Cinnamon rolls are a classic Christmas morning treat—but they don’t have to be as involved as their reputation would make them seem! This Christmas tree cinnamon rolls recipe is easy to make but doesn’t skimp on flavor or texture.
Shaped into and decorated like a Christmas tree, these could not be more festive and fun. With just one rise, these rolls are perfect for a lazy weekend morning in December. Prep the rolls with your family as everyone wakes up, watch a Christmas movie while the rolls rise, and enjoy them together for a warm, gooey, and delicious brunch.
Christmas tree cinnamon rolls are whimsical and tasty. The warm cinnamon, gooey, flavors, and rich textures taste delicious with an eggnog latte, a creamy cup of coffee, or a tall glass of milk. Have one alongside a plate of scrambled eggs and some sliced melon, or just eat two!
A couple of tricks that make this recipe even simpler: When I knead the dough, I just do it right in the bowl. You can knead your dough on a floured surface, but why dirty another thing?
When you make the cinnamon rolls, watch them closely. The extra sugar in the dough means it can brown quickly. If they start taking color on quickly, cover them with a piece of tin foil.
What You Need to Make Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls
This recipe uses mostly pantry staples: all-purpose flour, salt, eggs, cinnamon, brown sugar, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla extract.
You will also want to have some candy decorations to decorate your tree once you’ve glazed it. I used cinnamon candy sprinkles, but you can use anything you already have for holiday baking.
If you don’t have vanilla extract, you can omit it.
One thing you absolutely must have is instant yeast. I don’t recommend using regular yeast in this recipe since we want the dough to rise quickly and only once. Do check the best-by date of your yeast. Yeast is a living organism and if the yeast is past its date, it likely will not cause your dough to rise.
- Unsalted butter at room temperature
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Dark brown sugar
- Kosher Salt
- Large eggs
- Whole milk
- Powdered sugar
- Instant yeast
There isn’t any fancy equipment needed to make these Christmas tree cinnamon rolls. You’ll need a baking sheet, 3 bowls, a spatula, a whisk, a butter knife, a cutting board, a serrated knife, and a rolling pin.
You will also need a small plastic bag, non-stick cooking spray, and parchment paper. If you don’t have a rolling pin, you can use a wine bottle to roll out your dough.
After your dough is filled and rolled into a log, it is cut into rounds. A regular knife will squish the soft dough and filling, making a mess. To get clean cuts, I find using a serrated knife to gently saw back and forth works best, but you can also use dental floss. Just make sure it’s not the mint-flavored kind!
How To Make Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls
Prepare the dough: Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, salt, and yeast. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the milk and butter on 50% power for 1 ½ minutes or until the butter has mostly melted.
Remove from the microwave and give the mixture a stir to help the rest of the butter melt. Allow to cool slightly and then add it to the dry ingredients.
Add the egg and egg yolk and mix with a spatula until a dough forms. Knead with your hands for 5-6 minutes. Spray the dough with a non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Make the filling: Place softened butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Mix until a smooth paste forms.
Shape the dough: Place the dough on a floured surface and roll it out to roughly a rectangle of 9×14 inches.
Spread the filling evenly across the dough.
Roll from the long end of the rectangle to create a log. Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 12 slices. To do this, slice the log in half. Slice each half into thirds. Then slice each of these sections in half.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, arrange the slices into a Christmas tree. To do this, in roughly the middle of your pan, create a row of four slices. Above the four slices, create a row of three slices, then a row of two, then a row of one.
This creates the tree. Then, to create the trunk of the tree, place two slices in a vertical stack directly below the tree. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.
Set aside for 75-90 minutes, or until the rolls have grown nearly double in size.
Bake: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly.
Make the icing: Whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and water until it becomes thick and drips slowly off the whisk.
Decorate the cinnamon rolls: Place the icing in a plastic bag and snip off the end of the bag. Glaze over the cinnamon rolls. Then add your sprinkles and other decorations and enjoy!
Use the brown sugar you have on hand. You can use either dark or light brown sugar, although dark brown sugar gives a richer, deeper flavor.
These rolls last 3-5 days in an airtight container. If you don’t ice them, you can also freeze them and defrost them the day you want to use them. They are delicious when warm, so I recommend allowing them to warm up on the counter and then reheating them in a 350ºF oven for 5 minutes.
Cinnamon rolls are an enriched dough that often requires two rises. This extends the baking process by 2 hours to even overnight. Here, we use instant yeast to create a big, single rise and avoid the wait of most cinnamon rolls. The result is a light, fluffy and delicate roll in far less time.
Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature, divided
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pack instant yeast
- Whisk together 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar,1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 package of yeast.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, heat ¾ cup milk and 3 tablespoons of butter on 50% power. Remove after 1 1/2 minutes or when the butter is mostly melted.
- Give the butter mixture a stir and allow the butter to finish melting. Then, let the mixture cool slightly before adding it to the dry ingredients.
- To the mixture, add 1 large egg and one large egg yolk and mix with a spatula until a dough forms.
- Knead the dough with your hands for 5-6 minutes.
- Spray the dough with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- Place 5 tablespoons softened butter, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/3 cup brown sugar in a small bowl. Mix until a smooth paste forms.
- Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 9×14-inch rectangle.
- Spread the filling evenly across the dough.
- Rolling from the long end, roll the dough into a log.
- Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 12 slices. To do this, slice the log in half. Slice each half into thirds. Then slice each of these sections in half.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In roughly the middle of the sheet, create a pyramid. Arrange a row of four slices. Above the four slices, arrange a row of three slices, then a row of two, then a row of one.
- Create the trunk of the tree by placing the remaining two slices below the pyramid.
- Spray with non-stick cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.
- Set aside for 75-90 minutes, or until the rolls have grown nearly double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
- Remove rolls from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth.
- Place the icing in a plastic bag and snip off one corner of the bag. Glaze the rolls.
- Add sprinkles and other decorations. Enjoy!
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