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recipe showdown: cinnamon rolls

I like big buns and I cannot lie.  I would choose a warm, gooey, buttery cinnamon bun over chocolate cake any day.  Since they are always the star of the brunch table, they better be good.

This may have been my favorite experiment yet.  What would I rather do on a Monday night than play with pounds of butter, sweet brown sugar, and huge blocks of cream cheese? Um, nothing. 

Even hours after these magical buns came out of the oven, my entire house smelled like that heavenly corner of the food court near Cinnabon.  The aroma is so distinct, sweet, buttery -- just the smell of Cinnabon can catch me halfway across the mall.

maple glazed cinnamon buns
clone of a cinnabon
This recipe was developed by none other than Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.  It has a unique, maple coffee icing. I have made these buns in the past and finished almost the entire tray singlehandedly.
This recipe has over 4500 five-star ratings on All Recipes, and is said to taste even better than the shopping mall favorite.
taster’s notes
unexpected taste
drenched in icing (is that a bad thing?)
classic cinnamon bun
better for breakfast

I prefer this one by a landslide

More traditional

I like the light-dark appearance of the icing and the bun

funny looking, but oh-so good!
Both of these buns were amazingly delicious, so it seems a bit unfair to choose a "winner."  Most of my taste testers favored "clone of a cinnabon" due to its familier taste.  Plus, I have to admit that the "clones" looked much prettier -- swirled tight and slathered with rich, tangy, cream cheese icing.

However, personally, I preferred Ree's recipe for maple-glazed cinnamon buns.  Despite their homely appearance, I found these much more addictive.  The maple and the coffee flavors in the icing conjured up memories of wonderful weekend breakfasts.

I brought both varieties to my English class this morning to try to narrow down the competition.  Although I did a great job distracting my class from The Great Gatsby with my icing-slathered buns, I did not do a great job narrowing down the competition. The "clones" were all chosen first.  However, everyone who tasted the maple-coffee variety raved about it.  It was a tough call. 

The verdict:
If you are a traditionalist, the "clones" never fail to impress. Plus, they are (slightly) less messy than the Pioneer Woman's and present really well.

If you are looking for a sinful, sticky, highly addictive treat that should be eaten with a fork -- make Ree's.

With love,

P.S. Here is the link to Ree's cinnamon buns 
Clone of A Cinnabon
{All Recipes}

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups AP four
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving


  1. I love this post! And I was recently reading your blog when you did a CCCookie comparison...I have been getting into yeast-bread making and have been stalking cinn bun recipes like it's my job trying to decide on the 'perfect' roll to make..wondering if that would be Ree's, or another, or what...I am still torn :)

    1. Thank you so much! I absolutely LOVE doing these recipe comparisons (it really brings out the science nerd in me). Try them both! I would love to see which one you like better (and am still determined to get a more clear result for this post!)

  2. So excited about the recipe you think I could make the clone rolls without a bread machine? I don't have one, but could just make the dough like I do in other recipes...what do you think? I do love Ree's maple frosted ones, too. They aren't lovely to look at but taste DELISH!

    1. Thank you so much! Of COURSE you can! As a matter of fact, I made mine in my stand mixer! I added the sugar and yeast and water together, then I slowly added the flours, and kneaded until I got a nice, pliable dough. I let it rise until double, and continued to follow the recipe and they turned out beautifully.

  3. Is it possible to make these without a bread maker?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. just mouth watery as it beautiful, I should really let my mother cook this one for me. Haha

    1. Thank you so much! I hope she does! In my opinion, cinnamon buns are the ULTIMATE comfort food!

  5. Okay, so your recipe calls for warm milk, but you said in your comments that you mixed sugar, yeast and water...please clear this up. Most recipes call for warm water, but your recipe says milk! I want to make these so please clear this up for me!

    1. The recipe does call for milk, and milk will make these buns very moist and rich, however, I often substitute water because my mother is lactose intolerant. So either liquid will work!

  6. You will conquer the world.
    Question: you've talked me into trying Ree's recipe, but I'd like to just make one cake tin's worth. Should I halve her recipe?
    Cheers from London

    1. Why thank you! I would make a whole batch (you'll love them, trust me)


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