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October 11, 2021

The Best Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

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Delicious and easy caramel apple cinnamon rolls topped with homemade cream cheese icing.

APPLE CINNAMON ROLL RECIPE

Welcome to the most delicious and fluffy homemade cinnamon roll recipe you’ll ever try! Made with salted caramel, brown sugar and cinnamon, crisp diced apples, and cream cheese frosting, these caramel apple cinnamon rolls are basically everything you love about Fall in a warm baking dish.

The best news is they are easy to make, can be made in advance, and can be frozen.

Are you entertaining for the holiday season? This recipe is the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas morning breakfast treat everyone in the family will love.

Want to make your cinnamon roll recipe even more decadent? Add a generous scoop of Hudsonville Seaside Caramel or French Vanilla ice cream like we do! Honestly, we can say with confidence, you will not regret adding a scoop of their perfectly creamy ice cream on top of these warm cinnamon rolls.

If you are not familiar with Hudsonville Ice Cream, they are by far our favorite ice cream brand.

Hudsonville Ice Cream is a Midwest brand in Michigan.  Their ice cream is made with the highest quality milk and cream sourced from their neighboring dairy farmers, many within 10 miles of their headquarters in Holland, Michigan.  There is a reason we buy only Hudsonville Ice Cream in our house – it’s by far the creamiest, most flavorful ice cream we have ever had. 

In this caramel apple cinnamon roll recipe we will cover the following topics. Feel free to use these links below to navigate the recipe.

Mixing bowls filled with ingredients to make homemade caramel apple cinnamon rolls.

CARAMEL APPLE CINNAMON ROLL INGREDIENTS

What we love about this apple cinnamon roll recipe is they do not require a lot of ingredients. In fact, you likely have everything you need right in your pantry. Here’s what you’ll need to make these light and fluffy cinnamon rolls:

  • MILK: For this recipe we used 2% milk. However, you are welcome to use almond milk or whole milk if preferred. We have used both in the past and they still come out delicious!
  • INSTANT YEAST: In order to ensure your cinnamon roll dough rises quickly use instant yeast or quick rise yeast. We specifically used Fleischmann’s RapidRise Instant Yeast, but feel free to use any brand of your choosing.
  • GRANULATED SUGAR: Use granulated sugar to add a bit of sweetness to your cinnamon rolls and to help activate the instant yeast.
  • EGG + EGG YOLK
  • UNSALTED BUTTER: If preferred, feel free to use salted butter.
  • ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR: We use all-purpose flour. However, if you prefer you can also use bread flour.
  • BROWN SUGAR: What would this apple cinnamon roll recipe be without a good dose of brown sugar? Both dark and light brown sugar work great. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand.
  • SALTED CARAMEL: Adding a pinch of caramel sauce makes this recipe even more sweet and decadant. However, if you prefer to omit, please feel free to do so. Remember, a little drizzle goes a long way.
  • GROUND CINNAMON: You’re welcome to add more than I recommend in this recipe.
  • APPLES: We like to use a combination of Granny Smith Apples and Honeycrisp Apples. Any apples of your choice will do!
  • SALT: Do not skip this ingredient. Salt will not only helps control the yeast, but also adds a good deal of flavor to your cinnamon rolls.
  • FOR THE FROSTING: To make the most delicious cream cheese frosting all you need is cream cheese, pure vanilla and powered sugar. Honestly, it’s so delicious!
  • FOR TOPPING: Who can resist topping these warm, fluffy apple cinnamon rolls with anything other than a scoop of creamy ice cream? We recommend pairing this recipe with their Creamery Blend Vanilla, Seaside Caramel, French Vanilla ice cream flavors. YUM!

TOOLS YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS

  • STAND MIXER: If for any reason you do not have a stand mixer, you can kneed your cinnamon roll dough by hand. However, if you are using your stand mixer, you will need both the dough hook attachment and flat beater or wire whip.
  • ROLLING PIN: Don’t have a rolling pin on hand? No problem! You can also use a wine or alcohol bottle. Just be sure to add a dusting of flour to ensure it does not stick to your beautiful dough.
  • SERRATED KNIFE: Utilizing a serrated knife will help your cut your cinnamon roll dough more easily.
  • 9X9 INCH BAKING DISH: This apple cinnamon roll recipe will make 9 perfect rolls all of which fit perfectly in a 9×9 inch baking dish. A round 9-inch dish works as well.
  • PLASTIC WRAP
  • LARGE MIXING BOWL: You will want to use a fairly large mixing bowl for the cinnamon roll dough to rise. Remember, you want the ball of dough to double in size before baking.

SHOP CINNAMON ROLL ESSENTIALS

A large steel mixing bowl with warm milk and active yeast for homemade cinnamon rolls.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLLS

Now, let’s get into the details on how to make the best cinnamon rolls you’ll ever try!

To start, warm the milk in the microwave for 40-45 seconds. It should be warm to the touch, but not too hot. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of your electric stand mixer. Add instant yeast and allow the two to sit together for approximately 1-2 minutes to activate the yeast.

A large steel mixing bowl filled with eggs, yeast and butter to make homemade caramel apple cinnamon rolls.
A large steel mixing bowl filled with homemade dough for cinnamon roll recipe.

Next, add sugar, egg, egg yolk, and melted butter to the same mixing bowl. Using your stand mixer and wire whip or flat beater attachment, mix all of the ingredients together on low until well combined.

Now, slowly add in salt and flour and continue to mix together until dough begins to form.

Once the dough begins to form, replace the flat beater attachment with the dough hook attachment and continue to kneed the dough on medium speed for 5-6 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch and form into a nice round ball.

A large mixing bowl with homemade cinnamon dough rolls.
A larget mixing bowl filled with dough and covered with a warm towel.

Next, transfer the ball of dough to a large glass or mixing bowl that is coated with a thin layer of olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Set aside allowing the dough to rise for 1-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

A large mixing bowl filled with homemade dough which has risen for homemade cinnamon rolls.

Once the dough has doubled in size, move the dough to a lightly floured surface.

Homemade cinnamon roll dough rolled out on a counter.
Homemade cinnamon roll dough rolled out on a counter covered with butter.

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is approximately 14×9 rectangle. Keep in mind, it does not have to be perfect by any means.

Using a knife or your hands, spread softened butter over the dough.

Homemade cinnamon roll dough rolled out on the counter covered with butter and cinnamon sugar spread.
A roll of homemade cinnamon roll dough for an easy caramel apple cinnamon roll recipe.

Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Using your hands, spread the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over the layer of butter gently pressing into the dough.

Now, add finely chopped apple chunks and a light caramel glaze with sauce (both are optional).

Starting from the shorter end of the dough (the 9-inch side), start to carefully roll the dough as tightly as you can and place the end seam down on your floured surface.

Before making any cuts in the dough, carefully measure out 1-inch sections to ensure you will have 9 individual cinnamon rolls. Take into account, you will likely want to cut off the last half-inch to an inch at each end of the roll as they are often not filled with as much of the cinnamon roll filling.

Once you have measured out 9 1-inch rolls, begin to cut gently with a serrated knife.

A 9x9 glass baking dish filled with unbaked caramel apple cinnamon rolls.
A 9x9 glass baking dish filled with baked caramel apple cinnamon rolls.

Place each cinnamon roll into a greased 9×9 baking dish. NOTE: you can also add a layer of parchment paper to the bottom of your baking pan if preferred.

Next, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and a warm towel and set aside for approximately 30 minutes to allow the apple cinnamon rolls to rise once more.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and warm towel and bake the cinnamon rolls for 12-15 minutes or until slightly browned. Be sure not to overcook the cinnamon rolls to ensure they remain light and fluffy inside.

While the cinnamon rolls are baking nicely in the oven, begin to make the cream cheese frosting.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, add softened cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined and the frosting is fluffy.

Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and allow them to cool for 10-15 minutes.

When the cinnamon rolls have cooled slightly, spread a layer of homemade cream cheese frosting over the top. Want even more decadence? Don’t miss the chance to add a creamy scoop of Hudsonville Seasalt Caramel Ice Cream to the top of your warm cinnamon rolls.

Serve and enjoy!

Two 48 fl ounce containers of Hudsonville Ice Cream.

CARAMEL APPLE CINNAMON ROLL BAKING TIPS

  1. Be sure not to overheat your milk. As mentioned above, you want the milk to be warm to the touch, but not too hot. If the milk it is too hot there is a chance it will impact the activation of the instant yeast.
  2. Use room temperature eggs, butter and cream cheese.
  3. Be sure to lightly flour your surface and rolling pin. Doing so will ensure the dough rolls out easily and does not stick to your surface and rolling pin. You will need less than a small handful for both.
  4. Choose a quality quick rise or instant yeast such as Fleischmann’s RapidRise Instant Yeast or Red Star Superior Baking Yeast.
  5. Don’t rush the rise process. Keep in mind, the amount of time needed for the dough to rise (double in size) could depend on the humidity in your home. It typically takes an hour to an hour and a half in our house, but don’t worry if you need a little extra time in your home.
One warm caramel apple cinnamon roll topped with a scoop of Hudsonville Seaside Caramel ice cream.

WHICH YEAST IS BEST FOR CINNAMON ROLLS?

There are two different types of you can choose when making cinnamon rolls: active dry yeast and instant or quick rise yeast.

Active dry yeast must first be dissolved in a liquid (oftentimes referred to as “proofing”) before it can be added to your dough.

In this cinnamon roll recipe, we used instant yeast (or quick rise yeast) which can be added with other dough ingredients without “proofing”. Even though you don’t need to allow instant yeast time to ‘bubble’, we like to allow it to sit in the other ingredients for a minute or two at most.

HOW DO I KNOW THE YEAST HAS BEEN ACTIVATED?

When you add warm milk (100°F) to active dry yeast it will foam in a matter of minutes, which tells us that the yeast is reacting well to the liquids in our cinnamon rolls.

9 warm caramel apple cinnamon rolls covered with homemade cream cheese icing.

CAN I FREEZE CINNAMON ROLLS?

Yes! You can easily freeze cinnamon rolls before or after baking them. We have done both several times without any problems whatsoever. Here are a few tips when freezing cinnamon rolls:

1. Preparing cinnamon rolls for freezing: When preparing cinnamon rolls for freezing bake cinnamon rolls through the last rise (meaning once you have added the filling, rolled the dough and cut into individual rolls). Place the cinnamon rolls in a pan, cover with plastic wrap, tin foil, or a freezer-safe lid. Place the pan in the freezer for up to 3 months.

When you are ready to bake, you can either allow the dough to thaw in the refrigerator overnight or bake frozen without thawing. We prefer to thaw overnight then allow them to sit on the countertop for 20 minutes to allow the dough to rise before making.

Bake the cinnamon rolls as directed above.

2. Freezing the cinnamon rolls after they are baked: If you prefer to freeze the cinnamon rolls after baking, allow them to cool completely. Next, place the baked apple cinnamon rolls in an airtight container and place them in the freezer for 2-3 months.

When you are ready to eat, thaw the cinnamon rolls overnight at room temperature then warm in the oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until warmed to your liking.

OTHER DELICIOUS RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE:

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The Best Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

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Homemade caramel apple cinnamon rolls have never been more tasty or easier to make! See inside for all of recipe details!
SERVES/MAKES: 9 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients:

FOR THE DOUGH

FOR THE FILLING

FOR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS

  • Scoop of Hudsonville Ice Cream
  • Candied pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Dried cranberries
  • Maple Syrup

Instructions:

  • To start, warm the milk in the microwave for 40-45 seconds. It should be warm to the touch, but not too hot. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of your electric stand mixer.
  • Add instant yeast and allow the two to sit together for approximately 1-2 minutes to activate the yeast.
  • Next, add sugar, egg, egg yolk, and melted butter to the same mixing bowl. Using your stand mixer and wire whip or flat beater attachment, mix all of the ingredients together on low until well combined.
  • Now, slowly add in salt and flour and continue to mix together until dough begins to form.
  • Once the dough begins to form, replace the flat beater attachment with the dough hook attachment and continue to kneed the dough on medium speed for 5-6 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch and form into a nice round ball.
  • Next, transfer the ball of dough to a large glass or mixing bowl that is coated with a thin layer of olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Set aside allowing the dough to rise for 1-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, move the dough to a lightly floured surface.
  • Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is approximately 14×9 rectangle. Keep in mind, it does not have to be perfect by any means.
  • Using a knife or your hands, spread softened butter over the dough.
  • Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Using your hands, spread the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over the layer of butter gently pressing into the dough.
  • Now, add finely chopped apple chunks and a light caramel glaze with sauce (both are optional).
  • Starting from the shorter end of the dough (the 9-inch side), start to carefully roll the dough as tightly as you can and place the end seam down on your floured surface.
  • Before making any cuts in the dough, carefully measure out 1-inch sections to ensure you will have 9 individual cinnamon rolls. Take into account, you will likely want to cut off the last half-inch to an inch at each end of the roll as they are often not filled with as much of the cinnamon roll filling.
  • Once you have measured out 9 1-inch rolls, begin to cut gently with a serrated knife.
  • Place each cinnamon roll into a greased 9×9 baking dish. NOTE: you can also add a layer of parchment paper to the bottom of your baking pan if preferred.
  • Next, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and a warm towel and set aside for approximately 30 minutes to allow the apple cinnamon rolls to rise once more.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and warm towel and bake the cinnamon rolls for 12-15 minutes or until slightly browned. Be sure not to overcook the cinnamon rolls to ensure they remain light and fluffy inside.
  • While the cinnamon rolls are baking nicely in the oven, begin to make the cream cheese frosting.
  • In the bowl of your electric mixer, add softened cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined and the frosting is fluffy.
  • Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and allow them to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  • When the cinnamon rolls have cooled slightly, spread a layer of homemade cream cheese frosting over the top. Want even more decadence? Don't miss the chance to add a creamy scoop of Hudsonville Seasalt Caramel Ice Cream to the top of your warm cinnamon rolls.
  • Serve & enjoy!

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