No-Knead Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

As a young child, like most young children, my brother and I took afternoon naps. Every afternoon, at 1pm, amid protests, we’d reluctantly snuggle into our beds, convinced we were neither tired nor in need of a nap. My mom would turn on the tv and then the vacuum cleaner. I’d lie there listening as the monotonous hum of the vacuum blended with the theme song of General Hospital. Usually, before either finished I was fast asleep.

Don’t be fooled by the soap opera music. Though I’ve never asked her, I imagine, because I know her and I know what she managed to accomplish, that the show most likely played in the background while she did all of the myriad of things she did.

The song would end, the vacuum would be stowed in it’s home in the hall closet. Then the magic would begin.

The industrious woman that is my mother would pull out her sewing machine and transform discounted fabrics into garments to clothe her family. She’d iron clothes previously fashioned by her hands. She’d create handmade ornaments for our Christmas tree, and crochet afghans to keep us warm.

From her kitchen, on a tight budget she would prepare the food that would nourish us. Shucked corn was cut  from it’s cob, bagged and placed in our freezer. She’d peel and pit and slice peaches and pears then process them in her water canner. The colorful jars, the fruit of her labor, would stand side by side with jars of home-canned tomatoes and green beans, all lined up like little soldiers on our pantry shelves waiting to be called into service. Her hands would peel potatoes, form biscuits, and fry chicken.

But she did more than that. She created things simply to surprise us, because she knew, upon waking from their reluctant naps,  her little ones would be delighted to find a cake covered in pink coconut and shaped like an elephant. And sometimes, we’d wake to homemade cinnamon rolls. I have no idea where she first found the recipe, but it has been a family favorite for half a century. It’s as good today as it was then.

Like the No-Knead bread, the Loafer’s Loaf, this recipe does not require kneading. It is simply mixed in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, covered and placed in the refrigerator for at least four hours. I’ve left it in the fridge for over a week and the results are just as brilliant. I have, on occasion, baked only half the recipe at a time. I’ve left the sugar out of the dough and used it as a pizza crust. I’ve put the rolls on a sugar, butter, and nut foundation to create pecan sticky rolls. I’ve served them naked, without icing,  or topped with a pastry glaze whose recipe is included here, and even iced them with orange butter cream.

The recipe is quick, easy, and forgiving. Make them according to the recipe here or bring your own imagination and create something completely new. Maybe top with Nutella or chocolate buttercream, or fill with Craisins and include some orange zest in the dough, or maybe find a way to incorporate strawberries or raspberries, or cinnamon apples.

Use your imagination and let me know what you think!

Favorite Cinnamon Rolls


  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 packages dry yeast. (1 package is equal to 2 1/4 teaspoons.  I used 4 teaspoons total because of my high altitude)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 cups of unsifted flour
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

Combine the butter, sugar, salt and boiling water in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. When the yeast is completely dissolved, add the butter mixture taking care that the butter mixture isn’t still hot. Add the 2 eggs and beat well. Add flour and beat until the mixture is blended. It will remain lumpy looking

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to a week.

Preparing the rolls:

When ready to bake, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and form into a ball. Remember, you do not knead. Simply form the dough into ball. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 1/4” thick. Spread 1 stick of melted butter across the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with approximately 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, more or less to taste. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and nuts, if desired.

Starting on a long edge, roll the dough jelly roll style. Pinch the edges to seal and place the seam side down. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 1” to 1 1/2” rolls. Lay rolls flat in a greased cake pan leaving approximately 1/2” between the rolls.  Your number of rolls will vary depending on the size of your rectangle and on how thick you cut them. Allow the rolls to raise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 -18 minutes.

There’s a printable recipe here.

Allow to cool and top with the prepared glaze.

Glaze: (Prepare while the baked rolls cool)

  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • dash of salt (to cut the sweetness)

Mix the confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Slowly add the milk until a nice, thick glaze is formed. Spread or pour immediately over the cooled cinnamon rolls.

Get the printable version of the recipe here.

Serve with a large glass of cold milk or a steaming cup of coffee and a generous pat of butter. (Ok, butter is optional, but in our family butter is a standard side dish). Oh, and don’t forget the company! These rolls are best enjoyed with a friend or family member and sprinkled generously with good conversation.


4 thoughts on “No-Knead Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

  1. I love how you describe your mom, her love language is to serve her family and she does it well. There were some tough years when you and Jeff were littles, you would have never know by the love your mom showed. Great story and great cinnamon rolls, everyone’s fav.

  2. OH MY OH MY … I can’t believe you shared your (mothers) fabulous recipe!
    I remember this to be my 1 request when I came to visit you in England. When I arrived there was a big tray of them stashed up high and out of reach of your wonderful family 😉 Just waiting my arrival and it didn’t take very long until I was thoroughly enjoying a hot coffee, a warm bun and a most wonderful friends company! When I think ‘cinnamon rolls’ I definitely always, with a warm heart, think of you!!
    It is has been said that when you share a recipe just leave out 1 ingredient if you want the bake to be exclusively yours … is that why cinnamon is missing of the ingredient list? 😉 Love you Lady!

  3. The pink elephant brought back memories. With 12 children to take care of on a pastor salary there weren’t birthday gifts but there was always a fun, creative cake to look forward too. I think I still have the Betty Crocker cookbook that has that pink elephant in it.

    • Wow! 12 kids and a pastor’s salary! I always did fun cakes for my kid’s birthdays too. It was fun for the kids and much more affordable. It’s funny because today, if I suggest buying a birthday cake they act as if it borders on child abuse. They love the homemade cakes! Thank you for sharing that!

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