Orange Cinnamon Rolls & Childhood Memories

When I think of the holidays one of the things that always comes to mind is warm orange cinnamon rolls. There are a couple of holiday breakfasts I usually make, but these are my favorites. They are warm, gooey, and the orange and cinnamon blend perfectly together. Just thinking about it I’m tempted to go grab one. 

We’ve had orange cinnamon rolls for special occasions ever since I can remember; when I was little I would often ask for them for my birthday breakfast or holidays. I’d eat several of them, all the while the sweet orange frosting would drip down my hands. However, despite my love for both this splendid treat and baking I’ve always bought the pre-packaged variety, because all the recipes I had tried failed to meet my expectations. They would have orange flavor, but it wouldn’t be quite right and they would leave me disappointed. Therefore with the holidays coming up I decided to create my own recipe! 

Cinnamon Roll Dough
Cinnamon Roll Dough

One important aspect to remember when making cinnamon rolls is to make sure you knead the dough long enough and let it fully rise. Otherwise, your cinnamon rolls will be tough and not fully rise. Thankfully there’s this useful chart from The Kitchn that helps you learn when to know if dough is fully kneaded. Not just important for cinnamon rolls, but for all yeast doughs. Letting the dough fully rise is also important for tenderness. This is something I even sometimes mess up on thanks to my spectacularly terrible memory, (thank you, brain) such as when I attempt to make the oven slightly warm to let the cinnamon rolls rise in a warm area, but accidentally leave the heat on and end up baking the rolls instead. 

I took inspiration from Swedish kanelbullar, their version of cinnamon rolls, and included almond paste in the filling, which gives the filling more substance, flavor, and helps it better stick to the rolls. Don’t worry if you don’t have almond paste, it can easily be made with just a few ingredients and a food processor or blender.Cinnamon Roll Dough Log
Slicing Cinnamon Rolls
One wonderful thing I love about this dough is how tender and rich it is, using milk instead of water really makes a big difference here. I also chose to add orange to the dough, rather than just the filling and frosting. This makes for a cinnamon roll that blends seamlessly together, it doesn’t feel as if any one aspect of it belongs separately and it creates layers of flavor with orange on top of orange on top of more orange.

One thing I find immensely helpful when rolling out cinnamon rolls is to not use a cutting board. I prefer parchment paper. You can make it as long as you want, and if you need something wider you can layer multiple sheets together. Along with being convenient in size it also helps prevent sticking and makes for rather easy cleanup. 
Sliced Cinnamon Rollsbaked cinnamon rolls
By now I assume you know of my obsession with flash freezing? I mentioned it when I made my signature pie crust and again when making butternut stuffed bell peppers. Well, I flash froze forty of these delicious wonders. I was planning on just freezing enough for Thanksgiving morning, however I figured it couldn’t hurt to have some tucked away in the freezer. Recently when Caroline went to the hospital I was spending the time she was gone to make food to get us through the weekend and to have just in case someone had to drop by. One of the items I made was kanelbullar, which I had stored in the freezer and ready for such occasions. It turned out really useful when my sister (legally or not), Felicia, had to drop by at one in the morning to pick up stuff to then drop off at Caroline’s hospital room. Such late night emergencies require much food.

Thankfully this recipe makes quite a few rolls, twenty-six, and I made two batches. Along with freezing about forty I left us a little over half a pan to eat and took five over to our kind neighbors who are always bringing us produce from their garden.

Orange cinnamon rollsOrange Cinnamon Rolls
Do you ever enjoy something so much you are unable to think of the words to describe it? That’s what I’m currently struggling with. In the past I’ve always been disappointed in homemade orange cinnamon rolls; they never had the depth in the orange flavor I crave. However, for the first time I’ve found something that far exceeds the orange cinnamon rolls I grew up on and the nostalgia that goes with them, and has now become a new favorite. 

The dough is rich and has a faint orange flavor, which helps it blend beautifully with the other components. The almond paste adds a delightful chew to the filling and helps it not fade away, it really carries all the flavors of orange and cinnamon well. The frosting is a rich buttercream with just a hint of orange, it really makes it perfect for either breakfast or dessert. When you bite into these rolls they are tender and chewy, and sadly gone too soon. Which made me eat more than I’d planned on eating, but it was so very worth it.

Eating Cinnamon Rolls
Caroline trying to decide if she feels comfortable eating in front of the camera

I hope you enjoy these as much as my family and I have! <3

Orange Cinnamon Rolls
Yields 26
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Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
  1. 2 TBSP/26g active dry yeast
  2. 1/3 cup/75g sugar
  3. 1 cup/236ml milk
  4. 1/2 tsp/3g orange zest
  5. 1/3 cup/80ml orange juice
  6. 1/2tsp/3g salt
  7. 2/3 cup/153g butter, melted
  8. 4 1/2 cups/618g all-purpose flour
  1. 3/4 cup/190g almond paste*
  2. 1/2 cup/115g butter, softened
  3. 1 TBSP/10g cinnamon
  4. 1/3 cup/75g sugar
  5. 1tsp/6g orange zest
  6. 1/2tsp/2.5ml orange extract
  1. 3/4 cup/162g butter, softened
  2. 1 tsp/6g orange zest
  3. 1/4tsp/pinch of salt
  4. 2 TBSP/30ml orange juice
  5. 1/8tsp/.5ml orange extract
  6. 5 cups/624g powdered sugar
For the Dough
  1. Warm milk until it is about 110°F/43 °C, you do not want the milk overly hot or it will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise. Add milk, sugar, and yeast to a large bowl. Stir to dissolve yeast. Allow to sit and proof for 10min.
  2. Add orange zest, orange juice, salt, and melted butter, stir to combine. Add 2 cups of the flour, stir until it becomes a thick paste. Add enough flour to make it a workable consistency, then kneed in the rest. Knead until the dough holds it's shape and is velvety smooth, about 8-10min. Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a thin cloth, and allow to rise in a warm place for 45-60min, until doubled in size.
  3. While the dough rises combine all the ingredients for the filling, set aside.
  4. Once the dough is ready place it on a floured surface, roll out in a 26x12"/66x30.5cm rectangle. Evenly spread the filling on top of the dough, leaving about 1/2"/1.3cm border of dough without filling. Roll the dough lengthwise so that you have a 26"/66cm long log. Make sure to roll it tightly, and if parts of it bulge with more filling than others just gently squeeze those parts until the log is an even denseness.
  5. Slice cinnamon rolls an inch thick with a sharp smooth bladed knife. Place rolls in two 9x13"/23x33cm pans. Allow to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile preheat oven to 125 °F/50 °C and prepare the frosting.
  7. In a large bowl combine butter, orange zest, salt, orange juice, orange extract, and powdered sugar with a mixer. Mix until completely smooth, set aside.
  8. Bake the cinnamon rolls until they start to turn a golden color, about 25-30min. Once baked allow to cool for a few minutes, about 5-7, before topping with the frosting.
  9. Enjoy!
*If you do not have almond paste it can be made easily
  1. 1 cup/153g blanched almonds
  2. 1 egg white
  3. 1/3 cup/75g sugar
  4. 1/4tsp/1.25ml almond extract
  5. Place almonds in a food processor or blender, pulse until almonds are a fine meal. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until combined.
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