Soft and fluffy rolls flavoured with orange zest, with a swirl of warming spices, and a glossy orange glaze. These cinnamon rolls are sweet, spicy, fragrant, utterly delicious and perfect for the festive season. Enjoy for breakfast or brunch, as a snack or pudding, warm, cold, dipped into coffee or hot chocolate, or straight out of the oven.
I have such a weakness for cinnamon rolls. Something about the combination of soft and chewy bread, with sweet and fragrant cinnamon makes me very happy. I like to uncoil them and eat my way to the middle, where ideally there is a slightly higher density of cinnamon in the central swirl, for a joyous final bite. This significantly increases the stickiness of the eating process, but in for a penny, in for a pound.
Cinnamon rolls were originally dreamt up in Sweden and are still popular across Scandinavia in various forms. Many countries have their own unique cinnamon bun style, varying in size, dough type and cinnamon quantity, as well as in the use of glazes or icing. These rolls are more in the Chelsea bun/American category of cinnamon roll, baked closely together in tray with soft enriched dough. I give a couple of options for toppings – a glaze and a thin icing (I like using both) – but by all means you can go full American and slather them in vegan cream cheese frosting. It is the holiday season after all.
This is a surprisingly easy recipe to veganize. Traditionally the dough would be enriched with butter, milk and eggs. The butter and milk you can easily swap for vegan alternatives – vegan butter, spread or coconut oil would all work, and I prefer using a richer non-dairy milk such as soya or oat, but any will do. Instead of eggs you can just add a little more milk, or for an ever so slightly lighter dough, use a few tablespoons of aquafaba (chickpea brine).
And for the festive flavourings, I’ve added orange zest to the dough, as well as some allspice, ground cloves and ground nutmeg to the cinnamon filling. The orange adds a lovely fruity sweetness which beautifully compliments the warming winter spices, and if nothing else, the scent which will waft from your oven will be utterly divine.
How to make Christmas-spiced cinnamon rolls
First make the dough. Heat your non-dairy milk so that it is lukewarm (37–43C) and add the dried yeast. Measure the sugar into a large mixing bowl and add a pinch to the milk and yeast. Mix and set aside while the yeast activates, and add the flour, salt, melted butter, and aquafaba into the mixing bowl. Zest an orange and set aside.
After 5 minutes, once the yeast mixture has starting to froth, add it to the flour and mix everything together with your hand until it forms a shaggy dough. Transfer onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8 minutes. Add 1 tsp orange zest, reserving the rest for the glaze, and knead into the dough for another couple of minutes until it’s evenly dispersed. The dough should be smooth and pliant, with a beautiful orange scent. Clean and lightly oil the mixing bowl, return the dough, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 50–60 minutes until doubled in size.
Just before the the dough has doubled, melt the butter for the filling and measure out the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Punch down the dough to knock out the air and transfer to a well-floured surface. Stretch the dough to a rough square, then roll out until the dough is about 1cm thick – somewhere around 40 x 30cm. Press down the corners to stick them to the work surface, before spreading the melted butter over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush, leaving a centimeter strip unbuttered at the top on the long edge. Sprinkle the spiced sugar evenly over the dough.
Roll up the dough from the bottom edge into a tight sausage. At the end, wet the centimeter strip that has been left plain with a little water or non-dairy milk, then roll up completely and gently press the edge to seal. Turn over so the seam is on the underside. With a sharp knife, trim the ends of the roll, if uneven, then slice the roll in half, then slice each half into six pieces.
Place the slices, on their side, in a greased dish or tin – something around 20 x 28cm, so that there’s a small gap between each of the rolls. Cover the dish with cling and leave to rise for 30–45 minutes until the rolls have doubled in size again. Brush with non-dairy milk and bake for 25–30 in a pre-heated oven.
Just before the rolls are ready to come out of the oven, make the glaze. Squeeze the juice of half of the orange that you’ve already zested, and put a little of the juice in a pan with an equal amount of caster sugar. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring frequently, and remove from the heat once the mixture is bubbling. Stir in any orange zest left over from the dough.
After 25–30 minutes the rolls should be a glorious golden brown. Take them out and pour the glaze over the top, spreading it evenly with a pastry brush. Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before adding the icing. Sieve the icing sugar in a bowl and add 2 tsp orange juice. Whisk until smooth then add a little more orange juice as necessary until the icing is thick but pourable. Drizzle over the top of the rolls using a teaspoon.
These are perfect still warm from the oven, but will keep a couple of days in an airtight container if, that is, they last that long. You can warm for 15 seconds in the microwave to soften them a little but they are also delicious cold.
If you prefer a less sweet cinnamon roll, dispense with the glaze. Your rolls will be a little less glossy but will seem slightly more acceptable for breakfast. You could also just use the glaze, but I quite like both because it tastes delicious and if you’re going to the effort of making cinnamon rolls you may as well go the whole hog.
Please let me know if you give these a try! I’d love to hear how you get on and any feedback is always appreciated. You can comment below or tag me on Twitter or Instagram @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Christmas-Spiced Cinnamon Rolls
Soft and fluffy rolls flavoured with orange zest, with a swirl of warming spices, and a glossy orange glaze
Vegan, Nut-free, Soya-free option
For the dough:
- 190ml non-dairy milk (I use soya or oat)
- 2¼ tsp (one sachet) fast-action dried yeast
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 375g plain flour
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 40g vegan butter (I recommend Naturli Vegan Block, but vegan spread or coconut oil would work)
- 3 tbsp aquafaba (or non-dairy milk)
- 1 orange, zested
For the filling and wash:
- 50g butter, melted
- 50g soft light brown sugar
- 2½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp fine salt
- 2 tbsp non-dairy milk or melted vegan butter
For the glaze:
- 25g caster sugar
- 25ml orange juice
- orange zest
For the icing
- 30g (4 tbsp) icing sugar
- 2–3 tsp orange juice
1. Start by making the dough. Heat 190ml of non-dairy milk until lukewarm (between 37 and 43C). Mix in 2 ¼ tsp dried fast action yeast. Measure 2 tbsp sugar into a large mixing bowl and add a pinch to the milk and yeast. Mix and set aside while the yeast activates (5 minutes), and add the flour, salt, melted butter, and aquafaba to the mixing bowl. Zest an orange and set aside.
2. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix into a shaggy dough. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes. Add 1 tsp of the orange zest to the dough (reserving any remaining zest for the glaze) and knead for another 2 minutes until the zest is evenly dispersed throughout the dough. Clean the mixing bowl and lightly oil, then return the dough to it. Cover with cling film and leave to prove for 50–60 minutes until doubled in size.
3. Just before the dough is ready, melt 50g vegan butter and in a small bowl, mix 50g soft light brown sugar, 2½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ¼ ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg and ¼ fine salt.
4. Punch down the dough and tip it out on a well-floured surface, stretching the dough into a rough square. Roll out until the dough is approximately 1cm thick, 30cm tall and 40cm across, and press down the corners so they stick to the surface. Spread the melted butter over the dough with a pastry brush, leaving a 1cm strip at the top. Sprinkle the spiced sugar over the dough, then roll up from the bottom into a tight sausage. When you get to the end, wet the unbuttered 1cm strip with a little water or non-dairy milk, then press into the roll so it sticks.
5. Place the seam of the roll on the underside, then trim the ends of the roll with a sharp knife, if they are raggedy. Cut the roll in half, then cut each half into 6 equal pieces. Arrange the slices on their side in a greased ovenproof dish or tray, measuring 20x28cm or similar – large enough that there can be a very small gap between each roll. Cover the dish with cling film and leave to rise for 30–45 minutes until doubled in size.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 170C fan. Brush the rolls with a couple of tbsp of non-dairy milk, melted butter, or coconut oil. Bake the rolls for 25–30 mins until deep golden brown.
7. Just before the rolls are ready, make the glaze. Juice half of the orange, which you previously zested, and measure 25ml into a small saucepan, along with 25g of caster sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly, over a medium heat. Remove from the heat once the glaze is bubbling, and stir in any orange zest left over from the dough. Pour over the hot buns once they are out of the oven, and spread evenly with a pastry brush. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.
8. Make up the icing. Sieve 30g icing sugar into a small bowl and whisk in 2tsp orange juice until smooth. Add a little more orange juice until you have a thick but pourable icing. Using a teaspoon, drizzle the icing over the rolls.
9. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container for 2–3 days.