Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls

These gingerbread cinnamon rolls are made using my new and improved super fluffy brioche dough rolled around brown sugar and gingerbread spices. Topped with none other than a cream cheese icing, the perfect Christmas morning treat. 

Why you’ll love these gingerbread cinnamon rolls 

  • The dough is SO SOFT and pillowy and I simplified my brioche dough to be super easy. 
  • The gingerbread flavors are so festive and fun with simple ingredients. 
  • They can be assembled the night before and baked fresh Christmas morning.  

If you have a slight cinnamon roll obsession you have to check out my list of cinnamon roll recipes lol. There’s classic of course, cranberry orange, caramelized white chocolate, lemon brown butter, s’mores rolls, and chocolate cinnamon rolls.

If you’re a gingerbread lover, my gingerbread loaf is a fan favorite. I also have these addicting gingerbread snickerdoodles and my famous gingerbread cake.

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Flour: I’ve made this dough with both bread flour and all purpose flour with no noticeable difference in the dough.
    • I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour (and cocoa) is so often over measured. 
  • Yeast: I used one package of active dry yeast. That can also be subbed with instant yeast, just skip the activation step and mix it in with the rest of the ingredients. I still do both proofs with instant yeast, it’s just usually much quicker (about half the time).
    • If you store yeast in a jar instead of individual packages you can use a scant tablespoon of yeast. Also make sure to store the yeast in the fridge if it’s an open jar. 
  • Sugar: I used dark brown sugar for the dough and filling. You’ll see a lot of people add molasses to gingerbread desserts, personally I HATE the taste of molasses lol. Brown sugar is just granulated sugar mixed with a little molasses so I just used dark brown sugar to minimize the molasses flavor but still be traditional tasting.
    • Light brown sugar also works but the molasses will be even more subtle. 
    • I used powdered sugar to make the cream cheese icing
    • If you love molasses, you can add a tablespoon to the dough and to the icing.
  • Water: this may seem weird since most people make brioche with milk. I have tested this several times both with milk and water and I found that water makes a much softer dough. 
  • Butter: I like to use salted butter but you can also use unsalted butter as well. Dairy free butter also works well. 
  • Eggs: make sure to use one room temperature large egg.
    • Pop it in hot water for a few minutes if it’s cold.
  • Cream Cheese: I always use full-fat cream cheese. Make sure it’s room temperature so it mixes well with the powdered sugar.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Start by making the brioche by activating the yeast with the sugar in warm water for a few minutes. Once the yeast starts to foam a little, add the melted butter and egg, mixing until they’re somewhat combined. Then add the flour and mix until it comes together.

Step 2: Knead for 5-10 minutes in the bowl of the stand mixer with the hook attachment (or 10-15 minutes by hand). The dough will peel itself away from the edge of the bowl and should be only a little sticky when you touch it.

Step 3: Cover and let it proof for about 60 minutes in a warm environment, until it’s doubled in size and fluffy.

Step 4: Make the filling by mixing the dark brown sugar with the spices. Shape by punching down the air and placing it onto a floured surface. Stretch it out into a rectangle the best you can with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about a 12×16 inch rectangle. 

Step 5: Add the filling by spreading the butter evenly on top of the dough. Then sprinkle the filling on top of the butter, spreading it out evenly.

Step 6: Roll the dough into a tight log, starting at one of the short ends, so you have a shorter fat log, not a long skinny roll. Use a large serrated knife to slice into 9 or 12 rolls.

Step 7: Place into the prepared pan, cover and allow to proof in a warm environment for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size. 

Step 8: Bake for about 22-27 minutes until the bread is golden brown. I like to use a butter knife to push one of the rolls away from the other ones so I can see the bottom edge. It should be super soft, pale but baked and not raw or doughy.   

Step 9: Allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes. Whisk together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon and milk for the icing and drizzle on top of cinnamon rolls.

What temperature to proof dough at?

You want to make sure your dough is proofing at a comfortable temperature. Generally, room temperature is fine but if it’s slightly warmer, you’ll get a much quicker rise.

Yeast dies at around 120F (50C) so make sure the temperature is lower than that. I recommend anywhere between 75F (24C) to 100F (38C).

The dough can also be proofed in the refrigerator. This is called a retarding proof because it really slows down the process. The Benefit of this is that you can just pop the dough in the fridge overnight and the dough will develop a stronger flavor if it proofs for longer.

You can refrigerate the dough overnight for the first proof or the second proof, just bring it back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

How to know when dough is done rising/proofing

Rising and proofing are typically used interchangeably but the initial ‘resting time’ is actually the rising and the second ‘resting time’ is the proofing. The time needed for rising/proofing is dependent on the recipe and the environment. 

Typically with instant yeast, you’re “allowed” to skip the first rise and just let the dough relax for just 10 minutes instead before shaping the dough. I prefer to still let it rise. It works both ways but I get a fluffier dough from letting it proof twice. 

A general guideline is that the dough should double in size each time. It should also slowly spring back when you press on it, but also leave a small indent. 

If the dough springs back quickly, then it needs more time to rise. If it doesn’t spring back at all, it may be over proofed and result in a flat, deflated bread.

How to make rolls overnight 

Brioche can easily be prepped the night before and baked in the morning.

  1. After the dough is rolled and sliced and placed in the prepared pan, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.
  2. Remove the rolls from the fridge about 45 minutes before baking them. Bake them per the instructions. 

How to store gingerbread cinnamon rolls

There’s NOTHING like a warm roll straight from the oven but if they’re not served immediately, simply place them in an airtight container and store at room temperature for 1-2 days. 

If it’s longer, refrigerate them for up to a week. When serving, reheat them in the microwave for a few seconds or the oven just until they’re warm. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this dairy free?

You can use dairy free butter for the dough and the filling. I don’t know much about dairy free cream cheese but if you have one you like, I’m sure it’ll work. Alternatively, you can also make an icing with dairy free milk and powdered sugar. 

Can I make this gluten-free? 

I have not tested any bread recipes with gluten-free flours but if you do try, please let us know in the comment section 🙂

What pan to bake the rolls in?

I like to use a 9×13 inch pan (or just slightly larger) if I’m making 12 rolls. The one pictured is larger, that works as well but they will spread more, making them shorter and requiring a few minutes less in the oven. 
Here I used a 12-13 inch cast iron pan, sliced the log into 9 larger rolls instead of 12. Place one roll in the center and then 8 around the center one and bake for about 27ish minutes.

How can I get a thicker frosting on top?

I wanted to change it up from my classic cinnamon rolls a little so I used this vanilla bean cream cheese icing from my pumpkin bread recipe.
If you want to make it thicker, more like frosting, feel free to double the cream cheese and skip the milk.

Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below. Make sure to leave it in the comment section because I can’t answer in the rating section.

If you make these delicious gingerbread rolls, I’d love it if you left a star rating for me. If it’s less than five stars, please leave a comment with the rating so I know why! 🙂

As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

Yield: 9-12 rolls

Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls

Gingerbread cinnamon rolls in a pan with icing on top

These gingerbread cinnamon rolls are made using my new and improved super fluffy brioche dough rolled around brown sugar and gingerbread spices. Topped with none other than a cream cheese icing, the perfect Christmas morning treat. 

Prep Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1/4 cup (50g) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 cup (240mL) warm water
  • 7g (1 packet) active dry yeast *see notes on to use instant yeast
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 cups (420g) bread flour (or all-purpose flour), spooned and leveled
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Filling

  • 3/4 cup (150g) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup (56g) salted butter, softened

Icing

  • 2 oz (1/4 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) powdered sugar, spooned and leveled
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 Tbsp (30mL) milk
  • tiny pinch of salt

Instructions

Dough

  1. Place the yeast with half of the sugar and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast starts to foam.
  2. Add the rest of the sugar, melted butter and egg, mixing until they’re somewhat combined. Then add the flour and salt and mix until it comes together.
  3. Use the hook attachment to knead the dough for 5-10 minutes (10-15 minutes by hand), until the dough peels itself away from the edge of the bowl.
  4. Cover and let it proof for about 60-90 minutes in a warm environment (75-100F/24-38C), until it’s doubled in size and fluffy.

Filling

  1. Combine the brown sugar with the spices. Set aside.

Shape

  1. Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan or a 12-13 inch round pan with butter, oil or baking spray (I use the wrapper of the butter and just wipe it around the pan).
  2. Shape the dough by punching down the air and placing it onto a floured surface. Stretch it out into a rectangle the best you can with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about a 12x16 inch rectangle. 
  3. Add the filling by spreading the butter evenly on top of the dough. Then sprinkle the brown sugar with the spices on top of the butter, spreading it out evenly.
  4. Roll the dough into a tight log, starting at one of the short ends, so you have a shorter fat log, not a long skinny roll.
  5. Use a large serrated knife to slice into 9 or 12 rolls. Place into the prepared pan, cover and allow to proof in a warm environment for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
  7. Bake for about 22 minutes (12 rolls) or 27 minutes (9 rolls) until the bread is golden brown. I like to use a butter knife to push one of the rolls away from the other ones so I can see the bottom edge. It should be super soft, pale but baked and not raw or doughy.   
  8. Allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together until they're well combined and drizzle on top of the cinnamon rolls.

Notes

  • sub active dry yeast for instant yeast - skip activation, just mix all the ingredients together; proofing time will be about half for each.
  • to make them smaller, roll the dough into a log starting on the long edge, making a long thin log - slice into 18 rolls and start checking for doneness around 14 minutes.
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