This cake mix cinnamon roll recipe is a creative and tasty way to use a box of cake mix. By using cake mix as a base for the buns along with plain flour, the buns turn out extra sweet and flavorful. These buns turn out perfectly soft and pillowy and make an excellent addition to a brunch spread or as a special occasion breakfast on a slow weekend or holiday.
What are cake mix cinnamon rolls?
Cake mix cinnamon rolls are cinnamon buns that begin by using a boxed cake mix as a base instead of making the dough from scratch. This simple recipe lets you make different flavors of cinnamon buns by using any variety of cake mix you like – from rainbow chip to chocolate to yellow cake mix cinnamon rolls, the choice is yours!
Turning a box of cake mix and a few pantry staples into warm homemade cinnamon buns is almost magic. If you’ve never made cinnamon rolls before, this recipe is a great one to try! Besides the fact that it’s a lot more cost-effective than picking up Cinnabon, it’s easy to put together, and the buns come out perfectly every time.
Why You’ll Love This Cake Mix Cinnamon Roll Recipe
- Uses pantry ingredients: This recipe uses a cake mix and ingredients you likely already have in your pantry, so you can make these without a trip to the grocery store.
- So customizable: Want chocolate cinnamon rolls? Spice cake cinnamon rolls? Pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls? Absolutely! This recipe is all you need to make any flavor you want.
- Really quick to make: When compared with traditional homemade cinnamon buns, these cinnamon rolls with cake mix are a lot faster to make, so you spend much less time in the kitchen.
Ingredients for Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls
- Boxed cake mix – I used Rainbow Chip cake mix, but you can use any flavor you think sounds yummy.
- Butter – I like salted butter for this recipe. If you only have unsalted, you might want to add just a touch of salt to the dough.
- Active dry yeast – Make sure to check your best-buy date. If your yeast is a bit old, you might want to pick up a new package.
- Cream cheese – I always go for full-fat cream cheese, but low-fat will also work.
- Powdered sugar – Fresh powdered sugar is always easier to use, but if yours is a bit older or lumpy, give it a quick sift to remove those lumps.
- Pantry ingredients – flour, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla
How to Make Cinnamon Rolls From Cake Mix
To make cinnamon rolls using cake mix, follow these steps. It might seem like a lot of steps, but it’s really pretty simple.
Step 1: Make the dough.
Begin by pouring warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle your fresh yeast overtop and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. It will ‘wake up’ and develop a foamy look. That’s how you know it’s working.
Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer along with the cake mix and 3 cups of flour. Mix on low with a dough hook until the flour is combined. Add the last ½ cup of flour slowly, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well with each addition. Mix the dough for about 8 minutes and it should become smooth and elastic.
If your dough seems sticky, that’s ok!
Step 2: Let the dough rise.
Pour your oil into a large mixing bowl. Use a paper towel to spread the oil all over the sides and bottom of the bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and flip the dough over so that it gets totally coated in the oil. Over the bowl with a damp cloth and let it sit in a warm spot to rise for about 30 minutes. The dough should double in size.
Step 3: Prepare the cinnamon rolls.
Punch the dough down a couple of times to deflate it, then dump it out onto a floured work surface like a clean counter or large cutting board. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large rectangle.
Use a pastry brush to cover the top of the dough with softened butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar on top. Start at a long end and roll the dough into a log. Slice the log into 1” cinnamon rolls.
If your dough feels soft, wrap it in plastic wrap and set it in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes, until it’s able to hold its shape when you slice it.
Grab you baking dish and brush it with melted butter. Set all the rolls into the pan. Brush them with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle sugar on top. You might not need all the sugar. Just give them an even coating.
Let the dough rise one more time. Cover it with a damp cloth and place it somewhere warm for 30 minutes. The cinnamon rolls should again double in size.
Step 4: Bake the cinnamon rolls.
Remove the damp cloth and set the pan in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cinnamon rolls should turn a golden brown. Remove them and let them cool while you make the glaze.
Step 5: Prepare the glaze.
Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Then, add the powdered sugar and beat again until light and fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla and beat once more until fully incorporated and smooth. Spread the glaze over the cinnamon buns and serve hot!
Substitutions for Cinnamon Rolls Made With Cake Mix
Cake Mix – I used rainbow chip cake mix, but you can use any flavor you’d like. The best cinnamon bun cake mix flavor is the one you like the most! Consider which flavors will taste yummy with cinnamon, but you can also leave out the cinnamon and end up with something like a yeast donut.
Glaze – Instead of making homemade glaze, you can pick up a can of vanilla or cream cheese frosting. Beat it with a touch of milk until it’s creamy, then spread it over the cinnamon buns.
Here are a few fun cinnamon bun cake mix recipes you can make. Some I’ve tried and some I haven’t, but I think they’d all be delicious!
Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls: Use a pumpkin spice cake mix and add a cinnamon-sugar filling with a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Top with a cream cheese icing infused with pumpkin spice flavors.
Double Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls: Use a chocolate cake mix and add a touch of cocoa powder to the glaze for a double chocolate donut effect.
Fruit-Filled Cinnamon Rolls: Experiment with fruity variations by using a fruit-flavored cake mix, such as lemon, orange, or strawberry. Pair it with a fruity filling like lemon curd, marmalade, or strawberry preserves instead of cinnamon sugar.
Nutty Cinnamon Rolls: Incorporate chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts into the filling for added crunch and flavor. You can also sprinkle them on top of the icing.
Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls: Use a yellow or butter pecan cake mix for the dough and incorporate just a touch of maple syrup into the filling by drizzling it over the butter. Add a bit of maple syrup to the cream cheese icing and sprinkle on some chopped pecans.
Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls: Add apple pie spice to the filling and use a spice cake mix for the dough. Include diced apples in the filling and drizzle with caramel sauce.
S’mores Cinnamon Rolls: Create a s’mores-inspired version by using a chocolate cake mix for the dough. Add mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and crushed graham crackers to the filling. Top with glaze and more crushed graham cracker crumbs.
Recipe Pro-Tips to Make Perfect Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls
- This dough doesn’t need a ton of kneading. You just need it to come together.
- If the dough is sticking too much to your fingers, coat them with a touch of oil or flour.
- High-quality, fresh cinnamon will make a big difference. If your cinnamon smells a bit stale, you might want to pick up a fresh container.
- Warm places for your yeast to rise might be on the stovetop (but make sure it’s not too warm), in a sunny window, or in a pre-warmed microwave. Place a bowl of water in the microwave and heat on high for 1 minute. Quickly open the microwave door and remove the water. Replace it with the bowl of dough and shut the door as fast as possible so the heat and moisture are trapped inside. Keep the microwave off with the door closed for 30 minutes.
Serving Suggestions for
These Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls are the perfect treat for a special birthday breakfast. Stick a candle on top and serve with a touch of whipped cream and berries for a fun and memorable morning surprise.
Cinnamon buns are always a welcome treat for breakfast or brunch on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning. You can also make cinnamon rolls using cake mix for your next staff meeting, girls’ night in, or family movie night.
At room temperature – Because of the cream cheese in the glaze, these cinnamon rolls shouldn’t be stored at room temperature for more than a few hours.
In the refrigerator – Store these in their pan covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The glaze may start to separate so the sooner you eat them, the better!
In the freezer – Individually wrap each cinnamon roll in a few layers of plastic wrap and place in a large Ziploc freezer bag. Freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy again, thaw your cinnamon roll in the fridge for a few hours.
How to reheat – Reheat in a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes until hot. Keep them wrapped in foil while you reheat to preserve the moisture in the cinnamon bun. You can also use the microwave, just heat in short bursts of 15 seconds or so.
If your yeast isn’t foaming in the water, try again with a new package of yeast. Don’t proceed because your dough won’t rise and your recipe won’t turn out. You might also need to adjust your water temperature. If it’s too hot, your yeast will be scalded and die. If it’s too cold, your yeast won’t ‘wake up.’ If you’ve got fresh yeast and you think your water is a good temperature, try adding a pinch of granulated sugar to the bowl and give it a bit of stir.
I wouldn’t recommend it. While it might technically work, the cinnamon roll texture you expect requires yeast to produce. Yeast also has a distinct flavor that is partly what people love about cinnamon rolls and using baking powder instead will significantly change the flavor of the cinnamon buns.
Making cinnamon rolls with a cake mix is a really quick way to make cinnamon rolls at home, plus it’s so easy to customize the flavor since you can use any kind of cake mix you like.
There are usually a few culprits if your cinnamon rolls end up dry or tough. There’s a chance your yeast wasn’t effective. If your dough didn’t rise up double in size, your yeast might have not done its job. You may have also overmixed or overkneaded your dough. The other possibility is that you overbaked your cinnamon rolls and dried them out.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to ‘fix’ your cinnamon rolls, but the best way to enjoy a less-than-perfect cinnamon roll is to serve them is warm.
If you want to make cinnamon rolls out of a cake mix, you can use the cake mix to replace many of the common ingredients homemade cinnamon rolls normally require. Read through this recipe to learn more!
Other Cinnamon Bun-Inspired Recipes to Try
Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 ½ cups warm water
- 0.75 oz active dry yeast
- 1 15.25 oz package of cake mix (I used rainbow chip cake mix)
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup salted butter room temperature
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup salted butter melted
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- vegetable oil
- 250 g cream cheese room temperature
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the dough:
- Pour the warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 10 minutes, until the yeast develops and looks foamy.
- Pour the yeast mixture, cake mix and 3 cups of flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until the flour is well combined. Gradually add the remaining flour ½ cup at a time, mixing with each addition. Mix the dough for about 8 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. It might be sticky – that’s okay!
- Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl, then flip the dough over so that both sides are coated in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.
- Punch the dough a couple times to deflate it, then turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 10×16” rectangle.
- Spread ½ cup salted butter over the entire surface of the dough. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar on top. Starting at one long end, roll the dough into a log. If the dough feels very soft, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until it is able to hold its shape when sliced.
- Slice the log into 1”-wide rolls. Brush a 9×13” baking pan with some of the melted butter and place the rolls in the pan. Brush the rolls with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle the granulated sugar on top. You don’t need to use all of the sugar, just give the rolls an even dusting.
- Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes, until doubled in volume. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375F.
- Remove the damp cloth and bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool while you make the glaze.
- Place the cream cheese in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the milk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and fully incorporated.
- Spread the glaze onto the buns and enjoy!