5 Lessons You Learn When You Take On Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls

I love cinnamon rolls. While I associate them with a special occasion, they’re a year-round favorite, unable to be contained for just one holiday. Here’s the thing though—I generally don’t get cinnamon rolls in coffee shops or grocery stores. Unless it is a cinnamon roll kneaded with tons of TLC, I won’t do it. I mean, why waste a decadent treat on disappointment? That means bakeries (sometimes) and homemade goodness are the only acceptable options.

There is one cinnamon roll recipe in particular that causes me to be teleported to a world of rainbows and bear hugs. Grandma’s icebox rolls. These are the rolls I’ve eaten many Christmases, the rolls my mom made for every Senior Breakfast she hosted, and the rolls that instantly force a smile across my face. These are THE rolls.

Now, Grandma Moe’s recipe is a basic roll recipe, meaning that you can add an extra step or two for cinnamon rolls, breadsticks, monkey bread, etc. It’s magic dough, that’s what it is. And shoot dang is it delicious. Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 2 cups milk

  • 4 eggs

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 packages of yeast

  • 6 C all-purpose flour

  • LOTS of cinnamon & sugar mixed together

Cream cheese frosting ingredients: 

  • 1 container of cream cheese

  • Powder sugar

  • 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Now, as I got it in my cerebrum to create these rolls in my teeny tiny Brooklyn kitchen a few Sundays ago, I realized that while I had eaten these rolls, as well as assisted in the process, I had never been a one-woman show for the whole shebang. Icing station commander? Of course? But sole baker? Not to my memory.  


Whenever I try a new recipe, there are lessons I learn along the way. Don’t add scalding hot butter, let it cool first. Turn the fan on before the bacon grease sets off the smoke alarm. You know, that kind of thing.

These rolls seemed to yield more lessons than the average cookie (although if you’ve eaten a cookie or two of mine, you know they aren’t average).

1. Cool it, Ace.

Whether it’s the milk when mixing in yeast or the rolls before icing, cool it.

I’m not necessarily good at chilling out. But realistically, if you go 100 mph all the time, you will eventually burn out. Then no productivity will occur. You've got to learn to chill out and just go with the flow. 

2. A mistake seems a lot worse to you, no one else will know.

I beat myself up over the littlest things. I’ll be fretting over something ridiculous, thinking everyone is going to notice how I’ve screwed up. But ya know what? What you are embarrassed about, most people don’t even notice!

For instance, if you completely forget the eggs (which you then realize should be made into a separate instruction, because they can easily be overlooked), don’t worry. Others will still gobble down your cinnamon rolls and think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Don’t worry, champ, just walk in like you own the place. 

3. You can’t force some things to happen, you have to wait.

I hate waiting for rolls to rise. I hate it so much. And I know that this seems a lot like my first lesson, but hear me out: chilling the milk and then moving on is very different than waiting forevvvvverrrr for a good thing you know is going to happen. So many of us wait for milestones. Maybe you’re waiting for a relationship. Maybe you’re waiting for that “big break.” Maybe you’re just waiting for a change. Good things take time, but they’re coming. 

4. There are lots of shapes and sizes, but they all are dope.

Ya know how people come in all shapes and sizes and some are socially loved and others not so much? That’s sucky. Cinnamon rolls come in all shapes and sizes and we love all of them! They’re all a little different but equally delightful. So we should treat people like cinnamon rolls. That’s what I’m getting at here. 

5. Butter can fix anything.

This is true, ladies and gents. But, making this a little more philosophical, we all need that one thing that is our band aid fix. Maybe it’s an iced coffee (omg twins), or maybe it’s a baking day (omg twins again!). But if you have one thing that’s a “This fixes everything” type of mentality, your big problems will become smaller for a short while. 

It may sound silly, but trust me, it works.  

Alright, you've heard enough about my lessons coated in sugar. Now it's time to bake your own! 


  • Heat up the milk on your stovetop--be careful to not overdo it! Add in the sugar, salt, and butter. Mix it all in until you have a super fabulous foundation, then let it cool.

  • Beat your eggs, then add them into your milk concoction.

  • Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water and add a teaspoon of sugar. Add to teh milk/egg mixture.

  • Add 3 cups of flour into your milk, mixing well with a fork.

  • Continue to add in flour (1 cup at a time) until your dough is *kisses fingers* perfecto!

  • Kneed your dough like a pastry chef in Italia. This is very important.

  • Place your dough in a bowl that is 3X the size of your dough. Place a warm, wet towel over the bowl.

  • Let it rise (UGH I know, patience). It should take about 90 minutes. Give or take. Sneak a peek if you wonder if it's done or not.

  • Once your dough has risen the first time, take it out and cut it in two. Roll both parts out in rectangles.

  • Melt some butter (ok, you DO need a little more butter...you'll get over it) and slather it on your rolled out dough.

  • Now smother that buttery surface in your cinnamon and sugar mix. YUMMO.

  • Take the edge of your rectangle and roll it, making a beauuuuuuutiful roll. Pinterest worthy.

  • Cut the roll into pieces. Make those cinnamon rolls.

  • Place your cinnamon roll babies onto cookie sheets and place that warm, wet towel over them again. It's time for a second rise, y'all.

  • When you've let them rise again (give them another hour or two) you can stick them in the at 350 degrees.

  • Wait until your rolls have a beautiful coloring on top. I like mine a little squishy, but it's up to you. You do you, boo.

Wow, you have completed cinnamon rolls that Grandma would be proud of. Well done, WELL DONE! Now you wanna take them to the next level? Let's talk cream cheese frosting. 

  • Dump a container of cream cheese into a bowl. Add in some melty butter. NOTE: this butter is extra, it's not in the 1/2 cup you put in the rolls.

  • Then dump in the vanilla. I put 3 teaspoons, but you can taste it and decide.

  • Then keep mixing in powder sugar. You'll need to keep tasting. A sacrifice, I know.

  • OK, by now your consistency should be silky smooth. YAHOO! Now pour that lovely icing on your cooled cinnamon rolls and ENJOY!

Alright, ladies and gents, bakers and bakettes (that's not real), go bake the world a better place. 

FoodLily MoeComment