Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

November 15, 2013

Every other Friday, Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2B Baking Co. shares dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because your weekends should always be sweet.

Today: Cinnamon rolls like you have never seen them before: with pumpkin, cream cheese, and more cream cheese.

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Chilly weekend mornings are made for cozy slippers, hot cups of coffee, and and these mega-indulgent cinnamon rolls. They begin with an egg- and milk-enriched dough stuffed with pumpkin and spice, but what really takes them over the top is a double dose of cream cheese.

First, cream cheese is folded into the dough to make it extra rich and tender, then the finished rolls are topped with an orange-cream cheese frosting. I wish I could take credit for the genius idea to laminate these cinnamon rolls with cream cheese, but alas, that credit goes to Julie from Always with Butter.  Now, these aren’t an everyday breakfast, but they are the kind of thing that’s special enough for a holiday treat. You can even prepare the rolls, freeze them, then bake them up later. I have a pan sitting in my freezer now  just waiting for the right occasion. 

For the Dough

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, warmed to 115° F
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened


Combine the yeast and the warm milk and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Add in the eggs, pumpkin purée, and yeast mixture. Mix until just combined, then add the butter. Mix the dough until well combined, then knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough will stick to the bottom of the bowl, but resist the temptation to add more flour.

Transfer the dough to a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours at a warm room temperature.

For the Filling

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

When the dough is almost finished rising, prepare the filling by browning the butter in a skillet until it is golden and toasty. Let the butter cool slightly, then combine it with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest. Prepare two 8- or 9-inch baking pans by buttering or oiling them generously.

After the dough has risen, transfer it to a well-floured surface and pat the dough into a 12-inch square. Break up the cream cheese and gently spread it on top of the dough, being careful not to tear. Fold the dough into thirds, starting from the bottom so the cream cheese is completely sealed inside of the dough. Then roll the dough into a roughly 16-inch by 20-inch rectangle with the long side facing you, and dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the top.


Starting from the bottom, gently roll the dough into a log. Use a serrated knife and use very, very gentle and even pressure to cut the log into generous 1-inch slices. Gently place the cut rolls into the prepared pans, cover, and let rise until almost doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Note: If you’d like to freeze some rolls to bake off at a later date, now is a good time to do it. Wrap the pan in 2 layers of plastic wrap and a layer of foil and freeze. To bake, let the frozen rolls come to room temperature and complete their final rise before baking.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake the rolls, preheat your oven to 350° F. Bake the rolls until they are cooked through and lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. 

For the Icing

1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons orange juice

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze by whisking the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, orange juice, and a tiny pinch of salt together until smooth.

Let the rolls cool for about 5 minutes before glazing and digging in. Be judicious with the glaze -- a little goes a long way.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Yossi Arefi

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Scott
  • Valerie Delisle-gagnon
    Valerie Delisle-gagnon
  • somebunnyslove
  • fiveandspice
  • mpress
Yossy Arefi is a photographer and stylist with a passion for food. During her stint working in restaurant kitchens, Yossy started the blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. where, with her trusty Pentax film camera, she photographs and writes about seasonal desserts and preserves. She currently lives in Brooklyn but will always love her native city of Seattle. Follow her work at apt2bbakingco.blogspot.com & yossyarefi.com.


Scott October 7, 2014
I like to make a batch to freeze. Do I freeze them right after I cut up the log or let them rise and then freeze them.
Valerie D. January 17, 2014
wow it was delicious ! I did it by hand so I didn't knead for 5 minutes and it worked well. The icing is also really good and I will remember this easy rapid way to make a cheese icing !
somebunnyslove November 20, 2013
Is there a way to substitute for the cream cheese? My husband cannot digest it, so I was thinking of using mascarpone or Greek yogurt.
Yossy A. November 20, 2013
I bet mascarpone would work well. You may want to cut the sugar in the icing a bit. I would start with 1/2 cup, then add more to taste.
somebunnyslove November 20, 2013
Thank you!
fiveandspice November 18, 2013
About 5 years ago I tried making pumpkin cinnamon rolls because I thought they sounded so delicious, but they turned out to be an utter disappointment. I had made the mistake of using some half-the-calories-low-fat-anemic-version recipe! Terrible idea. I haven't tried again since, but these look gorgeous and delicious. I'm definitely inspired to give pumpkin cinnamon rolls another chance.
mpress November 18, 2013
2 tablespoons of yeast for 4 cups of flour seems like an awful lot of yeast, even for a sweet dough. 2 teaspoons seems more in line. Could this be a typo?
Yossy A. November 18, 2013
Yes, it is quite a bit of yeast but it is not a typo. I have made this recipe many times and have not thought to reduce the amount of yeast, but I bet you could if you wanted to.
QueenKlug November 17, 2013
I'd love to try these. I don't have a stand up mixer or dough hook, do you think I can just do it with a hand mixer, or by hand?
Yossy A. November 18, 2013
Of course. The dough is quite sticky and soft so be careful not to add to much flour when kneading by hand.
QueenKlug November 19, 2013
It got a little messy using the hand held mixer, but it all worked out and they turned out great. My co-workers gobbled them up!
Marihada November 17, 2013
These look amazing! Do you think they'd work as mini rolls for a party? I'm guessing the way to do that would be to roll the dough out to a longer and narrower rectangle before making the log, and slicing into shallower pieces?
Yossy A. November 17, 2013
I don't see why that wouldn't work. I would split the dough in half before rolling, just to make managing the rolling a bit easier.
Gemma /. November 15, 2013
Delicious and so cute!..as always! ;-) I love your blog and your recipes Yossy. Been a fan for a long time.
Chilly weekends are perfect to stay in and bake away!
Yossy A. November 15, 2013
Thank you, Gemma! You are too kind.