September 1, 2022

Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing

Delicious Apple Cinnamon Rolls made with fresh apples, warming spices, and the perfect brown butter cream cheese icing! 

The BEST Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing

There’s something special about a really good cinnamon roll. When they’re done right they’re chewy, rich, full of delicious cinnamon flavor, and just THE BEST.

These delicious Apple Cinnamon Rolls are filled with fresh tart apples, warm spices, and then covered in the most delicious brown butter cream cheese icing. They kind of taste like a caramel apple and I know you’re going to love them.

While cinnamon rolls are somewhat of a labor of love they are always WORTH IT. With a little work on the front end you’ll have these delicious chewy cinnamon rolls that are a perfect way to use fresh apples!

apple cinnamon roll ingredients

Apple Cinnamon Roll Ingredients

Whole Milk: we’re using regular whole milk for these rolls. I’ve included some additional milk options below if you are interested!

ACTIVE DRY YEAST: yeast helps the rolls to rise. We’re using two packets of active-dry yeast in these cinnamon rolls.

Sugar: you’ll need a little granulated sugar for the dough.

Eggs: we’re using one egg and egg yolk for the perfect rich dough texture.

Applesauce: to incorporate some of that apple flavor into the dough we’re using unsweetened apple sauce.

All Purpose Flour: regular white all purpose flour is all you need. You could use bread flour instead, for extra fluffy cinnamon rolls, if you prefer! I include notes on that, below.

Salt: this is a must and helps to give your cinnamon roll dough some much needed flavor. Trust me on this, I’ve accidentally left the salt out of my dough before and you can tell a difference.

Butter: I prefer to use unsalted butter in both the dough, filling, and cream cheese icing.

DARK BROWN SUGAR: you’ll need plenty of delicious rich brown sugar for the filling.

Spices: for these rolls we’re using a combination of ground cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg.

VANILLA EXTRACT: there is plenty vanilla flavor running throughout the dough, filling, and brown butter cream cheese icing.

Ingredient Swaps and Questions

  • Do I have to use whole milk? – nope! I’ve used buttermilk, full-fat coconut milk, and almond milk for these rolls and they all work great! just be sure that your milk is properly heated to ensure the yeast activates properly.
  • Can I make these dairy free? – yes! just use a non-dairy milk, like almond or coconut, and a vegan butter!
  • Can I add chopped nuts? – yes! some chopped walnuts or pecans would be delicious!
  • Can I use gluten free flour? – I haven’t tested these cinnamon rolls with gluten free flour.

Helpful Kitchen Tools for Making Cinnamon Rolls

  • CANDY THERMOMETER – you’ll need one of these to help you make sure that the milk is the perfect temperature.
  • LARGE MIXING BOWL – you’ll need a large mixing bowl with a lot of room to mix the dough.
  • WOODEN SPOON – I prefer using a wooden spoon to stir the dough because it has a nice firm handle. You could also use a plastic spatula.
  • TEA TOWEL – you’ll use this to cover the dough while it rises.
  • ROLLING PIN – you’ll need this to roll out the dough. I prefer to use a French rolling pin without handles which makes it even easier to get the dough to be an even thickness.
  • SERRATED KNIFE – this makes cutting the cinnamon roll dough a breeze! I’ve heard that you can use unflavored dental floss to cut the rolls as well so that’s also an option!
  • PARCHMENT PAPER – to line the baking dish and prevent any sticky mess.
  • 9×13 BAKING DISH – this recipe makes 12 cinnamon rolls so you’ll need a 9×13 pan to hold all the rolls.

cinnamon rolls in pan before second rise

How to Make Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Step One: Warm the milk to 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit and then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk and then sprinkle the granulated sugar over the yeast. The yeast should begin to foam and become frothy. If after 5 minutes the yeast still does not start to foam or become frothy, throw out the milk mixture and start again with new yeast. Next, add the melted butter, egg, and egg yolk, vanilla extract, unsweetened applesauce, and cinnamon to the yeast mixture and whisk together until well combined. 

yeast bubbling in bowl

Step Two: Add the flour and salt to the wet ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour until a well combined dough forms, being sure to incorporate all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You’ll know it’s time to move on to the next step once it becomes hard to stir. The dough will be thick and shaggy that’s still quite a bit sticky and that’s ok!

Step Three: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and then use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it becomes elastic and can easily form into a smooth ball. The dough should feel slightly tacky but it should not stick to your hands or the kneading surface. If the dough is still too sticky after kneading for a few minutes, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time and continue to knead the dough until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. 

cinnamon roll dough in bowl

Step Four: Grease a clean, large bowl with one teaspoon of avocado oil and then transfer the ball of dough to the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm area (like the top of your oven/stovetop) for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. 

Step Five: While the dough is rising, make the filling by combining the dark brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. 

Step Six: Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release the extra air and then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into the shape of a rough rectangle and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 20×16 rectangle that is roughly 1/4 inch thick. 

diced apples and brown sugar filling on dough

Step Seven: Use a spatula or knife to spread the softened butter evenly over the dough and then sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter, being sure to cover all of the edges of the dough. Use your fingers to press the cinnamon sugar mixture into the butter a bit. Next, top the dough evenly with the diced apples.

Step Eight: Tightly roll up the dough, on the long side, and place the log seam side down. Pinch the seam a bit so the rolls don’t unravel. Use a sharp serrated knife or unflavored dental floss to cut the roll into 12 equally sized pieces. Place the cinnamon rolls in a 9×13 casserole dish, lined with parchment paper, evenly spaced apart. You should have 3 rows with 4 rolls per row. 

Step Nine: Cover the casserole dish with a tea towel and let the cinnamon rolls rise for another 25-30 minutes or until they have almost doubled in size. 

Step Ten: Bake the cinnamon rolls on the center rack at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the rolls are a light golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and coat with icing.

brown butter cream cheese icing

Seriously Delicious Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing

All delicious cinnamon roll have a generous layer of sweet cream cheese icing on top. These rolls are extra special because we’re making a brown butter cream cheese icing that pairs perfectly with the apple flavor. Seriously it gives these rolls almost a caramel apple vibe that you’re going to love!

Here’s a quick overview of how to make the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing:

  • Make the brown butter and then let it cool and solidify in the fridge
  • Add the softened cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar to the brown butter and use a hand mixer to mix until fluffy
  • Pour in the vanilla extract, add the cinnamon, and mix on high again until the icing is well combined and perfectly fluffy!

cinnamon rolls out of the oven

My Favorite Cinnamon Roll Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure your yeast is not expired – check the label on your packets of yeast to make sure that it hasn’t expired so that you get a good rise on your cinnamon rolls.
  • Don’t overheat or underheat your milk – in order for your yeast to activate properly you want to be sure that your milk is heated to 110-115 digress Fahrenheit. I like to heat my milk in a small pot on the stovetop but you can also heat it in the microwave in increments of 15-20 seconds until warm. Use a candy thermometer to ensure the milk isn’t too hot or not hot enough.
  • Make sure your eggs are room temperature – this helps to keep the milk the right temperature so that they don’t negatively impact your yeast.
  • Measure the flour correctly – be sure to measure your flour by spooning it into the measuring cup and then using a knife to level it out. Measuring it correctly will ensure that you don’t add too much flour to the dough.
  • Swap AP flour for bread flour – I’ve made these rolls with both all purpose flour and bread flour and both ways come out great. But, if you want extra fluffy chewy cinnamon rolls then bread flour is the way to go!
  • Use room temperature butter in the filling – I’ve tested these with both melted butter and room temperature butter and room temp butter wins every single time. I found that the filling leaked out of the rolls while baking when I used melted butter.
  • Use measuring tape – I use to really struggle with getting evenly sized cinnamon rolls until I started to pull out my measuring tape. Now, I keep one in the kitchen and it helps me to cut evenly sized cinnamon rolls every time.
  • Line your pan with parchment paper – if you want to make clean up a breeze and keep your rolls from sticking, don’t forget to line your baking dish with parchment paper before adding the cinnamon rolls.
  • Don’t over bake – the cinnamon rolls should be a nice golden brown on the top and not too dark. If you tap the top of a roll and it sounds hollow then you know they are done.
  • Practice makes perfect – here’s the thing with any type of cinnamon roll, you get better at making them the more you make them. I’ve made dozens of batches of both my homemade cinnamon rolls and these banana cinnamon rolls at this point, and I still feel like I learn a new little trick or find something I want to tweak every time I make them. Just know your rolls will be delicious and you’ll feel even more confident making them with more practice.

brown sugar and spice filling

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to heat the milk?

I prefer heating the milk in a small pot on the stove. However, you can also heat it in the microwave by heating it in 15-20 second increments. Just be sure to use a candy thermometer to ensure it’s the right temperature.

Can I use a stand mixer?

Yes! Instead of kneading by hand, if you have a stand mixer you can knead the dough using a dough hook. Just know that if you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t worry – you can do it by hand! Personally, I never use a stand mixer.

cinnamon rolls in pan after second rise

How to Make Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

You can easily make these apple cinnamon rolls the night before and bake them the next morning. That way you can do all of the work the night before and then everyone wakes up to a fresh, warm, cozy, batch of perfect cinnamon rolls. It’s amazing.

To make the rolls overnight: Roll, cut, and place the cinnamon rolls in a parchment lined baking dish after they have finished their 1st rise. Then, cover the rolls tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The next morning, remove the baking dish from the fridge and let the rolls finish their second rise in a warm area for about 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

To make the cream cheese icing overnight: You can also make the brown cream cheese icing overnight if you prefer! Just store it in an airtight container and then remove it from the fridge at the same time that you remove the cinnamon rolls to do their second rise so that it comes to room temperature.

cinnamon roll on plate

More Delicious Cinnamon and Sweet Roll Recipes

The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls

I hope you love these Apple Cinnamon Rolls as much as we do!

If you do give this recipe a try, I want to know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @allthehealthythings on INSTAGRAM. Your reviews help support All the Healthy Things and make it possible for me to continue to create the recipes you know and love.

Print

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American
/
Scale:
  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk, warmed to 110-115 degrees
  • 21/4 oz packets active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk , room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 1/25 cups all purpose flour (plus more for kneading and rolling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium honey crisp apples, peeled, cored, and small diced

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

  1. Warm the milk to 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit and then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk and then sprinkle the granulated sugar over the yeast. The yeast should begin to foam and become frothy. If after 5 minutes the yeast still does not start to foam or become frothy, throw out the milk mixture and start again with new yeast. Next, add the melted butter, egg, and egg yolk, vanilla extract, unsweetened applesauce, and cinnamon to the yeast mixture and whisk together until well combined.
  2. Add the flour and salt to the wet ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour until a well combined dough forms, being sure to incorporate all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You’ll know it’s time to move on to the next step once it becomes hard to stir. The dough will be thick and shaggy that’s still quite a bit sticky and that’s ok!
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and then use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it becomes elastic and can easily form into a smooth ball. The dough should feel slightly tacky but it should not stick to your hands or the kneading surface. If the dough is still too sticky after kneading for a few minutes, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time and continue to knead the dough until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball.
  4. Grease a clean, large bowl with one teaspoon of avocado oil and then transfer the ball of dough to the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm area (like the top of your oven/stovetop) for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. While the dough is rising, make the filling by combining the dark brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.
  6. Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release the extra air and then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into the shape of a rough rectangle and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 20×16 rectangle that is roughly 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Use a spatula or knife to spread the softened butter evenly over the dough and then sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter, being sure to cover all of the edges of the dough. Use your fingers to press the cinnamon sugar mixture into the butter a bit. Next, top the dough evenly with the diced apples.
  8. Tightly roll up the dough, on the long side, and place the log seam side down. Pinch the seam a bit so the rolls don’t unravel. Use a sharp serrated knife or unflavored dental floss to cut the roll into 12 equally sized pieces. Place the cinnamon rolls in a 9×13 casserole dish, lined with parchment paper, evenly spaced apart. You should have 3 rows with 4 rolls per row.
  9. Cover the casserole dish with a tea towel and let the cinnamon rolls rise for another 25-30 minutes or until they have almost doubled in size.
  10. Bake the cinnamon rolls on the center rack at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the rolls are a light golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before icing.

Make the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Icing:

  1. Add the diced butter to a small skillet or pot. Heat the skillet to medium heat. The butter will start to melt as the skillet heats up.
  2. Allow the butter to bubble and “cook” until it begins to change from a bright yellow color to a golden brown color. Continually stir the butter as you see the foam start to dissipate and brown bits begin to form in the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir the butter until it is a golden brown color and has a nutty aroma.
  3. Remove the butter from the heat and transfer to a heat safe dish. Transfer to the fridge to refrigerate until solid.
  4. Add the cream cheese, solidified brown butter, and confectioner’s sugar to a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to mix the frosting until it is fluffy and the confectioner’s sugar is well incorporated without any lumps. Next, add in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Mix on high again until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

Keywords: apple cinnamon rolls, apple cinnamon roll recipe, how to make apple cinnamon rolls

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    2 comments
  1. These were AMAZING. Perfect autumn treat! That brown butter cream cheese frosting really took it over the top. Thank you so much for an incredible recipe I will make again and again!

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