Christmas morning never tasted so good with these Individual Warm Cinnamon Roll Bites with Cream Cheese Icing. And you can make them ahead and freeze them, too!
I don't know exactly when or why our Christmas morning cinnamon roll tradition started, but it's been running for decades now. It started out with the old Pillsbury tube ones, then progressed to homemade cinnamon rolls and finally, to these Individual Warm Cinnamon Roll Bites.
For the past few years, I have been making these ahead and freezing them (right in the ramekins!). I also make the cream cheese frosting ahead and freeze it too. Then on Christmas Eve, I take both out of the freezer to thaw over-night. In the morning, all they need is a quick trip to the microwave to warm and we're good to go. We serve them with homemade fruit salad.
I've spent some time working on these buns, with the goal of channeling the the famous Cinnabon® Center of the Rolls. After much trial and error, I think I've got it! My first few efforts, while delicious, were a little dry. I was after ooey gooey. This final version, declared delicious by my in-house test-tasters, nails it perfectly, I think.
Cook's Notes for Individual Warm Cinnamon Roll Bites
The process of making these Cinnamon Roll Bites involves much of the same process as making traditional cinnamon rolls, except you'll make 3 smaller jelly-rolls of dough, instead of one large one. These rolls are then chopped up into small, bite-sized pieces and tossed with some of the sweet brown sugar and butter "goo", which delivers the ooey gooey part. I also baked them loosely covered with tin foil, so they don't brown and crisp up. This ensures nice soft bites that soak up the goo and icing. For the final few minutes of baking, the remaining goo is spooned on top to melt in to the bites just perfectly and ensures that all that goodness doesn't end up at the bottom of the cup.
As for the icing, you can spread it on top or I like to microwave it in a measuring cup just a bit so it's a bit thinner and pourable, so I can pour it over the top. The icing then mixes in with the bites and goo, which is oh so lovely.
Individual Warm Cinnamon Roll Bites
Brown Sugar Goo:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp white sugar
- 1 cup milk scaled and cooled to lukewarm
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup butter softened
Cream Cheese Icing:
- 6 oz cream cheese softened (3/4 of standard block)
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- Make Brown Sugar Goo: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat and stir in cream and salt. Remove to a bowl, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Make Cinnamon Roll Bites: Heat milk in saucepan or microwave until 180° and set aside to cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flours yeast, salt and white sugar. Add lukewarm milk, egg, vanilla and vegetable oil. Mix to combine. Add more flour, as necessary until dough is moist and smooth. Remove to a greased bowl and allow to rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes.
- Remove risen dough to a floured surface. Roll into a rectangle 15-inches wide by 20 inches long. Spread dough with softened butter and then combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle dough with most of the cinnamon sugar (reserve a Tbsp. or so). With the short side facing you, cut dough in to 3 pieces 5-inches wide and 20-inches long. Starting with the long side of each strip, roll jelly-roll style and pinch seams together. Place the 3 rolls side by side on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the logs into 1/2-inch pieces. Place pieces into a large bowl, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and toss well. Take 1/3 cup of your cooled Brown Sugar Goo and toss with the dough pieces, mixing well.
- Prepare 8 ramekins on a baking sheet and grease or line with a piece of parchment paper (I do recommend the parchment, if you have some, as it will help to keep the icing and goo inside instead of going over the edge. Large tulip-shaped muffin lines will also work). Divide dough pieces between the 8 ramekins. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until puffy, 30-40 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 350° When dough is ready to bake, place baking sheet with ramekins on it in to the oven and place a large piece of tinfoil loosely over the top. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon the remaining Brown Sugar Goo over-top, dividing it equally between all the ramekins. Return to the oven and bake (again, loosely covered with the tin foil), for an additional 5 minutes. Remove tinfoil and bake for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven and then remove ramekins to a cooling rack to cool.
- Serve with cream cheese icing as is, or heat it for 10-15 seconds in the microwave and pour it over the top of the ramekins.
- To make ahead and freeze: Allow bites to cool on a baking rack, then slide the ramekins in to a large freezer bag. Freeze. To thaw, remove from freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature overnight (or 4 hours or sin the freezer bag. Can be warmed individually in the microwave. You can also freeze the Cream Cheese Icing in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge or for several hours at room temperature.