Apple cinnamon rolls are an autumn variation of the classic cinnamon roll. The dough is made with apple cider for extra flavor while the filling is packed with cinnamon spiced apples!
Cinnamon rolls hold a special place in my favorite. They were my late father’s favorite baked treat.
These simple classic cinnamon rolls were his most requested recipe.
Over the years, I’ve made all sorts of different variations:
- Funfetti Cinnamon Rolls – colorful sprinkles inside and outside take cinnamon rolls to another level
- Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls – the iconic flavors of carrot cake injected into sweet rolls
- Spiced Cranberry Rolls – perfect for the day after Thanksgiving!
- Sweet Blueberry Rolls – pillowy dough paired with juicy blueberries and sweet maple glaze
Here’s another one to add to the list: apple cinnamon rolls with spiced cream cheese frosting!
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
What makes these rolls better than those other apple cinnamon rolls recipes?
The dough is made with apple cider!
Most dough recipes use water, milk, or a mixture of the two.
Instead of water, this recipe uses apple cider. This simple change adds just a hint of sweetness and more flavor.
Apple Cider Variations
Do not use sparkling apple cider (such as Martinelli’s sparkling cider). That is a completely different product!
The labeling of “apple cider” versus “apple juice” varies from state to state. The apple cider used in this recipe refers to unfiltered apple juice.
This apple cider (unfiltered apple juice) is a bit cloudier and thicker than your standard boxed apple juice.
REMEMBER: apple cider should only have ONE INGREDIENT- apples!
In a pinch, any kind of 100% apple juice works.
- Enriched Yeast Dough
- Apple Cinnamon Filling
- Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
The dough is simple and straightforward to make. It be made with a stand mixer using a dough hook attachment, or it can be mixed and kneaded together by hand with a little extra effort.
The enriched dough is spiced with a mixture of nutmeg and cinnamon. It adds a touch of extra warmth and flavor.
It’s up to you whether you want to peel the Granny Smith apples or keep the skin on.
I prefer to keep the peel on. I like the flavor and texture it adds.
Simply the apple into small bite sized pieces. Then, toss with apple cider, salt, and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, combine the usual cinnamon roll filling of brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon.
Spread softened butter all over the rolled dough. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.
Strain the liquid from the chopped apple mixture and serve for later. Distribute the strained apples all over the cinnamon sugar.
Can you use any apple variety?
I used chopped Granny Smith apples for the filling. I’ve tried this recipe with other apples, but they don’t hold up as well.
The durability and tartness of the Granny Smith works well with the brown sugar and cinnamon filling.
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
The luscious and smooth cream cheese frosting is flavored with reserved apple filling liquid and ground cinnamon.
You will want to make extra of this spiced cream cheese. It’s wonderful on cinnamon raisin bagels or spread onto on Japanese milk bread toast!
Perfect Make Ahead Holiday Breakfast
Dough can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge overnight.
Follow the steps in the instructions up to step #7. Place the cut rolls in greased baking pan. Then, cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled in the fridge overnight.
Before baking, keep rolls out at room temperature to warm up and reactivate the yeast (about 30 minutes). Bake as directed.
These apple cinnamon rolls are best fresh from the oven.
However, they’re also delicious cooled to room temperature and even cold straight form the fridge!
No matter how you choose to eat them, they’ll definitely be delightful.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- ½ cup apple cider, warmed up to 110°F
- 2 ¼ teaspoon dry active yeast
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup milk, room temperature
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
- 3 Tablespoons apple cider
- pinch fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened to mayonnaise-like consistency
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2-3 teaspoons reserved apple filling liquid
- Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm apple cider, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 5-7 minutes to allow mixture to bubble and activate. Whisk in milk, egg, egg yolk, and brown sugar. Attach dough hook to stand mixer.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add 1/3 of flour mixture to mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until flour is incorporated. Add another 1/3 of flour mixture. Continue to knead on low speed adding softened butter one tablespoons at a time. Add remaining flour mixture and knead until dough is smooth and cleans the sides of the bowls.
- Transfer dough to a lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest at room temperature for about an hour, until dough has doubled in volume.
- Apple Filling: Meanwhile, combine chopped apples with apple cider, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside while you roll out dough. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon.
- Punch down risen dough. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Roll dough into a 20 x 14-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough. Sprinkle brown sugar cinnamon mixture over dough.
- Strain chopped apples from liquid mixture. Set aside and save liquid mixture. Distribute chopped apples over dough. Roll dough into a tight log, starting at the longer side Slice the log into 12 equal parts and place into a lightly greased 9 x 12-inch baking pan.
- Cover pan with plastic wrap and let rolls rest for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. Rolls should rise to the top of the baking pan.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap and bake rolls for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top and the internal temperature of the rolls registers at least 185 degrees F. Allow rolls to cool for 5-10 minute before covering with frosting.
- Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, cinnamon, and reserved apple filling liquid. Add additional apple liquid, to taste or to achieve desired frosting consistency. Mix until smooth. Spread over warm apple cinnamon rolls.
- Dough can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge overnight. Follow steps up to placing cut rolls in greased pan. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge to slow down yeast. Before baking, allow rolls to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so to reactivate yeast.