School Cinnamon rolls on a cooling rack

School Cafeteria Cinnamon Rolls: An Ode to Childhood Delights

Ah, the sweet aroma of cinnamon filling the air. Who can forget the delightful taste of the elementary school cinnamon rolls, those round morsels of doughy goodness that made school mornings so special? We’re going to take a trip down memory lane, revisiting that cherished recipe, the school cafeteria cinnamon rolls that once graced our lunch trays and stole our hearts. Prepare to reminisce, and even better, to recreate this iconic school cinnamon rolls recipe at home!

School Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Pinterest Image

A Brief History of the School Cinnamon Roll

Not many people know this, but the lunch lady cinnamon rolls were a staple in school cafeterias all across America. The reason? Cinnamon rolls are relatively easy to make in large quantities, they store well, and above all, children love them. These school cinnamon rolls were not just breakfast items. They were also served during lunch and sometimes as a treat during special events, thus earning the title, ‘school lunch cinnamon rolls’. 

The Irresistible Appeal of School Cafeteria Cinnamon Rolls

What sets the school cafeteria cinnamon rolls recipe apart from others is its simplicity. The dough is light and fluffy, the cinnamon-sugar filling is perfectly sweet without being overwhelming, and the glaze on top adds just the right amount of creaminess. Furthermore, the taste of these cafeteria cinnamon rolls sparks a certain nostalgia, transporting us back to our childhood. It’s a taste that’s deeply embedded in our memory, making these rolls more than just a sweet treat.

Two school cinnamon rolls stacked on top of each other

How to Make Your Own School Cinnamon Rolls

Would you like to recreate the elementary school cinnamon rolls at home? Well, you’re in luck! We’ve got the coveted school cinnamon rolls recipe for you right here. The method is simple, the ingredients are basic, and the result is nothing short of amazing! Here’s how to do it:


For the Dough:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Warm the milk in a saucepan until it’s about 110°F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can still estimate the correct temperature. The milk should be warm but not hot to the touch. One traditional method is to drop a small amount of milk on the inside of your wrist. If it feels slightly warmer than your body temperature but not hot, it’s around the right temperature. Be careful not to heat the milk too much; overly hot milk can kill the yeast, affecting the rise of your dough.
  2. Add sugar and butter, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool until it’s lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over the milk mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 4 cups of flour to the milk mixture and stir until just combined. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 1 cup of flour. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  6. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Pour the melted butter over the dough, spreading it evenly. Then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the butter.
  7. Starting from one end, roll the dough tightly towards the other end. Cut the roll into 1 1/2 inch slices and place them in a greased baking pan.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.
  9. While the rolls are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract to make the glaze. Drizzle this over the cooled rolls.

While the recipe might seem a little daunting at first, especially if you’re new to baking, don’t worry. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. And remember, even if they’re not perfect, they’ll still taste delicious! 

This post currently has 23 responses.

  • Peggy Nunn

    I never had anything like that at school. But I will make them for me now.

  • Julie Waldron

    I took my own lunch to school but I don’t remember them serving cinnamon rolls. These sound delicious.

  • Nancy

    Cinnamon rolls are my very favorite baked treat. This recipe looks both easy and delicious!

  • Leela

    They look so perfect! I love cinnamon rolls.

  • Maria Egan

    I wish my school cafeteria had something as delicious as these. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Brandy Monday

    Yes! This is a recipe I need In my life! Thank you!

  • sheila ressel

    Boy, do these sure look good! I never got cinnamon rolls in my school. I feel like I’ve been left out, lol!

  • Ashley Parks

    Oh my goodness, I haven’t thought about the school cinnamon rolls in ages! They were so good!! I need to try these! My kids would be so excited!

  • Brittany Gilley

    These looks amazing

  • Angela kraemer

    These look deslicous. My great grandma used to always make cinnamon rolls by scratch and it is still a warm memory

  • Peter Mogish

    Warm cinnamon rolls straight from the oven are the best! Thanks for sharing this easy recipe that brings back memories!

  • gloria patterson

    My mouth is watering LOL I remember my mother making cinnamon rolls saturday night and they would be ready to finish on sunday morning…………….. they were so good

  • Ashley Parks

    My mom used to help out with the school cafeteria many many years ago. I need to ask her if she remembers making these! I also used to love the peanut butter bars. My kids are allergic to peanuts, so I have recreated those with almond butter and they tasted pretty close. So fun to try those nostalgic things again!

  • Anita

    I’ve never tried baking cinnamon rolls from scratch. These look delicious and recipe looks easy to follow

  • gloria patterson

    Some friends and I were talking recently about school food. My great niece will only eat 2 or 3 times in the month. She does not like what they serve for lunch. But I mentioned cinnamon rolls and we all don’t ever remember having them at school. And we are old. My mother would make them all the time so mouthwatering.

  • Helga

    I have to make these. The lunch room cinnamon roll does bring back memories.

  • paula

    I’m going to make these for my kids this morning. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • K

    I have been wanting to make cinnamon rolls and these look so good! I can’t wait to try out this recipe! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  • Ashley Parks

    I meant to make some homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas, but I ran out of time! Maybe I can use this recipe for New Years breakfast! My kids definitely think homemade is way better than the prepackaged ones, so they would be excited!

  • Robert Scheibe

    Fitch Elementary school, Portland, Oregon in 1962, 1963 and 1964, I fell in love with these cinnamon rolls at lunch. It was pure torture to be in class on the morning they made them, the aroma of cinnamon made it impossible to focus in class!

  • Nancy

    These look absolutely delicious! I must give this recipe a try!

  • Maryann D.

    This School Cinnamon Rolls recipe would be terrific to try. I would enjoy one with a cup of tea!

  • Terri Quick

    These look so delicious

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