13 Ways To Take Store-Bought Cinnamon Rolls To The Next Level

There's nothing quite like a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls. Layers of soft, buttery dough wrapping sumptuously around a spiral of warm cinnamon sugar, topped off with a drizzle of sweet, dreamy icing — they're a delicious hug for your taste buds. Of course, you can always make them from scratch, but there is just so much work involved. All that kneading, rolling, buttering, and icing — not to mention the patience required to give the dough time to rise. There are days when you want to enjoy a heavenly mouthwatering pastry with a minimum of time and effort. For those of you who want to indulge in the joy of baking without suffering through the more time-consuming and onerous parts, store-bought, canned cinnamon rolls offer a much quicker path to gratification.

There's no reason a cardboard tube of store-purchased cinnamon rolls can't be just as special as the homemade variety. With a few simple tweaks and creative adjustments, you can transform ordinary run-of-the-mill grocery store rolls into something extraordinary. Whether you infuse the frosting with a secret ingredient, punch up the spice content, or decide to think outside the oven with how you cook them, there are a ton of options for jazzing up your rolls. If you're aiming to dazzle at a social gathering without dedicating hours to baking from scratch, or simply want to enjoy an exceptional treat all to yourself, we've collected 13 tips and tricks to take this comforting breakfast classic to unexpected levels of deliciousness.

Think outside the oven

Even though canned cinnamon rolls typically take only 10 to 20 minutes to cook in the oven, time is precious. If you're pressed — or just impatient to get these decadent treats into your hands ASAP — you can explore other, faster methods of baking them. For example, you can try cooking your cinnamon rolls in an air fryer instead. Air fryers are extremely popular these days, for very good reason. 

They aren't just the superior way to reheat french fries or the hassle-free way to make french toast — air fryers are also excellent for baking canned cinnamon rolls in less than half the time it takes to prepare them in the oven. Simply set your air fryer to 320 degrees F and set the timer for eight minutes. Once your rolls are golden brown, take them out and drizzle with the included icing. Serve and enjoy. 

(Don't) Quit waffling around

Another speedy shortcut that gets your cinnamon rolls from their tube to your mouth in record time is to use a waffle iron. You may already know that you can cook more than just waffles in your waffle iron – cookies baked in a waffle iron are particularly delicious, for example — so why not take it one cinnamon-swirled step further and try waffle-ironing your cinnamon rolls? This method perfectly crisps the outside of the rolls while still leaving a soft, chewy warm center. 

As a bonus feature, the waffle divots create perfect nooks for holding glaze or other toppings. Start by spraying your waffle iron with cooking spray, then place a pre-cut, un-baked cinnamon roll (slightly flattened) onto the iron, and cook it until golden. Pay attention to the cooking process to avoid burning your bounty — we recommend you start to check at the two minute mark. This waffle iron approach offers an ideal ratio of dough, cinnamon, and sugar in each bite.

Infuse the frosting with extra flavors

The frosting that comes with store-bought cinnamon rolls is already delicious, but consider adding flavor for an extra kick that will help make those rolls seem homemade. For example, if you've heard of coffee buttercream, have you considered the joys of coffee-flavored cinnamon roll glaze? Enhance the store-bought frosting by incorporating a touch of instant coffee or coffee extract for a robust and homey kick. You can use freshly brewed coffee or espresso, but remember the extra liquid will impact the icing's texture. Be ready to incorporate additional icing sugar to keep the glaze from getting too runny. This is a win in the end because it means you wind up with more icing than you started with — let's be honest, store-bought cinnamon rolls never come with as much icing as you really want (or, you know, truly deserve).

Coffee is a classic breakfast-y flavor choice, but you could add cream cheese, vanilla, maple sugar, melted chocolate, or strawberry jam to the icing. Apple juice, in particular, is an unexpectedly delightful flavor addition. The tangy and fruity notes it brings to the party beautifully complement the warm cinnamon and other spices.

Bake your rolls with heavy whipping cream

Cleopatra is said to have bathed in milk, and the internet agrees you should treat your cinnamon rolls like Egyptian royalty by bathing them in heavy whipping cream. This particular tip recently went viral on TikTok and had been lauded by many as the best way to bake cinnamon rolls. This method has a couple of factors in it's favor — it not only helps prevent your store-bought cinnamon rolls from drying out but it also makes them grow larger. 

The key is to bake your cinnamon rolls in the oven per usual — ensure they have a little elbow room to expand by spreading them out on the pan. Pour heavy whipping cream into the spaces between rolls, and drizzle a little on top before putting them into the oven. As the rolls bake, the cream is absorbed up into the dough, keeping them moist and plump. The cream at the bottom of the pan also catches any sugar, cinnamon, and butter that leaks out of the rolls, combining sinfully to create an extra gooey syrup at the bottom, keeping your rolls moist and preventing them from drying out.

Brûlée the top with extra sugar

To brûlée a dessert, add a layer of caramelized (bordering-on-burned) sugar so that it resembles a traditional creme brûlée. Be honest: Is there anything that can't be improved by adding a surface of golden-brown caramelized sugar?

Enjoying a crackling sugary crust to your already sweet rolls may sound a little extra at first, but don't deny yourself the good things in life. You're eating cinnamon rolls — trust us, now is not the time to get pedantic over calorie count. Brûlée(ing) the top of your rolls not only cranks up the deliciousness meter, it gives your rolls a fancy X-factor that is sure to impress. Simply sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the tops of your baked rolls — white sugar is best, but any granulated sugar will do. Then, lightly brown the sugar with a kitchen torch, being careful to stop when the sugar has turned an amber color. No worries if you don't own a brûlée torch; you can broil your baked rolls in the oven for the same effect. Just make sure you watch them closely to make sure they don't burn.

Make a sweet breakfast casserole

Flip the script on the traditional savory breakfast casserole and make a sweet one with chopped-up cinnamon rolls, butter, sugar, eggs, and frozen fruit instead. This trick is a great way to make your store-bought cinnamon rolls taste homemade — not to mention it's also an easy way to feed a large group, making it an excellent option for holidays where extra family and friends might be popping by. It's quick to throw together, requiring only 15 minutes of prep work, and you can even assemble it the night before. 

For the ultimate brunch, prep a baking dish with melted butter. Cut up two packages of store-bought cinnamon rolls, aiming to get six to eight pieces out of each individual roll, and then layer the pieces evenly over the bottom of the pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together four eggs and ½ cup of milk, adding a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture all over the cinnamon rolls and sprinkle with sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup. You can add frozen fruit if you're feeling zesty. When you are ready to bake, stick the pan into an oven preheated at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cinnamon rolls are beautifully browned. Allow to cool for about five minutes before drizzling with icing and serving.

Use cinnamon rolls to make a pie crust

Here is a recipe for making cinnamon roll pie crust from scratch, but you can do it in a fraction of the time if you use the store-bought rolls. Of course, using store-bought cinnamon rolls to make the world's most delicious pie crust isn't exactly the least labor-intensive thing you can do, but it is definitely an impressive flex. The quality of the crust can make or break any pie, and having the cinnamon and sugar swirled in not only makes for a beautiful design, it will take all those flavors to a whole new level. 

Simply cut each cinnamon roll in half through the middle crosswise (that is, when you've finished cutting a cinnamon roll you should have two circle-shaped rolls that are half the height of a regular roll, and not two half-circle shapes). Then take a heavy rolling pin and roll the halves out on a floured surface until they're nice and thin. Layer the bottom of a pie pan with the flattened cinnamon rolls. Fill the pie with your favorite filling — yes, apple is a fitting choice, but there are no wrong answers — and bake according to pie instructions. Voila!

Add crispy bacon

This hack is so simple and obvious it feels like cheating — because bacon is the little black dress of food — it goes with everything. Seriously, everything. From cocktails to entrees to snacks, bacon is perfect for any occasion — but it is especially excellent with sweet treats. Did someone say, "chocolate chip cookies." You can cook it right into your pancakes, or whip it into your wedding cake. Heck, it's even tasty inside a popsicle. So, of course, it only makes sense to pair bacon with cinnamon rolls. 

The crunchy bacon mixed with the gooey dough is a superb combination of textures — and the salty fatty flavor balances out the sweetness and makes a flavor bomb. You can learn how to make perfect bacon here — and whether you roll it up inside the dough before baking, or chop it up and sprinkle it on afterward, the result will be divine. This salty-smokey addition is maybe the easiest way to make your rolls gourmet. Honestly, your house will never smell more delicious.

Top your rolls with nuts

Nuts are a delicious addition to brownies, cookies, pies, and more, so adding them to your rolls makes sense — because nuts have so much to offer. Not only are they tasty, studies show they can be good for your heart, and they're a really easy way to fancy up your store-bought tube of cinnamon rolls. You can sprinkle them on top or roll them into the dough. 

For a truly fancy-pants addition, candied nuts will bring it all to a whole new level. The caramelized sugar adds complexity to the flavor profile, and the crunch helps balance out the doughy softness. Nuts are also a delicious way to sneak a little extra protein into your breakfast. You can use store-bought or make the candied nuts yourself; just be careful to ensure they don't burn. And to be on the safe side, you should notify any guests in case they have potential nut allergies.

Pump up the jam

Beyonce called, and she wants to know: Are you ready for this jelly? Two words if you really want guests to think the hot tray of steaming cinnamon rolls you just pulled out of the oven are home-made: Add jam. Unravel the dough until you have a long strip laid out on your counter. Spread a tasty layer of your favorite jam, jelly, or fruit preserve on the dough before rolling it back up, and then set it to bake according to the usual instructions. 

It's a delightful and fruity way to completely switch things up and make guests wonder when you returned from pastry school in the south of France. Kidding. But not really. If you don't know the difference between a jam and a marmalade, it doesn't matter — either one is delicious inside a warm baked roll. If you're feeling extra extra, whip up some lemon curd or lemon curd whipped cream to serve on the side as a tangy counterpart to the jammy richness.

Spice things up a bit

Sometimes more is, well, more. Dial up the flavor of your cinnamon rolls to 11 simply by adding more sugar and spices to the filling. Whether you add cinnamon and sugar to magnify the base flavor or you throw in some pumpkin pie spice to make it more seasonal and special, you really can't go wrong. Most of what we perceive to be "taste" is actually "flavor" and it's the combination of several things: spiciness, texture, smell, taste, and even temperature. Increasing the aromatics of your store bought cinnamon rolls with a few shakes from a couple spice jars is so easy and effective it feels like cheating.

The best ratio for cinnamon sugar filling is 1:4, so that equates to ¼ cup of cinnamon for every 1 cup of sugar, or 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to ¼ cup of sugar. You may as well just go ahead and make a bigger batch, because if you have any leftovers, you can use it in other recipes like this cinnamon-sugar popcorn.

Add chocolate chips before baking

Oh, I'm sorry, did you think pancakes were the only breakfast food that could be elevated with chocolate chips? Nope. We're all adults here, we can agree that chocolate makes everything better, right? And yes, that includes cinnamon rolls. It doesn't matter if you use dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mini chips, chunks, or chop up a candy bar — whatever form it takes, it will melt into a chocolatey, gooey mess that will make any chocolate-lover weep for joy. 

Keep in mind that dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and might even be an aphrodisiac, whereas milk chocolate will be sweeter and tends to have a more velvety texture as it melts. You can roll chocolate chunks into the filling, sprinkle them on top, or melt them down and drizzle them over the top of the rolls — when it comes to this upgrade, there's just no wrong way to go about it.

Sprinkle with dried fruit

Whether you prefer the classic sweetness of raisins or the tangy bite of cranberries, adding dried fruits to your cinnamon rolls elevates them to sky high levels of deliciousness. You'll want to be cautious, however, because if you simply place dried fruit on top of the rolls, it could easily burn. To combat this, consider unrolling each bun and pressing the fruit inside before rolling them back up. You could also cover them with a layer of heavy cream — but keep in mind that dried fruits may absorb the moisture from the dough around them, leading to drier rolls. To counteract this, consider soaking the fruits in water beforehand. 

For a more gourmet (and adult) touch, soak the dried fruits in a liquor such as rum or brandy. Whiskey infuses warm notes of caramel and vanilla into the dried fruit to give your cinnamon rolls a richer, more complex depth of flavor.