These soft, fluffy Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls are about to become your favorite cinnamon roll recipe! There are carrots incorporated into the brioche dough, and both the dough and the filling are perfectly spiced.
I know there are already a million cinnamon roll recipes available on the internet and you might be wondering what sets these apart. Two words: carrot cake.
These carrot cake cinnamon rolls are soft and fluffy, with carrots incorporated into the dough, a sweet and perfectly-spiced filling, and a cream cheese icing that drips into the rolls giving them an ooey-gooey center. If you love carrot cake, I just KNOW you’re going to fall in love with these after one bite.
This carrot cake cinnamon rolls recipe doesn’t require a ton of ingredients; here’s what you’ll need:
Milk: I recommend whole milk, but know that almond milk will also work just fine (I’ve tried it numerous times!)
Instant yeast: Use instant yeast in this recipe to help the cinnamon rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but they’ll take slightly longer to rise.
Dark brown sugar: This is used to help feed the yeast and sweeten the cinnamon rolls just a tad; you’ll also need it for the filling. Feel free to replace it with light brown sugar if that’s all you have on hand!
Butter: The one and only. You’ll use it for the dough, the filling, and the icing.
Egg: This recipe calls for one large egg for the perfect texture in the dough.
All-purpose flour: I’ve experimented with different flours and find that all-purpose consistently leads to the best results; plus, that’s what most people have on hand!
Vanilla bean: Vanilla bean seeds are added straight to the dough for a sweet and fragrant vanilla note. Use one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste if you don’t have any vanilla beans on hand.
Carrots: Skip the packaged shredded carrots (which tend to be rather dry) and opt for freshly grating your carrots. Make sure to pat the shredded bits dry with a paper towel to get some of that moisture out.
Cinnamon & spices: These are cinnamon rolls after all… you’ll also need a tiny bit of ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to incorporate into both the dough and the filling.
Salt: Salt helps to control the yeast, so don’t skip it.
Cream cheese: For the cream cheese icing, of course.
Powdered sugar: Also for the icing!
Walnuts (optional): I love the added crunch walnuts provide, but if you’re anti-nuts or you’re allergic, simply leave them out!
Can I use active dry yeast instead? Technically, yes! But you’ll need to add the yeast to the warmed milk and let sit for 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. Also, your rolls will require two longer rises instead of just one; one rise will need to be done after kneading the dough (for about 30-45 minutes) and one after slicing the dough log into rolls (for about 1 hour)!
Can I use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for the dough? Sure! Just note that using bread flour will yield a slightly chewier cinnamon roll due to the higher protein content! I occasionally like to replace about half of the called for all-purpose flour with bread flour, but feel free to replace all of it if you’d like!
Can I make these carrot cake cinnamon rolls ahead of time? Absolutely. There are two different routes you could take! 1) REFRIGERATE ASSEMBLED CINNAMON ROLLS TO BAKE THE NEXT DAY Tightly wrap the assembled (but not risen) cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap and cover with a damp tea towel or the lid to the baking dish. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove the assembled rolls from the refrigerator. Loosen the plastic wrap and let the cinnamon rolls come to room temperature and complete their second rise covered with loose-fitting plastic wrap and a warm, damp tea towel. Bake the risen rolls according to the recipe! 2) FREEZE CINNAMON ROLLS TO BAKE AT A LATER DATE Prepare the cinnamon rolls all the way through their rise. Instead of baking the cinnamon rolls for the entire time, just bake them partway (par-baking) for 10 to 15 minutes. The rolls should be raised and set, but not totally browned. Remove from the oven and let the rolls cool completely in the pan. Wrap the pan in two layers of plastic wrap or place them into a large plastic bag and seal. Freeze for 8 hours or up to 6 weeks. The night before you want to serve the rolls, take them out of the freezer and place them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Unwrap the cinnamon rolls the next morning and bake them at 350°F (180°C) until they are completely done and a light golden brown all over, about 10 to 15 minutes.
CARROT CAKE CINNAMON ROLLS: TROUBLESHOOTING
Help! My dough isn’t rising! What’s wrong? Yeast has a “use by” date. As it moves beyond that time, it loses its oomph. Check the date printed on the package to make sure it’s within its usable life.
If your yeast hasn’t expired, then you likely accidentally killed it by adding liquids that were too hot. The temperature of the milk should be around 120°F (48°C); I recommend getting an instant-read thermometer to ensure you don’t waste your ingredients!
Help! My dough is extremely sticky and difficult to knead! What did I do wrong? Dough that is too sticky is a very common problem but it is actually really easy to fix! Sticky dough is almost always caused by a dough that is too hydrated. This basically means that you have either added too much milk to your dough, forgot to pat your shredded carrots dry, or didn’t add enough flour. The fix is simply incorporating a little bit more flour (I recommend 1 tablespoon at a time)! The dough should be slightly tacky, but if you touch it with a clean, dry finger, the dough shouldn’t come off onto your finger.
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
65gshredded carrotspatted dry on paper towels
For the Filling:
125gdark brown sugar
For the Cream Cheese Icing:
½tspvanilla bean pasteor vanilla extract
To Make the Brioche Dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, dark brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the milk, butter, egg, vanilla bean paste, and carrots, and mix until the ingredients are just barely combined and a shaggy dough forms.
Using the hook attachment, beat on low speed until a soft dough forms. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 7-8 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step for about 10 minutes.*
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Prepare the filling while the dough rests.
To Make the Filling and Assemble:
Add the butter, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to a medium bowl and combine using a fork until a thick paste forms. Set aside until needed.
Grease the bottom and sides of a Lodge Baker's Skillet and set aside. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 10×12-inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
Spread the cinnamon sugar filling all over the dough and then sprinkle on the chopped walnuts, if using. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 10-inch-long log and cut it into 7 even rolls. Arrange them in the prepared Baker's Skillet. Cover the skillet and allow the rolls to rise for 50-60 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown. While the rolls are baking, make the icing.
To Make the Cream Cheese Icing:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and butter until combined. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla bean paste, and milk and whisk until smooth and combined. If the icing is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar; if it's too thick, add more milk.
Drizzle and spread the icing over the warm cinnamon rolls once you remove them from the oven. Top with chopped walnuts, if using. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store them at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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