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The Best Pull-Apart Cinnamon Rolls

Updated: Jan 28

These pull apart cinnamon rolls are fluffy, filled with buttery goodness and bursting with cinnamon. This recipe makes 18 cinnamon rolls.

The best pull-apart cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting and pecans
The Best Pull-Apart Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve tried quite a few cinnamon roll recipes in my day, and some are just better than others. This recipe is one I have perfected over time and is the only cinnamon roll recipe I will use now. This makes a hearty cinnamon roll that is full of flavor and the cream cheese frosting is irresistible! The dough is slightly dense yet light and fluffy which makes them easy to pull apart in the pan. I fill mine generously with butter, brown sugar, tons of cinnamon and sprinkle mine with pecans. These have a slightly crisp outer edge with a tender inside that creates the most perfect center.

the best pull apart cinnamon rolls with pecans and cream cheese frosting

The main players in this recipe are:

Whole milk

Good butter

A great vanilla extract

Cinnamon, of course

Dark brown sugar

I prefer to use a whole milk because the added fat contributes to a softer, fluffier texture in the dough and richness in flavor.

A high quality, creamy butter makes such a difference. These cinnamon rolls have a fair amount of butter in them and rightfully so. We know butter makes everything better but, in these rolls, it adds not only flavor but melts into the dough and keeps the filling perfectly in place. When the butter and brown sugar meet, it’s heavenly!

I always encourage baking with a high-quality vanilla extract of paste. It does make a difference and there are some great ones out there at different price points. My personal favorite is Rodelle and of course Nielsen Massey but I also recommend Taylor and Colledge as well as Watkins. For these cinnamon rolls, I do prefer a vanilla bean paste because the flavor is incredible and the little specks of vanilla bean are so pretty.

Cinnamon, of course. There is a generous amount in the recipe but if I’m honest, I am always heavy handed with the cinnamon because I just love it. The amount you add to this recipe is purely preferential, but I do suggest a good amount and then some more.

I prefer to use a dark brown sugar in this recipe. Dark brown sugar has a higher amount of molasses to it, making these cinnamon rolls to the next level by adding a deeper richness and added moisture to the roll. The darker color adds a pretty contrast as well, but light brown sugar will work just fine and you’ll still have delicious cinnarolls.

Feel free to add some variation to these cinnamon rolls. Sometimes I like to layer in some pecan flour in the filling for extra nuttiness. Bits of apple or some raisins or other dried fruit go really well inside too. I always top mine with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon and some chopped pecans. Walnuts work well too.

The Best Pull-Apart Cinnamon Rolls


For the dough:

1 ½ cup whole milk

4 ½ teaspoons rapid or active yeast (or 2 ¼ oz. package)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

6 cups of bread flour, extra for dusting

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

For the filling:

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar

3 ½ tablespoons cinnamon

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened and divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or bean paste

For the cream cheese frosting:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk

Walnuts or pecans for topping

the best pull apart cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting and pecans

the best pull apart cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting


Heat milk in a small saucepan until milk reaches about 110°. Remove milk from heat and place in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add in the sugar, egg and egg yolks and butter. Stir until fully combined. Stir in the flour and salt until a dough begins to form.

Attach a dough hook to the stand mixer and knead on medium speed for up to 8 minutes or until dough forms into a ball (you can knead by hand as well). If the dough is still very sticky, add in more flour by the tablespoon until dough no longer sticks to the bowl.

Transfer ball of dough to a well-oiled bowl (a neutral oil works best), cover with plastic wrap and a warm, damp towel.

Once dough has doubled in size (this should take 30-45 minutes), place dough onto a well-floured counter/surface and roll into a flat rectangle which should measure 28x18 (cutting rectangle in half may be easier to work with). Using a brush or spatula, spread ¼ cup softened butter over the dough. Leave about ¼” on one edge of the dough.

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle mixture over the dough and rub into the butter evenly.

Beginning with the smaller side of the dough, tightly roll dough into a log, pressing down the edge of dough that was not buttered to seal it. Trim edges of cinnamon roll log. Using a wire cake cutter or dental floss, cut 1-inch sections. There should be 18 rolls. A serrated knife works however a wire or floss will provide a more precise cut.

Place cinnamon rolls into a greased 9 x 13 or 10x10 round cake pan (2 9x9 pans work fine but the larger pan provides better uniformity among rolls). Cover with plastic wrap and a warm, damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

Remove towel and plastic wrap and bake on 350° for 25 minutes. While baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Let rolls cool for 15 minutes before spreading frosting over them. I like to sprinkle my cinnamon rolls with an extra dusting of cinnamon and some pecans or walnuts.

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