This small batch recipe for a single cinnamon roll uses minimal ingredients to make one epically tasty treat. If you're looking for an ooey gooey, warm and sugary, single cinnamon roll with a pillowy soft center, you're in the right place.
This small batch cinnamon roll is perfect for satisfying those cinnamon roll cravings when you're running low on certain ingredients. I originally developed this recipe early in the pandemic when grocery shortages made it hard to find a lot of crucial baking ingredients.
Just because this recipe makes one single cinnamon roll doesn't necessarily mean it's a cinnamon roll for one person (though it absolutely can be!). I've shared one of these small batch cinnamon rolls with as many as 6 people!
⭐ About This Recipe
After scrolling past the umpteen-thousandth photo of golden buttery layers of dough spiraled around cinnamon filling and slathered with icy white frosting I basically had no choice but to make some of my own. (Twist my arm, yadda-yadda-yadda.)
After searching through a million variations of cinnamon bun and brioche recipes, I found the perfect base for this recipe in a somewhat unlikely place: Malasadas, a Polynesian fried dough treat popular in Hawaii.
I had been researching malasadas back in early 2020 prior to our much-belated and eventually cancelled-due-to-pandemic Hawaiian honeymoon. The buttery, simple, no-mixer-required enriched dough I was working with turned out to be perfect for this small batch cinnamon roll recipe.
So I abandoned my plan to make malasadas and started working on bringing my vision of a recipe for single cinnamon roll to life.
This small batch cinnamon roll has a buttery-crisp outer crust with that classic pull-apart ooey gooey cinnamon bun center. The small batch frosting requires a bit of patience, but uses just 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of cream cheese.
And with all the hidden whirls and swirls of cinnamon sugar goodness inside, this small batch cinnamon roll has quickly become my favorite cinnamon roll recipe.
Don't get me wrong, I still love a big 'ol pan of sticky cinnamon buns, but more often than not — this is the cinnamon roll recipe I reach for when I'm in the mood for a cinnamon roll!
🧂 Ingredient Notes
Here's everything you need to make this small batch single cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting. See recipe card for quantities!
For the dough and cinnamon sugar filling:
- All Purpose Flour - This recipe uses slightly more than one cup of flour. Measure with a kitchen scale for accuracy!
- Milk - Whole milk works best, but I've also tested this with oat milk and it worked just fine. You want the milk to be at room temperature or just slightly warm so that it doesn't make the melted butter solidify. Microwave in short 5 second bursts. You do not want the milk to be hot. An ideal temperature is 95-100F.
- Unsalted Butter - There is butter in the dough, in the cinnamon sugar filling, and in the cream cheese frosting. Salted butter will work, but you may want to reduce the amount of salt in the dough if that's what you're working with.
- Egg - The egg also needs to be at room temperature to prevent the melted butter from solidifying. To quickly bring an egg to room temp, submerge it in hot water for 5-10 minutes.
- Instant Yeast - Instant yeast is also sometimes called "rapid rise" yeast. I use SAF-Instant Yeast, which I buy in 1 lb packages and store in my freezer so I know it hasn't gone bad.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which half as salty as other brands. If measuring by weight, it doesn't matter what brand of salt you use. But if you're measuring by volume and using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Sugar - Plain white granulated sugar.
- Vanilla Bean Paste - I use Heilala Vanilla Bean Paste which is super concentrated. If you're using vanilla extract, you may want to double the amount.
- Brown Sugar - This is for the cinnamon sugar filling. I like using a dark brown sugar because it's got more flavor, but light brown sugar is fine too. If you don't have any brown sugar, white sugar is also fine here.
- Cinnamon - I like using an intensely flavored Vietnamese cinnamon like Burlap & Barrel's Royal Cinnamon but any ground cinnamon you have on hand is fine.
- Allspice - This helps emphasize the warm flavors of the cinnamon and brown sugar in the cinnamon roll filling. It's technically optional, but the overall cinnamon bun experience is better if you use it.
For the frosting:
- Unsalted Butter and Cream Cheese - Softened but not melted. Leave them out at room temp while the cinnamon roll is in its final resting stage and they will be at the right consistency to make the frosting while the cinnamon roll bakes.
- Vanilla Bean Paste - I use the same Heilala vanilla bean paste here. If you're using vanilla extract instead do not double the amount for the frosting. The vanilla is adding flavor but also functions as a liquid here — you don't want to use too much or it will change the consistency of the frosting!
- Heavy Cream - A very small amount as needed to get the frosting to the right consistency. I don't recommend using milk for this step, you'll end up with a runny glaze instead of a frosting. (Turn any leftover heavy cream into homemade stand mixer butter!)
🍽 Mise en place (aka "the setup")
Mise en place is a French culinary term which literally translates to "putting in place."
It basically means: Measure all your ingredients and make sure you have all the right tools and equipment ready to go when you need them before you start working.
This can make a huge difference in a) how enjoyable you find the baking and cooking process and b) the success of your recipe!
Here's the mise en place you'll need for this recipe:
Melt the butter - Melt the butter for the dough in 5-7 second bursts in the microwave. When there are still a few chunks of butter floating in the melted butter, stop microwaving and give the butter a few mixes with a whisk to melt those remaining chunks. This prevents the butter from getting too hot. You want the butter to be melted, but not hot; anything over 115F will kill the yeast.
Bring the egg and milk to room temperature - Submerge the egg in hot water for 5-10 minutes and microwave the milk in 5 second bursts just until it is no longer cool to the touch. You do not want the milk to be hot.
Why is this step important? If the egg and milk are cold when you whisk them into the butter, the butter will solidify. And cold liquid will slow down yeast activity, meaning your dough will rise very slowly. You don't want that!
Mix the dry ingredients for the dough together - Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and yeast together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
🥣 Making The Dough
Once all of your ingredients are properly measured and at the right temperature, whisk together the wet ingredients — melted butter, egg, milk, and vanilla. You want them to be very well combined so they incorporate evenly into the dry ingredients.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir with a spatula until you have a shaggy, messy dough.
A shaggy dough is when the liquid has been absorbed but the dough itself is still kind of dry and crumbly. But if you squeeze it, it should hold together (image 2, below).
Turn the dough out onto a clean countertop and knead with your hands for about 5 minutes until the dough comes together in a ball.
You could try to use a mixer for this step, but the dough is so small and dense most mixers would have trouble effectively kneading it.
It might still seem a bit dry at first, but just keep kneading until all the dry bits of flour have been incorporated.
Cover the dough and let it rise somewhere warm for about an hour. If your kitchen runs cold, the dough will rise more slowly — you may want to let it rise for close to an hour and a half or even two hours.
The dough won't double in size, but it will grow slightly and should look smoother in texture.
🥣 Making The Filling
While the dough rises, make the cinnamon sugar filling. For this, you'll use melted butter. You could even use browned butter if you want to be a little bit extra.
Combine the melted butter with the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and allspice. Mix with a spatula until it is very well combined and smooth.
Cover the cinnamon sugar filling and leave it out at room temperature while the dough rises.
The melted butter will start to firm up as the mixture cools, giving your cinnamon roll filling a beautiful, soft and spreadable consistency.
🔪 Shaping The Cinnamon Bun
Unlike your standard cinnamon roll or sticky bun which has just one coil, this single cinnamon roll gets coiled twice. A coil inside a coil. Coilception.
When your dough is ready to shape, roll it out into a rectangle about an eighth of an inch thick. You may need to tug on the corners a bit as you roll it out to get it to hold its shape. Don't worry if the rectangle isn't perfect though.
Arrange the rectangle of dough so that the long edge is facing you. Use a small offset spatula to spread it with about two-thirds of the cinnamon sugar filling mixture.
Leave about an inch of dough at the top of the rectangle clear from the filling so that the roll can seal shut at the top.
If this were a regular cinnamon roll, you'd stop here and slice the log into rounds which would bake face-up. Instead we're going to take this one step further — from basic to epic.
Once you have your rolled up log, instead of slicing it into rounds, flatten it out into a strip and spread it with the rest of the cinnamon sugar filling.
Roll it up again to make a large coil. That coil is now a cinnamon roll filled with layers of buttery dough and cinnamon sugar filling.
Turn the coil on its side and tuck the tail end underneath slightly so it doesn't come undone. Then place the coiled cinnamon roll in a greased 5x5" baking dish.
Cover it and let it rest for an hour. This gives the dough time to get used to its new shape and for the yeast to get to work again.
This step is super important for giving your single cinnamon roll a soft, pillowy interior. Just like the first rise, the dough won't double in size. It will grow by about 25% and look slightly puffy in appearance.
This final rise step can also be done overnight in the fridge (8-12 hours) if that fits your schedule better. You can bake it right out of the fridge, no need to let it come to room temperature first.
🥣 Making the Frosting
While the cinnamon roll is baking, make the frosting. This is a super small batch frosting, which is actually a bit trickier to make than a larger batch of frosting.
You'll want to use a hand mixer for this step, and use a large mixing bowl so you have plenty of room to work as the sugar starts flying.
Start by creaming the butter and cream cheese together until they are very well combined. You shouldn't see any streaks of yellow and white, it should be all one consistent color. This can take 2-3 minutes!
Add the powdered sugar in two batches. You'll end up with something that looks very crumbly and dry. That's normal.
Then, add the vanilla and continue mixing on medium speed. Be very patient with this step, it can take 3-5 minutes. But eventually, I promise, the liquid from the vanilla will turn that dry, crumbly mixture into a thick paste.
Add heavy cream 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing well between each addition, until you have a thick, smooth, creamy frosting.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then mix again on medium speed just to make sure there aren't any lumps.
Spread the cream cheese frosting on the cinnamon roll when its still hot from the oven. The residual heat from the cinnamon roll will help melt the butter and cream cheese giving you a silky smooth, spreadable frosting.
This is also why you don't want to add too much heavy cream to the frosting. A thicker frosting will be easier to spread thanks to the warmth from the cinnamon roll. A thinner frosting with too much heavy cream will melt and slide right off the top!
👩🏻🍳 Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- The ingredient temperatures for this recipe are SUPER IMPORTANT. I've repeated it a few times throughout this post, that's how important they are. The number one thing you can to to set your single cinnamon roll up for success is make sure you get the ingredients at the right temp before you start mixing.
- When rolling your dough rectangle up, start with the bottom corner of the long edge closest to you and work your way across the bottom edge, moving steadily back and forth from one side to the other as you roll until you reach the top. If you try to roll the whole bottom edge at once you risk ending up with trapped air pockets and an uneven log of dough.
- Get creative with the filling! You can dress up the cinnamon sugar filling however you want. Add pinches of cayenne, ginger, cardamom, orange zest, finely chopped nuts... it's really up to you! Just remember, this is a small batch recipe so a little goes a long way when you're adding new flavors.
- This dough moves slowly. Be patient with it. The rise times I've given you in the recipe are the absolute shortest you can use if your kitchen is warm and the ingredients are all at the right temperatures. If the dough needs to rise for an extra hour after kneading or after shaping, that's okay.
💭 Recipe FAQ
I bake this in a 5" Le Creuset Heritage Square Baking Dish that I got as a gift. You can buy the 5" baking dishes solo at some Le Creuset outlet stores, but otherwise they are sold in sets with a larger square baking dish. This is a good dupe from Amazon. A 6" round cake pan will also work.
Yep! After shaping the cinnamon roll and putting it in the baking dish you can cover it and let it rise in the fridge overnight (8-12 hours) prior to baking. Bake it directly from the fridge, no need to let it warm up first.
Because this single cinnamon roll is so thick in the center with so many layers of dough, the outside layer bakes much faster than the inside layers. The inside layers will remain super pillowy and soft, but the outside layer of the cinnamon roll does end up with a bit of a harder crust than you might expect from most cinnamon buns.
Using a kitchen scale to measure ingredients for baking is more accurate than cup measurements and will give you the right ratio of water, yeast, salt, and flour so that the dough behaves the way you want it to. My original version of this recipe used cup measurements, and people making it often got inconsistent results! When I retested updated the recipe, I measured everything with a kitchen scale and it worked so much better. If I were to convert the recipe to cups, I would be using Google — just like you would. And I wouldn't be able to promise you'd get the same delicious results because cup measurements aren't accurate!
I've provided approximate volume measurements for ingredients where I can just to give you a sense of how much you'll need to have on hand. But I really recommend sticking to the weight measurements when you're actually measuring.
You need 7 tablespoons of butter total. That's 2 tablespoons for the dough, 4 tablespoons for the cinnamon sugar filling, and 1 tablespoon for the frosting.
Epic Single Cinnamon roll
- 160 grams all-purpose flour
- 36 grams whole milk (2½ tablespoons, around 95°-100°F)
- 28 grams unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)
- 20 grams granulated sugar (a scant 2 tablespoons)
- 3 grams instant yeast (1 teaspoon)
- 3 grams diamond crystal kosher salt (1 teaspoon / use half as much if using a different brand of salt)
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
cinnamon sugar filling
- 42 grams brown sugar (3½ tablespoons)
- 24 grams granulated sugar (2½ tablespoons)
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 56 grams melted butter (4 tablespoons)
small batch cream cheese frosting
- 14 grams softened cream cheese (1 tablespoon)
- 14 grams softened unsalted butter (1 tablespoon)
- 60 grams powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon heavy cream (you may need an additional 1 teaspoon)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Whisk lukewarm melted butter, room temperature egg, lukewarm milk, and vanilla bean paste together in a large liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
- Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir with a spatula until a shaggy dough forms. The liquid will be absorbed but the dough will still be quite dry and floury.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean countertop and knead by hand for 3-5 minutes until the dough is combined. There shouldn't be any visible dry bits of flour and it will feel slightly sticky to the touch. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm spot (72°-75°F) for about an hour. The dough will not double in size, but will grow slightly and smooth out in texture. If your kitchen runs cool, you may choose to let it rise for another 30-60 minutes.
cinnamon sugar filling
- While the dough rises, mix all the ingredients for the cinnamon sugar filling in a bowl until smooth. Cover and set aside room temperature.
- Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and roll into a large rectangle about ⅛" thick. Use a bench scraper to square off the dough as you roll to keep a rectangular shape. It doesn't have to be perfect. Dust the counter lightly with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
- Arrange the dough rectangle so one of the long edges is facing you. Brush off any excess flour, then spread about ⅔ of the cinnamon sugar filling onto the surface of the dough. Leave about an inch along the top edge clear of filling.
- Roll the dough into a log starting with one of the bottom corners closest to you. For a tighter roll with more layers, gently lift and stretch the dough slightly toward your body before each forward roll.
- Gently flatten the log against the counter using your hands or a rolling pin. Be gentle but firm — you don't want to tear the layers of dough and filling inside it. You just want to flatten it into a wide strip.
- Flip the dough over so the seam side is facing up. Spread the remaining cinnamon sugar filling along the top of the dough.
- Starting from one end of the dough, roll the the strip up into a coil and tuck the open end underneath it. Place inside a well-greased 5" oven-safe baking dish. Cover and set aside to rise for 1 hour in a warm spot (or 8-12 hours in the fridge) until just slightly puffy.
- During the last 30 minutes of rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake 35-40 minutes, until the internal temp at the center registers 190°F on an instant read thermometer. The top will be deeply browned and feel hard to the touch. If the top seems to be browning too quickly, after 15 minutes, tent the cinnamon roll with aluminum foil.
- Remove from oven. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then spread generously with frosting.
Small Batch Cinnamon Roll Frosting
- Cream softened butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer on low-medium speed. Be patient, with such small quantities this can take a few minutes. You want the two to be fully combined, so you aren't seeing individual streaks of yellow butter and white cream cheese.
- Add the powdered sugar in two batches, mixing on low-medium speed after each addition for at least 2 minutes. The mixture will be quite crumbly looking.
- Add the vanilla bean paste and mix on medium speed until a very thick paste forms. Be patient here — it will happen, but it can take a few minutes.
- Add the heavy cream and mix well until you have a smooth, thick consistency. Start with 1 teaspoon. Scrape down the bowl and mix again. If needed, you can add additional heavy cream ½ teaspoon at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Spread frosting on the cinnamon bun while it's still warm. The heat will help loosen up the frosting so it spreads evenly.
- Serve warm!
- Lukewarm milk and melted cooled butter: Ideally a temp of 95-100F. It should be lukewarm or warm, not hot.
- If your kitchen is 70F or cooler, you may find you have trouble getting the dough to rise. Put it in your off oven with the oven light on to give it a warm spot to rise. If after an hour it still hasn't grown by 50-75% or more, let it sit for another hour with the oven light on.