This cinnamon roll cupcake recipe uses canned cinnamon rolls as the base, and they're made even better by soaking them in heavy cream and butter to add moisture and fluff! Top them with my favorite cream cheese frosting and a small piece of white chocolate cinnamon roll bark for an adorable dessert.
One of the most adorable cupcake recipes I've ever seen has been this cinnamon roll cupcake from Pies & Tacos: vanilla cupcakes with cinnamon sugar swirls, piled high with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and topped with glazed mini cinnamon rolls as decoration.
Truly #cupcakegoals. Camila has a great gift when it comes to gorgeous baked goods.
However, I am tired and thoroughly weighed down by my chronic illness, so I have become much more focused on finding lower-effort ways to create delicious desserts so that I can spend more time eating and less time baking them.
And that, my friends, is where these shortcut cinnamon roll cupcakes come into play.
No whisking dry ingredients, no fussing with cupcake batter. The process for the base is basically:
The Best Type of Muffin Pan
I highly, HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a Caraway muffin pan (in Perracotta, if you want to copy me). This thing blew away my expectations, and I think I'm gonna start making everything in cupcake form just to be able to use it for EVERYTHING.
The Caraway muffin pan is:
• non-stick (like, SERIOUSLY non-stick)
• oven safe up to 550⁰F
• free of PTFE, PFOA, and other toxic metals
Removing the cinnamon rolls from this pan took legitimately no effort – they just popped right out. Check out the recipe video to see what I mean!
For the cinnamon rolls
- Refrigerated cinnamon rolls – The rolls in the 8-count size from Pillsbury fits so perfectly in a regular-sized muffin tin that it's hard to believe they weren't made with the purpose of being used in this recipe! I haven't tried it myself, but if you have the jumbo size that comes with 5 rolls, I believe you could make them in a jumbo cupcake pan – but those are going to be really big cupcakes. Be warned.
- Melted unsalted butter – We're using this to add richness, moisture, and fluff to the canned cinnamon rolls. As a bonus, it also helps prevent the rolls from sticking to the pan!
- Heavy cream – This adds softness to the pre-made cinnamon rolls. I find that refrigerated cinnamon rolls are a bit dry for my liking.
For the frosting
- Cream cheese – Because, you know, cream cheese frosting. Room temperature blocks of cream cheese, not the spreadable kind you use on bagels.
- Unsalted butter – Adds structure and flavor to the frosting. And make sure it's room-temperature butter! If you're not sure what that means, check out this post about what it is and why it's important.
- Vanilla bean paste – I typically clear vanilla extract in my frosting since it doesn't add any color to it, but in this recipe, I use vanilla bean paste to add another dimension of flavor and gorgeous specks to the frosting.
- Powdered sugar – Adds sweetness and structure to the frosting, and can be scaled up or down based on your personal preference for sweetness.
I topped mine with little pieces of white chocolate cinnamon roll bark, which I think makes for an adorable decoration. If you'd like to do the same, I'd suggest making a quarter-batch of the recipe you see in that post:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 ounces white chocolate
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
How to Make Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
Step 1: Spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray (no cupcake liners needed), then place 1 roll in each muffin cup.
Step 2: Evenly distribute the melted butter on top of each roll – it works out to be a scant teaspoon for each cup. Follow with heavy cream on top of each roll – about 1/2 tablespoon for each cup.
Step 3: Bake for 13 minutes or until the tops are domed and golden.
Step 4: Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 5: While the cinnamon rolls cool, make the cream cheese frosting in a large bowl by beating together cream cheese, unsalted butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stick in the fridge until ready to pipe.
Step 6: If desired, make a small batch of white chocolate cinnamon roll bark for decoration. Stick it in the fridge until ready to break it apart and decorate.
How to make cinnamon roll bark
- Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat butter until barely melted. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, and stir to combine. It will thicken as it sets.
- Melt white chocolate according to package directions.
- Pour white chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it into an even layer.
- Drop a tablespoon of cinnamon sugar mixture into several different places across the top of the bark, then drag a knife across the length of the pan through each spot of dropped sugar, back and forth to create the swirls you see in the pictures above. Alternatively, you can drizzle the sugar mixture in a few evenly spaced parallel lines that run the width of the pan and then drag a knife through them perpendicularly to create the same effect.
- Place the pan in the fridge or freezer to let it set, then break it apart with your hands or with a knife into small pieces.
But what about the icing from the package?
I tried a few different things to bulk up the icing that came with the cinnamon rolls and make it work as a frosting, but it always ended up too sweet or with an odd texture.
As much as I don't like throwing things away instead of finding another use for them, I recommend tossing it in favor of making your own cream cheese frosting from scratch.
How to Store Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
Since we're using a dairy-based frosting, you'll want to store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
However, if you want to wait to frost them, you can store leftover unfrosted cinnamon rolls in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, in the fridge for 1 week, or in the freezer for 2 months.
In general, you want to create air bubbles in cupcake batter to make sure they bake up fluffy and moist. But in the case of this cinnamon roll cupcake recipe, we're adding butter and heavy cream to assist with the moisture aspect. You also want to ensure you don't overbake them, as that will dry them out.
No, you want to stick with heavy cream – you need the fat in heavy cream for this recipe to work.
You could make jumbo cinnamon rolls in a jumbo muffin tin, but those are going to be HUGE cupcakes, haha! You've been warned ;)
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Easy Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes Recipe
Cinnamon roll cupcakes
Cream cheese frosting
Cinnamon roll cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.
- Pop open the can of cinnamon rolls and place 1 roll in each muffin cup.1 can refrigerated cinnamon rolls
- Evenly distribute the melted butter on top of each roll – it works out to be a scant teaspoon for each cup.2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Evenly distribute the heavy cream on top of each roll – it works out 1/2 tablespoon for each cup.¼ cup heavy cream
- Bake for 13 minutes or until the tops are domed and golden. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cream cheese frosting
- In a large bowl using an electric hand or stand mixer , combine cream cheese and butter and beat on medium high speed until smooth.4 ounces cream cheese (block, not spread)4 ounces unsalted butter
- Add vanilla extract (and cinnamon, if including). Now reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar. Turn up the speed to high and beat until frosting forms stiff peaks.1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste1 teaspoon ground cinnamon2 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
- Taste test – if you want it sweeter, add more powdered sugar. If you want less cream cheese flavor and more vanilla, add a little more vanilla extract.
- For best results, place the frosting in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before frosting your baked goods. This allows it to cool down and thicken, which allows for easier piping and spreading.
- Transfer frosting to a piping bag fitted with your preferred piping tip, and frost each cinnamon roll generously. Top with a small piece of white chocolate cinnamon roll bark for a cute decoration, and enjoy!White chocolate cinnamon roll bark pieces
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I am an enthusiastic Caraway affiliate, but as always, all opinions are my own.