overhead of hot cross cinnamon rolls in a baking pan

When Easter brunch is days away and you can’t decide whether to make hot cross buns or cinnamon rolls, make both — in one recipe! These Hot Cross Cinnamon Rolls combine the best of both worlds with an orange-and-raisin-infused dough and a sweet-and-citrusy icing for a special morning treat worthy of any brunch spread.

Hot Cross Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

To me, brunch is incomplete without cinnamon rolls at the table. But also, Easter brunch is incomplete without hot cross buns at the table. So what is a gal or guy to do, if you want both but don’t have the time/energy/capacity/ingredients to make both separately? You MAKE THESE ROLLS.

These hot cross cinnamon rolls are the perfect combination of two beloved brunch treats. You get the soft dough and orange/raisin/cranberry flavors reminiscent of traditional hot cross buns (plus the classic cross shape on top) but the swirly-sweet, cinnamon-y goodness of a cinnamon roll with a decent slather of icing for good measure. They’re so good, you’d be remiss to make them only for a holiday weekend–I foresee these rolls making an appearance on weekends in our home over and over again (bonus: they make the house smell ah-mazing).

overhead of hot cross cinnamon rolls in a baking pan with one taken out

The Best Ingredients for Hot Cross Cinnamon Rolls

To make this recipe, you’ll need a decent amount of pantry-friendly ingredients (or ingredients you easily can acquire at any grocery store). As always, I recommend using the highest-quality ingredients you can find or afford, as it goes a long way in the end results of a baked good. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Instant yeast
  • Salt
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Milk (preferably whole milk, or 2% milk)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Large eggs
  • Fresh navel oranges (for zest and juice)
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries or currants
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla

It seems like a large list, but if you’re a regular baker, you probably have most of these ingredients on hand. And if not, most of the ingredients used in this recipe are used in a lot of baked goods, so you can consider this your starter kit.

overhead of hot cross cinnamon rolls in a baking pan with one taken out

How to Make the Best Cinnamon Rolls of Your Life

In general, cinnamon rolls rank near the top of easiest baked goods to make (and that’s great news, because they’re delicious). Still, there are always a few tips and tricks to keep in mind so you get, like, the best-best version of these cinnamon rolls possible.

  • Always measure your flour correctly. I swear by the scoop-and-sweep method, which goes like this: First, use a spoon to fluff up the flour a bit in its container, so it’s not all packed down. Then, use that spoon to add flour to a dry measuring cup. Once full, use the handle of the spoon to sweep the top of the flour so it’s flat with the top of the measuring cup. When you measure flour correctly, you end up with light and airy baked goods, rather than tough and dense ones.
  • If the recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, follow the rules. Calling for a room-temperature ingredient is done on purpose, because that means it will incorporate into the recipe most successfully that way. In this recipe, I call for room-temperature butter to spread onto the dough before rolling, because the dough is soft and tender, so we don’t want cold butter tearing into the dough as we spread it on top.
  • When in doubt, always use unsalted butter, whole milk and large eggs for a baking recipe. These are the usual suspects when it comes to baking, and in the case of this recipe along with many others on my site, unless it is specifically mentioned otherwise, this is always the type of butter/milk/eggs that I use (Disclaimer: Sometimes I will use 2% milk instead of whole milk if that’s what I have on hand, but that is a common substitute that doesn’t usually affect the outcome of a recipe).
  • Let the dough rest! Thankfully, we are using instant yeast for this recipe so we don’t have to wait as long to get these rolls into our bellies, but that doesn’t mean we can skip the rest/rise times completely. These are important steps to a recipe to allow the dough to puff up, the gluten to relax and the flavors to meld. Be patient!

Can I Make These Rolls Ahead of Time?

Yes, you can! If you want to make the dough the night before, once you’ve placed the rolls in the baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or about 8 hours). The next morning, allow the rolls to warm up at room temperature for about 1 hour before baking.

Can I Make These Rolls Gluten-Free?

I have not tested these rolls with gluten-free flour, but my gut says yes, you certainly can. I highly recommend using Bob’s Red Mill’s 1-to-1 Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour as a substitute for the all-purpose flour in this recipe.

hot cross cinnamon roll on a plate

Can I Swap Out the Icing for Cream Cheese Frosting?

Um, YES. You can use my favorite Cream Cheese Frosting recipe on these rolls and they will taste like heaven in roll form.

How Do I Store Hot Cross Cinnamon Rolls?

Like most cinnamon roll recipes, these rolls are best served the day they are made, but if you have any leftovers, you can store them, covered tightly with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 2 days. If you want to reheat them, I would recommend doing so in the microwave for a few seconds, as heating them in the oven will likely melt the icing off the rolls.

Friends, whether or not Easter is part of your weekend plans, I highly recommend giving these rolls a try. Be warned: You might not want to make them any other way ever again.

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hot cross cinnamon rolls in a baking pan

Hot Cross Cinnamon Rolls

  • Author: Stephanie
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 rolls 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

If you love hot cross buns and cinnamon rolls, get ready for this mashup to blow your mind. These sweet, swirly buns are flavored with orange, raisins and cranberries and topped with an orange-kissed icing for a breakfast or brunch treat that’s as perfect for Easter as it is for any other morning.


Ingredients

Scale

For the rolls:

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, currants or more raisins

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the icing:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla, divided

Instructions

  1. First, make the rolls: In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, salt, allspice and nutmeg until well-combined. 
  2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat milk and melt 4 tablespoons butter until mixture is around 120°-130°F. Whisk eggs into hot milk mixture (be quick so the eggs do not start to cook), then pour mixture into bowl with flour mixture. 
  3. Using a spatula or paddle attachment in stand mixer, stir mixture on low speed until dough comes together. Add orange zest, raisins and cranberries; knead into dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, OR in stand mixer with dough hook attachment on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover dough on counter or in bowl with plastic wrap or a towel; let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Next, top with the filling: Turn rested dough onto a lightly floured surface; use a rolling pin to roll dough into a 20×14-inch rectangle. Use an offset spatula to spread 1/2 cup softened butter on top of dough, all the way to the edges; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and cinnamon. Starting at the long side closest to you, tightly roll up dough into a log; pinch seam and place log on counter seam side-down. Use a serrated knife to gently saw dough into 12 equal rolls.
  5. Spray bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Arrange rolls spaced evenly apart in pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel; allow to rise at room temperature 1 hour.
  6. Heat oven to 350°F. Uncover rolls and bake on center rack of oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until tops of rolls are a deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the rolls reads at least 190°F (this is how you’ll know they’re baked through without being able to see the centers). Remove rolls from oven; set on a cooling rack.
  7. Finally, make the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Spread icing over tops of still-warm rolls. Allow rolls to cool completely. In the same small bowl, whisk together remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons orange juice and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Use a piping bag or a resealable plastic food-storage bag to pipe icing in cross shapes on top of fully-cooled rolls. Serve immediately.
  8. Rolls are best served the day they are made, but you can store leftover rolls covered tightly with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Notes

  • Recipe adapted from The Foodess.
  • If you don’t want to pipe crosses on top of the buns, feel free to leave them out or use the extra icing to spread on top of warm rolls.

Keywords: orange cinnamon rolls, hot cross bun dough, orange icing, cinnamon raisin dough, Easter brunch recipe

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