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spatula removing a lemon sweet roll with cream cheese icing from the pan.

Soft & Fluffy Lemon Sweet Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 rolls
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These soft and fluffy lemon sweet rolls are like a spring and summer version of classic cinnamon rolls. You’ll love the caramelized lemon sugar inside and under the baked rolls! Covered in a simple lemon cream cheese frosting, these rolls use my quick sweet roll dough—only 1 rise.


Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 and 3/4 cups (344g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
  • 3 Tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons Platinum Yeast from Red Star or any instant yeast (1 standard packet)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

Filling

  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 56g) unsalted butter, extra softened
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest (packed Tablespoon, it’s a lot of zest!)

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

  • 4 ounces (113g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) lemon juice
  • optional: extra lemon zest for garnish

Instructions

  1. Make the dough: Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the milk and butter together in a heatproof bowl. Microwave or use the stove and heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 110°F/43°C, no higher). Whisk in the yeast until it has dissolved. Pour mixture into the dry ingredients, add the egg, and stir with a sturdy silicone spatula or wooden spoon, OR use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed. Mix until a soft dough forms.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, knead the dough for 3–5 minutes. You should have a smooth ball of dough. If the dough is super soft or sticky, you can add a little more flour. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I use nonstick spray), cover loosely, and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes as you get the filling ingredients ready.
  4. Fill the rolls: After 10 minutes, roll the dough out in a 14×8-inch (36x20cm) rectangle. Spread the softened butter on top. Mix together the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. Sprinkle it all over the dough. Roll up the dough to make a 14-inch log. Cut into 10–12 even rolls and arrange in a lightly greased 9- or 10-inch round cake pan, pie dish, or square baking pan.
  5. Rise: Cover the pan with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the rolls to rise in a relatively warm environment for 60–90 minutes or until double in size. (For a tiny reduction in rise time, see my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking With Yeast Guide.)
  6. Bake the rolls: After the rolls have nearly doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake for 24–25 minutes, or until lightly browned. If you notice the tops are getting too brown too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil and continue baking. If you want to be precise about their doneness, the rolls’ internal temperature taken with an instant-read thermometer should be around 195–200°F (91–93°C) when done. Remove pan from the oven and place pan on a wire rack as you make the icing. (You can also make the icing as the rolls bake.)
  7. Make the icing: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the butter and beat until smooth and combined, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until combined. Using a knife or icing spatula, spread the icing over the warm rolls and serve immediately. If desired, garnish frosted rolls with a light sprinkling of lemon zest.
  8. 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 & Overnight Instructions: This dough can be made the night before through step 4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise in a warm environment, about 1 hour. Continue with step 6.
  2. Freezing Instructions: 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 (190°C). Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. To serve, take the pan of rolls out of the freezer and put into the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Then, finish baking them for the remaining 15–18 minutes.
  3. Special Tools (affiliate links): Rolling Pin | Citrus Zester | Citrus Juicer | Vanilla Bean Paste | 9-Inch Round Cake Pan or 9-Inch Round Pie Dish | Instant-Read Thermometer | Icing Spatula
  4. Yeast: I highly recommend instant yeast. If you only have active dry yeast, you can use that instead. Active dry and instant yeast can be used interchangeably in recipes (1:1). Active dry yeast has a moderate rate of rising and instant dry yeast has a faster rate of rising; active dry yeast will take longer to raise the dough. Reference my Baking With Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  5. Milk: This recipe used to call for 1/2 cup (120ml) water and 1/4 cup (60ml) milk. The rolls taste much richer using all milk, and that is what I recommend. Whole milk or even buttermilk are ideal for this dough. If needed, you can substitute 3/4 cup (180ml) lower-fat or nondairy milk.

Keywords: lemon sweet rolls