Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Zest and Cream Cheese Frosting

My family doesn't have a ton of food traditions for the holidays, but the ones that we have, we are fiercely loyal to. Enter cinnamon rolls.

Growing up we would buy the cinnamon rolls that come in the can from the grocery store. You know the ones that come in a tube and all you have to do is put them in a pan and bake. They also come with that incredible frosting? Well I have taken that as inspiration to create my own homemade cinnamon rolls. They are not as easy as the ones that come in the jar but I dare say they are tastier. Scented with orange zest and topped with the most delicious cream cheese frosting, it would not be the holidays if we did not make these cinnamon rolls.  They have become a holiday tradition for us and I hope they can become one for your family too. 

Couple notes about the recipe. First since cinnamon rolls are most often served for breakfast, I have broken down the recipe to make it a little easier the morning that you serve them. I like to make the dough the night before, let the dough slowly rise in the refrigerator overnight. I also make the cinnamon filling and cream cheese frosting the night before and store them both in the fridge. In the  morning I pull out the dough, cinnamon filling and cream cheese frosting when I first wake up and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then I roll out the dough, spread the filling, slice it,  then place in the pan to do the second rise. If you wanted to do even more the night before you could even roll out the cinnamon rolls, slice them and then let them rise overnight in the fridge in the pan that you are going to bake them in. The only drawback to doing this is that sometime the rolls rise too much in the fridge overnight and loose their cylindrical shape. If they rise a little too much, just gently place them back together.

Also, if orange zest if not your thing in cinnamon rolls, feel free to omit. You could also add other types of warm spices like nutmeg, cloves or cardamom. 

Lastly, if you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can make these in a casserole pan or cake pan. 



Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Zest and Cream Cheese Frosting

For the dough: 

  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp. dry active yeast 
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour 
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the filling:

  • 1 stick (8 tbs.) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. orange zest
  • pinch of salt

For the cream cheese frosting: 

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature 
  • 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbs. orange zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk, yeast, brown sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Mix together mixture and let stand for 5 minutes or until yeast mixture is bubbling and the yeast has bloomed. Fitted with the dough hook, add the egg and butter, mixing each one throughoutly until well combined. Add remaining flour and salt. Knead dough on low until smooth and slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. 

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough by hand for 1 minute. Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in the refrigerator overnight. (Or until dough has doubled in size.) 

While the dough is rising, make the cinnamon filling. In a bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and salt until smooth and creamy.  Set aside. 

On a well floured surface, roll out the dough into a 14" x 12" rectangle. Spread the filling on the dough. Starting with long side of the dough that is closest, roll the dough into a long tube. 

Slice the dough into approximate 1" thick rounds and place in a well greased cast iron skillet or casserole dish. Let dough rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size. 

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. 

Bake cinnamon rolls for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. While the cinnamon rolls are baking, make the cream cheese frosting. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, mix together the cream cheese, orange juice, orange zest and powdered sugar. 

Frost the warm cinnamon rolls with the cream cheese frosting and serve warm. 

Makes about  10 - 12 rolls