top of page
  • taspencer

Orange Sweet Rolls

Updated: Jun 2

Soft and fluffy.

Orange sweet rolls iced in orange cream cheese frosting

If you love a freshly-baked cinnamon bun, you’ve got these orange sweet rolls. Featuring a soft, pillowy dough filled with orange zest and a tangy cream cheese icing, this fresh spring twist on a classic breakfast favorite will have everyone reaching for seconds.

Baking with yeast can be intimidating—especially if you’ve never done it before—but it’s not difficult. Follow these simple tips and your dough will rise to the occasion every time:

1. Check the expiration date. Set yourself up for success by double-checking the date on the yeast envelop before you start. If the yeast is expired, chances are it won’t help anything rise.  

2. Bloom the yeast. I prefer using active dry yeast (as opposed to instant) because it needs to be bloomed: sprinkled over a warm liquid spiked with a little sugar and left to sit until foamy. This is your golden opportunity to make sure the yeast is active before adding all the other dough ingredients. If after 10 minutes the yeast is just lying where you dumped it, it’s most likely dead and you should throw it out and start again with fresh liquid and a new packet of yeast. Better lose a cup of milk, a teaspoon of sugar and 10 minutes of time than a fully formed dough and an hour plus.

Orange sweet dough in a bowl.

3. Let it rise until doubled. The dough should double in size during its first proof (or rising time); this generally takes about an hour. But how fast the dough rises also depends the temperature and humidity of its environment, so it’s better to let the size of the dough rather than the rising time determine when to end that first proof. I like to take a picture of my dough before covering it so I can remember how big it was. Then, when I’m checking on it, I can compare the photo to the risen dough in order to determine whether it’s already doubled or whether it needs more time.

4. Give the dough room to expand while baking. The second proof should be ended when the dough appears puffy and holds an indent when you press lightly on it with a finger. At that point, the rolls may not completely fill the baking dish—which is ideal. They will continue to rise a bit in the oven, and you want to allow room for them to expand that little bit more. If they’re already gigantic when they go into the oven, they won’t have anywhere to grow, and there’s also a chance they may collapse a little when baked. They’ll still taste great, but the texture won’t be quite a soft and fluffy as it could be.

One last piece of advice (and this has nothing to do with yeast!): Don’t skimp on the orange. It might seem like a crazy amount of zest, but the dough, the filling, and the icing truly needs it to achieve that full orange flavor. The candied orange is optional, but the zest is a must.



Orange Sweet Rolls

(Makes 12)

Orange sweet rolls iced in orange cream cheese frosting.

For the dough:


¾ c. whole milk, heated to 110-120°

1/3 c. (66 g.) granulated sugar, divided

2 ¼ tsp. (7 g.) active dry yeast

3 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest (from 2-3 oranges)

4 ¼ c. (510 g.) all-purpose flour, divided

2 large eggs

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt




In a glass measuring cup, stir together milk and 1 teaspoon sugar. Sprinkle yeast over and let sit 5 minutes, until foamy.


Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, rub together remaining sugar and orange zest until fragrant and the oils of the orange are released (sugar will be damp and very fragrant).


Add bloomed yeast mixture, 4 cups (480 grams) flour, eggs, melted butter, and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low until a shaggy dough forms, 1-2 minutes. Increase speed to high and mix until dough is smooth and elastic and springs back, 6-8 minutes more. (Dough should be slightly sticky but clear the sides of the bowl. If it seems to be sticking too much, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.)


Grease a large bowl. Form dough into a ball and place in bottom of bowl. Cover tightly and let rise until doubled, about 60 minutes.

Orange sugar in a bowl.

For the filling and assembly:


¾ c. (150 g.) granulated sugar

2 tbsp. orange zest (from 1-2 oranges)

¼ tsp. ground cardamom

¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt

Nonstick cooking spray

½ c. unsalted butter, softened

½ c. (70 g.) finely chopped candied orange peel or finely chopped dried apricots (optional)



In a small bowl, rub together sugar and orange zest until fragrant and oils are released. Stir in cardamom and salt.


Grease a 9”x13” baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Orange sugar and candied orange peel sprinkled over sweet dough.

On a light floured work surface, roll out risen dough to a large rectangle, about 18” x 12”. Spread all over with softened butter, then sprinkle evenly with orange sugar mixture. Sprinkle with chopped orange peel, if using.


Starting with the long end closest, roll dough into a tight log. Using a serrated knife, cut log into 12 equal pieces, about 1 ½” thick. Arrange pieces, cut-side up, in a 3x4 grid in baking dish. Cover with a towel and let rise until puffy, 25-30 minutes.***


Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°, rack in the middle position.


Uncover risen rolls and bake until golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°, 22-28 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes.

***To make these the day ahead, prepare the dough through rolling and shaping, and then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Let rolls sit uncovered at room temperature for 90 minutes the next morning before baking.

Orange sweet rolls iced in orange cream cheese frosting

 For the icing:


4 oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 tbsp. orange zest (from 1 orange)

¼ tsp. kosher salt

1 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar

3 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice, divided



In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, orange zest, and salt. Add confectioners’ sugar and 2 tbsp. orange juice and beat until combined and no lumps remain. Icing should be a soft spreadable consistency. If too thick, beat in more orange juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired texture.


Spread icing over warm rolls. Serve immediately.

An orange sweet roll iced in orange cream cheese frosting on a white plate

Originally posted May 5, 2024.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page