Cinnamon Rolls With Simple Orange Icing (1 Hour)

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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.

Closeup of someone taking a cinnamon scroll out of the pan with a wooden handled palette knife

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

Images of the ingredients needed to make cinnamon scrolls: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter, milk, water, an egg, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon

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

Collage of 4 images showing the first steps in making cinnamon scrolls - mixing the dough ingredients together

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.

Collage of 4 images showing how to spread dough with cinnamon sugar butter, roll up the dough, cut it into 10 rolls and place them in a baking dish

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.

Collage of 2 images showing butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and mixed together ready for spreading on dough to make cinnamon scrolls
I prefer to mix the 3 ingredients together before spreading it on the 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.

Collage of 4 images showing how to cover cinnamon scrolls while rising, pour liquid over before baking, after baking and drizzling over the icing

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.

Collage of 2 images showing the ingredients for making cinnamon scroll icing - just icing sugar and orange juice - and the finished icing

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.

Variations

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.

A round white baking dish of cinnamon scrolls from above on a white background and with a blue checked tea towel around it

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!

Can I prepare the rolls the night before?

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.

My dough is too sticky. What shall I do?

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 forgot to take the butter out of the fridge. I can’t mix it into the sugar and cinnamon.

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.

How big should my rectangle of dough be?

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!

What size baking dish should I use?

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.

How much space should I leave between each roll in the baking dish?

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.

Why do you pour milk over the rolls before baking? Can I skip that part?

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.

How do I know when the rolls are done?

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!

How long do they keep?

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!).

Can cinnamon scrolls be frozen raw and baked later?

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:

Or take a look at all breakfast recipes.

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A closeup of cinnamon rolls from above drizzled with icing and orange zest
5 from 4 votes

Cinnamon Rolls With Simple Orange Icing (1 Hour)

If you thought cinnamon rolls were too fiddly to make at home, this easy 1-hour recipe with a delicious 2-ingredient orange icing is going to change your life! 2 'secret' ingredients help to keep these rolls moist and gooey. With just 20 minutes hands-on time, the oven will do the rest of the work. These are ready and on the table in around an hour, so they're perfect for a last-minute breakfast. There are endless ways to make them your own, and you can even freeze them to bake later. Give them a try and you'll make them again and again.
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 10 (to 12)

Ingredients 
 

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.

Instructions 

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

Icing/Decorating

  • 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!

Notes

What kind of yeast to use: You can use either fast-acting yeast or plain instant yeast.
What the dough should feel like: On the sticky side, but not too sticky to handle. If it’s too sticky, add a tiny bit more flour. If it seems quite dry, add a drizzle of water and knead it in. Cinnamon scroll dough should be soft and moist. 
How to slice the log of dough into rolls: I find a sharp serrated bread knife works best. Carve lightly as if you are slicing a loaf of bread. I usually slice the rolls around an inch thick, but you don’t have to be exact. 
If you’d like to top the buns with a cream cheese icing instead: Beat 100 grams cream cheese, 40 grams butter, 1 cup icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional) together until smooth.
How to make ahead: Follow the recipe to the point where you have the scrolls arranged in the baking dish. Then wrap tightly with cling wrap and aluminium foil. Pop into the fridge overnight. They’ll rise slowly while you sleep, perfect for baking in the morning. Alternatively, freeze the tightly wrapped dish of rolls for another day. Let them defrost and rise on the counter overnight, then bake in the morning when you’re ready. 
 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 312kcal, Carbohydrates: 54g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 39mg, Sodium: 313mg, Potassium: 125mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 23g, Vitamin A: 301IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 63mg, Iron: 2mg
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About Helen Schofield

Don't expect to find anything fussy or complicated here. Just QUICK, EASY & (mostly!) HEALTHY recipes from the Mediterranean and beyond. ENJOY!

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Like so many of Helen’s recipes; this is a go-to, I know it will not fail, I will be happy and the family is happy when I make them; kinda’ recipe.

    I can’t bake and my kitchen is the size of a postage stamp and yet I will make these on a whim and not think twice.

    The first time I made these was in 2021 during lockdown.
    Here it is 2024 and I see my initial review at the bottom and I stand by what I said with extra stars.

    Next, it is the marinade sent this morning for lamb; cumin paprika and cinnamon in the marinade (?) who would have thought?
    That will be served on Easter Sunday in this home……………………

    1. Hello again Jeff, and how lovely to hear from you! I’m not sure what I said last time you left a review, but it is probably the biggest compliment you could give me to say that you are still enjoying a recipe you first tried several years ago – thank you SO much! I wouldn’t describe myself as a baker either which is why I only publish sweet recipes that I’m 90% sure will turn out well (and make me look like a good baker haha!). I really hope the marinade doesn’t disappoint either! You can add the lemon gradually so that it’s to taste – I know some people prefer things to be less ‘lemony’ than I do. A very happy easter to you and your family, and thanks again – it means so much! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe i combined your recipe with some of Quirky cooking ingredients in both I substituted a chia egg and added 160g of self raising flour to make up (660g of flour) love your filling compared to quirky cooking and made everything in one day didn’t do overnight as per quirky cookings suggestions and no nuts and used coconut cream or yoghurt to make the centre easier to stay in with paste you suggest so yummy 😋

    1. Hello Tash! Thank you so much for the detailed feedback, and I’m so happy you enjoyed your mix-up of the two recipes. I love to hear things like this because after all cooking is all about making recipes our own! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Great recipe, so simple to make but they look impressive and taste delicious. I have family staying for Christmas and baked these for breakfast . I was a little concerned about the milk before baking and also, that they may be under baked but I should know I can trust your recipes. 12 buns disappeared in no time and I have a request for a fresh batch tomorrow.

    1. Hello and thank you so much for the great feedback! I can completely relate to not being sure about whether something in a recipe will work, but I’m so happy (and relieved!) that it did work this time for you. Hope you enjoyed the second batch as much as the first and Merry Christmas!

  4. Unreal, I can cook (like a fiend) but I can’t bake; well, I can bake these.
    Successfully!

    The twist with the milk right before baking is genius and the result is phenomenal.
    I used a stand mixer, because.
    ………..and I reached into my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and put currants pecans and walnuts into the cinnamon and brown sugar mix.

    This man that can not bake will be making a second batch today.
    Thank you so much.
    (no Fb for me but I will find you on Youtube)

    1. Hello Jeff, and thank you so much for the feedback on this recipe! Before working on it I was pretty new to homemade cinnamon scrolls too and was amazed how easy and delicious they are. I was pretty excited to find the little ‘tricks’ to keep them moist and gooey even though they’re a quick version of a recipe that traditionally takes much longer.
      I hope that your success with this recipe has lifted your confidence in yourself as a baker, and I absolutely love that you made it your own by adding the fruit and nuts. I hope your second batch went just as well and thank you again.
      P.S. If you get another spare moment, would you mind rating the recipe by clicking on the stars where the comment section is? Thank you so much!