Super fluffy apple cinnamon rolls filled with a caramel apple filling. Fall doesn't get any better than this.
Get into the fall spirit with a delicious melt-in-your-mouth caramel apple pie-inspired cinnamon roll recipe. It is the perfect infusion of two of the best treats in one amazing bite. The epitome of comfort food.
If you are nervous about using yeast to make cinnamon rolls, do not worry, we will break everything down so you can feel confident making these cinnamon rolls with this simple recipe!
Why it works
I used my favorite cinnamon roll recipe as a base with a few tweaks and then on top of the regular cinnamon roll filling, I also added a quick caramel apple pie filling. All it takes if a couple of finely diced apples which you saute with brown sugar and butter for a delicious caramel coating. It adds even more depth to the cinnamon rolls and makes them basically irresistible.
It's like having apple pie and cinnamon rolls at the same time without having to actually make a pie. (although, later, we will definitely make a cinnamon roll apple pie) If you want to kick it up a notch, add chopped pecans. Trust me on this!
The soft rolls melt in your mouth and give way to soft, warm apples infused with cinnamon and caramel. It is the perfect start to your day - or to even enjoy as a dessert. It is perfect while still warm and topped with vanilla ice cream.
We start with a few key ingredients for the dough plus a few extras for the filling and icing. Let's go over them together and answer all the questions you may have about them and any potential substitutions.
- Milk - Milk plays a surprisingly important role here. Yeast needs liquid to activate. Milk has sugar, which is also a food for yeast to encourage growth, and the lactic acid in the milk also tenderizes the dough. I highly recommend whole milk for the absolute best results.
- Sugar - As mentioned earlier, sugar helps feed yeast and encourage its growth. It also helps to lightly sweeten the dough itself. I prefer granulated sugar, but you can experiment with replacing some of the granulated sugar with brown sugar.
- Yeast - The yeast is what gives the dough most of its rise and some of its flavor. All bakers have preferences when it comes to instant or active dry yeast. I prefer active dry yeast in most cases. If you are new to using yeast, I recommend checking out my brief guide on using yeast.
- Flour - The flour is the base of the structure for our dough. The gluten strands we create using the protein in the flour is what gives the dough a wonderful crumb that can make your cinnamon rolls feel like you are biting into a cloud. We use all-purpose flour, but you can also use some bread flour in the recipe as well.
- Baking Powder - Baking powder helps further encourage the rise in your dough to make your apple pie cinnamon rolls like fluffy clouds.
- Salt - I almost exclusively use sea salt in all my baking. It has the best "saltiness" to enhance flavors in my opinion.
- Egg - Eggs helps to add richness and softness to the dough and also adds to the overall structure. You should use a large egg at room temperature.
- Butter - We use unsalted softened butter to add richness to the dough. It adds a lot of flavor and helps soften the dough.
When it comes to the filling we keep it simple with ingredients like:
If you are nervous about baking with yeast, you can check out my guide on working with yeast.
The best apples to use
Most apples that can hold up their shape will work, these are a favorite to use.
- Granny Smith: These apples are known for their tartness and firm texture, making them an excellent choice for baking. They hold up well in the oven and their tartness balances the sweetness of the cinnamon rolls.
- Honeycrisp: Honeycrisp apples are crisp and sweet with a slight tartness. They add a pleasant sweetness to your rolls and maintain their texture when baked.
- Braeburn: Braeburn apples have a nice balance of sweet and tart flavors. They also hold up well in the oven and won't turn mushy.
- Jonagold: Jonagold apples offer a combination of sweetness and tartness. They have a pleasant apple flavor that pairs well with cinnamon.
- Fuji: Fuji apples are sweet and crisp. While they are less tart than some other varieties, they can still work well when combined with the cinnamon and sugar in the rolls.
- Pink Lady: These apples have a slightly tart taste with a sweet undertone. They hold their shape and add a nice flavor.
How to make
- Make the dough - Add the yeast to the milk, melted butter, and some of the sugar and let it rise. Add the dry ingredients and mix together.
- Prep the dough - Knead the dough. Use a stand mixer to make it easier on you, or you can use your hands and a lot of elbow grease! Let the dough rise in a warm area until doubled.
- Make the filling - While the dough is rising, work on the filling.
- Shape the apple cinnamon rolls - Roll out the dough until it is a nice rectangle. Spread the cinnamon following and apple filling over it, then roll into a log. Cut into equal pieces and place on your baking pan.
- Let the rolls rise - The rolls should rise for about half an hour, or however long it takes for your oven to preheat, whichever is longer.
- Bake - You want the rolls to be a nice golden brown. If your rolls seem to brown too quickly, you can cover them with aluminum foil.
- Finish - Once they're out of the oven and slightly cooled, mix together the icing and drizzle!
Expert baking tips
Making these cinnamon rolls is easier than you think, even if you've never made them before! These tips will ensure they taste amazing even if you have trouble with some parts of the process.
- Measure your ingredients correctly. This is especially true with the flour as it is the one ingredient that is most commonly measured incorrectly. The best thing to do is fluff up your flour and then spoon it into your measuring cup before gently sweeping off the excess. If you want to be completely precise, you can convert the recipe to metric and use a kitchen scale.
- Use high-quality ingredients. This recipe uses very simple ingredients, so the quality of each will shine more here. I recommend using the best you are able to afford.
- Do not let them overbake. Cinnamon rolls are best when they are soft, fluffy, and just baked enough. They need a light golden brown hue to them and that is it. They will continue to cook when you first remove them from the oven before they start to cool off.
- Enjoy them warm! Cinnamon rolls are best when they are fresh and warm from the oven. If you want to enjoy them later on long after they've cooled completely, you can easily warm them back up in the microwave for 20 seconds.
What to Make Cinnamon Rolls In
I like to use a variety of bakeware for my apple cinnamon rolls. My favorite is a cast iron skillet because it retains even heat throughout the pan, and also creates a beautiful serving piece once the pan and cinnamon rolls are cooled down. You can also use an 8 x 8 baking pan, a deep-dish pie tin, a cake pan, a couple of loaf pans, or whatever bakeware you can find that they will fit in.
Keep in mind that glass heats up slower, so your cinnamon rolls will take longer to bake. Thinner tins like older cake or loaf pans, or any darker pans, will take less time to bake.
Yes, you can freeze cinnamon rolls. You can freeze them before they've been baked and after. If you are freezing before they are baked, make sure they are already sliced. You want to slice the rolls, then place them spaced on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze the baking sheet until the cinnamon rolls are frozen, then transfer to an airtight container.
If you are freezing baked cinnamon rolls, do so before you glaze them, if possible. Like the unbaked cinnamon rolls, it is easier to freeze them when they are separated.
When you are ready to bake the frozen unbaked cinnamon rolls, take them out to thaw slightly as the oven preheats. They may need an extra few minutes in the oven, but nothing else will change in the directions. To warm baked cinnamon rolls, bake at 325F for about 10 - 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before glazing.
I like to make the dough for my apple cinnamon rolls ahead of time as often as possible so I don't have to do much in the morning. What you can do the day before: You can make the apple pie filling and leave it in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
The cinnamon roll filling can also be made, but you will need to remelt the butter in the mixture by placing it in the microwave for a minute or so. Stir the mixture after every 30 seconds in the microwave until you can easily stir it.
Next, you can make the dough. Instead of placing the dough in a warm, dry area, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, roll it out, spread the cinnamon roll filling, then the apple pie filling, and keep going as normal in the recipe.
Cinnamon rolls will stay fresh for about a day or two at room temperature, and about three or four days in the refrigerator (reheat in the oven or microwave when ready to eat). For the best flavor, cinnamon rolls are best eaten fresh the same day.
Want More Cinnamon Roll in Your Life?
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 Granny Smith Apples
- ⅓ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 3 tablespoons Butter
For the Dough
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 6 tablespoons Granulated Sugar divided
- 2 ¼ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
- 3 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 large Egg room temperature
- 6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter melted
For the Cinnamon Filling
- 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- ⅓ cup Granulated Sugar
- ⅓ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
For the Glaze
- 1 ½ cups Powdered Sugar
- 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
- pinch of Salt
- 2-3 tablespoons Heavy Cream
- Make the apple pie filling. This is something that can be prepped a day or two ahead if needed. Peel the apples if desired. Finely dice the apples (discarding the core and seeds).
- Add the apples to a skillet along with the remaining ingredients for the apples. Cook until the apples are tender and the liquid is thickened. Leave to cool completely.
- Make the dough. Add the milk, half the sugar, and the yeast to a bowl and allow it to proof for five minutes.
- While the yeast is proofing, add the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a stand mixer and mix until combined.
- Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until it comes together. Add the egg and butter and mix until it forms a shaggy dough. You may be tempted to add more flour, but resist the urge as much as possible.
- Use a dough hook to knead the dough for about 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Lightly grease a large bowl and shape the dough into a ball, then place in the bowl. Grease a sheet of plastic wrap on one side, then place the wrap on the bowl, grease side down. Allow the dough to rise in a warm, dry area for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, make the cinnamon filling. Melt the butter, and stir together the remaining ingredients into the butter. Set aside.
- Once the dough is double its size, gently deflate the dough. Place the dough on a lightly floured smooth surface and roll out into a large triangle about 16 inches long and 12- 14 inches wide.
- Spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a small border all around. Add the apple filling over the cinnamon filling.
- Tightly roll the dough into a log along the long side so you have a roll that is 16 inches long.
- Cut the dough into 9 equal pieces (I find using string or unflavored floss creates the best cuts). Place the rolls into your pan, cut sides down. Loosely cover the dough to rise again as the oven heats.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- As soon as the oven reaches the right temperature, add the rolls to the oven on the middle rack.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes. If you find the dough is getting too brown, loosely cover with aluminum foil as it bakes.
- As the rolls are baking, make the glaze by adding the ingredients together.
- Remove the rolls from the oven and allow to cool slightly before adding the glaze. Serve immediately.