This cinnamon swirl bread features a soft, delicate crumb and a spiral of cinnamon-sugar topped off with a sprinkle of buttery streusel. It’s great toasted, as French toast, or just on its own with a cup of coffee!
The first thing I learned how to “cook” was cinnamon sugar bread when I was probably five or six years old. I would toast a piece of whole wheat bread (the only kind my mom kept in the house), spread a pat of butter over the top, and then cover it with a metric shit-ton of white sugar and cinnamon. It would get all gooey and soft and it was just the best thing ever. Years later, in college, this manifested into a streusel cinnamon swirl bread obsession, which I would occasionally pick up from the bakery. The medium was different, but the concept remained the same. Butter, a sprinkle (or two) of sugar, and plenty of cinnamon.
Recently, when I decided to re-create my beloved cinnamon swirl bread, Marc decided to hop on the butter-cinnamon-sugar train and did it completely wrong. He barely toasted the bread, hardly added any sugar, and I don’t even remember seeing him grab the cinnamon. So, I took matters into my own hands and showed him the *correct* way to make the recipe of my youth. He sighed and rolled his eyes a lot, but let’s be real, I did him a favor. It was probably one of the best things he’s ever eaten. 🤷
Some things you need to know about this bread
Now, I’m sharing the cinnamon swirl bread love because let me tell you. It is the best. It took me two months to perfect, but I finally did it. First off, the crumb is delicate and tender and beyond amazing! And the flavor of the dough is just to die for, especially if you do the make-ahead option. But more on that later! Also, the filling is not-too-sweet and has a lovely cinnamon flavor. It’s very cinnamon-y without being too cinnamon-y, know what I mean? Then, we have the streusel. Thick, buttery, a little crunchy. Everything that streusel is usually not when it comes to bakery breads.
And, in case you’re still not convinced you need to give this bread a try, it’s actually super easy to make! Perfect for a beginner bread-baker easing into yeast doughs, or for seasoned bakers who want a quick and easy weekend project.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need
- Active dry yeast – to make the bread rise
- Whole milk – the fat in whole milk will make the bread softer and more velvety
- Sugar – both white and brown
- Unsalted butter – about one stick plus a few tablespoons, very soft
- Cinnamon – and lots of it
- Baking basics – including vanilla, eggs, Kosher salt, and finally, some good flour
get make this bread
We’re going to make this cinnamon swirl bread in four very simple steps. First, we’ll make the yeast dough. Then, we’ll knead the dough and let it rise. Next, you’ll roll out the dough and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. And then lastly, we assemble, top it with streusel, and bake! Ready to get started?
Make the dough
- Start by activating the yeast. Just mix it with the warm milk and a sprinkle of sugar and let it get nice and foamy.
- Mix in the wet ingredients. Next, add the rest of the sugar, vanilla, an egg, and unsalted butter until the mixture is loosely combined. You’ll see some unmixed egg and butter clumps, but it’s all good.
- Add the dry ingredients. Lastly, add the Kosher salt and flour and mix the dough. Let it mix until the dough is no longer shaggy and is only slightly sticky to the touch.
Knead & Rise
- Knead the dough. After the dough is nice and mixed, knead it in your stand mixer for about 4-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can knead it by hand.
- Let it rise. Next, cover the dough with a linen and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size. This will take between 1 and 2 hours.
Roll & sprinkle
- Roll the dough. On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it is a 9×18 inch rectangle.
- Sprinkle the goodies. After, spread the softened butter, leaving about a 1 inch gap on all sides. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the top.
Assemble, rise, & bake
- Roll it up. Starting with the narrow end facing you, roll up the dough. Pinch the ends to form a loaf.
- Second rise. Place the dough in a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Cover, and let rise in a warm spot until puffy and doubled in size, about an hour.
- Sprinkle with streusel. While the dough is rising, combine some flour, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter until crumbly. Brush the risen loaf with some egg wash, and sprinkle the streusel on top.
- Bake the bread! Finally, bake the bread at 350°F for about 35-40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and your kitchen smells like heaven.
How to shape the swirl
To get that perfect swirl, you’re going to want to keep things tight. Meaning, go slow, and really tuck that dough while you’re rolling it to get the most amount of swirl. The tighter you roll, the swirlier it will be. The looser you roll, the less swirls you will get. Also, tighter swirls will keep the bread from separating, although it’s not a huge deal if you get some separation. If you really want to keep the bread from separating, you can mix the butter with the cinnamon-sugar to help it stick.
Serving this bread
Obviously, I have plenty of opinions on how to eat cinnamon swirl bread. Always remember: toast, butter, cinnamon-sugar. But, of course, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy it!
- French toast – by far one of the best ways to use leftover bread. Dip it in an egg batter, fry it up, and then top it with plenty of melty butter and syrup.
- Bread pudding – this recipe makes for an absolutely excellent bread pudding situation!
- Sweetened cream cheese – if you want to go for that cinnamon roll feel.
- PB&J – just trust me on this one.
- With coffee – this one is obvious but still needs to be said. Cinnamon swirl bread + coffee = one dreamy breakfast.
Storing & freezing
To store the leftovers, simply keep the bread in the loaf pan. Then, just wrap up the top and let it sit at room-temperature for up to 3 days. It will get more stale over time, so if I can’t use it within a couple of days, I like to store it in the freezer. To do that, just slice up all of the bread. Next, wrap it up well in tinfoil and place it in an airtight container. It can keep in the freezer for up to two months. Make sure to completely unwrap it before you defrost, or it’ll get soggy!
A make-ahead option
We love a make-ahead situation! If you want to bake the cinnamon swirl bread the next morning, get the bread completely assembled. Then, for the second rise, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it slow-rise in the fridge overnight. I like to let it slow-rise for about 8-10 hours, but definitely don’t go over 12. Then, when you want to bake, let it sit in a warm spot covered with a linen for about an hour (until it gets puffy). Brush with the egg wash, sprinkle with streusel, and bake as directed. If the dough is still cold in the center, it may take a little longer than usual!
I’m not gonna lie, the make-ahead option is my fave! Not only do you get freshly baked bread in the morning, but the flavor of the dough develops in the fridge overnight and it is amazing. You almost get a subtle fermented, sourdough flavor if that makes sense? So good!
Tips & Tricks
- If you don’t have a stand mixer – you can definitely still make this recipe by hand. It’ll be a bit of a workout but not too bad!
- Kneading the dough – make sure it’s properly kneaded! I like to use the poke test. Just give the dough a poke with your finger, and if it fills back quickly, it’s ready to go. If it leaves a deep print, it needs more kneading.
- Rolling the dough – don’t worry if it’s not a perfect rectangle! And if it’s too wide, you can always fold the dough in an inch or so on each side before rolling it up.
- Streusel – if you want larger chunks, just form the streusel into bigger clumps. Or, for a finer crumb, use your fingers to break it up and sprinkle it over the bread.
- Use a metal loaf pan – it gives the outside of the bread a nice, caramel-y flavor! I like this one.
- Add-ins – try adding about 1/3-1/2 cup of raisins, walnuts, or pecans to the filling if desired!
Other bread recipes you’ll love
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Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Streusel
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
- 3/4 c whole milk, warm (110-115°F)
- 1/4 c sugar, divided
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1/3 c unsalted butter, very softened
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 3-4 c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter, very softened
- 3 Tbs brown sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbs cinnamon
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- 1 egg, whisked with 1 Tbs. water
- 1/4 c flour
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast, warmed whole milk, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is frothy.
- Next, add the remaining sugar, vanilla extract, the egg, and the unsalted butter in chunks. You will see streaks of egg and clumps of butter, but that's ok! Add the salt and 3 cups of flour, mixing over medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together. Add more flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough forms into a soft, shaggy ball and is just slightly tacky. Don't add too much flour!
- Knead the dough over medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and holds its shape, about 4-6 minutes. Smooth the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a linen, and place it in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
Cinnamon-Sugar Filling & Assembling
- Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside. Then, stir together the cinnamon and brown sugar until smooth. Set aside.
- Punch down the risen dough to release the air. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9×18-inch rectangle. Spread the very soft butter over the dough, leaving about a 1-inch gap on all sides. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the butter.
- Starting with the narrow (9-inch) side of the dough facing you, tightly roll up the dough into a loaf. Pinch the ends to seal, and place the loaf seam-side down into your greased pan.
- Cover the loaf pan with a linen, and let it rise in a warm spot until the dough is puffy and creates a dome-shape over the pan, about one hour.
Streusel & Baking
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 Tablespoon of water and set aside.
- Then, in another small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix until clumps form. Set aside.
- Brush the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with the streusel. Form the streusel into large chunks, or break it up with your fingers for finer crumbs. (You may have some leftover).
- Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until the loaf is golden-brown and makes a hollow sound when you give it a tap. Let the bread cool for about 20 minutes in the pan. Then, gently remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
- Slice the bread and serve it with plenty of butter! Store the leftovers covered in the loaf pan for up to 3 days. Or, wrap it well, place it in an airtight container, and freeze the bread for up to 2 months.
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Close to You by Dayglow