Making cinnamon rolls five different ways: Personalize your shaping

There’s nothing better than making cinnamon rolls at home, and soaking up the heavenly smell that wafts from the oven. The sweet scent of cinnamon, butter, and sugar promises it’s going to be an extraordinary day. But the look of cinnamon rolls isn’t always as enticing — they’re usually just straightforward swirls.

Not anymore!

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Whether you’ve never tried making cinnamon rolls or you’re a seasoned pro, there are a few simple shaping techniques that truly make this classic breakfast treat worth jumping out of bed for in the morning.

From double swirled rolls to basic knots to pull-apart buns (and more!), personalize your cinnamon rolls with these easy shaping methods. Click To Tweet      

Big Batch Cinnamon Rolls via @kingarthurflour

Photo by Posie Brien

The magic of homemade cinnamon rolls starts with the right recipe. When I’m making cinnamon rolls, I use our Big-Batch Frosted Cinnamon Rolls recipe so there’ll be more than enough to bake and share.

Plus, with so much dough, you have options! You can shape the dough the traditional way, making classic spiraled buns. Or if you’re looking to try something new and whimsical, you have the freedom to try another shaping technique to make your breakfast treats extra-special.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Start with the dough

Whether you’re making our Big-Batch Frosted Cinnamon Rolls or using your favorite recipe, prepare the dough through kneading. Let the dough rise once as instructed. It should become visibly expanded and puffy.

Then it’s time to turn the dough out of the bowl and deflate it gently.

Making cinnamon rolls: Choose your shape

Now comes time to decide how you’re going to shape your cinnamon rolls — perhaps the standard spiral is calling your name. Or if you’re looking for something unique and elegant, we also have four additional techniques for you to try.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

1. Traditional spiral

Before we get fancy with our shaping, let’s make sure we master the traditional spiraled bun. Start by rolling your dough into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Don’t worry about exact dimensions — it’s more important that the dough is the right thickness.

Next, spread soft butter over the dough (if your recipe calls for this step). Then sprinkle cinnamon filling evenly on top, leaving a 1/2” border exposed along one of the long edges.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Our Baker’s Cinnamon Filling uses Vietnamese Cinnamon and Baker’s Special Sugar to make a luscious filling that’s perfect for cinnamon rolls.

Then roll the dough into a log, starting with the long edge that’s covered with filling. Roll the dough somewhat tightly so the spiral is nicely defined — but not so tightly that the center of the rolls pop up during baking. A snug roll is what you’re aiming for.

Once the log is rolled up, slice evenly into rounds. (See our post featuring a simple trick for cinnamon buns to learn how to slice your rolls perfectly.)

Thicker slices will give you fewer, taller cinnamon rolls that require a bit more time in the oven. Or you can slice the rolls a bit thinner (about 1″ thick) to make shorter rolls. You’ll end up with a higher yield if you slice them thinly — choose what works for you.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Place the sliced rolls onto a baking sheet or into a pan as the recipe directs. Nestling the rolls somewhat close together will result in tear-and-share style cinnamon rolls. Use this approach if you want the sides of the rolls to be tender and soft after baking.

Bake the cinnamon rolls using the temperature and time provided in the recipe. The rolls should be golden brown, and your kitchen should smell like pure heaven when they’re done.

The final result is simple but timeless: a perfect cinnamon roll spiral!

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

2. Double spiral

If you like the look of spiraled cinnamon rolls but want to take it one step further, a double spiral is for you.

Start with your dough rolled into a 1/4”-thick rectangle with the filling spread evenly over the top. Spread the filling all the way to the edges for this shaping method.

Working from the long edge closest to you, roll the dough towards the center. Remember to roll the log somewhat tightly so the spiral is snug.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Don’t worry if one of the logs starts to unfurl as you roll up the other. You can pinch the two logs together right before slicing, and they’ll turn out perfectly!

Once you get to the center of the dough, rotate it so that the other long edge is facing you. Roll this edge toward the middle until it meets the other log in the center. (If you’ve ever made palmiers, this shaping method will be familiar.)

Pinch the two logs together slightly so they stay rolled up. Now you’re ready to slice the rolls as you normally would. (Remember to use dental floss for neat slicing!)

Place the sliced rolls on a baking sheet or in a 9″ by 13″ pan, being sure to leave 1″ to 2″ of space between each of the shaped rolls. (Otherwise, the rolls will form together as they bake and you’ll lose the distinct design.) Let the shaped rolls rise until puffy and then bake as directed.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

This shape is familiar but fancy. It’s perfect for smearing with lots of frosting on top since there’s extra surface area — bonus!

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

3. Basic knot

If you’re a baker who likes to get a little creative, try making your cinnamon rolls into basic knots.

This shaping method also starts with a rectangle of dough about 1/4” thick. Cover it with butter and cinnamon filling, leaving a 1” border along both long edges bare.

Next, fold the dough over onto itself so that the two long edges meet each other. Pinch the long edges of dough together to seal.

Now it’s time to pull out your pastry cutter, pizza wheel, or kitchen scissors. (If you don’t have one of these tools, you can also use a careful hand and sharp knife to do the following step.)

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Slice the dough into strips about 3/4″ to 1″ thick.

Working with one strip at a time, pinch the strip closed, sealing in any cinnamon filling. Elongate each strip slightly by pulling gently on the ends.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Now you’re ready to tie a basic knot! Make a loop in the middle of your strip. Cross one of the ends behind the loop and pull it through the middle.

Gently pull the ends of the strips so that the loop closes slightly and the knot tightens. If the ends are overhanging the knot by a few inches, tuck the ends around the back of the loop and up through the center.

If you’re a visual learner, check out our video demonstrating how to shape a basic knot. It’s easier than tying your shoes, I promise!

Repeat with all the remaining strips of dough, placing the finished knots on a baking sheet as you work. Let the knots rest until they’re puffy and then bake.

These cinnamon roll knots give garlic knots a run for their money! They’re just as delicious as they are whimsical.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

4. S-shaped buns

Our St. Lucia Buns recipe inspired another shaping technique for you to try the next time you’re making cinnamon buns at home.

Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 10″ by 15″, about 1/4″ thick. Spread butter and then cinnamon filling evenly over one half of the dough the long way; the cinnamon-covered area should be roughly 5″ by 15″ long.

Pick up the bare long side of the dough and fold it over the cinnamon filling to meet the edge on the other side. Pinch the ends and long seam shut.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Cut the dough into even strips about 3/4″ to 1″ thick.

Pick up a single strip and pinch it slightly to seal in the cinnamon filling. Roll it between the palms of your hands to round out the edges, turning it into a twisted log of dough.

Place the log onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Take one end of the log and roll it toward the middle, making a swirl. Stop rolling once you reach the middle of the log.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Now roll the other end of the log toward the center in the opposite direction. Tuck the ends of the logs under the center of the dough to keep them from unraveling. Your goal is to end up with a swirled S-shape.

These S-shaped cinnamon rolls look like fancy Swedish cinnamon knots, twisted up in all their cinnamon sugared glory. They’re a treat for the eye and your taste buds, too.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

5. Pull-apart

If you’re making cinnamon rolls for people who aren’t afraid to get their hands sticky, make pull-apart cinnamon rolls! They’re inviting and informal; perfect for kids who want to dive in with their hands.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Roll your dough into a 1/4″-thick rectangle and spread the butter and cinnamon filling almost all the way to the edges. Cut the dough in half the long way so you have two long strips.

Place one strip on top of the other so the cinnamon filling is facing up.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Now cut the stacked strips into thirds. Carefully pick up one strip and place it on top of the other. Repeat the stacking process with the last strip. You should end up with one long strip made up of six layers of dough.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Slice the dough (using dental floss or a sharp knife) into 2” portions. Each portion should look like a little fan with lots of layers of dough, cinnamon filling, and butter.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Place the portions of dough in a lightly greased muffin pan so the layers are standing on end.

Make your pull-apart cinnamon rolls extra decadent by drizzling them with melted butter and sprinkling with additional cinnamon sugar. (I love using our Cinnamon-Sugar Plus for extra ease and rich flavor. It’s not a necessary step, but it’s a nice touch that boosts the flavor.)

Let the pull-apart rolls rise a final time before baking as directed in your recipe. They may bake slightly faster than a full pan of cinnamon rolls so check for doneness about 5 minutes early.

Once baked, it’s time to serve and enjoy! Pull the layers apart and eat one at a time, or just take a big bite. It’s your choice.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Personalized shaping: The best way to make cinnamon buns

Making cinnamon rolls at home is an experience every baker should have — and our Big-Batch Frosted Cinnamon Rolls recipe makes it easy to personalize this classic breakfast treat. We hope you’ll whip up a (big) batch the next time you need something sweet to share.

Making cinnamon rolls at home via @kingarthurflour

Be playful and try your hand at some of these shaping methods. Use a quarter of the dough to make a 9″ cake pan of traditional swirled rolls. Then mix and match, using the other three quarters of the dough to try some of the other shaping methods.

You’ll end up with a variety of shapes, all unique, beautiful, and delicious!

What’s your favorite memory of making cinnamon rolls at home? We hope you’ll share what makes cinnamon rolls special for you in comments, below.

Thanks to Anne Mientka for taking the photographs for this post.

Kye Ameden

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Marketing Team.


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Betty, the topping from the Our Favorite Sticky Buns recipe would work beautifully on cinnamon rolls! Feel free to subtract the nuts and add a little cinnamon for an extra boost of flavor. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Nancylou, while any sweet recipe is going to have a lot of carbohydrates involved, we do have a number of savory recipes that work better for folks like yourself who need to watch their carbohydrate intake. As an example, our Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby recipe has 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving, compared with 59 grams for these cinnamon rolls. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

    1. Judy Head

      I bake them until they are done but only slightly browned then let them get cold before I freeze them. When I am ready to eat them I bake again and put icing once they’re cooled a bit from the oven. Go easy on the sugar if you plan to freeze them to control moisture.

  1. Donna

    At what point could I freeze the dough? I have a daughter in college and like to take her tastes from home. I’m assuming prior to the second rise. Shed need to pull them out of the freezer, let them defrost, rise prior to baking. Could you confirm? This would be perfect for the individually shaped rolls. Thank you.

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Hi Donna,
      If you’re looking to freeze cinnamon buns, it’s best to do this once they’re almost fully baked (or fully baked but not frosted). Freezing unbaked cinnamon buns gets messy because during the thawing process, the cinnamon-sugar filling leaks out of the dough and becomes liquidy and sticky. If you freeze the buns once they’re already baked, they can simply be thawed and reheated, and it’s almost like they just came out of the oven for the first time. Check out this article on our blog, Freeze: Cinnamon buns in 20 minutes. It includes all the details you need to know to bake your buns perfectly. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Mayre

    Love this dough! I made a cinnamon swirl bread, shaping it like the Bake Along with Joy the Baker, and cooking it up in my cast iron frying pan- so easy and forgiving. I used www, 1/4 cup of potato flour, and a tablespoon of buttery flavor. And I added a couple of drops of cinnamon oil to the frosting and used cinnamon sweet bits in the filling. Thanks for such an easy, versatile recipe!

  3. Viv

    I used a modified double spiral to make heart shaped cinnamon rolls for Valentine’s Day. Just pinch the middle and elongate the buns a bit, and place in a rectangular pan alternating the direction. Proof and bake as usual, then frost with pink icing.

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      You read our minds, Viv! That’s precisely what we were thinking about doing next month when we’re trying to bake all things heart-shaped and romantic. Thanks for mentioning it here. We encourage bakers to give it a try if they’re looking to bake for a special someone. <3 Kye@KAF

  4. Ky

    I love all these variations! One other way to shape is as a butterfly bun. Roll up as for the spiral, but instead of cutting them thin, cut them about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long. Place the dough horizontally with the seam side down, then use the handle of a wooden spoon or large chopstick to press down in the center of dough, almost all the way through. The spiral will kind of fan out to form two “wings”. Bake with enough space in between so they do not touch.

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      A cinnamon sugar-studded butterfly bun? How creative! We love the idea of creating that shape that has multiple spirals and is reminiscent of a butterfly. Believe us when we say we’re going to give this a whirl in the test kitchen soon. We can only imagine how beautiful it will be. Thanks for writing! Kye@KAF

    2. Katie

      This was the first kind of sticky bun I made–the recipe was in my mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook. A stripe of icing down the center when baked enhanced the butterfly look. Thanks for bringing back the memory!

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