I don’t know about you, but I love breakfast breads like blueberry muffins, cheese danish, strudels, french toast, and cinnamon rolls. This past week, I got a hankerin’ for some fluffy cinnamon rolls, but I didn’t want to make the old stand-by recipe again. When we lived in Iowa a couple of the ladies in our church made cinnamon rolls using cake mixes, and they were always wonderfully fluffy and gooey, with just a slight hint of sweetness in the actual roll dough. I loved them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the forethought to ask for the recipe, so I’ve done without their wonderful rolls for the past 8 or 9 years now. Thankfully I’m not afraid to make up recipes as I go along, and that’s what I did with these bad boys! I think the key was the extra cinnamon and the fresh ground nutmeg – none of that preground junk for me. The flavor is so intense and really gives off a nice aroma. Oh so good! So come on chaps and chappettes, roll up your sleeve and prepare to get your hands dirty!
2 1/2 cups warm water (between 90 – 110 degrees F)
9 teaspoons instant yeast
2 (9-ounce) boxes Jiffy cake mix – yellow, white, or lemon OR 1 (18.25 ounce) box cake mix
5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
2 sticks butter, melted
Brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg
Raisins, nuts, chopped dried fruits, etc. (optional)
1. In a large measuring glass, sprinkle yeast over the top of the warm water. Stir in and cover with a clean dish towel for 10 – 15 minutes, or until yeast is dissolved and creamy (this is called “blooming” – sounds hard, but it’s very easy to do).
2. In a large mixing bowl combine cake mix, 3 cups flour, and vanilla extract (if using). Once yeast is creamy, add it to the dry ingredients and mix with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until just combined.
3. With a wooden spoon or your hands, continue to work in remaining 2 1/2 – 3 cups of flour to form dough. Dump dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed for 8 – 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, working in additional flour as needed. (NOTE: If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you can use this, but be warned, the dough is fairly sticky and pretty massive, so it may overrun your hook. I had to kneed it the old fashioned way.)
4. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size – depending on the temperature of your kitchen this should take anywhere from an hour to three. I find that setting it in my oven with the oven light on is a good spot.
5. When dough has doubled in size, deflate it with your fingers, place plastic wrap back over it and set it aside for about 10 minutes to rest.
6. Melt butter in a microwave safe dish, and brush a healthy amount of melted butter in the bottom of two 9″ x 13″ baking pans, or whatever sized dish you have. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of brown sugar over the butter in each pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
7. Dump the dough out onto a LARGE work surface – like a kitchen table or large island – if you don’t have a large work surface, cut the dough in half, cover with the oiled plastic wrap the half you’re not working with and set it aside. With a rolling pin or a smooth glass, roll the dough into a rectangle – making sure to keep the dough 1-inch thick.
8. Liberally brush the rectangle with melted butter, sprinkle with a healthy dose of white sugar and brown sugar. Take your cinnamon and cover the sugar completely – you want a lot of cinnamon. Then grate quite a lot of fresh nutmeg over the cinnamon – if you don’t have fresh, you can use ground, it just won’t have quite the kick that fresh does. You want the dough to be completely covered in cinnamon, nutmeg, sugars and butter – don’t skimp here.
9. Beginning on the longest side of the rectangle, roll the dough up fairly tightly, sealing the edges and making sure the seam is on the bottom of the roll. Cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch thick rolls with a sharp knife and place in the prepared pans. Don’t overcrowd the rolls – depending on how big your rolls are, you should be able to get 12 – 16 rolls per pan. (Repeat steps 7 – 9 if you divided your dough in half.)
10. Cover your pans with oiled plastic wrap and set on top of the warm stove to rise and double in size. Again, depending on the temperature of your kitchen this will take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Once fully risen, carefully remove the plastic wrap and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 17 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Allow the rolls to cool for 15 minutes before frosting or glazing.
Easy Cinnamon Roll Frosting
1 stick butter, melted
1 +/- pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or any flavored extract you’d like (optional)
Couple shakes cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
2 – 3 tablespoons milk or flavored creamer (I used French Vanilla creamer, but you can use any flavor you like – it will just make your frosting taste like the creamer flavor. I especially like the Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog flavored creamers in this recipe around the holidays.)
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter, powdered sugar and milk together until smooth and spreadable. You can adjust the consistency of your frosting how you like it. I like a thick and spreadable frosting so I add more powdered sugar, but if you want a glaze consistency you can thin it out a bit with more milk or creamer.
Note: if you want a citrus glaze substitute orange juice or lemon juice for the vanilla and use milk or half-n-half instead of flavored creamer, and leave out the cinnamon and nutmeg.