, butter, and sweetener together; stir to combine.  I like to pour the mixture into my stand mixer, but you can also use a large bowl and wooden spoon, if you prefer.  Stir in the potato flakes, a couple of cups of flour and the salt. I have found that the potato flakes help keep the rolls tender.  Add the yeast mixture, eggs and 2 more cups flour. Combine well and keep adding flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms.  Using the dough hook, or by hand, knead until the mixture cleans the side of the bowl. 

I turn the dough out of the bowl and spray the bowl with cooking oil spray, return the dough, then cover it all with a damp cloth.  Let it rise in a warm spot for an hour; it should be doubled in size.  It was very warm on the day that I made these rolls, and the dough almost tripled in size before I knew it!

Punch the dough down and divide into fourths.  Roll one section out to a rectangle 8 inches by 12-16 inches.  I usually make it about 12 inches and cut it into 1-inch sections.  But if you want to make big whopping rolls, make the rectangle larger so you can cut the rolls into 1 1/2-inch slices.

Brush melted butter all over the rectangle, leaving one long edge unbuttered so the very edge will stick to itself when it is rolled around.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over top, again avoiding the very edge so it will adhere nicely when rolled.

Cut the roll into 1 or 1 1/2-inch slices.  I like to use dental floss: slide a 10-inch piece of dental floss under the roll, bring the ends up and over to crisscross on top and then just pull the ends away from each other to make a clean, perfectly round cut.  You can also use a knife to cut the slices if you prefer.

You can also make the rolls into a round coffee cake or wreath shape.  After rolling, bring the ends together and pinch them closed to form a circle.  Then use scissors to cut sections about 3/4 of the way from the outside edge to the center. Slightly twist each section sideways to spread the pieces out all around the circle.

Place the rolls in a greased 8-inch cake pan.  Repeat with the other dough pieces.  Cover all the pans with a dry cloth this time. A wet cloth will stick to the dough and can pull off the top of beautifully formed rolls and deflate all of your hard work! Let the rolls rise until doubled (30-45 minutes). 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I usually make the glaze now and use up any leftover melted butter in the glaze. Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest about 5-10 minutes before turning the out of the pans and glazing.   



  • 2 Packages Dry Yeast
  • 2 Teaspoons Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Very Warm Water
  • 2 Cups Milk, Warmed
  • 1/2 Cup Honey or Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, Melted
  • 1/4 cup instant potato flakes
  • 6-7 Cups Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten


  • 1 1/3 Cups Sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 8-10 Tablespoons Melted Butter

Dissolve yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in very warm water; set aside to proof.  Combine warm milk, sugar, butter, and salt; stir until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in potato flakes and 2 cups flour; mix until blended.  Add yeast mixture and blend well.  Mix in egg and additional flour until a soft dough forms.  (I mix all of this is my standing mixer; after I have enough flour mixed in, I switch to the dough hook for kneading.)  Knead until soft and elastic; about 5 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl; cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in volume (1 to 1 1/2 hours).  Meanwhile, mix 1 1/3 cups sugar and cinnamon together; melt butter.

Divide dough into fourths.  Roll one fourth to an 8″ X 12-16″ rectangle.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 of sugar mixture.  Roll up, starting on long edge, as for jelly roll.  Form into circle, pinching ends together.  Place in greased cake pan.  Use scissors to snip from outside edge towards center at intervals all around.  Slightly twist each piece to one side, twisting all in the same direction.  Repeat process with other 3 pieces of dough.  Cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled (about 30-45 minutes).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 20-25 or until golden brown on top and bottom. 

Drizzle confectioner’s sugar glaze over top if desired. I never measure for this, but probably use 1 ½-2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1-2 tablespoons melted butter, and enough milk to make it spreadable. Half of my family members like it plain, others like it slathered with frosting.

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