Lemon Sweet Rolls.

Fluffy & soft lemon sweet rolls covered in a simple lemon cream cheese frosting. These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough – only 1 rise!

These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough - only 1 rise!

Is there truly anything better than waking up to the smell of warm cinnamon rolls baking in the oven? No. At least that’s what I thought before I smelled the sunshine-sweet aroma wafting from my kitchen as these fluffy lemon rolls baked.

They’re springtime in a pan. Happiness in a fluffy spiral. Lemon cream cheese frosting, vanilla bean, lemon zest, and soft buttery dough all in one.

Move over Kevin, I think I’m in love with a sweet roll…

These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough - only 1 rise!

After a night out with friends last weekend, I woke up craving something carby. Kevin mentioned he could go for a giant cinnamon roll and… while I can ALWAYS go for a giant cinnamon roll, I had a better idea. Let’s use up all the lemons in the crisper drawer, the cream cheese sitting in the fridge, and my 1 vanilla bean leftover from a recent batch of very vanilla cupcakes.

Thus these Lemon Sweet Rolls + Buttery Lemon Vanilla Bean Filling + Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting were born. Geez, what a mouthful. A tasty mouthful.

If you are a yeast beginner, I have good news for you! These lemon sweet rolls use my quick-method sweet roll dough. You will find that the typical homemade dough recipe requires two rises. My favorite Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls require a first rise of about 1-2 hours. Then a second rise for another two hours. (But one bite of their fluffy dough and juicy middle and you’ll learn that the prep time is worth it!)

However, I have since developed a quicker dough recipe. A dough recipe with all the soft, fluffiness you’re craving but with only 1 quick rise time. Because of this shortcut, my homemade sweet roll dough is perfect for the baker who wants to learn how to work with yeast for the first time. Plus, it’s a perfect starting point for any sort of sweet roll you want to make… like sticky pecan, blueberry, cinnamon, and banana chocolate chip.

When it comes to sweet roll/cinnamon rolls, my secret weapon in the kitchen is Red Star Platinum Yeast. It is the only yeast that I use and I highly recommend it to anyone who asks. Why? Red Star Platinum takes the work out of bread making for you. Its careful formula strengthens your dough and makes working with yeast simple. And simple is always good, right? When it comes to baking – yes!

These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough - only 1 rise!

I ended up making two batches of these sweet rolls. The reason I made two batches was because I made them both differently. Testing and retesting is the only way I can develop the best of the best recipes. With my failed batch, I used my quick-method dough, but the filling is where I messed up. The filling didn’t have softened butter and not nearly enough lemon. It was like biting into a crispy sugar roll. Trust me, it wasn’t good. Batch #2. What a success! You’ll begin with my quick-method dough. Whip it up, roll it out and top with the filling. My lemon sweet roll filling is made from lemon zest, sugar, and vanilla bean. Simply stir them all together until the mixture is sandy. The sugar will help the lemon zest excrete some liquid, so the mixture will be fairly moist. The vanilla bean is purely for flavor; a touch of vanilla extract may be used instead as noted below.

Spread softened butter all over the rolled out dough and top with the lemon sugar filling. Roll the dough up tightly, cut into rolls, arrange into your pan, and let rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled in size. Turn the oven on, sprinkle the rolls with a little more lemon zest and bake until they’re lightly browned. The fresh lemon scent is glorious at this point! Spring has sprung in your kitchen.

These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough - only 1 rise!

Spending a few extra dollars to buy a vanilla bean and using it in the filling is sooo worth it.

Smothering every crevice of these sweet rolls is a light lemon cream cheese frosting. It’s not heavy in the slightest, nor will it take away from the sweet roll itself. I personally cannot imagine a cinnamon roll/sweet roll without some sort of glaze or frosting!

These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough - only 1 rise!

What I love most about these lemon sweet rolls is that each bite isn’t too tart. You won’t find yourself puckering up your lips from an overpowering sour lemon flavor. Rather, they are just sweet enough and just zingy enough. Finding the perfect balance of sweet and tart is tricky when it comes to lemon baked goods, but you guys – this recipe nails it!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Lemon Sweet Rolls

Yield: 11-12 rolls

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Print Recipe

Fluffy & soft lemon sweet rolls covered in a simple lemon cream cheese frosting. These rolls use my quick cinnamon roll dough - only 1 rise!



  • 2 and 3/4 cups (345g) all-purpose flour (careful not to overmeasure)
  • 3 Tablespoons (45g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package Red Star Platinum Yeast or any instant yeast (1 packet = 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)1
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk2
  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons (40g) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg


  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 medium lemons3
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces (112g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners' sugar
  • juice of two medium lemons3
  • extra lemon zest for garnish, optional


  1. Make the dough: Set aside 1/2 cup of flour. In a large bowl, toss the 2 and 1/4 cups flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly dispersed. Set aside.
  2. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to touch. About 115°F (46°C). Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture. Add the egg and only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough. I only needed 1/3 cup, but you may need the full 1/2 cup. Dough will be ready when it gently pulls away from the side of the bowl and has an elastic consistency.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I used non-stick spray) and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla. Stir it around until the mixture becomes sandy. Some juices may be excreted from the lemon zest; that's ok.
  5. After the dough has sat for 10 minutes, roll it out into a 14x8 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread the softened butter on top. Sprinkle the lemon sugar filling all over. Roll up the dough tightly. Cut into 11-12 even pieces and place in a lightly greased 9-inch round pan. I used a pie dish, lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle uncooked rolls with additional lemon zest at this point, if desired.
  6. Loosely cover the rolls with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes. Here is what I do: heat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Turn oven off. Place rolls inside oven and allow to rise.
  7. After the rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. I covered the rolls with aluminum foil after 15 minutes to avoid heavy browning.
  8. Make the frosting: Right before serving, top your sweet rolls with the cream cheese frosting. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and beat on medium-high until creamy. Frost warm rolls and sprinkle with additional lemon zest, if desired.
  9. Rolls are best enjoyed the same day, but stay fresh and soft in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days. Rolls (with or without frosting) freeze well, up to about 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and heat up however you prefer.
  10. Make ahead/overnight: This dough can be made the night before through step 5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise at room temperature, about 1 hour.

Additional Notes:

  1. If you replace Red Star Platinum with regular active dry yeast, you rise time may be 50% longer.
  2. I always use skim milk or 1%. Any milk fat will be fine.
  3. *1 medium-size lemon = approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice

© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Try my Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon Glaze next!

Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon Glaze

Lemon Sweet Rolls-5



110 Responses to “Lemon Sweet Rolls.”

  1. #
    Lailyposted March 8, 2014 at 12:56 am

    I tried every day to enter your autographed cookbook giveaway but raffle copter was too slow. Btw these rolls look great 🙂


  2. #
    Amyposted March 8, 2014 at 2:50 am

    I’m super curious, seeing as my guy “says” he reads my blog (but rarely even skims through the photos anymore)… Did Kevin actually read your line about being in love with a sweet roll?? Although since he can still sneak into the freezer for leftovers, he probably wouldn’t mind too much if he did! 😉 I really hope your beautiful sunshiny lemon rolls usher in spring soon; it’s been much too cloudy and rainy for me lately!


    • Sallyreplied on March 8th, 2014 at 8:41 am

      He “reads” my blog which means he looks at the pictures and asks me to make the particular baked good again. lol


      • Amyreplied on March 8th, 2014 at 10:57 pm

        I’m surprised he doesn’t do that with every recipe you post! 🙂

  3. #
    Obstiposted March 8, 2014 at 7:10 am

    I wanted to make these yesterday but did not have lemons, so I ended up with regular cinnamon rolls. But the dough, it was so simpel and turned out to be the best sweet rolls I ever made. Great work, Sally, can’t wait to actually try these lemon rolls.


  4. #
    Radhikaposted March 8, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Hi Sally, Ever since I discovered your website I’ve been hooked onto it. All your desserts are beautiful to look at and I bet they taste even better than they look. Could you please post some cupcake/cake with saffron as one of the ingredients. Saffron is my favorite spice and I’d love to see it featured in one of your lovely recipes. All the very best to you and your website ! 🙂


  5. #
    Bibs @ Tasteometerposted March 8, 2014 at 8:56 am

    For a few months now I’ve been noshing on cinnamon rolls, a spice I never used to like!

    Would love to try these lemon ones for a nice change, especially as I have free lemons by way of trees on my land, thanks for sharing.


  6. #
    Sheila @ Sweet Baked Lifeposted March 8, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I love how you incorporated lemon into your sweet rolls! These sound and look spectacular — since I am a huge lemon lover! 🙂


  7. #
    Kaylaposted March 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    This looks sooo good! Lemons and whipped cream are always one of my favorite combinations!


  8. #
    CD Lokenposted March 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you Sally! You just made my day! With all the snow and cold weather we’ve had here in the Midwest-these scrumptious looking rolls are like a ray of sunshine!! I will definitely be purchasing your cookbook-and I can’t wait to try these sweet rolls out for tomorrow’s family brunch!


    • Sallyreplied on March 9th, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks CD, I hope you enjoy my cookbook!


  9. #
    Marlys Stellingwerfposted March 9, 2014 at 1:31 am

    I made your Lemon Sweet Roll today. I miss read the part where you butter the dough then sprinkle the filling over it. I added the butter and filling together and spread it over the dough. Was worried but it turned out just fine. They are wonderful and my husband loved them! I am so bless to have found your website. I look forward to discovering all you delicious recipes. It brightens my day! Good Luck on the Cookbook. I gotta put in my order!


    • Sallyreplied on March 9th, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Mixing the filling all together or spreading the butter THEN the lemon sugar on top – both would lend a great result, I have no doubt about it Marlys! Thanks so much for reporting back. Happy they were enjoyed! Hope you enjoy my cookbook if you order it!


  10. #
    Jess @ WhatJessicaBakedNext...posted March 9, 2014 at 5:03 am

    I love lemon rolls- so sweet and tangy! I made some recently and they all went down a treat with everyone who tried them! Definitely going to give these a go- the cream cheese glaze looks heavenly and the rolls look so light and fluffy. 🙂


    • Sallyreplied on March 9th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks Jess! Let me know when you try my recipe.


  11. #
    Sineadposted March 9, 2014 at 7:38 am

    These look so great! I love lemon desserts, especially around this time of year.


  12. #
    Laura Dembowskiposted March 9, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I love how soft and fluffy your cinnamon rolls look! Nothing worse that a brown, crunchy cinnamon roll. Lemon is a great flavor choice!


  13. #
    Raquelposted March 9, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Holy lemony goodness! Thanks for sharing, I’m obsessed with all things lemon right now.


  14. #
    trixieposted March 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Never would’ve thought to put lemons in a sweet roll! Can’t wait to try it for a spring tea time. Do you think Meyer lemons would be okay?


    • Sallyreplied on March 9th, 2014 at 8:03 pm



  15. #
    Sarahposted March 10, 2014 at 1:12 am

    This is so spring! These look divine and I’m Baking this recipe!
    I unwrapped your cookbook for my Birthday! The hubby is so smart he knew just what this girl needed! Thank you for getting me excited about baking again! It reminds me of baking lessons with my grandma and I’ve been hooked on your blog since I stumbled on the fall recipe of the perfect pumpkin cookie!! Many Cheers to you for achieving your publishing goals!!!


    • Sallyreplied on March 10th, 2014 at 10:34 am

      So happy you received my cookbook. What a very sweet (pun intended) birthday present. 😉 Let me know what you try first, Sarah! And happy birthday of course.


  16. #
    IFeelCookposted March 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    I love these rolls! I made them with chocolate and it was delicious but I’m sure these lemon rolls are super yummy!!! Thanks for sharing. I’ll try to make them 😀


  17. #
    laurasmessposted March 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    What a fantastic idea! I never would’ve thought of making lemon sweet rolls! Gorgeous… I do love lemon cream cheese frosting though so I can imagine how perfect these would taste. As always, thanks for adding all of the extra baking notes to make sure that we get the best results possible. Beautiful! Making these, definitely! x


  18. #
    Jess @ On Sugar Mountainposted March 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I actually think I’m swooning over these sweet rolls, Sally. It’s 60 degrees here for the first time in months and OMG THEY ARE SPRINGTIME IN A PAN! I wish I could enjoy one outside on my porch right this instant! 😀


    • Sallyreplied on March 11th, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      It’s warm here today, too Jess! Hope you give these a try.


  19. #
    MyLinhposted March 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Ohh yummmm I loooovvee sweet rolls! Too bad the process takes so much time though 🙁 I wish sweet rolls could be as easy and fast like cupcakes haha.. definitely need to take some time off to bake these babies. Once again, they look delicous, sally!


  20. #
    Molly Dposted March 15, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    This is my first time using yeast! I don’t know why I’ve been so intimidated by it (I felt this way about deep frying too, until I actually gave it a shot). I am looking forward to a delicious lemony treat tomorrow morning!


  21. #
    Nutmeg Nannyposted March 15, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I can’t resist lemon! These rolls are perfection 🙂


  22. #
    Victoriaposted March 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I made these delicious lemon rolls on Saturday morning at my daughter’s house. They turned out great even though I made a mistake and forgot to add the egg while mixing.
    I then added the egg to the dough that was already mixed and thought it might be a flop. Everyone raved about them. My mistake did not seem to hurt a thing.. I liked the sweet dough better than any I have made before. Thank you for this great recipe!


    • Sallyreplied on March 17th, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      I’ve forgotten the egg all together before too. Ooops! And mine did not turn out. Happy you remembered and added it in when you could, Victoria. And I’m even happier that everyone loved them! Thanks for reporting back 🙂


  23. #
    mariposted March 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Oh my goodness!!! My mouth is watering!! I have beeen craving something sweet with lemon….I think I just found it. These are beautiful!! The only problem is I scrolled down and seen the Blueberry Sweet Rolls w/ Lemon Glaze….decisions, decisions!! Your recipes are awesome!!


    • Sallyreplied on March 18th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      I have a hard time deciding between the two as well. I love the blueberry AND lemon rolls. Thanks Mari!


  24. #
    Cecretposted March 22, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Hi Sally-

    I made these last night for breakfast today. These rolls are amazing-and my ENTIRE Family of 5 loved them!! I was impressed at how easy the dough came together; I put them in my stand mixer and let the dough hook do the kneading for 3 minutes. Even rolling it out was easy. I made through step 5 last night and they doubled nicely this morning rising in a warm oven.

    Thank you for another great weekend breakfast recipe!!


  25. #
    Renee @ Awesome on $20posted March 22, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    These look beautiful. I think I’m in love!


  26. #
    Marie from Gposted March 29, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    We made these today and, wow, they were so so good! No complaints1 We´ll definitely make them again and again and again! Thank you!


  27. #
    Lovella Floresposted April 11, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Because i live so far away (Philippines) and don’t always have access to your blog, I’ve been asking the local bookstores when will they be selling your cookbook. I already tried baking the Chewy brown sugar cookies. It’s so easy to make and all the ingredients are available in our local store. My kids and their friends love it. I will try the carrot cup cake next to make my kids eat their veggies and still enjoy their cupcake cravings and since my husband gifted me with carrot cake on our anniversary last March, I wanted to make my own carrot cake with your easy to follow recipe…..i so love your recipes with your easy to follow instructions and tips….


  28. #
    Sylvanaposted April 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Oops,, added way too much lemon juice and now my filling is fluid.. Put it on the dough anyway. If it doesnt work out, that means another excuse to bake again 😉
    Just made the carrot cake, it’s cooling off right now.. about to make the frosting 🙂
    Tomorow the mini bites french toast!


  29. #
    Hayleyposted July 30, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I’m not really a fan of cream cheese, could I use softened butter into the frosting instead for more of a buttery lemon frosting?


  30. #
    Mateaposted August 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

    We’ve made cinnamon rolls, rolls stuffed with apples and peaches, and cheese rolls, but we haven’t tried lemons…yet!


  31. #
    Sarahposted August 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve recently discovered your blog and felt inspired to try the raspberry swirl sweet rolls. I’ve never made anything like this before but, following your instructions, success, the best sweet rolls ever! I would like to make the lemon sweet rolls but I am in the UK and cannot find red star platinum yeast. Is there an alternative I could use or could I just follow the instructions for the raspberry swirl dough but use the lemon filling? I know this would take 2 rises but I’m sure that it would be worth the effort as I love anything with lemon and your lovely pictures really do inspire!


    • Sallyreplied on August 25th, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Hey Sarah! Truly, any instant yeast will work just fine. And, if you’d like, you may make the raspberry swirl dough with this filling.


  32. #
    Kaitlynposted November 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    So, my fiance’ and I have decided that I am a new and resounding brand of CRAZY. I recently got hired and was informed that it is customary for new employees to bring donuts in to put in the lunch room for their new co-workers. I live no where near a donut shop and to do so would mean waking up a whole hour early. So, I decided to make homemade rolls for everyone. So tonight, I made three batches of your rolls. Lemon Sweet Rolls, Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls, and Pumpkin Rolls. I have been at it for almost 4 HOURS! But, the last batch is in the oven now and I am hoping to have some yummy homemade treats for tomorrow! Thank you for providing so many roll recipes!!!!!!


    • Sallyreplied on November 19th, 2014 at 11:15 am

      you are a sweet roll baking machine Kaitlyn! I hope you enjoyed tasting them all! and don’t worry, I don’t think you’re crazy. 😉


  33. #
    meganbposted January 11, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Making these for my husband and they smell great Can’t wait to eat them


  34. #
    The good taste (Beatriz)posted January 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I ve made the lemon rolls for this weekend and they were gone reaaally fast 😉 Thanks for sharing!


  35. #
    Lineposted March 8, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I tried this recipe today and the resulting lemon rolls were absolutely delicious! I have tried several of your recipes and it’s apparent that you spend a lot of time developing them as they always produce amazing results.

    I do have a question though. I’m thinking of doubling the recipe and baking the rolls in a larger pan. Do you have any idea as to how that would affect the baking time?


    • Sallyreplied on March 9th, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Thank you Line; I’m so happy you enjoyed the lemon sweet rolls. The baking time would be around the same for doubling the recipe since the rolls will be the same size.


  36. #
    HamHamposted September 12, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Hi Sally

    Can these rolls be stored in the freezer in an airtight container once done and for how long? Also how long can they stored in a fridge?


    • Sallyreplied on September 12th, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Yep– see step 9


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