A Christmas Morning Cinnamon Roll Recipe

by Pamela

cinnamon roll recipe, cinnamon roll icing, cinnamon rolls

Christmas morning is usually pretty great as it is. But what if I told you I had a way to make it even better? GASP! Yes, better. Sometimes there’s a special breakfast treat on Christmas morning, but sometimes not. I mean, aren’t presents enough? But today’s post is for a recipe that’s easy to make and the results are pretty spectacular. Yeah, it’s a cinnamon roll recipe, but did you see what it looks like? A Christmas tree.

I’m not reinventing the wheel here, just the delivery package. The word “rolls” can mean a lot of things, so let’s not get hung up on the fact that the cinnamon roll Christmas tree doesn’t look like a traditional pan of rolls. Fat rolls don’t exactly look like yummy cinnamon rolls do they? No. So this cinnamon roll recipe has the the “rolls” in long tube shapes instead of rounds. This isn’t even “my” cinnamon roll recipe. Nope. This is a Molly Wizenberg recipe from Bon Appetit. The only thing that I do differently is omit her icing recipe. I like to drizzle the good ol’ confectioner’s sugar/milk glaze on top of my cinnamon rolls. But feel free to ice this tree if that’s what you and your crowd like.

But I do really like her recipe. Not only is it delicious, but considering it contains yeast and needs to rise, it’s an easy cinnamon roll recipe. It might be one of the easiest you’ll find.

A cinnamon roll tree for Christmas Breakfast

Making the cinnamon roll tree is a lot easier than it looks. After you roll out the dough, you cut it in half. Spread the good stuff on like usual then lay one half of the dough over the other. Mark out your tree shape and cut. You could make this into a wreath shape instead of a tree too. Measure out the strip width you want and cut them. Now twist. It really is easy to end up with that repeating pattern. I know you’re thinking that there’s no way yours will look this neat and tidy. It will, trust me. I took the cutaway scraps and rolled them into your more standard cinnamon rolls and baked them up too. Can you ever have too many cinnamon rolls around?

Cinnamon Roll Recipe Turned Festive

How do you eat this? Put it in front of kids and they’ll tear off the branches. Put it in front of adults, and after they get done taking a hundred pictures of it and try to figure out what to do with it, someone will reach for a knife and be all dainty and cut the branches. Don’t hesitate to eat the trunk, top and base because they’re all full of the good stuff to. If you want, you could make up an extra bowl of cinnamon roll icing and let people dunk til they’ve hit their proper sugar allotment.

These cinnamon roll Christmas trees also make great gifts. In fact, this one was going to a friend of mine. Oh, and if you wanted to make a savory Christmas tree, you could use tomato and basil pesto for the filling like I did with this pull apart bread recipe. Just make sure you drain the oils from the pesto. You need to remove as much oil as possible from it. Instead of using drizzles of icing over top, you could sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

So get on with your merry self and whip up a tree or two.

A Christmas Morning Cinnamon Roll Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This easy cinnamon roll recipe makes great cinnamon rolls but why not turn them into a cinnamon roll Christmas tree for a special breakfast treat?
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8
  • For Cinnamon Rolls
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk (or 2%)
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 3½ Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour (divided)
  • ½ Cup Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2¼ Teaspoons Rapid-Rise Yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable Oil Spray (or butter)
  • For Cinnamon Roll Filling
  • ¾ Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ Cup (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter (softened, room temperature)
  • For Cinnamon Roll Icing
  • ½ Cup Confectioner's Sugar
  • Milk
  1. For Cinnamon Rolls
  2. Add the milk and butter in a glass measuring cup and pop into the microwave, on high, until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F. (Do this in 30-45 second increments and stir the butter in between each session).
  3. Pour milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup of the flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt to the bowl.
  4. Beat on low speed for 3 minutes and stop from time to time to scrape down sides of bowl.
  5. Add the remaining 2½ cups of flour and continue to beat on low (you can increase the speed of your mixer to keep up with the consistency) until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl.
  6. If dough is still really sticky, add a bit more flour (a tablespoon at a time) until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. It will still be slightly sticky to the touch.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes.
  8. Form the dough into a ball.
  9. Lightly coat a large bowl with the vegetable spray, or butter.
  10. Drop the dough into the bowl and turn it over to coat the whole thing.
  11. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  12. For Cinnamon Roll Filling
  13. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  14. Punch down the dough.
  15. Slide the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a 24 x 12 inch rectangle.
  16. Cut the dough in half and spread butter over both halves of dough.
  17. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter on one half of dough only.
  18. Carefully cover the cinnamon sugar with the other half of the dough (butter side toward the cinnamon sugar) and line up the edges as much as possible.
  19. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and carefully slide the dough onto the pan.
  20. Make the desired outline of the tree you want then cut the shape out of the dough. (Carefully remove the scraps, because you can cut and roll them into rolls.)
  21. Decide how wide you want the trunk of your tree to be and carefully make horizontal slices up one side of the tree.
  22. Make equally sized slices on the other side of the tree. Make sure to leave some amount in the center for the trunk.
  23. Gently pat the two halves together before carefully twisting each one of the branches. (The dough may be a bit springy, but you'll get them all to work out evenly.)
  24. Cover with a towel and let sit in a draft-free warm place for 40-45 minutes.
  25. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  26. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  27. Remove from heat and let cool before icing.
  28. For Cinnamon Roll Icing
  29. Start by adding ½ cup confectioner's sugar to a bowl.
  30. Add 1 tablespoon of milk and stir to combine.
  31. Continue adding a little bit of milk at a time until you reach the consistency you like.
  32. Drizzle or pour over top of cinnamon rolls.
Take the scraps that were cut away from the tree and cut them into strips then roll them into traditionally shaped cinnamon rolls. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch pan and tightly arrange the rolls in the pan. You may not fill the entire pan. Start at a corner and work out from there so they are tightly arranged. Let rest and bake as directed for the tree.


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Kim November 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I wonder if you could refrigerate this overnight before the 2nd rise, then bake it in the morning? I really don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to make a cinnamon roll tree!

Pamela November 19, 2014 at 6:39 am

Hi Kim, I don’t blame you…I wouldn’t want to either. Yes, you could pop this into the fridge before the second rise. Just bring it out in the morning, let it do it’s thing and bake. Sweet dreams.

Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl December 31, 2013 at 8:24 am

I am late for this for Christmas morning but who says I can’t have it for a off Christmas weekend! Can’t wait! Looks amazing.

Pamela December 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thanks Pamela,

I say…make it Christmas morning any day with this one. 😉 Have a happy new year!

Kathy December 24, 2013 at 5:09 am

This is a beautiful idea! Looks complicated, but you make it sound easy enough that I am going to have to try this!

Pamela December 24, 2013 at 8:14 am

Hi Kathy,

It really isn’t complicated. The hardest part is figuring out how big to cut the tree shape.

To help you out here’s a couple of tips: Once you have your tree shape decided and cut out you need to figure out how wide to make the “trunk.” I pre-marked mine (lightly) with the blade of my knife. That will give you a line to cut the branches in to. I also used a sharp edged knife. Don’t use a serrated knife or you’ll drive yourself bonkers (it will shred the dough and and really stick). Don’t let the springyness of the dough frustrate you when your twisting the branches. Just keep twisting up the rest of the branches…you can always go back to a “pre-twisted” branch and work it a little bit more. Oh, and if you’re really worried about the branches coming apart from each other you can gently rest the ends of the branches against each other. When it bakes, they’ll come together just fine.

Your tree will look great and taste even better! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sarah|pickledcapers December 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Love the line about adults taking a hundred pictures. Love the idea of making extra glaze for dunking even more. Merry Christmas indeed!

Pamela December 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Sarah!

I hope you have a Merry Christmas as well. Happy dunking. 🙂

Dina December 22, 2013 at 11:29 am

that makes such a pretty presentation for breakfast!

Pamela December 22, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Thanks Dina,

I’m pretty sure something like this on the table could even holds its own after opening all the presents too. 😉 ENJOY!

Bert R. Burton December 22, 2013 at 8:13 am

These deliciously fluffy rolls were a hit at my house. I did half the batch cinnamon the other half mccormicks chai spice blend and both were mouthwateringly delicous. If your a fan of chai this may become a new favorite…it did for me.

Brigitte December 22, 2013 at 1:35 am

Great recipe. Can i make it the night before and then put it in the oven christmas morning?

Pamela December 22, 2013 at 9:28 am

Hi Brigitte, thank you. You’ve asked a GREAT question.

The answer is yes you can. Cover the shaped dough tightly and refrigerate up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator, partially unwrap and let rise until doubled. Then bake according to directions. Basically you’re going to do that second rise (the one that takes about 40 minutes after you’ve made your shape) and do it after the refrigerator. So pop the dough into the fridge as soon as your done shaping your tree. (It may take a bit longer than 40 minutes to rise since the dough will be cold…prob around 60 minutes).

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef December 21, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Pam, this is so classy for Christmas morning. I think I might give this a try. We all love cinnamon rolls.

Pamela December 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thanks Maureen. 🙂

You know me…classy (LOL). If you love cinnamon rolls, you’re gonna love this. It’s so much fun to eat by pulling off the branches. ENJOY!

Mom December 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Nice to see a fancy Cinnamon Roll Christmas tree. My Mother use to make it with the regular rolls and I did to a few times. Mainly I would make the cinnamon rolls for the holidays. As children we had them weekly on Sunday. It was a great German Breakfast roll.

Pamela December 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Ummmmm…and why didn’t WE get this magical German breakfast roll? I mean c’mon…Cheerios?

DessertForTwo December 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

Can I head to your house for Christmas this year? I’m craving cinnamon rolls!

Pamela December 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Please do Christina! 🙂

Nancy Rose Eisman December 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

These are definitely one of the top five in all of the season’s baking awesomeness!

Pamela December 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Thanks Nancy! They’re so good…and you can even eat the scraps. 🙂 So even if you’re giving this as a present, you can roll up the scraps into regular cinnamon rolls and bake them up for the people at home. No one gets left out.

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