Cinnamon Rolls With Simple Orange Icing (1 Hour)
on Aug 23, 2021, Updated Nov 02, 2023
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They’re known by a few names – cinnamon rolls, buns, swirls, Danishes and more! Whatever you want to call them, you’re going to want to learn how to make these really quick and easy cinnamon rolls with a simple orange icing.
A couple of ‘secret’ ingredients make these especially moist and delicious. With just 20 minutes of hands-on time, you can have warm iced scrolls on the table in around an hour.
Why you’ll love them
- SO quick and easy. All you need to make these cinnamon rolls (including the simple orange icing!) is around 20 minutes hands-on time, 20 minutes for fast rising, and another 15 to 20 minutes in the oven.
- Moist and gooey. I’ve figured out a way to get that ooey, gooey (but not heavy) effect, a bit like Cinnabon if you’ve ever tried them. Read on for the secret ingredients!
- No cream cheese necessary. Or other fancy ingredients! You probably have all you need in the pantry already. All you need to make the easy orange icing is 2 simple ingredients – powdered sugar and oranges juice.
- Make ahead. Get them to the ready-for-the-oven stage, then bake when you’re ready. You can even pop them in the fridge overnight to rise slowly. In the morning, just bake.
About the ingredients
For the dough
Flour: You need around 3 cups of all purpose flour to make your cinnamon orange rolls.
White sugar: Add around just 3 tablespoons to ‘feed’ the yeast and sweeten the dough a little. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more sweetness in the rolls in the filling and icing on the top!
Salt: For the dough, of course.
Yeast: You need a whole packet of instant yeast to make around 10 rolls. So all you have to do is pour it in. There are usually just over 2 teaspoons in each packet, or 7 grams/a quarter ounce.
Liquid: Melted butter, water, milk and… Greek yogurt! Yep, that’s one of my secret ingredients for extra moist scrolls. Use buttermilk or just regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar added to sour it if you don’t have yogurt.
A large egg: Add this and mix with your hands to bring the dough together. It sounds messy but it’s actually not too bad!
For the filling
Soft butter: Salted or unsalted – I don’t think it matters. Unless my butter is very soft, I usually pop it into the microwave for a few seconds (literally a few seconds!) to soften it to the point that you can mix it in with the sugar and cinnamon by hand.
Brown sugar: I usually use dark brown sugar, but light brown works too.
Ground cinnamon: You need around 2 tablespoons.
For the icing
Icing/Powdered sugar: You’ll need a whole cup.
Around 3 tablespoons orange juice: You can use juice from fresh oranges, or store-bought juice. This gives a subtle flavor to the simple icing, but another kind of juice, milk or even water will work just as well.
Note: I’ve gone for simple cinnamon rolls without cream cheese icing to match the super easy recipe. But in case you’d like to try it, I’ve included an easy cream cheese icing recipe in the recipe notes.
How to make cinnamon rolls with orange icing
In 4 simple steps, here’s how you make the dough:
Step 1: Throw all the dry ingredients into a big bowl – so flour, sugar, salt, yeast.
Step 2: Heat the water, butter and milk in the microwave until the butter is melted or nearly melted. Try 40-45 seconds. Then stir in the yogurt. You’ll find the yogurt will melt into the rest of the liquid easily.
Step 3: Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until most of it has formed big clumps. Then add the egg and knead with your hands until you have a smooth ball of dough. A minute or two is all you need.
Step 4: Let the ball of dough rest for 5 minutes or so while you make the filling. I usually throw a clean tea towel over the top of the bowl. The dough should be on the stickier side. If it’s too sticky to handle, add another sprinkle of flour. On the other hand, if it seems really dry, knead in a tablespoon of water.
In 4 more easy steps, here’s how you roll out the dough and prepare the buns for baking:
Step 5: Roll the dough out into a rectangle that’s roughly 8 x 11 inches in size (you don’t have to be really exact). Mix together the soft butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until you have a smooth spreadable paste. Some people keep the ingredients separate and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the butter, but I think this way is neater and gets a better result.
Then spread it evenly all over the rectangle of dough.
Step 6: Roll up the dough to make a ‘log’. Roll it up along the long edge, of course, not the short. I admit that the first time I made these, I wasn’t sure! When you’ve rolled it, press the seam lightly to seal it and turn the log so that the seam is facing down.
Step 7: Cut the dough into 9 to 12 equal(ish!) rolls. I usually go for 10. Each roll is around an inch or 2 to 3 cm in width. I find that a sharp bread knife is the best way to slice the dough into rolls. I kind of carve it lightly like I would a loaf of bread. There are fancier ways to cut the dough but we’re looking for quick and easy here! 😉
Step 8: Lightly grease your baking dish with butter or spray with oil. Then arrange the rolls into the baking dish. I usually place 7 or 8 around the edge and the rest in the middle. It doesn’t matter if some of the rolls are touching. Just space them out as best you can. If you like, at this point you can wrap the whole dish really tightly in several layers of wrap and freeze them for another day. See more details in the FAQ section below if you’re interested in doing this.
Here are the final 4 steps to achieving incredible quick and easy orange cinnamon rolls! Mmmm!
Step 9: Heat the oven to its lowest setting. With my oven it’s 50C/120F, but if you can go as low as 30C/90F. Then turn the oven OFF. This is very important! Cover the dish of rolls loosely with aluminium foil and place them inside the oven and close the door. Leave them there for around 20 minutes. They’ll begin to rise/expand. Not too much, but you’ll see a change.
Step 10: Now here’s my second ‘secret ingredient’! Open the oven, take off the foil and quickly pour another 1/4 cup of milk all over the scrolls. Put the scrolls back in the oven (uncovered now) and turn up the oven to 190C/375F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes (from that moment – don’t forget the oven will take a few minutes to reach temperature) or until the rolls are light to mid golden brown.
Step 11: Take the yummy rolls out of the oven! Try really hard not to overbake. You’ll see in the photos above that my rolls are usually a light to mid golden colour when they’re done.
Step 12: I like to let the rolls cool slightly for a few minutes while I make the icing. This way when I pour the icing over it runs all over the warm rolls, but it doesn’t completely soak in. You can still see it, which I think looks nice. The final thing I usually do is sprinkle over a bit of orange zest and/or some walnuts, but this is optional.
How to make the icing
It’s so easy! I usually make the icing just after the rolls have come out of the oven.
You only need 2 ingredients – a cup of icing sugar/powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of orange juice.
All you have to do is stir the liquid into the icing sugar until it’s drizzle(able). I tend to make it on the thicker side then spoon it all over the rolls. But it’s very easy to add a bit more liquid if it’s too thick or a bit more icing sugar if it’s too thin.
How to serve them
I’m not sure I need to tell you how to eat a warm, deliciously sticky iced cinnamon roll just out of the oven. Just grab a fork and enjoy!
Honestly, there is no ‘wrong’ way to eat a cinnamon roll. You can serve them hot, cold or somewhere in between. My preference is warm. I’m lucky because all it takes to turn cold rolls into warm ones again is to heat them up for around 20 seconds in the microwave.
Up the orange flavor: Add orange zest to the dough.
Ginger: Add 2 teaspoons of ground ginger to the cinnamon butter filling. If you like sprinkle a little candied ginger over the top of the icing too.
Fruit jam/jelly: Dab some orange or citrus marmalade over the cinnamon sugar before rolling up the dough.
Lemon: Add lemon zest to the dough and use lemon juice instead of water or orange juice to make the icing for the top. The ‘icing’ on the ‘cake’? Sprinkle over some chopped strawberries for delicious strawberry lemon cinnamon scrolls.
Nuts: Here’s an obvious but delicious idea. Sprinkle any kind of nut you happen to like or have over both the filling and the top of the rolls for a bit of crunch. Walnuts go well with orange.
Common problems and FAQs
When I first started experimenting with making these orange icing cinnamon rolls, I found I had lots of unanswered questions. Hopefully this section will help you out!
Yes! This recipe works great if you want to make ‘overnight cinnamon rolls’. This is perfect if you have people coming over for breakfast. Just prepare the recipe to the point of arranging the uncooked rolls in the baking dish. Wrap the whole dish in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. They’ll rise slowly while you sleep. When you’re ready to bake them, just remove the plastic, pop into the hot oven, and get the icing ready while they’re baking.
No worries! The dough should be on the stickier side, but if it’s too sticky to handle, just add a sprinkle more flour. Not too much though – the dough should be soft and moist, not crumbly and dry.
On the other hand, if your dough seems dry and crumbly, knead in a tablespoon or two extra water or milk until it’s a bit sticky again.
I do this all the time. Whoops. Just microwave the butter for 5 to 10 seconds at a time until soft but not melted. If then you melt it too much and the butter/sugar/cinnamon filling is too runny to spread, don’t despair! Just pop the dish into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes until it’s spreadable again.
I usually roll out my dough to an 8 x 11 inch rectangle – roughly! Honestly, it doesn’t have to be these exact measurements. It also doesn’t have to be a perfect rectangle. I find as the dough is so soft it’s easy to roughly shape it as you roll it out. If it makes you feel more comfortable go ahead and grab a ruler so you can measure as you roll!
As you can see, I usually use a round baking dish. It’s 10 inches/25 cm in diameter. But please don’t go out and buy a new baking dish especially to make these – there’s definitely some flexibility. A 9 by 12 inch rectangular baking dish, deep cake pan or similar would work just as well.
I wondered this too when I first started experimenting with this recipe. The answer is to just space them out fairly evenly, leaving as much space between each roll as is possible. If using a round dish, see my photo above of the dish of uncooked rolls. I have 8 of the rolls around the edge, and 2 in the middle. They’re touching, but that’s OK. They’ll expand while baking to fill up all the space in the dish anyway, which is fine.
I add this step because I think it helps to keep the rolls super moist while they’re baking. The dough soaks up most of the extra moisture but the rolls have no chance to dry out. This isn’t my original idea by any means! Many cinnamon roll recipes include a similar step. I’ve even seen recipes with cream poured over, but I think milk works well too and most people have extra milk on hand but they don’t necessarily have cream.
By all means you can skip this step if you like.
The rolls are ready to come out of the oven when they’re well risen and a light to medium golden colour on top. They usually need between 15 to 20 minutes in the oven – certainly not longer. If in doubt, take them out a few minutes early rather than risking them overbaking. Moist, squidgy, gooey is what you’re aiming for!
I find that cinnamon scrolls keep really well either in an airtight container or just wrapped well for about 3 days. Pop them into the microwave for 20 seconds to heat up when you want to eat them and they’ll be almost as good as new.
If you keep them in the fridge (wrapped well) they’ll last even longer – up to a week. I’d still reheat them before eating though for that just-baked effect. If you want to keep them longer, just freeze them (see below!).
Yes, they’re ideal for freezing! Just make the rolls to the point after you’ve arranged them in the baking dish/pan. If you like you can even use disposable foil trays. Then wrap really well (use several layers) in clingwrap/plastic wrap and aluminium foil before freezing for up to 6 weeks.
Ideally, get them out of the freezer the night before you want to bake them. Pop them in the fridge (still wrapped) overnight. They’ll thaw and begin to rise a little. In the morning, preheat the oven, pour over 1/4 cup of milk and bake as usual.
You can freeze them baked too, of course, if you have some leftovers. Just let defrost on the counter. Then reheat for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave to get that (almost) just-out-of-the-oven taste and texture again.
These would make a great homemade gift, don’t you think? Make them in a disposable foil tray and away you go. Love giving food gifts? Check out these amazing dried orange slices as well!
More easy (last minute!) breakfast/brunch options
When you’re in the mood for something special for breakfast, or you have guests coming over, here are some more great tried-and-tested options:
- These Greek yogurt blueberry muffins are low sugar and honestly, you just can’t go wrong – everyone loves them.
- These thin English pancakes are nothing like the fluffy pancakes you may know, but they’re just as delicious – and so easy to make for breakfast, brunch, dinner… or any time!
- You’ll be asking yourself whether these caramelised banana pancakes are breakfast… or dessert! Who cares? They’re delicious!
- These puff pastry tartlets with asparagus and bacon will impress everyone, but you’ll be surprised how easy they are to make.
Or take a look at all breakfast recipes.
Cinnamon Rolls With Simple Orange Icing (1 Hour)
For the dough
- 3 cups all purpose flour, Plus a little extra.
- 1 packet instant yeast, (Can be fast acting or just ordinary instant yeast.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup milk, Any type. Even non-dairy milk such as almond milk will work.
- 2 tablespoons butter, (around 30 grams)
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt, Substitute with ordinary natural yogurt or buttermilk if you like.
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
For the cinnamon filling and for baking
- 4 tablespoons butter, About 50 grams/1.75 ounces or ½ a cup (soft). If the butter isn't soft enough to mash, warm in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until it is.
- ¼ cup brown sugar, About 50 grams/1.75 ounces. I prefer dark brown sugar, but light brown is fine too.
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup milk, for pouring over the rolls before baking
For the icing/topping
- 1 cup powdered sugar, (icing sugar)
- 1 orange, zest and juice (zest for decorating the top, juice for adding to the powdered sugar – you'll need around 3 tablespoons). Alternative: use milk or even water.
Making the dough (10 mins)
- Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.3 cups all purpose flour, 1 packet instant yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons sugar
- In another smaller bowl or jug, heat the water, ½ cup of the milk and the butter together in the microwave for 45 seconds until the butter is melted or nearly melted.¼ cup water, 2 tablespoons butter, ½ cup milk
- Stir in the yogurt until it dissolves. Then pour the liquid into the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until it's all mixed in.¼ cup Greek yogurt
- Pour in the egg. With your hands, knead it in until you have a smooth, soft and moist ball of dough (a few minutes). It should be slightly sticky but not too sticky to handle. Add a sprinkle more flour or a drizzle more water if too sticky or dry at this point.1 large egg
- Cover the ball of dough in the mixing bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rest while you make the filling.
Filling and rolling the dough (10 mins)
- Preheat the oven to its lowest setting while you make the filling (30C/90F if it will go that low. My lowest setting is 50C/120F.) Then turn the oven OFF.
- Mash the soft butter, cinnamon and sugar together until you have a spreadable paste.4 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, ¼ cup brown sugar
- Roll out the dough to a roughly 8 x 11 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Use a little more flour to stop the rolling pin sticking if necessary.
- Spread the filling evenly all over the dough rectangle.
- Turn the dough so that the longest side is facing you. Roll up the dough tightly to make a long log.
- Using a sharp bread knife or other large serrated knife, lightly carve the dough log into 9 to 12 pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm in width (I aim for 10 scrolls).
- Place the rolls in a greased (with butter or oil) 9×12 inch baking dish or round equivalent (around 10 inches in diameter). Space them evenly. It's OK if some are touching.
Resting and baking the rolls (40 mins)
- Cover the baking dish with aluminium foil, then place into the warm oven (still turned off). Leave for 20 minutes to rest/rise.
- Remove the foil and pour ¼ cup milk all over the unbaked rolls. Leave the rolls inside the oven while you preheat it to 190C/375F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are a light to medium golden colour. Don't overbake.¼ cup milk
- Let the rolls cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, make the icing in a small bowl. Add about 3 tablespoons of orange juice to the icing sugar until you have a thick but spoonable/drizzle(able) icing.
- Spoon/Drizzle the icing all over the rolls. Scatter the orange zest over the top.
- Serve while still warm with forks and a good cup of coffee on the side!