There are many variations you can make from a classic cinnamon roll recipe and this one is probably one of my favourite! Orange cinnamon rolls have this zesty, intense orange flavour that is great along with the spices, brown sugar and that delicious dough. You’ll have a blast making this orange roll recipe and the result is just so good!
HOW TO MAKE ORANGE CINNAMON ROLLS
The dough for the orange cinnamon rolls is very similar to classic cinnamon rolls. What changes is that instead of warm milk, you will add warm orange juice as a liquid. To begin, you will mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Those ingredients include all purpose flour, instant yeast or active dry yeast, salt and sugar. Once that’s mixed, you will add the liquids, including an egg, melted butter and warm orange juice.
Mix everything together and knead only until fully incorporated and homogeneous. Kneading too much will make the dough tougher like bread, and we want to keep them soft and gooey. The best cinnamon rolls are those that you can peel layer by layer without them breaking! The result is a soft dough that’s a bit sticky, and that’s completely normal. At this point, the dough will proof for 1 hour in a warm place and then get shaped into orange rolls. After shaping, it will proof for a second time for 30 minutes before baking.
USING A STAND MIXER TO MAKE THE DOUGH
For this orange roll recipe, you can either make it by hand or you can also use a stand mixer. To use a mixer, add all these ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and use the dough hook attachment to bring the dough together. Then knead only until the dough comes together and looks homogenous. This should be done at medium speed. Be mindful that it’s normal to see a sticky dough that keeps itself attached to the bottom of the bowl as it kneads. That’s what makes these orange cinnamon rolls so good!
ORANGE CINNAMON ROLLS FILLING
To make the best homemade orange rolls, you need a great filling. The ingredients for the filling are melted unsalted butter, brown sugar, ground cinnamon and fresh orange zest. I also added ground cardamom which is optional but highly recommended. In a small bowl, you will mix the sugar, zest and spices. While you do so, you will smell that intense orange zest and fall in love with it immediately. The orange flavor will come mostly from the zest, so make sure to use a nice fine grater. If you’re looking for one, Microplane is a great brand option. Once the cinnamon sugar is ready, you spread the melted butter on the rolled-out dough. Then, sprinkle the sugar mix on top and use your hands to even it out. I promise that once you smell the filling, you will understand how good these orange cinnamon rolls really are.
SHAPING THE ROLLS
To shape the orange cinnamon rolls, you will roll it out after its first proofing. Do so on a lightly floured surface and with the help of a rolling pin. My favourite is a large fondant-type rolling pin. Because it’s made of plastic, it makes cleaning that much easier. Also, there’s no risk of mould and it lasts forever. As you roll out the dough, make sure to dust more flour if necessary. Remember that the dough is sticky and we don’t want it to stick to the surface.
Once the dough is in the form of a 30×40 centimetre or 12×16 inch rectangle, you can spread the filling. To roll our homemade orange sweet rolls, start by making sure that it’s tight at the beginning. I like to fold a little piece in to make sure there’s no air there. Then, you can start rolling it tightly into place. Once done, you will cut into 3-4 finger wide rolls using a sharp knife.
BAKING CINNAMON ROLLS
Once the orange cinnamon rolls are shaped, place them in a square baking pan or baking dish with parchment paper at the bottom. Don’t skip the paper because it makes it so much easier to remove them. Cover them with plastic wrap and let them proof for a second time for 30 minutes. It’s ideal to do this in a warm spot. Once ready, bake them in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown. For best results, don’t overbake them as this will make them dry. You only want a light tan colour throughout. Once they come out of the oven, let them cool down until they’re at least just warm before spreading the cream cheese orange icing on top.
CREAM CHEESE ORANGE ICING
This is the part that many people love most about cinnamon rolls in general. To make the cream cheese orange icing you only need 3 ingredients. The first is cream cheese which needs to be at room temperature for this. If it’s not, a few seconds in the microwave will to the trick. You will beat the cream cheese with icing or confectioner’s sugar first. Once that mix is smooth, you will add freshly squeezed orange juice. This orange frosting is delicious and the perfect topping for your orange cinnamon rolls. Once the rolls have cooled down, you can spread the cream cheese frosting on top. Then, I like to finish them with fresh orange zest for some extra colour and a more intense orange flavour.
NEXT DAY ORANGE CINNAMON ROLLS
If you want to bake these orange cinnamon rolls the next day after making them, here’s how to do it. Check the notes of the recipe where I mention the change in the amount of yeast. We use less if doing overnight proofing because then it takes longer for it to proof to where we need it to be. After shaping these homemade orange rolls, you will place them in the pan, cover them with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge to proof.
They need to stay there for at least 12 hours and a maximum of 14 hours. So on the next day, when you’re ready to bake, you preheat the oven, remove the plastic wrap and they go straight in from the fridge. Be aware that because they’re cold, they will probably need about 10 extra minutes in the oven. This is a really good idea for Christmas Morning!
HOW TO KEEP AND REHEAT ORANGE ROLLS
Say you’re making these amazing orange cinnamon rolls and you have some left. Or maybe you make them ahead of time and you want them to stay soft and fresh. To achieve that, you can keep them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat them, you can place them for a few seconds in the microwave and they will be as good as new. Another option is to freeze the baked rolls. This is a great option if you’re not going to consume them all in one sitting and rather have them portioned. To eat them, you can just remove the portion from the freezer and reheat them in the microwave, a low-heat oven or even in an air fryer. It’s ideal to do this without the orange glaze on top.
MORE CINNAMON ROLLS RECIPES
If you love all things cinnamon rolls and have already tried these homemade orange rolls recipe, here are other cinnamon roll recipes I adore. That includes the best classic homemade cinnamon rolls ever plus more innovative flavours. A few of my favourites include the carrot cake cinnamon rolls and the blueberry cinnamon rolls. Let me know if you try any of these!
Orange Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
For the dough
- 500 g all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2¼ tsp instant dry yeast
- 120 g sugar
- 240 ml lukewarm freshly squeezed orange juice you can heat it slightly in a pan or in the microwave
- 60 g unsalted melted butter cooled to room temperature
- 1 egg at room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla extract or essence
For the sugar filling:
- 220 g brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 3 oranges, zest only
- 60 g melted unsalted butter cooled to room temperature
For the cream cheese frosting
- 110 g cream cheese at room temperature
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- Get the zest from the oranges first for the filling, then get the juice for the dough.
For the dough
- Mix the lukewarm orange juice, egg, vanilla extract and melted butter.
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, make a hole in the centre and add all the wet ingredients in the center.
- Mix everything until you have a uniform dough. It’s really sticky so don’t worry, that’s just the way this dough is 🙂 That makes them gooey at the end instead of bready and hard.
- Let the dough rest for 1 hour covered in cling film. If it’s too cold, place it in the oven with the light on and heat off.
- Dust flour on a clean tabletop and roll the dough. Every couple of rolls make sure it’s not sticking and dust more flour underneath and on top. Roll it out to a large rectangle (30x40cm or 12x17in). Try to keep it as rectangular as you can. At the very end make sure it’s not stuck and dust more flour if necessary so you can roll it with ease.
For the filling:
- Paint the melted butter on top of the dough evenly and reach every edge.
- Mix the sugar, spices and zest and spread it out as evenly as possible. Sprinkle it first and then spread out any mountains of sugar by gently brushing them with your hand.
- Start rolling: first do it carefully so it’s nice and tight and once you have the first 2 complete rolls, you can just push it (still very tightly) so it rolls to the end.
- Cut the rolls (I did mine 3 fingers thick) and place them in a baking pan lined with baking paper at the bottom (this will help later so the sugar doesn’t stick, you’ll thank me!) and arrange them nicely. Keep a decent amount of space between them so that they can rise during proofing and after in the oven without becoming square.
- Let them proof for 30min*** (again, it helps if they’re in a warm environment) and then they go in the oven at 180°C/350°F for 20-30min or until they're lightly golden on top.
For the cream cheese frosting
- Whip together the cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar.
- Add the orange juice little by little, whipping it in.
- Spread the frosting onto the rolls once they have cooled down. Finish with orange zest.