close-up shot of sourdough cinnamon rolls in pan

When I think of the ideal cinnamon roll, I think of one that is impeccably soft and fluffy, with a slight chew and pull from the glutinous swirls. Every bite is delicately sweet and spiced, buttery and cream cheese-y, warm and ooey-gooey. That’s exactly what these sourdough cinnamon rolls are, and then some — because with the added tang and tenderness from the sourdough starter, they’re a step above traditional cinnamon rolls in all the very best ways.

There is never an occasion that can’t be made better with cinnamon rolls; and when it comes to these Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, I want to make up occasions just to have an excuse to bake them. Saturday morning breakfast? Yes, please. After-school-on-a-Monday treat? Why not? Post-afternoon-yard-raking snacktime? You bet.

These rolls have been on my to-bake list for a long time — too long, in fact, now that I’ve tried them. Where have they been all my life? That soft, tender dough? Those sweet, spiced swirls? That rich cream cheese frosting? That tangy sourdough flavor? It all comes together into a treat that’s too good to NOT make as soon as possible.

sourdough cinnamon rolls in a pan

What Are Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Exactly?

Sourdough cinnamon rolls are basically just regular cinnamon rolls but taken to the next level. You’ll use active sourdough starter as your yeast to make the dough, but otherwise these are made like a traditional cinnamon roll recipe. The results are a super-soft, tender and flavorful dough that can only come from the use of excess sourdough starter (if you don’t have a starter to use, I highly recommend giving my Ooey-Gooey Overnight Cinnamon Rolls a try!). I love to make these rolls when I have leftover starter that I don’t want to waste.

As for the cream cheese frosting, that’s totally a personal preference. You don’t have to pair sourdough cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting, but man, I think you’ll do yourself a disservice if you don’t. There’s something uniquely delicious about the flavor pairing of sourdough and sweet cream cheese that I don’t ever want to stop loving.

The Best Ingredients for Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

As I mentioned before, you’ll need a bubbly, active sourdough starter to make these rolls, but you’ll also need a few other pantry-friendly ingredients to get yourself to cinnamon roll bliss:

  • Milk (please use whole milk or 2% milk if you can; the fat is important to the texture and flavor!)
  • Butter
  • Egg
  • Active sourdough starter (I used unfed starter, meaning it was bubbly and peaked and ready to be fed again)
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Cream cheese
  • Vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

You know when you see a recipe that calls for butter and three types of sugar, you’re in for something gooooood.

sourdough cinnamon rolls in a pan with one taken out on a plate

How to Make Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

If you’ve made homemade cinnamon rolls before, you’ll be happy to know that these cinnamon rolls are made almost exactly the same way! And if you haven’t made homemade cinnamon rolls before — first of all, YOU’RE MISSING OUT; but secondly — do not worry! The overnight process is a breeze. Here’s how it’s done.

Time needed: 10 hours and 30 minutes.

  1. Step one: Make the dough.

    In a bowl, mix together warm milk, melted butter, egg, starter, sugar, flour and salt until combined. Let the dough rest for a half-hour, then knead until smooth and silky. Cover and let the dough rise overnight, about 8 to 12 hours.

  2. Step two: Assemble the rolls.

    The next morning, roll the dough on a floured countertop into a large square. Top the dough with soft butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar and spices. Roll up the dough tightly, then gently slice into 8 rolls.

  3. Step three: Rise and bake.

    Transfer the rolls to a parchment paper-lined round baking pan. Cover and let the dough rise a bit, then bake the rolls at 350°F for approximately 40-45 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown.

  4. Step four: Top with frosting.

    In a small bowl, mix the frosting ingredients until everything is smooth and spreadable. Top each warm roll with plenty of frosting, and sprinkle with more powdered sugar for a pretty snowfall effect.

The details are all divulged in the recipe below, but in about four basic steps and in the length of time it takes to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll have tantalizing homemade rolls ready to enjoy with very minimal effort to get there.

sourdough cinnamon roll on a plate with a forkful taken out

Tips for the Best Cinnamon Rolls

We’re almost there, my friends! But before we part, let’s cover a few important tips re: the best cinnamon rolls of your life:

  • The dough for these rolls is very soft and slack, so use a gentle hand and a floured surface whenever you’re working with the dough.
  • If you’re a major cinnamon fan, you can always add up to 2 tablespoons of cinnamon to the filling! I found the amount in the recipe to be enough, but my husband wanted more, so this is the compromise. 🙂
  • Make sure the butter for the filling is VERY soft — we’re talking one step away from melted. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time spreading it over the dough. That being said, if it doesn’t spread completely evenly, don’t fret — the butter will melt as the rolls bake and they’ll all taste incredible in the end.
  • Don’t have nutmeg or allspice on hand, or don’t care for them? Leave them out!
  • A pro tip I learned from fellow baker Sarah Kieffer: To get those ooey-gooey rolls without all the frosting melting off the top, frost each roll with a thin layer of frosting while still warm, then top with the remaining frosting once the rolls have fully cooled. SMART.

I cannot stress enough the fact that if you, like me, have leftover sourdough starter on hand most days and are almost always craving cinnamon rolls (seriously tho), you need to make these rolls. They are life-giving and life-changing: everything a cinnamon roll should be.

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sourdough cinnamon rolls in a pan

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Stephanie
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 rolls 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These sourdough cinnamon rolls are irresistibly soft, fluffy and chewy. Topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting, this is an excellent recipe to use sourdough starter discard and have a yummy homemade breakfast. (Win-win!)


Scale

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2/3 cup milk (2% or whole)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) active starter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, very soft
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for topping if desired
  • 12 teaspoons milk

Instructions

  1. First, make the dough (*see Notes for recommended baker’s schedule): In a small saucepan over low heat, heat 2/3 cup milk and 2 tablespoons butter until milk is warm and butter is just melted. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl using a wooden spoon or spatula or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the egg, starter and sugar on low speed until just combined. Slowly stir in the warm milk mixture until just combined.
  3. Add the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the bowl. Stir on low speed about 1 minute until a rough dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover fully-rested dough; replace paddle attachment with dough hook attachment on the stand mixer. Knead the dough on medium-low speed 6 to 8 minutes, or until dough is smooth, shiny, elastic and only slightly sticky. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until you achieve the same results.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl; turn once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place for 8 to 12 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. The next morning, lightly flour a work surface and gently transfer risen dough to surface. Let rest 5 minutes to allow gluten to relax, then use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to a rough 12×12-inch square.
  7. Next, make the filling: Use an offset spatula or spoon to gently spread the 4 tablespoons of very soft butter over the dough. You might struggle a bit to get the butter to spread evenly over the dough, but just do the best you can; it doesn’t need to be perfect! Sprinkle buttered dough evenly with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.
  8. Using floured hands, gently roll up dough from one end, keeping the swirl as tight as possible without tearing the dough. Roll up until the seam is facing down against the work surface. Using a very sharp serrated knife, gently saw the dough into 8 equal rolls, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.
  9. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round baking pan with parchment paper. Gently transfer rolls, cut side-up, to baking pan; space evenly apart. Cover pan with plastic wrap and let dough rise 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes until puffy.
  10. Heat oven to 350°F. Once rolls are puffy, uncover and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until dough is baked through and rolls are golden brown. Transfer pan to a cooling rack.
  11. While rolls cool slightly, make the cream cheese frosting: In a small bowl using a spatula or an electric hand mixer, mix the 4 tablespoons butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and pinch of salt; beat to combine. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until mixture is smooth and combined, then beat in 1 to 2 teaspoons milk until frosting is soft and spreadable.
  12. Use an offset spatula or spoon to spread frosting evenly over warm rolls. Sprinkle rolls with more powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.
  13. Store leftover rolls in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes

  • Recommended schedule: Start preparing the dough at 8 p.m. the night before you plan to bake. You’ll be done with active prep by 9 p.m. The next morning between 6-7:30 a.m., the dough should be ready for rolling. By 8/8:30 a.m., you’ll be ready to bake. With this rough schedule, the rolls should be ready to serve by 8:45/9:15 a.m.
  • The dough for these rolls is a little softer and looser than typical cinnamon roll dough, so be sure to use a gentle hand and lightly flour all surfaces before handling the dough.
  • Big fan of cinnamon? Add up to 2 tablespoons of cinnamon to the filling for extra spice.
  • Serve rolls warm or at room temperature; they’re delicious either way.

Keywords: sourdough cinnamon roll dough, brown sugar filling, cream cheese frosting, sourdough starter cinnamon rolls

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