Easy apple cinnamon rolls with generous goey apple filling bursting with cinnamon flavor. These soft and fluffy rolls are topped with delicious cream cheese frosting and are simply irresistible. They can be made the night before so you can bake them in the morning.
Why This Recipe Works
There are so many recipes out there but being biased, of course, we just love our apple cinnamon roll recipe the best. Here's why we keep making these delicious rolls over and over again in the cold weather, feeling all cozy while enjoying every bite.
- Soft and fluffy rolls - These rolls are buttery and delicious even without being a brioche type of dough that typically uses more eggs and butter. These are soft and fluffy rolls, as in our cinnamon rolls with walnuts and our clementine pecan sticky buns!
- Basic ingredients - The ingredients are the ones that you most probably already have in your pantry. We like to keep things easy and simple.
- Lots of apples - By cooking the apples first so they get tender, we get to use more apples for the filling! We're using 4 cups of raw diced apples, which is around 3-4 apples. Imagine all the flavor. It takes just a few minutes to cook and the tender apples also make rolling the dough way easier.
- Fresh touch - Our secret is using orange zest to the remarkably delicious smell of dough! Don't knock it until you try it. It gives a hint of citrus and freshness to the rolls, you'll love it.
What Apple To Use For Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Apples in general are divided into two categories, sweet and tart. For these apple cinnamon rolls that are deliciously sweet, some people like to combine both types of apples to balance the sweetness. Of course, some just use whatever they have in their house at the moment, like we do when we make our delicious apple-stuffed buns!
For these apple cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting, you can use whichever you prefer. This brief list can give of an idea of more or less what to expect in flavorwise with the apples you're using.
Sweet - Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Kiku, Ambriosa, Sweetie, Jazz, Dazzle, Opal
Tart - Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Braeburn, Empire, Cortland
A mix of sweet and tart - Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Evy, Kanzi, Jonagold
Ingredients For This Recipe
Bread flour - Or high protein flour, usually around 11-13%. The protein content is important as when we knead the dough, it'll develop strong gluten that'll make the rolls rise beautifully with a soft and fluffy texture like in our Swedish cardamom pistachio buns and our Nutella babka buns.
Apple - I've used Gala and Granny Smith for these and we liked them both. It's a matter of preference at the end. Use tart apples if you're looking to balance out the sweetness of the rolls. Use a combo of sweet and tart, or simply use what you have in the house.
Instant dry yeast - It doesn't need rehydration, you simply add it directly with the rest of the ingredients, just like how I use it in my amazing Lebanese flatbreads (Man'oushe za'atar). If using active dry yeast and fresh yeast, rehydrate it with warm milk with 1 teaspoon of sugar for 5 minutes until it's foamy. For the fresh yeast amount, multiply by 3.3, which for this recipe will be around 36g.
Honey - Helps the rolls to get that soft texture. Baking bread with honey is a game changer, trust me. It also adds a touch of delicate sweetness.
Orange - I love to use orange zest in my apple cinnamon rolls because it gives an amazing smell and a delicate citrus hint lingering with every bite. It's optional but I highly recommend it!
⭐ See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
1. Make the dough - Add bread flour, salt, honey, egg, melted butter, warm milk, and instant yeast into the standing mixer bowl. Knead for 10 minutes using speed 2, using a dough hook.
2. Rise the dough - Make the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl that's lightly greased. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film. Let the dough rise to double its size. It'll take around 1-2 hours.
3. Make apple filling - While the dough is rising, cook the diced apples with butter in a pan, on medium-high heat, for 5-10 minutes or until they get soft, but not mushy. Cool completely before using.
4. Assemble - Roll the dough on a lightly floured kitchen top, to an 18x12-inch rectangle (45x30cm). Spread ⅓ cup butter on top, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture, followed with the apple filling. Roll into a somewhat tight log from the longest end, and cut it into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife.
5. Bake - Arrange the rolls in a buttered 13x9-inch pan (33x23cm). Cover loosely with a cling film and let the rolls rise to double their size, for around 30-45 minutes. Brush the top with melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 400℉ (200℃) for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Make frosting - While the rolls are baking, make the frosting. Mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract for 1-2 minutes until well combined, using a paddle attachment. Gradually add in powdered sugar and mix well after each addition. Chill in the fridge while not using. Frost the apple cinnamon rolls either while they're still warm or completely cool. Enjoy!
Can I Make The Cinnamon Rolls The Night Before
Yes, you can! If you want to bake these apple cinnamon rolls fresh in the morning, this is what I recommend you do in advance so your morning is with the least amount of work.
- Slow rise the dough in the fridge - Knead the dough, cover it tightly with cling film, and chill it in the fridge. The next morning, bring it out to room temperature and continue with the steps to assemble and bake.
- Cook the filling - Dice and cook the apples, and keep them in an air-tight container in the fridge. Bring them to room temperature before using.
- Make the frosting - Prepare the frosting, and keep it in an air-tight container in the fridge. Take it out 10-15 minutes before frosting the apple cinnamon rolls. Give it a quick mix before using it.
I don't recommend assembling the rolls together with the filling the night before to avoid the dough getting soggy from the liquid released from the apple filling, throughout the night.
Recipe Expert Tips
- Use the spoon and level method. If using cup measurement, don't scoop the flour with the cup. Instead, spoon the flour into the cup, without pressing it, and then level it with the back of a knife. This will avoid using too much flour, which will make the rolls dense and hard.
- Check your yeast. Expired yeast will prevent the dough from rising beautifully, and you'll get dense and hard rolls.
- Place the dough in a warm, draft-free place. This will ensure the dough rises beautifully. Depending on your kitchen's temperature, the time might vary. The warmer it is, the faster the dough will rise, and vice versa.
- Don't roll the dough too tightly. This will make the filling come out, and the center pops up in the oven (not a beautiful sight!) and is not properly cooked.
How To Serve And Store
Serve - These apple cinnamon rolls are the best when served warm! I even warm up the balance in a microwave for a few seconds, with frosting on top and all. They're soft, fluffy, and irresistible.
Store - Store in an air-tight container, in the fridge since the frosting has dairy in it. They last up to 1 week. I highly recommend you warm them in the microwave for a few seconds to bring them back to their delicious glory!
Freeze - I like to fast-freeze them in portions for 1 hour, and then place them in an air-tight container. This way it's easier to grab the amount that I want. They last up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw them in the fridge and don't forget to warm them up before enjoying them!
Yes, definitely. Knead the dough, cook the filling, and make the frosting the night before. Assemble and bake the next morning. I've written in detail on how to achieve this in the post above.
Bread flour, without a doubt. It has higher protein content which means it'll able to produce more gluten during the kneading process. This will give us beautifully risen rolls with amazing structure and soft and fluffy texture.
Somewhat tight but not too tightly until the filling comes out. Too tight will also make the center of the rolls pop up (not beautiful!) and not properly cooked. You want to give some room for the dough to expand in the oven. Too loose will result in the rolls and the filling falling apart.
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Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- 4 ½ cup bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg , room temperature
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter , melted
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup whole milk , warm
- 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
- zest of 1 orange , optional but highly recommended
- 4 Gala or Granny Smith apples , cut into small cubes of 4 cups
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter ,softened for spreading
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz full-fat cream cheese , room temperature
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter , room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar , sifted
- some melted butter , for brushing the rolls before baking
- Add bread flour, salt, honey, egg, melted butter, warm milk, and instant yeast into the standing mixer bowl. Knead for 10 minutes using speed 2, using a dough hook.
- Make the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl that's lightly greased. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film. Let the dough rise to double its size. It'll take around 1-2 hours.
- While the dough is rising, cook the diced apples with butter in a pan, on medium-high heat, for 5-10 minutes or until they get soft, but not mushy. Cool completely before using.
- Mix granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon powder in a bowl. Set aside.
- Roll the dough on a lightly floured kitchen top, to an 18x12-inch rectangle (45x30cm). Spread ⅓ cup softened butter on top, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture, followed with the apple filling. Roll into a somewhat tight log from the longest end, and cut it into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife.
- Arrange the rolls in a buttered 13x9-inch pan (33x23cm). Cover loosely with a cling film and let the rolls rise to double their size, for around 30-45 minutes.
- Brush the top with melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 400℉ (200℃), on the middle rack, for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- While the rolls are baking, make the frosting. Mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract with a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes until well combined, using a paddle attachment. Gradually add in powdered sugar and mix well after each addition. Chill in the fridge while not using. Frost the apple cinnamon rolls either while they're still warm or completely cool. Enjoy!
- Use the spoon and level method for cup measurements. This will prevent the use of excessive flour that'll make the rolls hard and dense.
- A kitchen scale is a more precise tool in baking. I use it all the time for dry ingredients like flour and sugar.
- Use a portable oven thermometer to get the accurate oven temperature. I use it every single time I bake.
- Add more powdered sugar if you prefer the frosting to be thicker.
- These rolls are the best when they're warm, so remember to warm the balance for a few seconds in the microwave.
Originally published on Oct 20, 2018. Updated with improved text, recipe, and pictures on Sep 9, 2023.