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Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting

baking dish with apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel frosting next to fresh apples

5 from 9 reviews

These gooey apple cinnamon rolls with caramel frosting are a fun dessert. Made from scratch, these sweet sticky buns are filled with fresh apples and then slathered in a homemade caramel frosting. 

Ingredients

Units Scale

Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water, approximately 110˚
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour

Apple Filling

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 medium gala apples (peeled, cored and diced)

Caramel Frosting

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

Cinnamon Roll Dough

  1. Pour milk into a small pot and place on the stovetop on medium heat. Heat until the milk starts to steam and small bubbles start to form around the edges.
  2. Pour the heated milk in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in the warm water, yeast and sugar. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes until it starts to foam.
  3. Add in the egg, salt and two cups of the flour. Mix on low with a stand mixer or by hand until the flour is incorporated.
  4. Mix in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball. The dough should soft and tacky to the touch, but not sticky.
  5. Continue to knead the dough by hand or in the mixer for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft,  smooth and quickly bounces back when a finger is pressed in it. 
  6. Spray a clean bowl with baking spray or rub it lightly with butter. Place the dough in the greased bowl and cover it with a light towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour in a warm spot until doubled in size. 
  7. Punch down the risen dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Shape the dough into a large rectangle that is about 1/2 - 1 inch thick. 

Apple Filling

  1. Spread the softened butter on the dough in an even layer and then sprinkle the buttered dough with the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and chopped apples.
  2. Starting on the long side of the rectangle, tightly roll up the dough into a large roll.
  3. Cut the rolled dough into 12 equal slices that are approximately 1 - 1 1/2 inches thick. 
  4. Place the cut rolls in a 9x13 inch baking dish that has been greased or lined with parchment paper.
  5. Cover the pan with a light towel or plastic wrap and let the rolls rise in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  6. During the last 15 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 350˚. Bake the rolls in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Allow the rolls to cool for 10-15 minutes while the frosting is made.

Caramel Frosting

  1. In a small pot, combine butter, brown sugar & heavy cream.
  2. Heat the mixture over medium high heat on the stove top, stirring occasionally, until the mixture boils.
  3. Continue to boil for 3-5 minutes or until the temperature comes to 220˚ when checked with a candy or kitchen thermometer.
  4. Remove the pot off of the heat and whisk in powdered sugar until the frosting is smooth and no lumps of sugar remain.
  5. Pour the warm frosting over the apple cinnamon rolls and use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the rolls.

Notes

  • Make sure to warm the milk up until it just barely shows bubbles on the surface. If the milk is too hot, it will burn and possibly kill the yeast when added. The temperature of the warm water and yeast should be around 110˚ when checked with a kitchen thermometer.
  • The amount of flour required for the cinnamon roll dough will vary based on temperature, humidity and method of measuring. All of the flour may need to be used or more or less may be needed. The dough has enough flour when it pulls away from the bowl and is no longer sticky, but tacky when touched.
  • Rising times may be less or more depending on the temperature and humidity. Try to place the dough in a warm spot to help them rise properly.
  • Allow the baked cinnamon rolls about 10-15 minutes to cool while you make the frosting. This will make sure that the frosting will coat and cover the cinnamon rolls, but not completely melt off of them.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Apples - There are a TON of varieties of apples to choose from when cooking or baking. My go to's are typically gala, fuji or pink lady apples. They all have a fairly sweet flavor that is good for baking.
  • Nuts - Sprinkle chopped pecans or walnuts on top of the other filling ingredients before rolling up and cutting the cinnamon rolls.
  • Frosting - Instead of caramel frosting, a more standard cinnamon roll frosting can be used or your favorite store bought frosting may also be used.

Make Ahead Instructions

The cinnamon rolls can be prepped the night before to make for easy baking the next morning.

  • Follow the instructions for making the cinnamon rolls all the way up to just before the second rising time.
  • After placing the cut rolls on a sheet pan, cover it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to rise slowly overnight.
  • In the morning, remove them from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking time to allow them time to come to room temperature.
  • Frosting can also be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Heat in a pot on low on the stovetop, stirring frequently until just warm enough to pour on the cinnamon rolls.

Storage Instructions

The baked and frosted apple cinnamon rolls will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Heat the cinnamon rolls up in the microwave for 15-30 seconds to make them warm again.

Keywords: apple cinnamon rolls, caramel apple cinnamon rolls, cinnamon rolls with caramel frosting, apple filled cinnamon rolls