I have been on a mission to make a cinnamon bun that tastes just like those yummy ones you get at the mall/airport (really...you should ask my mom-in-law, who has been forced to partake in the trial runs). I recently made this recipe when said mom-in-law was visiting, and I have to say that it's about as close as I've come so far. After reading lots of other blogs on cinnamon rolls, it seemed that the only way to come really close to Cinnabon's recipe is to purchase a specific cinnamon (Korintje) from a specialty store. I found a lovely gentleman who has a very cute store in Avondale (a quaint shopping area in Jacksonville) called the Green Man Gourmet, and he helped me out with the cinnamon I needed. Although I hate to admit it (only because I was so convinced it was some other aspect of the recipe that was off), the cinnamon DEFINITELY made a difference. I used Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk, since I didn't even have milk on hand, but milk mixed with a tiny bit of lemon juice (1 T. per 1 c. of milk is the ratio) if you don't want to purchase buttermilk for just this one recipe.
~ 5 - 5 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1 t. yeast
1/4 t. baking soda
1 c. warm water
1 T. buttermilk or Greek yogurt
1/3 c. margarine, melted
1 1/2 sticks of butter
3 T. Korintje cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar
4 oz. cream cheese
1 stick of butter
~ 3 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. lemon juice
1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (I'm sure you don't need one, but hopefully you're able to modify these instructions if you don't have one. I don't have the patience to knead the dough by hand!), mix 1 c. of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and baking soda. Add the wet dough ingredients and mix well until it all comes together (about 2 minutes).
2. Add flour until the dough forms a ball and starts coming away from the sides (probably at least another 2 1/2 to 3 cups). Change to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough for at least 10-15 minutes, or until it looks nice and smooth. Add flour as necessary in the first 5 minutes of kneading (possibly up to another 1/2 cup) until the dough ball stops forming a pool at the bottom of the mixer. Stop adding flour if the dough is NOT pooling at the bottom of the mixer (not too scientific, but that's how I do it).
3. After lots of kneading, take the dough out of the mixer bowl (peeling it off the hook as necessary), and form it into a ball. Coat the mixer bowl with cooking spray, shortening, or butter (something greasy), and stick the dough ball back in there, turning it around to coat it with the greasiness. Cover with plastic wrap and fasten with a rubber band (or just cover loosely if you don't have a rubber band handy).
4. At this point, you can either wait for it to rise for 1 1/2 hours on the counter, or put it in the fridge to rise for 6-9 hours.
5. After the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl and pat it down, forming it into a large rectangle. Stretch it sufficiently to make it approximately 1/8 inch thick.
6. Spread the dough with the softened butter, sprinkle with cinnamon, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Roll the dough up, stretching it slightly as you go to roll it to give you at least 3-4 turns. Cut them up and place them in a greased pan. Allow them to rise for at least another 30 minutes.
7. Bake the rolls for ~20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until they begin to lightly brown on top.
8. To make the frosting, mix all the ingredients together (adjusting the sugar to make a nice frosting...I never actually measure, so I guessed at the amount for the ingredient list). Beat for at least 5 minutes; it will get lighter and fluffier as you mix it. Spread some on the warm buns, and save some for adding on top if you plan to reheat them (since the initial coating of frosting will probably melt into the roll if you reheat them in the microwave).