Each year, I love making something truly epic and sweet for #AKPumpkinWeek — this year’s recipe involves infusing pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice into a soft, fluffy pumpkin cinnamon roll that will have your family and friends begging for the recipe.
This pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe is a twist on my very, very famous cinnamon rolls (seriously they’re better than cinnabon!) and I cannot wait for you to give them a try.
One of my favorite things to do is take on a baking project because not only is it a creative, hands-on activity that I really have to focus on, but also because the end result makes me incredibly proud. Proud that I baked something so beautiful and delicious, and proud to share my love of baking with family and friends. Anyone else feel the same?
If not, you’re about to get all the feels from these pumpkin cinnamon rolls with brown sugar cinnamon swirls and an icing so good you’ll want to bathe in it. Yeah, I said it.
Ingredients in pumpkin cinnamon rolls
- Milk: whole, 2% or almond milk will all work in this recipe.
- Granulated sugar: this is used to sweeten the cinnamon rolls and to help activate the yeast.
- Brown sugar: personally, I love using dark brown sugar for more robust molasses sweet flavor in those swirls, but light brown sugar will work.
- Quick rise yeast: use quick rise or instant yeast in this recipe to help the cinnamon rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but the cinnamon rolls may take slightly longer to rise.
- Pumpkin puree: the true star of the show. The pumpkin not only gives the cinnamon rolls sweet flavor, but also adds the perfect amount of moisture, resulting in a fluffy, perfect pumpkin cinnamon rolls.
- Butter: the one and only. I prefer to use salted butter but unsalted is great too. You’ll need it for both the dough and the glaze.
- Egg: this recipe calls for 1 egg, but I’ll also include how to make these vegan in the note section of the recipe
- Bread flour: to help keep these pumpkin cinnamon rolls soft, fluffy and airy, we’re using bread flour, which has a higher protein level to help lighten the cinnamon roll texture. The higher amounts of protein help to produce more gluten, which gives cinnamon roll their chewy, soft texture.
- Spices: you’ll need pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.
- Salt: cinnamon rolls made without salt tastes very plain and in addition, salt also helps to control yeast in cinnamon roll recipes so don’t skip it.
The maple cream cheese icing calls for cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and pure maple syrup. You can also add a pinch of salt, if you want to do a salty maple cream cheese icing (omg).
Which yeast is best for cinnamon rolls + how to know when yeast is activated
I get this question all the time in my famous cinnamon roll recipe and can understand why it may be confusing to know if your yeast is activated. First, it’s important to know that there are two types of yeast to choose from. The first is an active dry yeast, which must be dissolved in liquid, or also what’s known as being “proofed” before it’s added to the rest of the dough ingredients.
The second type of yeast is instant yeast, also known as quick rise yeast (this is the brand I use and love!). That’s what we are using for this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe. It can be added to the dough without proofing required so you don’t need to sit and watch the yeast to make sure it bubbles. However, I still like to dissolve it in a little bit of milk and sugar to help get it started!
How to measure flour for cinnamon rolls
Technically you should use a scale to measure flour, but this is real life and not everyone is going to own a scale, plus there’s really no problem if you don’t have one because most yeast breads and rolls can be very forgiving. Learning how to measure flour properly will ensure success.
Dip a flour scoop or large spoon into the container of flour and scoop the flour into your dry measuring cup. Do NOT pack the flour or shake the measuring cup so that the flour settles. We want some air in the flour (it’s nature’s leavener). Once you have filled the measuring cup to the top with the flour you’ve spooned in, take the edge of the four scoop of the flat edge of a knife and level the cup. That’s it!
Tips for making the best pumpkin cinnamon rolls:
- Don’t overheat your milk. It should be between 105-115 degrees F. Anything hotter is likely to kill the yeast, which means the cinnamon rolls will not rise. A simple tip is to dip your finger in the milk — it should feel warm similar to warm bath water but not HOT. If you warmed it up too much, simply wait a few minutes until it cools down enough to touch.
- Make sure to use room temperature butter for the filling: a lot of recipes call for using melted butter in the filling, but that will cause the filling to leak out before baking. Room temperature butter is best!
- Rub the brown sugar into the butter: after you spread out the softened butter, it’s important to rub the brown sugar into the butter.
- Use a room temperature egg in the dough: if you use a cold egg, there’s a chance it could affect the yeast or mix with the melted butter and cause it to coagulate.
- Use bread flour: bread flour is available at most grocery stores and it makes ALL the difference in achieving softer, fluffy pumpkin cinnamon rolls. JUST TRUST ME.
- Make sure you flour your work surface and the rolling pin: this is to prevent the cinnamon rolls from sticking the the surface or to the rolling pin.
How to make vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls
Great news! This pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe can easily be made vegan or dairy free.
To make vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls: simply leave the egg out of the recipe and add 3-4 tablespoons more pumpkin puree to the dough. You’ll also need to make sure to use almond milk, vegan butter, and vegan cream cheese in the recipe.
How to freeze pumpkin cinnamon rolls
You can absolutely freeze these delicious pumpkin cinnamon rolls and there are several ways to do it.
To freeze before baking: the dough should be frozen after the first rise and the roll and cut. When you are ready to bake, let the dough thaw in the fridge — preferably overnight, then put in a warm spot for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking to activate the second rise. Bake cinnamon rolls as directed.
To freeze after baking: allow the cinnamon rolls to come to room temperature after baking, then you can choose to either freeze the entire pan, making sure they are well wrapped or covered in an airtight container, or you can choose to freeze individual cinnamon rolls. When ready to eat, defrost the cinnamon rolls at room temperature, then warm in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or you can warm them up individually in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (once defrosted). I prefer to freeze them before they are iced, and then frost them when ready to eat. The icing is also freezer-friendly.
I cannot wait to see you guys whip up these pumpkin cinnamon rolls! If you’re interested, feel free to jam out to my pumpkin cinnamon roll playlist while you bake these!
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions and I’ll get to them as quickly as I can.
The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls You’ll Ever Eat
The BEST pumpkin cinnamon rolls you'll ever eat are deliciously fluffy and baked with pumpkin pie spice in every bite. Top these gorgeous homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls with an incredible maple cream cheese frosting for the ultimate fall brunch or treat!
- For the cinnamon roll dough:
- ¾ cup milk (whole, 2% or almond milk will all work)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoons quick rise yeast (1/4-ounce package yeast)
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- For the filling:
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup butter, at room temperature
- For the cream cheese glaze:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- For garnish:
- Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
Warm milk to around 110 degrees F. I like to do this by placing milk in a microwave safe bowl and microwaving it for 45 seconds. It should be like warm bath water. Transfer warm milk and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Stir pumpkin puree, room temperature egg and melted butter, mixing until smooth and well combined and creamy. Next stir in bread flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form.
Place dough hook on mixer and knead dough on low speed for 8-10 minutes. Dough should form into a nice ball and be slightly sticky. (If you don’t want to use an electric mixer, you can use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on a well-floured surface.)
Transfer dough ball to a large bowl greased with olive oil or nonstick cooking spray, then cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Allow dough to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. This may more or less time depending the humidity and temperature in your home.
After dough has doubled in size, transfer dough to a well-floured surface and roll out into a 14x16 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough, leaving a ¼ inch margin at the far side of the dough.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Use your hands to sprinkle mixture over the buttered dough, then rub the sugar into the butter.
Tightly roll dough up the dough, starting from the 14-inch side (the smaller side) and place seam side down making sure to seal the edges of the dough as best you can. You will probably need to cut off about an inch off the ends of the dough as the ends won’t be as full of cinnamon sugar as we’d want it to be. Then cut into 1 inch sections with a serrated knife. You should get 12 rolls. I like to make dents in the dough before cutting as demonstrated in the photos, to make 12 even rolls.
Place cinnamon rolls in a greased 9x13 inch baking pan. I highly recommend lining the pan with parchment paper as well, in case any of the filling ends up leaking out. Cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel and let the cinnamon rolls rise again for about 30 minutes, then preheat your oven.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and towel and bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes or until just slightly golden brown on the edges. You want to under bake them a little so they stay soft in the middle, that’s why we want them just slightly golden brown. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before frosting. Makes 12 cinnamon rolls
To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, maple syrup and salt. Beat until smooth. Spread over the pumpkin cinnamon rolls and serve! Sprinkle cinnamon rolls with a little cinnamon for a pretty look. Enjoy!
To make overnight pumpkin cinnamon rolls: After placing rolls into the greased pan (in step 7), simply cover immediately with plastic wrap and place overnight in the fridge, then bake them in the morning as directed. I like to bring my cinnamon rolls to room temperature first by leaving them on the counter for 30 minutes before baking, then preheating the oven so they will rise for about 45 minutes total (this is known as the second rise).
To make vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls: simply leave the egg out of the recipe and add 3-4 tablespoons more pumpkin puree to the dough. You'll also need to make sure to use almond milk, vegan butter, and vegan cream cheese in the recipe.