Pillowy and tender, my orange cinnamon rolls are the perfect sweet indulgence to bake up when you're craving a truly special, love-infused treat perfect for the weekend. Scented with fresh orange zest and warming spices, brimming with plump dried cranberries, these golden-hued orange cinnamon rolls are slathered with a spiced cream cheese frosting for an extra decadent touch!
Orange Cinnamon Rolls, Filled with Lots of TLC
Do you have favorite treat that you just love to prepare on the weekends when you have a little extra time to play in your kitchen, and really relish the process of cooking or baking?
I would have to say that one of my favorite things to prepare on a leisurely weekend morning is my homemade orange cinnamon rolls recipe, which yields fluffy, tender and pillowy cinnamon rolls slathered in a thick, rich cream cheese frosting—what a treat!
Orange cinnamon rolls are a favorite in our household, and I love to wake up a little earlier to enjoy the process of preparing the orange-scented dough from scratch, then dousing it with a spiced brown sugar and butter filling dotted with plump dried cranberries before rolling, proofing and baking the rolls to sweet perfection.
This is weekend “baking therapy” for me, and is something that I truly cherish because it yields the most cozy and sweetly delicious results, perfect to share with my loved ones to make their morning a little bit extra special and comforting!
Homemade Orange Cinnamon Rolls
Part of the magic of preparing homemade cinnamon rolls is that the flavor and texture of these dreamy “pillows of sweetness” far exceeds anything one could buy at the store, or pop out of a canister.
When extra delicious, extra indulgent bakery-style orange cinnamon rolls are what you truly long for, then using fresh quality ingredients with lots of flavor and richness is the only way to go to create a homemade dough that is light and fluffy, and yields tender cinnamon rolls.
A trick I learned a while back is to use a small amount of mashed potato in the dough to help it to remain nice and tender. For this orange cinnamon roll recipe, I use a mashed sweet potato to add some natural orange color and sweet flavor.
Of course, lots of freshly grated orange zest is added to the dough as well, plus a touch milk, melted butter and vanilla.
To create an deliciously fragrant filling, I use a combination of softened butter, brown sugar, more orange zest, spices and dried cranberries. So sweet and rich!
And no orange cinnamon roll recipe would be complete without an decadently thick, rich cream cheese frosting to spread over top of the warm rolls, and mine has a touch of spice and a squeeze of fresh orange juice.
Here's a sneak peek at my orange cinnamon rolls recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To begin, I prepare my cinnamon roll dough and knead it for about 4-6 minutes using my electric stand mixer, or even knead by hand until the dough is elastic and smooth.
- I place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it, allowing it to proof (or double in size) in a warm area of my kitchen, for about 1 hour 20 minutes.
- While my dough proofs, I prepare my filling ingredients to have on hand, and set those aside.
- When the dough has doubled, I roll it out to a large rectangle, spread my filling evenly over the dough, then roll it upwards as tightly as I can, until it rests on its seam in a log shape.
- I cut the dough “log” into 4 equal pieces, then each of those into 4 cinnamon rolls making a total of 16 rolls; I place the rolls into their baking dish or into a couple of 9” cake pans, cover the rolls, and allow those to proof once more to double in size, for about 40 minutes.
- During this time I prepare my cream cheese frosting to have ready, and set it aside.
- Once doubled, the orange cinnamon rolls are baked for about 25 minutes, and then slightly cooled for about 10 minutes
- I finish the rolls by spreading a thick layer of the cream cheese frosting over top and serving while warm.
Orange Cinnamon Rolls
by Ingrid Beer
Nutrition Info: 545 calories (per orange cinnamon roll)
Prep Time: 25 minutes (does not include dough proof time)
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Orange cinnamon roll dough Ingredients:
- 1 small sweet potato
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided use
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon, divided use
- 1 (1//4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 (heaping) tablespoon orange zest
- 2 large eggs
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground pumpkin pie spice
- 1 (heaping) tablespoon orange zest
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
- 1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temp
- 6 ounces unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), softened at room temp
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 3 cups powdered sugar (plus extra as needed)
- 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed orange juice (from the zested oranges)
- Prepare your mashed sweet potato for the dough: poke a sweet potato a few times with a fork and place into the microwave for a few minutes until tender and cooked; then, scoop a generous 1/2 cup worth of the flesh and put it through a ricer, or mash very well with the fork, until lump-free. Allow to cool slightly.
- To prepare your dough, add 1/4 cup of the milk to a small bowl, and heat it in the microwave until just warm, about 110°. Add in the 1 teaspoon of sugar, and mix to dissolve; next, sprinkle the yeast over top in an even layer, and using a fork, mix to dissolve. Allow the yeast mixture to sit for about 8-10 minutes, until foamy.
- While the yeast activates, add the remaining 1 cup of milk, the butter, the 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt to a small sauce pan, and gently heat the mixture until the butter is melted; whisk to blend, and allow to slightly cool.
- Next, add this milk/butter/sugar/salt mixture to a large bowl. Add in the vanilla extract, orange zest, mashed sweet potato and the eggs, and using a hand mixer, mix on low until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in 2 cups of the flour, and mix that in until blended.
- Pour in the yeast mixture, and mix that in to incorporate.
- Now, working with a wooden spoon, add in the remainder of the flour, and mix that in until a shaggy dough forms.
- Turn the dough out into the bowl of an electric standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, and mix on medium speed for about 4-6 minutes (you may need to add some additional flour if too sticky). Alternatively, you can turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled with more flour, and knead the dough by hand for about 4-6 minutes (you may need to continue to add sprinklings of flour), or until elastic.
- Lightly oil a large bowl, add the dough in, turning it to coat it lightly in the oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen and allow it to double in size, or “proof”, for about 1 hour 20 minutes.
- While dough is rising, prepare your filling: add the brown sugar, the orange zest and the pumpkin pie spice to bowl, and using a fork or your fingers, blend to combine well. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and roll out into a rectangular shape about 1/4” thick, and about 15”x 9”, roughly.
- To fill, spread the 1/4 cup softened butter over the dough leaving about a 1” border; then, sprinkle over the brown sugar mixture.
- Next, sprinkle the cranberries over in an even layer.
- Roll the dough starting from the top downward, rolling as tightly as possible, and pinch the seam closed.
- Cut the dough in half, then in half again, to have 4 equal portions. Cut each portion into 4 rolls (to make 16 rolls), and place the rolls into a buttered or cooking spray-misted baking dish, or a couple of 9” cake tins. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to double in size, about 45 minutes.
- While to rolls proof, prepare your cream cheese frosting: add the softened cream cheese and butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, along with pumpkin pie spice. Beat those together until fluffy.
- Add in about 1/3 of the powdered sugar, and beat on low until combined.
- Add another 1/3 of the sugar, and combine.
- Add the rest of the sugar, plus the 1 tablespoon of orange juice, and mix until fluffy.
- Spoon into a bowl or container, cover, and place into the fridge until ready to use.
- To bake the orange cinnamon rolls, preheat your oven to 350°, and bake for about 25 minutes or until a pale golden color (mine take about 25 minutes). Turn off oven leave them in for 1-2 minutes longer.
- Remove from oven and allow the rolls to cool for about 10-15 minutes before frosting and serving.
Tips & Tidbits for my Orange Cinnamon Rolls:
- Using a sweet potato for extra moisture and texture: I always use a potato (usually a russet) in my dough for cinnamon rolls, as potatoes provide extra moisture and a tender texture to cinnamon rolls. I prefer a sweet potato for this recipe, since it adds just a hint of an orange hue, and a bit of extra sweetness.
- Knead the dough by hand, or use your stand mixer: I tend to enjoy kneading my dough by hand, but sometimes that gets a bit tiring, so using my stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, is a nice alternative. Either way, kneading for roughly 4-6 minutes, until elastic, is sufficient.
- Allow dough to rise in warm, quiet place: Once your dough ball is placed into its oiled bowl and covered loosely with plastic wrap, place it into a quiet and warm spot to allow it double in size. I have a proof setting on my oven that I like to use (80°), or a quiet corner, or I've even used my microwave (dark and quiet).
- Bake just until rolls are a pale golden color: Take care not to over-bake your orange cinnamon rolls. Watch that they don't get too dark, as you want only a pale, golden-brown on top so that they don't become dry. Mine typically take 25 minutes, then I turn off the oven and leave them in for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Prepare orange cinnamon rolls ahead: If you'd like to prepare the rolls the day before, just follow the recipe up to the point that you cut the rolls and place them into your baking dish or pans; then, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, take the rolls out about 1 1/2 hours before hand, then bake as directed.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2017, and has been updated with even more love!