Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
October 29, 2020
It’s been a while since I have posted a dessert that doesn’t include any fresh fruit. But I can’t exclusively share apple recipes throughout the entire fall. Instead, these tasty treats focus on another one of my favorite autumn flavors. Plus, they are the perfect excuse to have cake for breakfast. You are sure to love these moist Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes with rich cream cheese frosting.
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Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite foods of all time. I love the yeasty enriched dough, the gooey cinnamon filling, and the creamy drizzle of frosting. What I don’t love is how much time and work they can take to make, and how difficult they are to share. I wanted to capture the feeling of a cinnamon roll, but in a form that’s easier to create and serve. These capture the best of cinnamon rolls in a simple cupcake package.
What You Need to Get Started
- Fridge: Milk, Instant yeast, Butter, Ricotta, Eggs, Cream cheese
- Pantry: Flour, Sugar, Cornstarch, Baking soda, Salt, Brown sugar, Confectioner’s sugar
- Spice Rack: Cinnamon
- Equipment: Muffin pan, Stand mixer or hand mixer, Mixing bowls, Whisk, Ice cream scoop, Wire cooling rack, Piping bag, Large star tip
Let’s Make Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
These cupcakes include a few ingredients that you may not be used to seeing in a typical yellow cake recipe. That’s because I didn’t want the base of these to taste like vanilla, but instead like a doughy cinnamon roll.
One way to do that was to add yeast. I didn’t want to depend on it for rising, but I still wanted to capture that flavor. Before getting started, warm up the milk, and sprinkle yeast on top to let it begin to activate. Preheat your oven, and line a standard muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.
If you have a stand mixer, I found that to be the easiest way to make these. However, you can also use a hand mixer. Either way, begin with the dry ingredients. Flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda are the standards. Plus, I like to add a bit of cornstarch, which helps with the texture. Whisk this all together in your mixer bowl or another large bowl.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the melted butter and ricotta. Working with melted butter instead of room temperature makes the texture of the cake a bit denser. The ricotta is light, creamy, and fluffy, which again changes the texture. It also provides a very subtle flavor, since there’s no extract in these.
Once combined, whisk in the eggs until everything is incorporated. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry in your mixer bowl. Let it mix on medium speed for a couple minutes, just until everything is combined together. It will be fairly thick at this point, almost like a cookie dough texture.
That means it’s time to add the milk. Stir the yeast into it, and then pour it all into the batter. Continue mixing until it’s smooth and uniform. At this point, it should be more like a standard cake batter texture. It won’t hold its shape, and should flow slowly off the paddle when lifted.
Using a cookie scoop or a large spoon, begin transferring the batter into the prepared cupcake liners. This recipe makes 12 cupcakes, so fill them evenly, using all of the batter in the bowl. Mine were about 3/4 of the way to the top.
Now for the fun part: cinnamon swirl time! I had debated a couple different ways to add in the cinnamon to these, such as a ganache or stuffing them after being baked. However, in the end, I liked the idea of baking the cinnamon swirl right into the cakes, more like a cinnamon roll.
In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and brown sugar. If you prefer, you can use white sugar here, but I like the extra richness of the brown. Once combined, slowly add in the milk, just a little at a time. Mix it all in, until you have a thick cinnamon paste. The texture should be similar to the cake batter.
Add a dollop of cinnamon to each of the cupcakes. About one to one-and-a-half teaspoons should be a good amount. If you have extra left over, go ahead and add that to any that look like they need a little more.
Then grab a butter knife, and use it to create a swirl with the cinnamon and cake batter. The more you stir these, the deeper the cinnamon will go into the cake. However, it will also muddy the pretty swirl pattern a bit. That’s okay though, since you’ll be frosting these.
I like to put the tip of the butter knife in a section of batter without cinnamon and pull it through to get that first bit of swirl. From there, move toward the center of the cupcake, and then move the knife in a circular motion to create a swirl pattern. Again, this totally does not have to be perfect.
Place the pan in the oven, and bake them until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of each. All ovens are different, and most don’t bake entirely evenly. That’s why I test each cupcake. If needed, you can rotate the pan after the first time you check for doneness.
Once done, set the entire pan on a trivet to cool for about twenty minutes, just enough time so that you can handle the cupcakes without burning yourself. Then remove each from the pan, and place them on a wire rack to cool completely. If they are a bit stuck, use a butter knife around the outside to release any sugar that may have melted to the pan.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
This is my favorite type of frosting, and I am always coming up with new excuses to make it or eat it. There is just something about the extra tang of cream cheese that really brings frosting to life.
I like to begin with an equal base of cream cheese and butter. In this case, that’s four ounces of each. However, you can play with the balance to suit your own tastes. Before you start, let both warm up to room temperature so they are softer. Then, add them into the bowl of a mixer, and combine until creamy and uniform.
Begin adding the sugar, one cup at a time. If you notice that it’s particularly lumpy, you may want to sift it, or just give it a quick toss with a fork to break up large pieces. Mix in each batch of sugar before adding the next one. When you get toward the end, slowly add in milk a little bit at a time.
The milk helps to make the frosting smoother, so you’ll be able to pipe it. When it’s ready, the texture will be quite thick, so that the frosting mostly holds its shape. However, it will appear smooth and fluffy.
Add the frosting to a piping bag with a large star tip. I like to place the bag in a deep cup, and fold the edges over the rim. Then I use a silicone spatula to transfer it from the bowl into the bag. Every couple scoops, you will need to squeeze it down to remove any air pockets.
To decorate, hold the piping bag upright, and twist the top closed. Then create spiral on top of each cupcake. Begin toward the outside, and work your way toward the center and up. To get a nice point on top, squeeze gently as you lift straight up and release the pressure.
As a finishing touch, add a sprinkle of cinnamon or cinnamon sugar on top. Sugar will give it a bit more sparkle, but I liked the contrast of the straight cinnamon. Add a bit to a mesh strainer or sifter to carefully dust the tops.
Cupcakes for breakfast? If you have these cinnamon roll cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, why not!
How to Serve Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
These are best enjoyed the day they are made. However, you can store them for a few days, if needed, in an airtight container in the fridge. The cakes can be stored frosted or unfrosted. And the frosting can be stored alone as well. If you are storing them separately, let the frosting come to room temperature before piping.
Cupcakes are usually dessert, but since these are cinnamon roll inspired, I won’t judge anyone for enjoying one for breakfast or brunch. Pair them with a nice warm mug of chai white hot chocolate, to emphasize the cinnamon flavor. Or for more of a kick, try them with a cinnamon, pear, and rum cocktail.
These would also be fun to add to a holiday dessert spread. Try serving them alongside cream cheese oatmeal cookie sandwiches, a classic apple tart with bourbon-rye crust, and plum jam whole wheat cookie bars.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Ricotta makes the perfect filling for cannoli cream crepes.
- Whip up cream cheese into a savory caramelized onion cheesecake or a sweet no-bake caramel apple cheesecake.
- Use extra cinnamon to flavor a seasonal butternut squash cornbread or for another dessert, try a traditional apple crisp.
Other Similar Recipes to Try
Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- ¼ Cup Milk
- 1 ½ tsp Instant Yeast
- 1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
- ½ Cup Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ¼ Cup Unsalted Butter melted and cooled slightly
- ⅓ Cup Ricotta
- 2 Eggs
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Cinnamon plus more for dusting
- 1-2 Tbsp Milk
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz Cream Cheese
- 4 oz Butter
- 3 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp Milk
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center, and line a standard muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.
- Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove until it is 105-110°F and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for about five minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and ricotta until combined. Then add the eggs and continue mixing until incorporated.
- Add the butter mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix on medium until combined. Stir the yeast into the milk and add it into the bowl. Continue mixing on medium until a smooth uniform batter forms.
- In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar with a fork. Slowly, add in the milk, while stirring, until it forms into a paste with similar texture to the batter.
- Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to add the prepared cupcake liners with the batter, about ¾ of the way full. Add about 1-1½ tsp of the cinnamon paste, and use a butter knife to create a swirl in each cupcake.
- Bake 20-25 min, until a toothpick comes out clean of each cupcake. Let them cool in the pan until you can handle them. Then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
- While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: Add the cream cheese and butter to a mixer bowl, and mix on low until smooth and combined. Add in the sugar 1 cup at a time, full incorporating each batch. If needed, add milk slowly to make the frosting smoother. When done, a dollop of frosting should hold it's shape fairly well, but the tip may curl over.
- Add the frosting to a piping bag with a large star tip. Frost each cooled cupcake, and then dust with cinnamon. Serve immediately for the best taste.
- Make ahead tip: you can store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge, frosted or unfrosted for 2-3 days. If storing the frosting, let it warm up to room temperature before piping onto the cupcakes.