Adding fresh lemon to homemade cinnamon rolls is a great way to infuse a cozy classic with a little sunshine— perfect for transitioning to spring!
I have had such a hankering for warm gooey cinnamon rolls the last week or so. But with the return of warmer weather, blossoming trees and the official start of spring right around the corner, I’m also ready to move on from my go-to comforts of fall and winter. I want bright!, happy! flavors.
So what’s a gal to do?
Lemon to the rescue!
I took my standard cinnamon roll recipe and added a heavy dose of lemon zest to the filling and smothered the baked rolls in a sweet lemon icing. And in case you aren’t aware— lemon + cinnamon is a match made in heaven. These rolls are perfect for chilly spring mornings when you’re craving something cozy.
Want to prep your rolls the night before? No problem! Simply place the sliced rolls a baking pan and cover with plastic wrap, and let them do their final rise in the fridge overnight. The next morning, let them come to room temperature while your oven preheats, and then bake.
baking tip:The best way to slice cinnamon rolls
While you can certainly use a knife to slice a log of cinnamon roll dough into individual rolls, I find that it can result in squashed and lopsided rolls if your knife isn’t quite sharp enough.
My favorite way to slice cinnamon rolls is with unscented dental floss or clean thread. Measure out about 12-15 inches, slide it under your dough so that it’s centered, wrap it around the top and pull tight in one quick motion. The floss/thread should cut cleanly and easily right through the dough. Repeat at even intervals.
Lemon Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough:
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (60 grams)
- ¼ cup honey (85 grams)
- ⅔ cup whole milk (160 ml)
- 3-3 ½ all-purpose flour (360-420 grams)
- 1 packet active-dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoon, 7 grams)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
For the filling:
- ¼ cup unsalted butter , melted (60 grams)
- ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar (70 grams)
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the glaze:
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar , sifted (340 grams)
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
To make cinnamon rolls:
- In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, warm the butter, honey and milk until butter is melted. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, or until the temperature is between 120-130°F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time until dough clears the side of the bowl but is still slightly sticky to the touch. You may not need all 3 ½ cups of flour.
- Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Gently punch down dough and knead a few times. Cover it with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prep the filling ingredients.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a long rectangle approximately 10x15 inches. Drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Starting with a long end, tightly roll up the dough into a long log. Use a sharp knife or unscented dental floss or thread to cut dough into 12 rolls.
- Place rolls in a greased 9x13-inch pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bake lemon cinnamon rolls until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then drizzle with glaze.
To make glaze:
- Whisk together the sifted powdered sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick but pourable glaze. Stir in lemon zest.