Soft & fluffy Cake Batter Cinnamon Buns from scratch. They taste like cupcakes!
I’m not sure you’re ready for this. I mean it’s only Monday. But a little sprinkle and funfetti to my mundane Mondays never hurt anyone, right?!
I made cake batter cinnamon rolls over the weekend and I didn’t even have to touch the box of cake mix I have in the pantry. That’s right! It’s possible to make these without cake mix.
The dough recipe I used for these rolls is the same dough recipe I used for my Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls. And it’s really quite easy! If you are afraid of yeast, please do not be intimidated; there is hardly any “work time” involved, just some “wait time” as the yeast does its job. Again, if you are fearful of using yeast, do not let that stop you from making these. It is a simple and straightforward recipe.
I chose to use this particular dough recipe as the base for today’s colorful rolls because I love how fluffy the end result is. The rolls are soft, tender, buttery, and sweet and truly make a wonderful “starter” dough recipe for any sort of filling. And I figured their fluffy, pillow-y texture and buttery taste would make the perfect base for a funfetti center. Swirls of sprinkles and sweet dough—how can you go wrong? For the yeast, I used Red Star Platinum. I highly suggest this yeast as it significantly cuts down on waiting/rising time. And no, I am not compensated to say it—I swear by Red Star Platinum yeast for ultimate fluffiness!
Baking with Yeast Guide
Reference this Baking with Yeast Guide whenever you work with baker’s yeast. I include practical answers to all of your common yeast questions.
I wrote a lengthy post about each and every step making this dough in my Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls post. **I highly suggest you read that before making these rolls because there are extra notes to know beforehand, especially if this is your first time baking with yeast.**
While the dough ingredients and prep methods are the same, I obviously used a different filling and I altered the glaze recipe a bit as well. Let’s start with the filling. The crème de la crème of today’s rolls. How did I achieve the cake batter flavor without cake mix? Well, I began thinking about the texture and taste of actual cake mix. Creamy, buttery, powdery smooth, vanilla-y, and sweet. I took those 5 main attributes and brainstormed ways to get them without using a box mix. For a creamy texture, I used dry milk powder. I had a box of dry milk powder in the pantry from when I made DIY hot cocoa mix a few weeks ago. You may find it in the coffee section of most grocery stores where the dry coffee creamer is. And in fact, you could also use dry coffee creamer instead of the dry nonfat milk powder. For the buttery flavor, I used cold butter. For the powdery smoothness, I used all-purpose flour. For the vanilla taste, I used vanilla extract. And for the sweetness, I used sugar. A cake batter filling without any cake mix.
Pulse it all in a food processor a few times with some salt to reach a crumbly texture. Stir in 1/2 cup of sprinkles – do not use nonpareils (the little balls) in your homemade cake batter mix. The butter will melt in the oven and the colors of the nonpareils will bleed. You may use nonpareils to decorate the rolls with the glaze before serving.
The recipe for the homemade cake batter crumbles makes a bit more than you will use in today’s recipe. Any extras may be tossed or used to make my Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats. **I do not suggest using this homemade mix to make my Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies or Cake Batter Blondies—the texture and ratios will be off without a leavening agent present in the mix.**
Sprinkle the homemade cake batter crumbles on top of the rolled out dough along with some cinnamon and softened butter. The butter will allow the cake batter crumbles to stick and the cinnamon is just necessary for cinnamon rolls, right?! I do not suggest leaving out the cinnamon as there may not be enough flavor without it. Plus, cake batter + cinnamon rolls are a killer combination! Just look at them—this one INSANE breakfast pastry.
When the rolls are finished in the oven and ready to serve, glaze them with the easiest vanilla glaze in the entire world. Heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Feel free to use half-and-half or milk in lieu of heavy cream. With either half-and-half or milk, keep in mind it you may need more sugar than I used to get the glaze to be as thick and creamy.
Shower the rolls with the sweet glaze and top with more sprinkles. The more sprinkles, the better.
I love the pops of color inside the coiled, fluffy dough—gorgeous tie-dye breakfast confections. And look how puffy and soft that dough is—this is truly the fluffiest, most tender yeast roll I’ve ever had. You will love this recipe! Serve the rolls warm and glaze right before serving. Any extra rolls may be frozen for up to two months, without the glaze. My birthday is only 2 short months away and you better believe this will be breakfast. Breakfast in bed, please (Kevin are you reading?).
There is nothing like a homemade sweet roll. Especially one with so many sprinkles 😉
**I highly suggest you read this raspberry swirl sweet rolls post before making these rolls because there are extra notes to know about the dough beforehand, especially if this is your first time baking with yeast.**Print
Cake Batter Cinnamon Rolls
- Prep Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours
- Yield: 15 rolls
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Soft & fluffy cake batter cinnamon buns from scratch. They taste like cupcakes!
- 1 cup milk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (2 standard size packets)*
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled), plus more for dusting/rolling
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 2 Tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder (or dry coffee creamer – do *not* omit)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold & cut into 4 pieces
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sprinkles (not nonpareils)
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Make the dough: In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until lukewarm (no need to use a thermometer, but to be precise: about 95°F (35°C)). Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and manually stir in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. Add the softened butter, eggs, and salt. Scrape down the sides and manually stir as needed. Chunks of butter will remain. Gradually add the flour and beat at medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for about 2 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
- Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving room on the sides. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling in, roll into a 10×24 inch rectangle. I used a ruler for accuracy. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick, even at the corners.
- Make the filling: In a food processor, combine the sugar, flour, milk powder, and salt. Process for 10 seconds. Add the pieces of butter and pulse for 10 more seconds. Add the vanilla over the top and pulse until the mixture is crumbly, about 10 more seconds. Toss in the sprinkles with a fork.
- Spread dough with 6 Tablespoons of softened butter and top with cinnamon. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cake mix filling overtop. There will be some leftover. See below for suggested uses. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 24-inch-long log. Cut into 15 even rolls (about 1.5 inches in width each). Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place until they are puffy, about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for about 25 minutes, until they are golden. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the confectioner’s sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla until smooth. Add more sugar or cream, depending how thick you want the glaze. Pour glaze over the rolls and serve warm.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The recipe can be prepared through Step 5. Cover the rolls and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and set out at room temperature for 1 hour before baking. Baked rolls can be frozen up to 2 months and warmed up to enjoy at a later date. Glaze right before serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Stand Mixer | 9×13-Inch Baking Dish | Rolling Pin | Food Processor | Mixing Bowl | Whisk
- Yeast: I suggest using Red Star Platinum yeast. This will cut the rising time down significantly. About 1 hour for the first rise and 1 hour for the second rise.
- Shortcut: Omit first 6 ingredients from filling recipe and use 3/4 cup yellow cake mix instead.
- Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
Keywords: cake batter cinnamon rolls
PS: The homemade cake batter filling recipe makes a little bit more than what you will use for today’s cinnamon rolls. I suggest using the extras to make my Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats.
Reader Comments & Reviews
Can this dough really rise at room temp overnight? I’ve made lots of your other rolls and they usually rise in the fridge and then you have to sit them out…just curious what the difference is here?
Hi Alison, it should be in the refrigerator. Let me take a look at how that instruction is worded and have it updated. Thank you!
Looking forward to making this for Easter Sunday (I frequently go to your site when asked for desserts…and I am using quite a few recipes for various obligations on Sunday 😉 ). Do you think I could use chocolate cake batter in place of vanilla batter for the filling and then a chocolate icing on top? Thanks for the great recipes and inspiration!
Hi Francesca, we can’t see why not! We’d recommend following the recipe note that mentions swapping the first 6 ingredients from the filling recipe and using 3/4 cup of yellow cake mix — but using chocolate cake mix. Let us know what you try!
A friend’s daughter is celebrating her first birthday in the coronavirus quarantine so thank you for instructions on how to make ahead. I was able to make and assemble these, drop them off for them to enjoy the morning of her birthday!
Also, the recipe is easy to follow!
Excellent recipe! Very tender and delicious bread recipe. I followed the recipe exactly except I used all the sprinkle filling instead of only 3/4. thank you 🙂
We have been making this recipe for 7 YEARS! It is our go to recipe for birthdays and celebrations. I’m here again because, of course, my kids request it for St. Valentine’s Day. I have made it many times, and not always exactly followed the instructions, but its always turned out wonderful! Thank You Sally, I will be back!
Can this be made with cake flour instead of AP flour?
Cake flour is used more for cakes and cupcakes, not for yeasted cinnamon rolls. You want a higher protein flour such as all-purpose.
Just had a question. I just made these, and wow OMG soooo good. I was doing a trial run as I’m planning to make them for my sister’s bridal shower. When I made the glaze, mine turned brown because of the vanilla extract. Has anyone had this problem? Does anyone know how to stop this? I like extract instead of essence, I think it tastes better and is better for you but it turned brown, not attractive at all really.
Though I did substitute milk for the cream as we don’t use cream and I didn’t want to buy a whole tub for a few tablespoons.
Hi Amanda – thick heavy cream usually offsets the brown vanilla extract. You could try finding clear vanilla extract if you’d like to, or reduce the amount of vanilla.
Just made these for breakfast and I am SPEECHLESS!! After testing multiple cinnamon roll recipes online, this takes the “cake” by far 😉 I allowed them to rise overnight and the dough practically tripled in size! Everything about them is pure perfection- the flavor, the dough, the appearance. Thank you for the wonderful recipe, as well as all the others which are proving to be flawless every time.
How can we make the cake batter without a food processor?
Hi Bethany – unfortunately you can’t. You need to pulse the butter with the other ingredients and there is no other way to do it.
I made these yesterday for Mother’s Day and my mom and sister loved them! Thanks for much for the great recipe!
These are wonderful! I made them on Tuesday and froze them to eat today while company was here; everyone loved them, especially my 5 year old daughter! I also want to thank you for your clear directions and tips – this was one of the best doughs I’ve ever worked with and I truly believe it’s because you made it so clear to follow. I’m hooked and now I want to try the raspberry sweet rolls!! 🙂 Thank you!