Food & Drinkrecipes

Beth Kirby’s Cinnamon Roll Recipe

by Kristina Gill

Last week for Easter we featured a very traditional recipe for hot cross buns, a sweet bun I associate quite closely with England and Australia, but not so much with the US (despite the nursery rhyme!). This week, in contrast, we are featuring Soft Cinnamon Rose Rolls with Creme Fraiche Icing, a sweet bun that I relate quite closely with American sweets. The recipe is by Beth Kirby, the author and photographer behind the blog Local Milk. Beth is a fellow Tennessean, and recent winner of Saveur’s Best Food Blogs for her photography. It just so happens that while I was eagerly waiting to see Beth’s cinnamon rolls, I was making some sticky buns of my own, the calories from which will probably take the rest of the year and half of 2015 to burn off. That said, I think it’s ok to eat cinnamon rolls at least once a year, but only homemade ones.  –Kristina

About Beth: Born and raised in Tennessee, Beth Kirby works as a freelance photographer, writer, recipe developer and stylist, and she spends the rest of her time blogging about cooking with locally sourced ingredients, travel, the sacred found in the mundane, and entertaining on her website, Local Milk. Her work has appeared in print in Home and Hill Magazine and Food & Wine, and online on Kinfolk, Food52, Saveur, The Kitchn, Spenser Magazine and more. When not behind the stove, lens or keyboard she can usually be found combing farmers’ markets and flea markets alike in search of inspiration for her next project. You can find her on PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

See how to make Beth’s cinnamon rolls after the jump!


Soft Cinnamon Rose Rolls with Creme Fraiche Icing

yields 12 large rolls



  • 420 grams (3.5 cups) all purpose flour + 30-60 grams (1/4-1/2 cup) for kneading
  • 360 grams (1.5 cups) buttermilk, warm
  • 113 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted & warm
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 packet instant yeast (2 1/2 tsp, 1/4 oz)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs


  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, very soft and lightly whipped with a fork
  • 1 1/2 tsp rose water


  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche (note: to make from scratch combine 1 cup heavy cream with 1/2 cup buttermilk and let sit uncovered in a jar on a windowsill for 2-3 days, stirring occasionally until tangy and thick) Cover and refrigerate. (don’t worry: the acid in the buttermilk prevents the growth of bacteria)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar


Make the buns:


  1. Dissolve yeast in warm buttermilk (when warming, warm it gently, if it gets too hot it will curdle), add warm melted butter, sugar, salt, and eggs. Mix thoroughly by hand. Whisk the cornstarch with the flour (420 grams / 3.5 cups), and at to the wet ingedients, mixing thoroughly with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm place (I put mine in the oven and turn it on to 200 for about 1 minute every 30 minutes—if you do this, for the love of cinnamon buns, don’t forget to turn it off!) until doubled in bulk, about 1.5 hours. Push down and allow to rise again, 1.5 hours.
  2. Spread out a quarter cup of flour on a clean work surface (I just use the counter), keeping another quarter cup on hand if needed. You want to use as little flour as possible to form a rollable dough. The less flour, the more tender. Dump the dough out into the center of the flour and knead it in using your hands, adding additional flour if needed until you get a workable dough for rolling. Knead in flour *just* until you have a workable dough; don’t overwork it.
  3. Lightly flour a 20×20” square of your work surface, and roll out your dough into an 18×18” square, making sure it’s not sticking.
  4. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl fully incorporate the rose water into the butter with a fork, and then gently spread the soft butter all over the dough, leaving about a 1” border. Sprinkle the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture on top and spread out evenly, maintaining the 1” border. Starting with the edge nearest you, roll the dough as tightly as you can. Pinch the seam very, very well to seal. You don’t want them popping open.
  5. Grease a baking pan with high sides (sometimes I use just a pie plate for a half batch and a Pyrex for a full batch). Using a floured knife or dental floss (works wonders!) slice the cinnamon buns about an inch and a half thick. Gently reshape them if they get a little smooshed and place them in your greased baking pan. Now you can either make them straight through, or cover them tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit in the fridge overnight (up to 16 hours). Allow to sit out at least an hour or until rolls have doubled in size before baking. To make straight through, cover the rolls loosely and allow to rise in a warm place about 1.5 hours, until the rolls have doubled in bulk. In the last half hour of the rise, heat your oven to 325°F. Bake rolls on the middle rack uncovered for 25-35 minutes or until they reach an internal temp (I stick a digital thermometer in them) of 190°F. This way I can bake them just to doneness and maintain their gooey, soft texture without undercooking. Allow the rolls to cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

Make the icing and ice the rolls:

  1. Whip one cup of powdered sugar into 1/2 cup of creme fraiche until fully dissolved. Add more creme fraiche as needed to adjust consistency. Drizzle this all over your cinnamon buns while they’re still warm so it gets down in the crevices. Now it’s time to eat them with a big glass of – naturally – local milk if you can get your hands on it!


Why Beth loves this recipe:

Growing up my mother made cinnamon rolls all the time. Well, I guess I should say she “made” cinnamon rolls all the time. The truth is, she popped them out of a Pillsbury can. My brother and I would fight over who got to lick the tin of icing, and then there was the holy grail: the center bun. Soft and pale, it was the most coveted. And I’m pretty sure my dad usually pulled rank and took it for himself. But that center cinnamon bun texture was what I was after. So I invoked one of the pillowiest doughs I know: sweet, Southern dinner rolls, a.k.a. Parker House rolls. I adapted an old family recipe from my fiancé’s great grandmother for the base, and then I put my own twist on them by calling upon a Moroccan combination of cinnamon and rose in the gooey filling. Topped with a simple creme fraiche icing, these are worlds away from the center bun from a can ensconced in my memory, and I love this recipe because it’s equal parts childhood comfort and childhood fantasy with none of the dubious ingredients you might find in a can.


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