Cozy Pumpkin-Cinnamon Rolls for Lazy Weekend Breakfasts

Adieu for now to our beloved chocolate cinnamon babka…. as much as we have enjoyed justifying all that chocolate on our brunch table, the feeling of fall in the air has turned our cravings in another direction.  The sun’s autumnal slant and the rustle of dry leaves along our walk to school have got us dreaming about sweet pumpkin and big pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg. These pumpkin-ed up cinnamon rolls cozily knit our favorite fall flavors  together and add a decadent glug of icing for good measure.  I know these so totally do not qualify in the “healthy eats” category, but we think they’re just the thing real when gray skies call out for cozy weekend family breakfasts in your pajamas.

This recipe requires a running start ….so for anyone with visions of cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning, you’re going to need to get to work Friday. Luckily for you, it’s only Thursday… there’s still time!!!!

The two dough rises take some time — so no instant gratification here — but none of the steps are too hard and the “hands on” time is definitely not hardcore. And somehow in the end the fact that you have to wait while the yeast does it’s thing maybe, just maybe, makes these taste even better in the end. A little anticipation becomes it’s own kind of “secret ingredient”. We could all use an excuse to slow down and practice a little patience, right? Especially if there’s cinnamon and icing waiting around the corner.

This recipe is like the poster child of blogosphere recipes, coming to you via recipe I spied on the ever-popular Smitten Kitchen who tweaked it from a recipe from the “Baked Elements” cookbook.  Smitten Kitchen has an even more detailed write up which you should check out as well as some pictures so gorgeous they will make you get up from your computer right now and run to the store to grab the ingredients for this recipe.  In following Smitten Kitchen’s version of the recipe, I did come up with a few modifications that were more to my liking, like halving the recipe because there is such thing as too much of good thing. How could any family possibly eat two pans of cinnamon rolls especially when they are really only at their most awesome when they’re still warm from the oven.  A re-heated cinnamon roll doesn’t do any where near as good a job at convincing me it’s worth all those sugary calories. I also swapped in half the flour with whole wheat, increased the spices and and made a few other adjustments here and there. For a less guilty version, you might try using our favorite spiced apple-pear butter, instead of the icing.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

(by way of Smitten Kitchen, by way of the Baked Elements cookbook)


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/8 cup for the dough, the rest for brushing when you assemble the rolls)
  • 1/4 cup milk, warmed to 120 degrees or about the same temperature as a baby’s bottle
  • 1  1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (half of a 0.25 ounce packet)
  • 1  cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup pureed pumpkin (canned works great)
  • 1 egg


  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch kosher salt


  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  1. Activate the yeast by adding it to the warm milk. Give it a quick stir and then let it sit about 5 minutes. It should smell “yeasty” and look clumpy and foamy, that’s how you’ll know it’s alive and kicking. The yeast will not be happy if the milk is too hot (you can kill it), or too cold (won’t activate).
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. I recommend taking Smitten Kitchen’s advice to cook it for a minute or so past when it melts so that it turns a light brown. Be careful not to let it get too dark, so pour the browned butter into a cool bowl once it’s as brown as you like.
  3. In a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine all the dough ingredients (flours, sugars, spices, salt, yeast/milk mixture, and 1/8 cup of the browned butter — save the rest for brushing on the dough later).  Knead for 5 minutes with a dough hook. [You can do this by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer]. NOTE: the dough will be pretty sticky.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm part of your kitchen for 1 hour during which time it will puff up and double in size.
  5. Meanwhile prepare a baking pan (9″ round or 8″ square). Cut a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan, then butter the sides and parchment lightly (or use cooking spray).
  6.  After the dough has risen for one hour and has puffed up, flour your rolling out area well. Use your hand to flatten the dough and sprinkle a little flour on top and roll it out  into a rectangle about  8 1/2″ x 11″ (or the size of a sheet of paper). Use enough flour to keep it from sticking.
  7. Mix the filling ingredients, then brush your dough rectangle first with the remaining browned butter, then the filling. Roll it jellyroll style along it’s longer edge, then cut it into 1″ rounds. Use a sharp knife and light pressure to avoid smushing the rounds. Place the rolls into the prepared pan.
  8. If making right away, let them rise in the pan for 30-45 minutes before baking at 350 F degrees for 25-30 minutes. If making the day ahead, cover with plastic after putting the rounds in the pan and refrigerate overnight. Give them 45 minutes to an hour to rise before baking them from a refrigerated state.


  • Beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk until smooth. If you want to be fancy about it, sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the bowl to get rid of any lumps. While it has no impact on the flavor, the lumps aren’t so pretty and they’re nearly impossible to get rid of them later.
  • Add a little more powdered sugar or milk to thin or thicken the glaze as needed. Spoon the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls and devour!

2 thoughts on “Cozy Pumpkin-Cinnamon Rolls for Lazy Weekend Breakfasts

  1. These sound absolutely amazing. Too bad I’m sure I’ll never make them–just not that organized. But perhaps I could conveniently show up at your place next time you bust them out?

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