Johnson Family Cinnamon Rolls 


August 29  

Everyone always looked forward to a visit to or from my late mother, and a big reason is that she almost always made cinnamon rolls for the occasion. I didn’t get her recipe while she was alive, because cinnamon rolls were her thing; I didn’t want to compete with that. But now that she’s been gone for nearly two years, I’ve found myself missing that warm, gooey goodness, and when I finally tracked down the recipe card with a sister-in-law, I discovered my mom had only written down the ingredients for the dough—nothing else. So here is my take on it. I know my technique is entirely different, and my mom always made hers into sticky buns; my family totally prefers my frosted option. I always like to have a little of both.


  • Stand mixer with dough hook (or you can knead by hand)
  • Heavy saucepan
  • 2 9 x 13 metal baking pans, buttered
  • Rolling pin
  • Large, sharp knife for cutting dough


  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water, divided
  • 1/2 cup granulated or cane sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dry milk
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surfaces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated or cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon

 Sticky buns topping:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, optional


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar


In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm (approx. 110˚) tap water, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the yeast. Set aside until foamy and bubbly, about 5 – 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine remaining sugar, dry milk, 5 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add yeast mixture on low speed for 1 minute. Pour in remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water and combine. Add eggs and oil, mixing on low for 6-7 minutes or until dough comes together. Dough should be slightly sticky, but if too sticky to handle, add more flour 1/2 cup at a time.

Turn out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead first at least another minute, then set in a very large oiled bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest until doubled, about 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile, combine all the dry ingredients for the filling in a small bowl. Set aside. 

In a heavy saucepan, melt 1 stick butter. Stir in remaining ingredients for the topping and bring to a light boil. Turn down heat and simmer for another 4-5 minutes until glossy. Pour half of the topping in the bottom of one of the baking pans and sprinkle on pecans, if using.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn out onto a floured work surface. Divide in half and roll out each half into a rectangle, approximately 12 x 16. Spread the softened butter equally on each half and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over each as well. Starting at a short end, roll each rectangle up, slowly and gently, into a neat log shape. Cut each log into equal pieces (about 1” thick), and place cut-side down in the bottoms of both pans. Pieces should not be touching but be somewhat equally distanced. Cover pans with clean towels and allow for a second rise, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚. After the second rise is completed, bake in the oven 20-30 minutes until starting to brown and the dough is cooked through.

While baking, beat second stick of softened butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add vanilla and salt and mix again. Mix in powdered sugar on medium speed, about 4 minutes.

Immediately out of the oven, pour remaining topping over sticky buns pan.

Frost other cinnamon rolls while still hot with the cream cheese mixture.

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