How To: Make Perfect Cinnamon Scrolls

17 March 2023

Homemade cinnamon scrolls - soft, buttery, spicy and oh, so delicious. Just add a little love and some patience (these can't be rushed) to some simple pantry staples and you'll have a special brunch, perfect morning tea or indulgent treat. Best-eaten warm, straight out of the oven with lashings of butter, cinnamon scrolls are a delight of a dessert to have on hand. Because we've tested a few recipes involving yeast, we know what is needed to succeed with cinnamon scrolls. You might also enjoy learning a bit more about baking with yeast in our how-to for Hot Cross Buns. Or, if you feel confident enough, dive straight into the deep end with our recipe for Hot Cross Cinnamon Scrolls. Here are our tips and tricks for perfect homemade scrolls.

Which yeast do you need for cinnamon scrolls?

Our Hot Cross Cinnamon Scroll recipe calls for active dry yeast, which is the most common variety sold in grocery stores, usually sold in small packets. It’s a living organism that’s dormant until activated in a small amount of lukewarm water or milk, about 43C. The yeast is then added to the rest of the ingredients, where it causes dough to rise.

How to activate the yeast

  1. Activate yeast in lukewarm milk or water. Yeast needs warm liquid to activate - be careful that it is not too hot or the yeast will die, too cold and it won't activate. 43 degrees is about the right temperature or try running the water over your wrist and if it feels warmer than your body temperature, but not hot, that should be just about right. Then sprinkle the yeast over the top.
  2. Add a little sugar. Yeast is fed by sugar, so adding a little helps to speed up the process. Add the sugar (if required, sometimes a recipe doesn't call for sugar) and stir gently.
  3. Be patient. Depending on how warm your house is, after a minute or two, it should start to look a little cloudy and bubbles starting to form. After 5-10 minutes, it should be foamy and your yeast is ready to use. If after 20 minutes, nothing has happened, start again with new yeast (and check your use-by date, old yeast won't activate).

3 tips for making the best cinnamon scrolls

Make sure your fats are at room temperature

Don't overheat the milk – anything hotter than lukewarm will kill the yeast once the milk is added to the dry mixture, which means the scrolls will not rise. You should be able to dip your finger in and if it feels warmer than your body temperature, but not hot, that should be just about right. Similarly, make sure the butter and the egg are at room temperature. This doesn't mean make the butter melt – melted butter in the filling will cause the filling to leak out, so keep that butter solid. Use a room temperature egg in the dough. A cold egg could affect the yeast or mix with the butter and cause it to coagulate. If you've forgotten to take your eggs up before hand, you can bring your eggs to room temperature by placing them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Look after your dough

Flour the rolling pin and the bench top to prevent the dough from sticking. Use the dough hook on a stand mixer to knead the dough. But no need to worry if you don't have a stand mixer; kneading can be done by hand. Knead until dough is smooth and a small piece can be stretched to a thin film and it does not break. Allow your dough to rise twice: the first rise after the dough is made, and a second after the rolls have been formed.

Cream the butter

Cream the brown sugar and spice into the butter for the filling so it's well combined. What does it mean to cream the butter? Well, creaming means mixing the butter and the sugar at a high speed so it is blended. When it's blended, it will be pale yellow and fluffy.

How to roll a cinnamon scroll

You've done all this work and now you're at the rolling stage. When it comes time to roll the dough, make sure not to roll too tightly. You might risk forcing the filling to pop out. The spiralled log should be rolled neatly and evenly, with the center of the rolls not popped-out. Rolling them just right means that they will proof and expand properly and then bake evenly, from outside to inside.

How to actually roll cinnamon scrolls

  1. Lightly flour your work surface to prevent the dough from sticking, and roll your dough out to your perfect thickness. A thicker dough will give you fluffy, bread-like rolls whereas a thinner dough will be slightly gooey and chewy.
  2. Spread the filling out right to the edges leaving a 1cm clear strip along one of the long edges. This way you’re able to easily pinch and seal the seam closed once the dough is rolled.
  3. Start rolling up the dough from the long edge firmly, but not too tight, to create a spiralled log and finishing with the seam side down.
  4. Slice evenly and carefully using a serrated knife. Take care not to squash the scrolls.

Before baking the scrolls, they will need a final rise on the baking tray. Place the scrolls on a lined tray with plenty of space between them to ensure an even and full rise. This process usually take about 30 minutes.

What is the difference between a cinnamon scroll and a cinnamon roll?

The names 'cinnamon scroll' and 'cinnamon roll' are used interchangeably – Australians calling them scrolls and Americans using the term 'roll'. Some say that can tell a cinnamon scroll apart from a cinnamon roll by the presence, or absence, of frosting. Cinnamon scrolls have a sugar glaze, while cinnamon rolls have a cream-cheese based icing. They may have different frostings, they may be cooked in square or circle pans, but ultimately, a cinnamon roll and a cinnamon scroll are largely the same thing. There is however a difference between a 'sticky bun' and a 'cinnamon scroll'. The key difference is in the ingredients and the baking method: sticky buns tend to have nuts in them, which are not a traditional component of the cinnamon scrolls. And unlike sticky buns, cinnamon scrolls are placed directly on a baking dish with the glaze drizzled over after baking.

Do you feel you can master cinnamon scrolls?

Once you've mastered the scrolls, we suggest experimenting with fillings and different spices. Fruit and nuts can be used for extra sweetness and texture. And while the classic cinnamon version is delicious, we recommend trying some spice blends – most definitely Hot Cross Bun Spice, as well as blends such as Apple Cake Spice, Chocolate Spice and even Pumpkin Pie Spice – for a unique twist to the classic recipe.


30 Nov 2022 John (Nugget)

Something for you.
I’ve learnt that to avoid the roll rising excessively in the centre, roll the cinnamon roll very loosly especially in the centre to give the rising doe space to expand into on the horizontal. Additionally you can use a length of dental floss to loop over your rolled dough to cut the scrolls without the crushing that a knive ‘can’ potentially do.Slighly warm your mixing bowl and baking tray so you don’t deactivate the yeast and slow the process down) and don’t be worried if they take hours to fully fill your tray on a colder day; sometimes yeast needs a little extra time extra time.
Lastly a sprinkling of demerara sugar over the top before you put them into the oven gives them a lovely sweet crunch and a cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar (splash of vanilla) frosting drizzled on whilst warm really adds something special.

We put a little piece of baking paper over the top of the roll (a-top the frosting) and then wrap the roll in plasic film. They freeze just fine; from the freezer 30 seconds in the microwave and thay are better than when fresh.

All the best.

31 May 2022 Irmgard Heap

Thank you so much! This is the clearest explanation I’ve ever read about baking with dough (and I’ve read quite a few). Looking forward to making these on Good Friday when the family comes over to colour Easter eggs.

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