Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade apple cinnamon rolls have warm and gooey centers, golden brown edges, and a generous drizzle of sweet caramel icing on top. Start the day with a treat that’s half apple pie and half cinnamon roll in one!

overhead image of apple cinnamon rolls with caramel icing in a 9x13 glass baking dish

Greeting us all at the corner of comfort food and calorie-laden are APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS drowning in caramel icing. Each bite combines our favorite flavors of apple pie with the pure goodness of cinnamon rolls. Move over every other type of cinnamon roll out there… there’s a new boss in town. (I still love you, maple cinnamon rolls.)

There are three parts to love about today’s apple cinnamon rolls:

  1. Rich, homemade cinnamon roll dough
  2. Cinnamon-spiced brown sugar apple filling
  3. Sweet caramel icing (!!)

zoomed in image of apple cinnamon rolls in a glass baking dish

Let’s get down to basics though. How many of you are nervous when it comes to yeast? Proofing it, working with it, kneading dough. Forget the haunted hay ride this year, yeast is terrifying enough right?? Well, trust me– I used to fear working with yeast too. But once I started to use it, my fears quickly subsided.

Apple Cinnamon Rolls Ingredients

The dough we use to make apple cinnamon rolls is a rich dough, which means that it’s prepared with fat like milk, butter, and eggs. Rich doughs make soft breads such as babka, soft dinner rolls, and glazed doughnuts. It’s soft and supple, rises up beautifully, and has this crazy awesome buttery flavor. Lean doughs, on the other hand, are made without much fat and produce crusty bread such as focaccia, bagels, and pizza dough.

You need 7 ingredients for apple cinnamon roll dough:

  1. Milk: Liquid activates the yeast. Nondairy or low fat milks are fine, but whole milk produces phenomenal flavor and texture.
  2. Yeast: You can use active dry yeast or instant yeast. I recommend Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast, which is an instant yeast blended with natural dough improvers.
  3. Sugar: Sugar feeds the yeast, increases its activity, and tenderizes the dough.
  4. Eggs: Eggs provide structure and flavor.
  5. Butter: Butter promises a flavorful dough.
  6. Salt: You can’t make flavorful cinnamon rolls without salt!
  7. Flour: All-purpose flour is the structure of the dough.

And just a few more ingredients for the filling + glaze:

  • Filling: Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and apples
  • Glaze: Confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and salted caramel

Baking with Yeast Guide

Reference this Baking with Yeast Guide whenever you work with baker’s yeast. I include practical answers to all of your common yeast questions. It’s a very helpful resource for yeast beginners and yeast professionals alike!

ingredients for apple cinnamon rolls including yeast packets, eggs, butter, and apples

How to Make Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing compares to the flavor of homemade and you’ll be surprised how quickly these cinnamon rolls come together. You can even get started on these rolls the night before!

  1. Prepare the dough: The dough comes together with a mixer. You can also make the dough by hand, but it requires a bit of arm muscle. After the dough comes together in the mixing bowl, it’s time to knead. You can simply continue beating the dough with the mixer for this step or you can knead the dough by hand.
  2. Let the dough rise: The dough rises in about 1-2 hours.
  3. Punch down the dough: Punch down the dough to release the air.
  4. Shape the cinnamon rolls: Roll the dough out into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Spread the butter on top, then evenly sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. Top with chopped apples. Tightly roll up the dough and cut into 12 equal rolls. Place in a greased 9×13 inch pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  5. Let the rolls rise: Allow the rolls to rise in a warm environment for about 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Bake: Bake until the rolls are golden brown. About halfway through the bake time, I like to cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil so the tops don’t brown too much.
  7. Drizzle with caramel icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together and drizzle over warm rolls. Serve warm!

Here are a few step photos of the process:

cinnamon roll dough rolled into a rectangle topped with cinnamon filling and chopped apples

The filling = brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and apples. Music to our ears.

Let the rolls rise once again until they doubled in size.

apple cinnamon rolls before rising and baking

apple cinnamon rolls in a 9x13 glass baking dish after rising

And look how puffy they get!!! ↑ ↑

You have the option of making them in the morning OR you can get started the night before. Whichever you choose, the rolls bake up into this gorgeous golden brown color. And just WAIT until you smell them baking.

drizzling caramel icing onto apple cinnamon rolls

Icing – You Have Options!

You have a couple options for icing– I’ll let you be the judge. Some of my suggestions:

apple cinnamon roll on a silver plate with a fork

In short, we’re combating fears of yeast, satisfying our weekend cinnamon roll cravings, and embracing fall– all at the same time! Go ahead, indulge with me.

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zoomed in image of apple cinnamon rolls in a glass baking dish

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 large rolls
  • Category: Cinnamon Rolls
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Warm and gooey apple cinnamon rolls with delicious caramel icing on top. Fall breakfast has never tasted so good!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk*
  • 2/3 cup (135g) granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons (14gRed Star Platinum yeast (2 standard size packets)*
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (558g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for dusting/rolling

Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups chopped apples (peel if you’d like, about 2 medium apples)

Icing

  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons warmed salted caramel

Instructions

  1. Make the dough: Heat milk to about 95°F (35°C)– use microwave or stovetop. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (OR you can use a handheld mixer OR no mixer, but a stand mixer is ideal). With a whisk, manually whisk in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. If the yeast does not dissolve and foam, start over with fresh active yeast. On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Next add the eggs, one at a time, and then the salt. The butter won’t really be mixing into the mixture, so don’t be alarmed if it stays in pieces. On low speed, gradually add the flour. Once it is all added, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Here’s what I do: turn the oven on to 200°F (93°C). Once heated to that temperature, turn the oven off. Stick the covered dough inside the oven and allow it to rise in this warm environment.
  3. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
  4. Fill the rolls: Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, toss the brown sugar and cinnamon together until combined and then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Top evenly with chopped apples. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18-inch-long log. Cut into 12 equal rolls. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan. Cover the rolls very tightly with aluminum foil.
  5. Allow rolls to rise in a warm environment again for about 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Bake rolls for about 25 minutes until they are golden brown. About halfway through the bake time, I like to cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil so the tops don’t brown too much. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  7. Whisk all of the icing ingredients together and drizzle over warm rolls. Serve warm. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions – Overnight: To prepare the night before serving, prepare the rolls through step 4. Cover the rolls tightly and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1-2 hours before continuing with step 6.
  2. Make Ahead Instructions – Freezing: Baked rolls can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm up before enjoying. You can also freeze the unbaked rolls and here’s how: bake the rolls in step 6 for only about 10 minutes at 375°F (191°C). Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. To serve, take the rolls out of the freezer and put into the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Then, finish baking them.
  3. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, Rolling Pin, and 9×13 Glass Baking Dish
  4. Milk: Whole milk or even buttermilk is ideal for this dough. You can get away with 2% or 1%, but I do not recommend skim.
  5. Yeast: If using active dry yeast, the rise times will be slightly longer. I always use an instant yeast.
  6. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.

apple cinnamon roll on a silver plate with a fork

146 Comments

  1. An amazing Christmas morning recipe. My husband was wondering if I could add nuts?? Would I just throw some toasted pecans in the filling?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can definitely add nuts to the filling!

  2. Hi, I made this cinnamon roll. While it did taste amazing, I did have some issues. First, after the rolls are baked, some layers came apart instead of sticking together. Second, I don’t know if it’s because I added too much frosting, but the center tastes a bit soggy instead of more crisp like. But I do need to mention, maybe I added so much filling (it created such a thick layer), and I cooked the apples (drained) when I added it to the filling. Can you tell me how I can fix the texture and have it stick together more??

    1. Hi Veronica, it sounds like there was too much moisture in the filling which is why it didn’t cook properly. I don’t usually cook the apples before using them as the filling because they get quite soft as the rolls bake. However, there may have just been *too many* of them, which probably prevented the roll from being tight enough– and why the rolls unraveled as you ate them. See if you can reduce the amount of apples and roll it all up a bit tighter next time.

  3. This looks delicious, is there a particular type of apple that you’d recommend for this?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Becs, You an use your favorite variety of apples. We like to use one tart and one sweet (like a granny smith and a fuji) for some variety of flavor – but if you enjoy eating it you will enjoy it here!

  4. This looks so good! Can I use almond milk instead of whole milk? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brieyana, Other readers have reported that they made this dough with almond milk with success. We haven’t tried it yet though! Let us know how it goes.

  5. Larnie Henness says:

    Hi sally

    Thanks for much for this recipe. I’ve made this about a dozen times over the last 2 years and every time they disappear so quickly!!
    I recently made them for my best friends 21st birthday and they were a HIT! I love love love them Thankyou

  6. Hi Sally,

    Can I use less powdered sugar or is that exact amount?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heinley, if you use less powdered sugar in the glaze it will be thinner. Let us know how it goes!

  7. Made this today, great recipe! Thank you. The salted caramel recipe was amazing too, I’ve never made that before. I’m not very good at anything with yeast, but I did it, instructions were very precise! Yum!!!

  8. Hi!
    I am actually trying to comment on your cinnamon rolls from scratch but the comments are closed. I wanted to know if I use active dry yeast, will I have to activate it before adding it to the dry ingredients?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gigi, you can use active dry yeast with no other changes to the recipe. The active dry yeast will create a slower rise time. See recipe notes or our Baking with Yeast Guide for more details on the different types of yeast. Enjoy the cinnamon rolls!

  9. Elaine Leighton says:

    Made these today with the intention of freezing them but my husband and I have each tried one this evening. They are delicious. I made the maple glaze instead of the salted caramel glaze. We don’t have all purpose flour in the UK so I used white bread flour. I usually start my bread dough in my bread machine but actually followed the recipe and used my stand mixer, it was so easy. I love using recipes from this website – they all work well.

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