Cinnamon rolls with simple powdered sugar icing are timeless and good just as they are, but I also love finding and discovering new ways to enjoy the classics. After all, the best kinds of reinvented recipes are fresh but also familiar! So what is the best icing for cinnamon rolls? Here are some easy homemade cinnamon roll icing and frosting variations you can try and find out.
1. Cream Cheese Frosting
You can't start a cinnamon frosting post without mentioning cream cheese. It's hard to imagine cinnamon rolls without this ingredient nowadays, but it wasn't until the 1960s when cream cheese become more widely accessible that it started being incorporated into icing and frosting recipes.
To make a basic cream cheese frosting you only need 2 ingredients: 8 oz (227 g) of cream cheese and about 1 cup (120g) of powdered sugar.
The beauty of this frosting recipe is that you can choose any cream cheese you like. Today there are dozen varieties of cream cheese, from strawberry flavored cream cheese to savory kinds like spicy jalapeño. There's also lactose free cream cheese like one from Green Valley, to vegan cream cheese that's made from soy (Tofutti) to almond milk based products like (Kite Hill Cream Cheese). For lower carb, lower calorie options you can use low fat cheese like Laughing Cow cream cheese, or this Greek yogurt cream cheese. Instructions on how to make a variety of cream cheese cinnamon roll frosting below:
- Simple Cream Cheese Frosting - mix 8 oz Cream Cheese (best if room temperature) with 1 cup of powdered sugar.
- Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting - mix 7.5 oz Strawberry Cream Cheese Spread (room temperature) with ¾ cup of powdered sugar
- Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting - mix 8 oz Tofutti Cream Cheese (room temperature) with 1 cup of powdered sugar
- Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting - mix 8 oz pumpkin spice vegan cream cheese with 1 cup of powdered sugar
- Low Fat Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe - mix 8 oz low fat cream cheese or 11 wedges of Laughing Cow cream cheese with 1 cup of powdered sugar.
- Low Calorie (Low Carb) Cream Cheese Frosting - mix 8 oz Greek Yogurt cream cheese or 11 wedges of Laughing Cow cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar free powdered erythritol (like Swerve).
2. Confetti Birthday Cake Icing
The best breakfast treats are ones that brighten up your day. So what better way to delight your family than with confetti? Confetti sprinkles make a good addition to both vanilla and chocolate frosting recipes, but here's the secret to making the frosting also taste like birthday cake: add baking soda. The addition of this ingredient adds a slightly salty, baked flavor to the frosting and makes it taste like the real thing.
- How to Make Birthday Cake Cinnamon Roll Icing (with Cream Cheese): Mix 1 cup of the prepared cream cheese frosting (from the previous recipe) with ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp non-alcoholic vanilla extract. Top with rainbow confetti sprinkles.
- How to Make Cinnamon Roll Icing without Cream Cheese: Mix ½ cup softened unsalted butter with 1 cup of powdered sugar, ½ tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp of non-alcoholic vanilla extract.
3. Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
Love coconut? This creamy, tropical version of cream cheese frosting gets its coconutty flavor and silky texture from the addition of cream of coconut! It's a perfect summer frosting recipe for cinnamon rolls, but it can also be used on cupcakes, cookies and more. I especially love sprinkling on lightly toasted coconut flakes to add additional texture.
- How to Make Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting - Mix 8 oz low fat cream cheese with ¾ cup of powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp of Cream of Coconut.
- How to Make Frosting without Cream Cheese - Mix ½ cup of softened unsalted butter with ¾ cup of powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp of Cream of Coconut.
4. Chocolate Shell "Glaze"
Surprise! Here’s proof that cinnamon rolls don’t need to be coated in icing or frosting. The thin chocolate glaze actually helps to keep the cinnamon rolls softer longer because the coating helps keep the moisture and prevents the bread from drying out. Plus, these rolls can be kept at room temperature without spoiling, and it's a great glaze alternative if you're looking for cinnamon roll icing recipes without cream cheese or powdered sugar.
Here’s an extra tip for creating thinner and glossier chocolate coating: add coconut oil (recipe for chocolate glaze below)
- How to Make Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Glaze: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat 1 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave in 20-second bursts until melted, stirring in between. Once the chocolate is fully melted, mix in 2 tsp of refined (flavorless) coconut oil. Dip the tops of the cinnamon rolls into the melted chocolate mixture and set the rolls on clean parchment paper until the chocolate is completely set.
- Variations for Chocolate Glaze: Try it with white chocolate chips, or other flavored chocolate such as butterscotch or peanut butter chocolate chips.
5. Custard (Pastry Cream) Topping
If you like custard-filled donuts, you're going to love serving cinnamon rolls with a dollop of custard or pastry cream. The creamy, pudding-like texture of the custard is just perfect with the soft and fluffy rolls and adds a subtle eggy, vanilla flavor. For the custard pic below, I used my shortcut microwave custard recipe), but if you want you can also use vanilla pudding, too! Just pipe huge dollops of the custard or vanilla pudding on top of the rolls and enjoy!
- How to Make Custard Topping: I used my Shortcut Microwave Custard Recipe that uses flour instead of cornstarch. For traditional methods, check out The Flavor Bender's Pastry Cream recipe here, or this Homemade Custard Recipe from Cooking LSL
6. Whipped Cream
Sometimes, simple and sweet is the best choice. No need to be elaborate, when you can scoop on some whipped cream to your cinnamon rolls. The silky, airy texture of whipped cream goes fantastically well with the soft cinnamon rolls, especially with fresh fruit like strawberries.
- How to Make Whipped Cream: Whip 1 cup of heavy cream with 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar (or powdered sugar). Add a splash of vanilla extract, if desired. For tips and tricks, check out this Homemade Whipped Cream Recipe by Joy Food Sunshine
7. Matcha Glaze
Cinnamon rolls are widely loved for their glossy white glaze, but this simple matcha glaze is really something to brag about. Made with powdered sugar, water and matcha powder, this vibrant green icing is the perfect balance of sweet, earthy and bitter. Plus, matcha is packed with antioxidants and healthy dose of caffeine to keep you awake.
- How to Make Cinnamon Roll Matcha Glaze: mix 1 cup (120g) of powdered sugar with 1 tsp of matcha powder and 2 Tbsp of water. For the vibrant green color, use ceremonial matcha powder like this one. For lower carb/ lower calorie options, use powdered monk fruit sweetener or erythritol instead of powdered sugar.
8. Coffee Frosting
Coffee-flavored desserts have been on the rise recently, and I couldn’t be happier! Coffee paired with my favorite breakfast bread? It’s just too perfect. I swear you’ll be waking up early to have these cinnamon rolls with your morning coffee.
- How to Make Coffee Frosting for Cinnamon Rolls : Mix ½ cup softened unsalted butter with 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tsp of coffee extract. You can also make your own coffee extract by dissolving 1 tsp of instant coffee granules with ¾ tsp of hot water.
- How to Make Low Fat Coffee Frosting : Mix 8 oz of softened low fat cream cheese with 1 cup of powdered sugar, ½ tsp of coffee extract (or make your own coffee extract by string 1 tsp of instant coffee granules with ½ tsp of hot water)
9. Caramel Glaze
Cinnamon rolls already have the sticky and sweet covered, but the caramel glaze goes beyond that--it turns it into the flavors of fall. Rich and buttery, gooey and sweet, any cinnamon rolls topped with caramel deserve a spot on the list of the Top 10 Foods to Eat on a Chilly Day! It's also the most perfect finishing touch for these Caramel Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls (pic below).
There are a couple of ways to get this ingredient. The easiest way is to use storebought, like this caramel sauce, or this vegan kind that's made from coconut milk. To make caramel at home from scratch, here are some homemade caramel recipes you can look at:
- Traditional Caramel Sauce - this caramel recipe from Natasha's Kitchen uses heavy cream (or half-and-half).
- Vegan Caramel Sauce - I really like this 5 Minute Magic Vegan Caramel Sauce from Pinch of Yum that uses nut butter, coconut oil and maple syrup.
- Keto Caramel Sauce - Quick and easy. All you have to do is mix 2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter with 2 Tbsp sugar free pancake syrup, then add ½ cup collagen peptides protein powder. Go to my recipe for this keto caramel glaze for the full step by step recipe!
10. Whipped Oreo Cream Cheese
Crunchy, sweet and tangy, this whipped oreo cream cheese has an addicting cookie and cream flavor that comes from the crushed-up Oreo cookies. It's so good, you'll probably want to eat this frosting right from the bowl.
- How to Make Whipped Oreo Cream Cheese Frosting - mix 8 oz softened cream cheese with 3 Tbsp of powdered sugar and ½ cup of crushed oreo cookies.
- To make it vegan-friendly - use vegan cream cheese instead of regular cream cehese
11. Nutella (aka Chocolate Hazelnut Spread)
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread is just one of those pantry items that I always have in stock in my kitchen. Nutella is the most popular, but you can also use more drippy textured chocolate hazelnut spread brands like Nutiva (what I used in the photos) which have less sugar and calories than Nutella.
12. Pecan Butter Frosting
Pecan pies are one of my favorite desserts of fall, and this cinnamon roll frosting tastes just like a slice of a sweet and sticky pecan pie--minus the crust! Rich and decadent, the secret to to the pecan pie flavor comes from pecan butter which you can buy in stores or online (here). It's the perfect frosting recipe for the holidays. You'll love it!
13. Lemon Curd
Lemon curd is not just for scones and pastries! Tangy, sillky and buttery, you only need to apply a thin layer of lemon curd to add a bright lemon flavor to your cinnamon rolls. I love pairing these lemon curd iced rolls with fresh blueberries and mint tea in the spring or summer.
14. Simple Powdered Sugar Glaze
How could I forget? Turns out that I skipped the obvious. The simple cinnamon roll icing with water is the most basic of the cinnamon roll glazes. All you need is powdered sugar and water to make this simple glaze, but the color and flavor variations are endless. Examples below!
- How to Make Simple Cinnamon Roll Glaze: mix 1 cup (120g) of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of water or milk. For lower carb/ lower calorie options, use powdered monk fruit sweetener or erythritol instead of powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract, if desired.
- Customize it! You can add additional coloring or flavor to this glaze recipe to suit your preferences. For colored glazes - add a few drops of food coloring, or natural colored powders such as matcha, cinnamon, turmeric powders. For flavored glazes, add natural extracts or fruit purees. Examples below:
- Coffee glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of strong coffee (instead of water)
- Chocolate glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of cocoa powder and 2-3 Tbsp of water.
- Lemon glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice. You can also use 2 Tbsp of water mixed with 1 tsp of lemon extract.
- Almond glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of water and 1 tsp of almond extract.
- Oat milk glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of oat milk.
- Blueberry glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 ½ Tbsp of fresh blueberry puree.
- Strawberry glaze - mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 ½ Tbsp of fresh strawberry puree.
15. Powdered Sugar
While this isn't technically an icing or a frosting idea, I wanted to add this one at the end as a reminder that cinnamon rolls don't HAVE to be dressed up. Most cinnamon rolls are perfectly moist and sweet enough without the extra topping, and in my opinion, the light dusting of powdered sugar is an easy solution for people who don't want to deal with the extra step of making and icing the rolls 🙂
And that's the end of this list. Was this list helpful? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section below if you want me to make more content like this!
Some Cinnamon Roll Frosting FAQ
When do you put icing on cinnamon rolls?
It's best to wait until your cinnamon rolls have cooled to room temperature before you put on icing or frosting. If you frost too early, the residual heat from the cinnamon rolls will soften the icing (especially if it's made with butter) and cause the icing or frosting to melt. To help cool the cinnamon rolls faster, transfer the rolls onto a cooling rack.
Can I make cinnamon roll frosting without powdered sugar / cream cheese ? Does the frosting need to be refrigerated?
|Cream Cheese?||Powdered Sugar?||Is it Vegan?||Needs to be Refrigerated?|
|Cream Cheese Frosting||yes||yes||depends||yes|
|Birthday Cake Frosting||no||yes||yes||depends|
NEXT UP, Healthier Icings!
It's hard to imagine cinnamon rolls without that classic white icing, but there are plenty of delicious and easy homemade cinnamon icing and frosting recipes out there that you can make without butter or powdered sugar. Here's a list of Healthy Cinnamon Roll Icing and Frosting ideas, from my almond yogurt frosting and peanut butter powder chocolate frosting, that is better for you and even have great health benefits.
----------> GO TO PAGE 2 (healthier icings)
10+ Easy Homemade Cinnamon Roll Icing & Frosting Recipes
- 1 BASIC CREAM CHEESE FROSTING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 2 CONFETTI BIRTHDAY CAKE ICING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 3 COCONUT CREAM CHEESE FROSTING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 4 CHOCOLATE SHELL “GLAZE” click on the link to go to the recipe
- 5 MICROWAVE CUSTARD (PASTRY CREAM) click on the link to go to the recipe
- 6 BASIC WHIPPED CREAM click on the link to go to the recipe
- 7 MATCHA GLAZE click on the link to go to the recipe
- 8 COFFEE FROSTING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 9 CARAMEL GLAZE click on the link to go to the recipe
- 10 WHIPPED OREO CREAM CHEESE FROSTING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 11 NUTELLA
- 12 PECAN BUTTER FROSTING click on the link to go to the recipe
- 13 LEMON CURD
- 14 SIMPLE POWDERED SUGAR GLAZE click on the link to go to the recipe
- 15 POWDERED SUGAR
- click on the links of the ingredients to go to the recipe