Newsflash: Cinnamon Rolls Should Not Contain Baking Powder

16 Jul
cinnamon rolls

Look out, Dough Boy; I'm coming for you.

In an effort to save you from Strange and Unpronounceable ingredients, high fructose corn syrup and crappy food in general, I give you The Cinnamon-Buns-in-a-Cardboard-Tube.  I’m not giving them to you so you’ll actually eat them but so you won’t want to eat them (if you are currently a Fan) or to reaffirm your commitment to Real Cinnamon Rolls (if you already Eschew Tube Buns).  Thanks to Wegman’s, my go-to site for The Ugly Truth about ingredients in tons of different food-ish items, I now present unto you the ingredients for Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, with Icing:

Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)–pretty standard.  I’m not saying it’s Best, mind you, but it’s just about what you’d find in national brands in the store
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil–I guess depending on what truck shows up first that day
Dextrose–More sugar. Yay.
Wheat Starch–I assume to thicken…something.
Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda)–Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).  Yes, it’s a real label that means “nobody has died from it.  That we’ve heard about.”  For a listing of all GRAS ingredients since 1998, please check this out.  Truly riveting reading.  Oh, and guess who gets to decide what is GRAS?  The company that produces the Ingredient in Question.  Sweet.
Whey–faux milk
Cinnamon–Num yummy

*I’m Putting the Break between Bun and Goo here, because I think that this is where the bun stops and the goo begins.  I’m not sure, though.  They could’ve thrown some corn starch in with the buns, too.

Corn Starch–I assume to thicken the icing
Corn Syrup Solids–sweetener (corn syrup with almost all of the water spun out of it)
Mono and Diglycerides–emulsifiers and preservatives
Xanthan Gum–Another thickener
Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)
Polysorbate 60
–Another emulsifier
Artificial Flavor–because Mono and Diglycerides taste icky.
Yellow 5 and Red 40–because everyone wants orange icing on their cinnamon buns

You know, after reading back over the icing ingredients, the only “real” ingredient is Corn Syrup Solids.  All the other stuff is to thicken it or preserve it or hold it together or color it.  Nice.  But I’m not here to talk about the icing.  I wanna talk about the buns Themselves.  Let’s arrange those ingredients in a way that makes some sort of sense:

Water-Type Liquids

  • water
  • whey


  • Partially hydrogenated some-kind-of-oil, depending on the delivery schedule


  • Bleached, enriched white flour
  • Wheat Starch


  • Sugar
  • Dextrose


  • Baking powder


  • Salt
  • Cinnamon

I don’t know about you, but in my book, a Doughy Item raised with baking powder is either a biscuit (scone) or a quick bread.  And also in my book, a cinnamon roll should be made with an enriched yeast-raised dough. Period.  My blog; my book.  I’m willing to bet, though, that you think of cinnamon rolls in the same way.  What Pillsbury is selling us is some kind of biscuit-ish item topped with preserved, colored and emulsified-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life corn syrup solids.  Num Yummy.

Back away from the colorful Tube of Doom.  Yes, I know that it’s fun to WHACK the can on the edge of the counter, but dang, people.

“But they’re so easy to make.” “But I don’t have time to make real cinnamon rolls.” “I can’t bake.” Okay, I hear you.  Let me Respond to each of these excuses.

1) Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you should make them.  Anybody can learn to make meth, although it’s not Generally Recognized As Safe.

2) Make the time.  It’ll be fun.  Or ask a friend to make them for you.  A little wheedling is a small price to pay for Freshly Baked Goods.

3) That’s what your oven is for, silly.

Now that I’ve hopefully talked you out of whacking and baking the contents of the Tube of Doom, let’s make some Real Cinnamon Buns with real ingredients.  Let’s do it now.

No-Tube Cinnamon Rolls

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 3 oz melted butter
  • 6 oz buttermilk
  • 20 oz AP flour
  • 3/4 oz fresh yeast (1/4 oz dried)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

You can make this dough using the Straight Dough Method.  That means that you can just dump everything in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and Let Her Rip.  Make sure your yeasties are alive and kicking before you do this:  proof a little bit in some warm water with a pinch of sugar.  If the water gets foamy and/or bubbly, you’re good to go.

If you don’t have a stand mixer, whisk the salt, dry yeast and the flour together.  Mix all the other ingredients in, and then add the flour, stirring and stirring, until you have a soft/sticky dough.  Since the dough will be sticky, it’ll be kind of a pain to knead, so use your bench scraper to help you.  Knead and knead until the dough is nice and smooth and springy.

Shape the dough into a ball and tighten it by pushing it in small circles on your counter top.  Why?  Because tightening the gluten skin/matrix around the outside of the ball of dough promotes an even rise.

Place the dough, lovely rounded side down in a greased bowl, then flip the dough so the lovely rounded side is up.  That way, the whole thing will be greased.  Why?  Because this prevents a skin from forming (the outside from drying out) on the ball of dough.  If a skin Happens, it’ll impede your rise.

Cover the dough with a cloth and let rise until doubled.  Since there’s a lot of fat in this dough, it’ll take a long time.  Fat hinders yeast Action.  Count on at least a couple of hours.

You can also cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight.  This’ll free up some time for you, and the slow, cold rise will help develop some complex flavors in the dough.  If you do that, you can go ahead and roll it out while it’s still cool.  It’ll be easier to handle.

Once your dough has doubled in size, plop it out on a lightly greased or oiled surface (adding more flour will just toughen it), press out all the gases, and knead a couple of times to redistribute the yeast.  Roll out into a large, even rectangle–keep the dough at around 1/4″ thick.

Then, spread on a mixture of Goo of Choice

Goo of Choice should include

  • softened (not melted) butter
  • some sort of sugar(1:2 butter to sugar works well)
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • salt, to taste

Goo of Choice can include

  • orange zest
  • raisins/currants/other dried fruits
  • crystallized ginger
  • other spices–don’t limit yourself to just cinnamon
  • a little espresso powder
  • mini chocolate chips
  • a little cayenne
  • toasted chopped nuts
  • crushed red hots
  • a couple of drops of cinnamon oil

Take the goo you come up with, and spread it Rather Liberally all over your dough rectangle, leaving about 1 1/2″ clear on one end and about an inch clear on the sides.

Roll up the dough into a snug-but-not-tight cylinder.  Seal the seam by pinching.  Cut off the uneven ends.  Make sure you bake those, too–cook’s treat.  Cut the rest of the cylinder into 1 to 1 1/2″ pieces.  You can either use a sharp serrated knife or a piece of dental floss.  Just stick the floss under the log o’ dough, pull up the ends, cross and pull, thus slicing right through the log.  Magical.

Now, you have a couple of choices.  If you like the browned outsides of cinnamon rolls, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 1/2″ apart. If you like your cinnamon rolls to be all soft and inside-ish, put them in a buttered baking dish with sides and place them about 1/2″ apart.  If your pan is too big for the number of rolls you have, make a fake pan side with some heavy duty aluminum foil and hold it in place with an appropriate-sized oven-safe implement.  Metal cutter/spatulas/clean, empty cans–whatever.  Either way you like them, cover with a towel and let rise until poofy-but-not-doubled–about 45 minutes or so.

Bake at 350F until nicely risen and golden brown.  Your oven is most likely different than my oven, so start checking at about 20 minutes.  If one side seems to be browning more than the other, turn the pan.  Just to be sure, use a Thermapen or instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the Middle Bun.  It’s done if it’s at least 190F and up to about 205F.

Let cool to warm, and then Apply Icing.

Icing #1

  • confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of vanilla
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • milk or cream

Mix everything together until you have a smooth, thick glaze.  Drizzle–or pour–onto warm buns.

Icing #2

  • Equal parts butter and cream cheese
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of vanilla
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • milk or cream

Cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Add the salt, vanilla and cinnamon.  Add confectioners’ sugar until you reach Frosting Consistency.  If you want, thin it out with a little milk or cream.  Slather on warm buns.

Of course you can add whatever you want to your icing.  Leave the cinnamon out, if you want.  Add some zest.  Use a little lemon extract.  It’s your party.

And I think that’s all I have to say about that right now.  Now go make some Real Cinnamon Rolls with Real Ingredients.  Looks like you stocked up on Polysorbate 60 for nothing.

PS Cinnamon Rolls are NOT diet foods.  They are high in fat, high in sugar and are Extremely Addictive.  Make and eat at your own risk.  Of course, they’re practically celery sticks coated with wheat bran compared to what’s in the Tube of Doom…

*Update:  Oh, my–I just thought of this:  what if all those ingredients are for the buns and the goo ingredients aren’t even listed?!  That makes the second half of the list (plus the cinnamon) be part of the swirl! Dear Lord, the horror.

12 Responses to “Newsflash: Cinnamon Rolls Should Not Contain Baking Powder”

  1. Donna@WayMoreHomemade July 16, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I am seriously laughing out loud at my desk at work…. bun and goo… tube of doom 🙂 You’re hillarious. We call the tubey cinnamon rolls/biscuits “the plastic ones” since they seem to be just a step away from plastic. However, my hubs grew up eating the orange ones and I have finally made some that have a really good orange flavor I think.

    • onlinepastrychef July 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

      I love the orangey kind, Donna! Orange baked stuff just seems somehow sophisticated!I make my orange variation w/some Grand Marnier in the icing and cardamom and orange zest in the goo. What do you do to yours? 🙂

  2. linda conley July 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    A happy by-product of making your own cinnamon rolls: Did you know that it is the number one aphrodisiacal (?) smell for men? For a happy hunny, make a cinnamon bunny. That was a terrible rhyme and I apologize. And – I prefer the cream cheese icing on my buns! (But my kids LOVE the orange tube-y ones. Where did I go wrong?)

  3. Anita July 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Love your descriptions of these fake pretend-to-be delicious foods.. nothing better than real taste from ingredients recognized.

  4. croquecamille July 17, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    You have just induced a serious cinnamon roll craving. Good thing you showed me the light – I’m fresh out of diglycerides! 🙂

  5. dh July 28, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    Hey, I enjoyed your article it is very informative. I gained 5 pounds just looking at the picture.

  6. groovyoldlady July 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    Awesome article, Jen! I have a wonderful cinnamon roll recipe where the frosting is built in. You put a secret combo of brown sugar and cream and…um, maybe something else (I can’t recall offhand) and then lay the dough rolls on top. When they’re done cooking you turn them out on a platter and voila, they are already oozing with fat and sugary goodness!

    • onlinepastrychef July 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

      Mmmm, Groovy! Sounds like my kind of “short cut.” The gooier, the better. 🙂

  7. molly September 14, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Tube-of-doom —- love it! The manufacturers of those things ought to be hung, drawn and quartered for convincing the mindless masses they’re eating cinnamon buns! Thank you for the exposing their scam! I too now have a serious cinnamon bun craving!

  8. Jenny September 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Okay….I’ve been baking sticky buns all week and pouring through tons of recipes. This is the Holy Grail of cinnamon rolls/sticky buns. I didn’t have honey for my goo, but really like agave nectar. So, I don’t really measure my goo, but did about 3 parts brown sugar to 1 part nectar, butter and sour cream (didn’t have creme fraiche). It was spectacular. Is this technically a brioche or more along the lines of a challah/egg bread roll. I didn’t think the butter content was awful, but I’ve been baking all week and might just be butter delusional at this point. Thanks for sharing. This is a keeper!

    • onlinepastrychef September 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

      Glad to be of help; I specialize in Holy Grails! 🙂 Brioche has tons more butter and eggs than this, and challah uses oil. I’d characterize this as a “sweet dough” or an “enriched dough.” It are good, though, huh?!

      • Jenny October 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

        This dough is simply unbelievable. Not too rich like brioche…it’s just perfect. I baking another batch as I type!

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