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.
These make for an extra special Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, or Father’s Day brunch recipe!
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. If you’re new to baking with yeast, review our Baking with Yeast Guide. Or if you’re in a real time crunch, try these super quick 20 minute chocolate crescents instead.
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 homemade 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 homemade 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.
Proofing the yeast:
After the dough comes together, knead by hand or with your stand mixer. (See my How to Knead Dough tutorial for extra help with this step.) The dough is now ready to rise. Here is the soft dough before and after the 1st rise:
Here are the rolls before and after the 2nd rise. See how puffy they get?
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. It would taste divine on these no yeast cinnamon rolls too!
Other topping options include salted caramel, vanilla icing, the maple icing from maple bacon doughnuts, or cream cheese icing from homemade cinnamon rolls or raspberry sweet 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.
See Your Chocolate Sweet Rolls!
Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂
More Cinnamon Roll Varieties:
- Cinnamon Rolls
- Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Raspberry Sweet Rolls (my favorite!!)
- Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
- Maple Pecan Sticky Buns
- Lemon Sweet Rolls
- Orange Sweet Rolls
- Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
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.
- 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 (71g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups (530g) bread flour (spooned & leveled), plus more as needed for hands/work surface
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed 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*
- 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
- 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/silicone 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 silicone spatula is a better choice.*
- 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.
- Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer (and switch to the dough hook if using the paddle) and beat for an additional 6-8 full minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 6-8 full minutes. (If you’re new to bread-baking, my How to Knead Dough video tutorial can help here.) If the dough becomes too sticky during the kneading process, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of flour at a time on the dough or on the work surface/in the bowl to make a soft, slightly tacky dough. Do not add more flour than you need because you do not want a dry dough. After kneading, the dough should still feel a little soft. Poke it with your finger—if it slowly bounces back, your dough is ready to rise. You can also do a “windowpane test” to see if your dough has been kneaded long enough: tear off a small (roughly golfball-size) piece of dough and gently stretch it out until it’s thin enough for light to pass through it. Hold it up to a window or light. Does light pass through the stretched dough without the dough tearing first? If so, your dough has been kneaded long enough and is ready to rise. If not, keep kneading until it passes the windowpane test.
- 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.)
- Grease the bottom and sides of a metal or glass 9×13-inch baking dish or line with parchment paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 2nd Rise: Cover the rolls tightly and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Or use the overnight option below.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Stand Mixer (or Glass Mixing Bowl with Wooden Spoon/Silicone Spatula) | 9×13-inch Baking Pan | Rolling Pin | Cooling Rack
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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