Rich & Fluffy Chocolate Sweet Rolls

These outrageously rich and indulgent chocolate sweet rolls come together with a buttery soft fresh homemade dough and brown sugar chocolate filling. They’re shaped like cinnamon rolls, but taste like flaky chocolate babka. Drizzle the warm rolls with espresso glaze or choose another topping from the suggestions below.

chocolate rolls with espresso glaze

Melty chocolate, fresh dough, and espresso glaze. What’s not to love about this trio?

Tell Me About These Chocolate Sweet Rolls

  • Flavor: I often use softened butter in softer bread doughs, but opted for melted butter here. I find melted butter adds more, well, buttery flavor. This dough is sweet and so buttery– in fact, it would be fantastic completely plain. But plain’s not in our language today and we’re filling it with brown sugar, cocoa powder, a bit of cinnamon, vanilla, and lots of real chocolate. Don’t limit them to the morning hours because these chocolate sweet rolls definitely taste like dessert.
  • Texture: Because there’s fat in the dough from the whole milk, eggs, and butter, the bread is extra soft, rich, and flaky. Though all-purpose flour is fine, bread flour promises extra bread-like chewiness. These textures work perfectly with the gooey chocolate swirls and smooth espresso glaze. Each bite has different twists, flakes, and pockets of melty chocolate– similar to the texture of apple cinnamon babka. They’re like warm chocolate babka rolls.
  • Ease: It goes without saying that homemade bread takes time and effort. Consider these chocolate sweet rolls a fun afternoon or weekend baking project. The dough requires 2 rises, but otherwise is pretty straightforward. You can even get started the night before by following the overnight instructions. Take your time and have all of your ingredients ready. If you’re new to baking with yeast, review our Baking with Yeast Guide.

chocolate cinnamon roll

Use a Rich Dough for Chocolate Rolls

Before I show you how to make chocolate rolls, let’s talk about the dough. This is a rich dough, which means that it’s prepared with fat like milk, butter, and eggs. Rich doughs make soft breads such as dinner rolls, pull apart bread, and glazed doughnuts. Lean doughs, on the other hand, are made without much fat and produce crusty bread like bagels, artisan bread, and pizza dough. There are so many ways to bake bread and if you want to expand your bread skills, here are all of our yeast bread recipes. (This cheese bread is a reader and team favorite!)

  • Instant Yeast or Active-Dry? You can use instant yeast or active-dry yeast in the chocolate rolls. I usually use instant yeast and still take the time to quickly proof the yeast in step 1. Proofing the yeast means mixing it with a little sugar and the warm liquid to prove that it’s active– the mixture will look foamy on top, see photo below. But this step is not usually required when using instant yeast. Still, it doesn’t hurt and takes 5 minutes and you can prep your other dough ingredients as you wait.

This rich dough is supposed to be very soft, so don’t add more flour than absolutely needed. Embrace the softness and a sticky work surface because if you don’t mind the mess, you’ll be rewarded with the richest, flakiest chocolate rolls. I heard chocolate croissants were borderline jealous of all these flakes.


Do These Taste Like Cinnamon Rolls?

As far as the process goes, we’re essentially making cinnamon rolls but with a chocolate filling. Make the dough, let it rise, punch it down, roll it out, add the chocolate filling, roll up jelly roll style, cut into rolls, let them rise until puffy, then bake. If you’ve made homemade cinnamon rolls before, this process isn’t anything new. We do use cinnamon in the filling, but it’s really just a background flavor behind all the chocolate and brown sugar. They certainly resemble cinnamon rolls, but they taste like homemade bread swirled with gooey melted chocolate.

Step-By-Step Photos

Proofing the yeast:

yeast milk and sugar mixture proofing in glass bowl

Here is the soft dough before and after the 1st rise:

rich dough before and after rising

rolled out dough with chocolate filling on top

rolled out dough with chocolate filling on top

rolling up the chocolate rolls dough

dough log cut into 12 pieces

Here are the rolls before and after the 2nd rise. See how puffy they get?

two photos showing chocolate rolls before and after rising

I don’t want to stand in your way of chocolate bliss, so I promise I’m almost done. 😉

Espresso Glaze & Other Topping Options

I couldn’t decide on a topping that would be legendary enough for these extraordinary rolls, but espresso glaze comes pretty close. The bitter espresso powder helps offset the sweet confectioners’ sugar and all the sweetness in the rolls themselves. Other topping options include salted caramel, vanilla icing, the maple icing from maple bacon doughnuts, or cream cheese icing from cinnamon rolls. For something simple, a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar would be beautiful. Peanut butter frosting would be over-the-top and I’m certain all your sweet teeth would be satisfied for weeks. Ha!

And, again, these rolls are RICH so you could easily skip the icing on top.

two side-by-side photos showing espresso glaze

chocolate sweet rolls in pan

Chocolate Sweet Rolls Video

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chocolate sweet rolls in pan

Chocolate Sweet Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 28 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes (includes rise times)
  • Yield: 12 rolls
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These rich and fluffy chocolate sweet rolls come together with a buttery soft fresh homemade dough and brown sugar chocolate filling. They’re shaped like cinnamon rolls, but taste like flaky chocolate babka. You can make the chocolate rolls within a few hours or get started the night before using the overnight preparation option.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, warmed to about 100°F (38°C)
  • 6 Tablespoons (75g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon (9g) active dry or instant yeast
  • 5 Tablespoons (72g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups (530g) bread flour (spoon & leveled), plus more as needed for hands/work surface

Chocolate Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100gpacked light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) unsweetened natural or dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (135g) semi-sweet chocolate chips or a 4 ounce semi-sweet chocolate bar, finely chopped*

Espresso Icing

  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream*
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder*
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted (sift after measuring)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm milk, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and the yeast together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy on top. *If you do not own a mixer, you can do this in a large mixing bowl and in the next step, mix the dough together with a large wooden spoon/rubber spatula. It will take a bit of arm muscle. A hand mixer works, but the sticky dough repeatedly gets stuck in the beaters. Mixing by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula is a better choice.*
  2. Add the remaining sugar, the butter, eggs, salt, and 1 cup (about 130g) of flour and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 3 cups (about 400g) flour, switch the mixer down to low speed, and beat until a soft dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dough will be very soft, but not overly sticky. Beat in 2-3 more Tablespoons of flour if dough seems very sticky. Avoid adding more flour than you need.
  3. Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat on low speed for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 3 minutes.
  4. 1st Rise: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or use nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 2 hours or until double in size. (I always let it rise on the counter and it takes about 2 hours. For a tiny reduction in rise time, see my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking with Yeast Guide.)
  5. Grease the bottom and sides of a metal or glass 9×13 inch baking dish or line with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out the dough: Punch down the dough to release the air. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 10×16 inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick. If the dough keeps shrinking as you roll it out, stop what you’re doing, cover it lightly, and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten. When you return to the dough, it should stretch out much easier.
  7. For the filling: Mix all of the filling ingredients together except for the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips. The softer the butter is, the easier it is to mix. (Microwave it for a few seconds to soften if needed.) Spread mixture all over the dough. Sprinkle chopped chocolate/chocolate chips evenly on top. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 16-inch-long log. If some filling spills out, sprinkle it on top of the roll. With an extra sharp knife, cut into 12 even rolls, between 1-1.5 inches each. Arrange in the prepared baking pan.
  8. 2nd Rise: Cover the rolls tightly and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Or use the overnight option below.)
  9. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Bake rolls for about 25-28 minutes or until they are lightly browned on top. After about 15 minutes, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan to prevent the tops from browning too quickly and baking unevenly. Remove pan from the oven and place pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes as you make the icing.
  10. Make the icing: Warm the cream on the stove until barely simmering or warm it in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. Whisk espresso powder into the warm cream, then whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract until combined. Drizzle the icing over the warm rolls and serve immediately.
  11. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions – Overnight: To prepare the night before serving, prepare the rolls through step 7. Cover the rolls tightly and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. (16 hours max. 8-12 hours is best, but 16 hours is OK if absolutely needed. Do not exceed 16 hours.) The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1-2 hours before continuing with step 9.
  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 9 for only about 10 minutes. Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. To serve, take the rolls out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Once thawed, finish baking them for about 20 minutes.
  3. Milk: Use whole milk for the best, richest tasting dough. You could also use buttermilk. 2%, 1%, or nondairy milk work in a pinch. Do not use nonfat milk.
  4. Yeast: Make sure you use 1 Tablespoon of yeast, which is a little more than 1 standard packet. You can use active dry or instant yeast in this recipe. Follow all of the same instructions. If using active dry yeast, the rise times are usually *slightly* longer, but not much. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  5. Best Flour to Use: For best texture, I recommend bread flour. The same amount of all-purpose flour works and the rolls will still be wonderfully rich and soft. The rolls are a little more chewy and flaky when using bread flour.
  6. Chocolate: I usually use and recommend one 4 ounce (113g) baking chocolate bar, such as Ghirardelli or Bakers 4 ounce bars sold in the baking aisle. Chopped fine, this is about 3/4 cup. You can use semi-sweet or bittersweet. Avoid white chocolate or milk chocolate because the rolls will be overly sweet. You can use about 3/4 cup of chocolate chips, mini or regular size, instead. Chocolate chips weigh a little more, so use 135g if you are using a scale.
  7. Heavy Cream & Espresso Powder: In first part of the icing recipe, we are essentially making a creamy and very strong espresso liquid by mixing warm cream with espresso powder. (Make sure you use instant espresso powder, which is typically sold as simply “espresso powder.”) Feel free to use 3 Tablespoons of very strong brewed espresso or black coffee instead. Mix icing ingredients together, then add 1 more Tablespoon brewed espresso or black coffee to thin out if needed/desired.
  8. Half Batch: You can halve this recipe by halving all of the ingredients and using an 8 or 9 inch square or round pan. The 1st dough rise time may be a bit shorter. Roll the dough out to (approximately) a 7×10 inch rectangle. Roll up into a 10 inch log, then cut into 6 rolls. 2nd dough rise time will be about the same. Bake time is a few minutes shorter.

Keywords: chocolate sweet rolls

How to Join the May Sally's Baking Challenge

Make the chocolate sweet rolls. Feel free to leave plain or use your desired glaze/topping. If you aren’t into this recipe, here is the alternate baking challenge recipe:

  1. any previous challenge recipe you haven’t made yet OR
  2. One Giant Sugar Cookie. We thought this would be a fun recipe for Mother’s Day, even if you just make it for yourself!

After you make the chocolate rolls or the alternate recipe, email us your recipe photo. For a bonus entry, leave a review on the recipe below.

By emailing your recipe photo to us, you are automatically entered in the baking challenge. 1 winner receives a $250 Amazon Gift Card. The challenge is open to the whole world. Challenge ends on May 31st at 5pm eastern. The winner will be selected at random, emailed their prize, and posted in the June Baking Challenge blog post on June 1st 2021.

Visit the Sally’s Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions about Sally’s Baking Challenge. Sign up for Sally’s Baking Challenge emails so you’re alerted as soon as new challenge post is published!

153 Comments

  1. Aaaa! I can’t wait to try this! can this recipe easily be halved? And do you recommend it! Thanks!

    1. Hi Eleanor! Yes, you can halve the recipe. See recipe note!

  2. Hi Sally. I love your blog! This recipe looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it! I hope you and your family are doing well!

  3. These are in my baking list for Mother’s Day breakfast! These look delicious.

    1. Recipe was really easy to follow, but the buns were dry, what did I do incorrectly? Over baked, I used all the high fat ingredients ie whole milk.

      I followed the time to the T.

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Heather! Thank you so much for giving these rolls a try. It’s possible your oven may run a little warm, which would cause them to over-bake in the stated baking time. Next time try checking them sooner and/or lowering your oven temperature by 10-15 degrees F. We always recommend an in-oven thermometer for best results as well for the most accurate results. Hope this helps!

  4. Joanna P. says:

    These look fantastic! I can’t stand anything coffee-flavored though, so should I just leave that out of the icing? Or is there something else I can sub in?

    1. Hi Joanna! Thanks so much. You can skip the glaze or use another option that’s linked/described above. See “Espresso Glaze & Other Topping Options” above.

      1. Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe I missed that paragraph!
        Thank you for a such gracious reply – I’m sure it gets old pointing out what you already wrote in your post!

  5. Can you do the 1st rise overnight? I’ve been baking your Challenge recipes with a friend over Zoom and we don’t have 4hrs to do the entire recipe together. Also, is there a way to store leftover yeast since we’ll need to open 2 packets for this recipe.

    1. (not a pro but an enthusiast!)

      I generally buy 1-lb blocks of SAF instant yeast – either those or those convenient little jars can live in the fridge or freezer after they’re opened (though the block has to go into something airtight). You can get either for like $5-7, way more economical and convenient than the packets. Otherwise I imagine if you can close up a packet airtight, the remainder should be fine in the fridge too.

    2. That’s so much fun! You could do the first rise overnight. See the overnight instructions, then follow the next morning instructions before continuing with step 5. It’s best to store yeast in the refrigerator.

  6. As someone who doesn’t love chocolate (I know), I might try something like butterscotch chips, pecans, and some spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg) to avoid the overly-sweet problem of white chocolate…if anyone has other thoughts for alternate fillings, though, I’d be very interested!

    1. Hi Gina! Those filling options sound great. See our Sweet Rolls section for more filling ideas.

  7. These sound delicious, and I cannot wait to make them! The recipe ingredients list calls for softened butter, but you mention earlier in the post itself that you opted for melted butter on this one to yield a more flaky roll. Should we use melted?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Megan, You will use butter two different times. We use melted butter in the dough, and softened butter for the filling. I hope this helps!

  8. I will be making these ASAP! I have been looking for a chocolate cinnamon roll recipe for quite some time. I need to get some chocolate as I use all I had in a chocolate chip, butterscotch cookie yesterday. Thanks Sally!

  9. hi sally!
    just wondering, i don’t have a stand mixer but would like to make this recipe. could i do this by hand?
    thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      If you do not own a mixer, you can mix the dough together with a large wooden spoon/rubber spatula. It will take a bit of arm muscle.

  10. Can you make this with gluten free flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Molly, We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let us know if you give it a try! If you are interested, here are all of our naturally gluten free recipes.

  11. I love this recipe… Turned out fluffy and delicious

  12. Melissa Herrmann says:

    I saw these and needed to make them TODAY! I used the maple bacon glaze and we are waiting for them to cool a little now. Thanks!

  13. Naomi Winkel says:

    I’m so excited to make this. I think I will make this for a church lunch next weekend. I probably will make homemade cream cheese frosting for the frosting because I don’t know if people will care for the expresso. I have not done a challenge yet, but I will try this one. YUMMY!!!!!!

  14. If I use all purpose flour, will the weight be different than the bread flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laurel, Great question! Yes, all purpose flour is just a little lighter. It weighs about 125g per cup, so you would need 500g here. Happy baking!

  15. Carole Smith says:

    thrsr look absolutely yummy! Cant eait to make them!/

  16. Oh my these look seriously tempting! Great work Sally!
    I was wondering if you would think that these would taste good with cream cheese frosting and would it do any harm to use all purpose flour instead of bread flour?
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jesse, The same amount of all-purpose flour works and the rolls will still be wonderfully rich and soft. The rolls are a little more chewy and flaky when using bread flour. Cream cheese frosting works well – see the bottom of the post above for more topping recommendations. Happy baking!

  17. Hi there! Can I use 5 tablespoons of oil instead of butter in the second step?

    1. Hi PJ! I’m sure that would be fine, but I haven’t tested the dough that way. You’ll lose some flavor though. If you try it, let us know.

  18. Patricia McPheeters says:

    Our farm family enjoyed these rolls so much. I had my doubts about the chocolate – as our bunch really like frosted cinnamon rolls. The filling was perfect, just the right amount. I used less of the espresso powder in the glaze as young children were also trying them. I will make this recipe again!

  19. I just made these and waiting to pull out of the oven shortly. I halved the recipe and will rate it once I’ve tried them. They were really easy to make so if they are as good as they look I’ll be making these again with apricot filling.
    You have a great website…..just discovered it today and already trying a recipe.

  20. Made these today and they are delicious!

  21. Sally, These are fabulous! Adding espresso to the glaze is really nice. I will definitely make these again…….thinking I may add a touch of Kahula to the glaze next time.
    Thank you for sharing such a delicious recipe.

  22. Emilee Johnson says:

    Oh my goodness, I will never make regular cinnamon rolls again! These are the all-grown-up version with chocolate and espresso. It’s dessert and breakfast in the same bite!

    These definitely take a bit of work and patience, but definitely worth it. I made these without the stand mixer and used a rubber spatula — it’s certainly doable!

  23. Eunice DeLeon says:

    Made this for per my husband’s request and it was delicious! He ate 4 within 30 minutes after they came out of the oven.

    Recipe is perfect and straightforward. I added a bit of white chocolate chips and made the espresso icing.

    Can’t wait to make this again!

  24. Absolutely amazing! I quartered the recipe and it gave me 3 perfect rolls

  25. These are AMAZING!!! I first learned how to use yeast from Sally’s tutorials and I’m so happy I did. These rolls satisfy my chocolate fix!!!!!

  26. Hi! This recipe looks really great I cant wait to try it!
    I don’t have bread flour I only have all purpose or cake flour. Which one would be better as an alternative for this recipe?? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Yasmine, The same amount of all-purpose flour works and the rolls will still be wonderfully rich and soft. Happy baking!

  27. Looks really good. Am hoping to try to make it soon. Don’t have heavy cream. Is it necessary to use heavy cream for the glaze, or could I use 2% milk or some other substitute?
    Thanks.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Trent, For the icing you could use 2% but it will be a bit thinner. Try using a bit less if you’d like the icing to be thicker.

  28. Tricia Hanley says:

    I finally made the Lemon Blueberry Tart. Oh my goodness it was amazing. We hosted a Murder Mystery dinner last night and that dessert was a huge hit!!!

  29. These chocolate sweet rolls are amazing!! I used my bread machine to mix the dough and it worked well. I also added some mocha syrup into the icing. These were a definite crowd pleaser. Thank you so much for the recipe!!!

  30. Jacqueline Desposato says:

    Hi Sally,
    I just made this today, it turned out great! Definitely for the chocolate lover, yum! Just want your opinion on the 2 different freezing methods you mention. Which method results in the most fresh taste the full bake or the 10 minute partial bake?
    Thanks,
    Jackie D.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jacqueline, For the absolute freshest taste, we recommend the partial bake. Enjoy!

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