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Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls Recipe with Cream Cheese Glaze

This month I’m participating once again in the Twelve Loaves baking challenge.  Our challenge for November is to use pears or apples in a bread.  I was already planning a cinnamon rolls recipe for my blog so I went ahead and added apples to pecan cinnamon rolls.  To me, these are the perfect fall breakfast.  I don’t have a large family so this batch lasted us about a week.  Made fantastic leftovers for breakfast all week.  Just a few seconds in the microwave, and I got a delicious breakfast.  Win!

Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

The recipe you see below was sourced from several places. It was originally based on a recipe from NPR.  After testing that recipe nearly exactly, some adjustments needed to be made in many places.  On the next go-round I also pulled out my sacred old copy of Homemade Bread, edited by Nell B. Nichols.  It’s a copy from my grandmother that’s over 40 years old but is very reliable. I made some adjustments to the NPR recipe’s ingredients and method based on the cinnamon roll recipe in that book. Finally, the icing comes from Epicurious.  It’s a cream cheese glaze but is made specifically for cinnamon rolls. Now on to the recipe because we have a lot to discuss here.

Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

First, let’s discuss the stages of the dough.  The pic below is a composite of all of them.  As you can see, when the dough comes out of the mixer it is fairly moist.  The kneading step incorporates more flour into the dough and eliminates any stickiness the dough once had. After rising for an hour, the dough takes on a more smooth look.

The many stages of dough

Both times I made this recipe, the dough did not literally “double” in size so don’t worry if the same thing happens to you.  The cinnamon rolls do rise enough in the end to be light and not dense hockey pucks.  I think once you start adding butter and eggs along to the milk in the recipe, it does affect how high that yeast will rise in the proofing stage.  Finally, we see the dough split into two balls, which is the final resting stage prior to rolling out and filling the cinnamon rolls.

So now let’s spend a little time discussing the filling.  To me, this is the most critical part of the cinnamon roll because this is where the flavor and pleasure from the cinnamon roll originates.  As you can see below, we’re using a mixture of brown sugar, flour, butter, and spices.  That’s eventually all mashed together and scattered in the dough with the apples and pecans.  But more on that later.

Cinnamon Sugar and Butter Filling

The spices we’re using are cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.  I’ve been loving the combination of those three spices in my baked goods lately. It’s a more complex flavor profile than just cinnamon alone.

Spice Mix - cinnamon, ginger, cardamom

I wanted to talk a little about grinding your own cardamom.  The way that you’ll get the best tasting and most aromatic cardamom is to buy the whole pods and grind the spice yourself.  Also, it’s cheaper if you buy the whole pods too.  As I said in a previous post, try to get cardamom at an ethic grocery store like a Lebanese or Mexican grocery store.  It will be  much cheaper than buying at your local supermarket and you’ll get much more.

Below are the steps to taking cardamom from pod to ground spice.  It’s very easy – remove the tiny seeds from the pod, place in a mortar (or spice grinder if you have it), grind with the pestle, then voilà! ground cardamom.  You can grind it as fine or as roughly as you want.

The stages of grinding cardamom

So now that we’ve got all of our filling components ready, it’s time to fill these bad boys.  As you see below, the butter/spice mixture is mashed together to form a “scatterable” filling for the rolled out dough.  Once that’s done, proceed to scatter the apples and pecans on top.  I mixed my pecans and apples but you don’t necessarily have to.  I found it made it easier to have one big bowl.  After all of the filling components are in the dough, simply roll up, slice, allow one more proof and bake.

Apple Cinnamon Pecan filling the dough

The last proof takes place in the baking pan and is only 30 minutes.  Again, I didn’t see a “doubling” of size on my cinnamon rolls but did get some rising.  Once the rolls are baked, they should sit too cool briefly, then be smeared with the glaze while still warm. This allows the icing to sneak into the nooks and crannies of the cinnamon rolls – the highly preferred state for cinnamon rolls, in my most humble opinion.

Pan of Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

a closeup shot of apple cinnamon pecan rolls

So now that you want a cinnamon roll oh so badly, let’s get down to the recipe.

Yield: 20-24 rolls

Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls Recipe with Cream Cheese Glaze

This cinnamon rolls recipe is perfect for fall with the addition of apples and pecans. Topped off with a cream cheese blaze, these rolls can't be topped.


Cinnamon Rolls:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-0.25 ounce package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • Extra flour for kneading
Cinnamon Rolls Filling:
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet apple, like Gala (remove core but keep peeling on)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Glaze:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (1/2 block)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk, butter, sugar and salt until just warm.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the yeast and warm water. Allow yeast to bloom while milk mixture is heating.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk mixture and 1 1/4 cups of flour. Mix on low until incorporated.
  4. Add the bloomed yeast and the two eggs. Mix well on low to combine.
  5. Add remaining flour a little at a time to make a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl. After you've added in about 2 cups of flour, add in the two teaspoons of cinnamon so that it can mix thoroughly into the dough.
  6. When done, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total) using extra flour as needed to ensure dough is not sticky.
  7. Shape the dough into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, turn once. Cover and Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  8. Carefully punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and divide in half. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking pan.
  10. For filling, stir together brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Cut in 1/3 cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  11. Roll each half of dough into a 12" x 8" rectangle. Smear the filling over dough rectangles. Scatter with apples and pecans.
  12. Roll up each rectangle starting from a long side and seal the seams.
  13. Slice each roll into 10-12 pieces and place cut sides down in prepared pans.
  14. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes.
  15. When you are setting the dough to rise at this final point, preheat the oven to 375 ºF.
  16. After rising, bake 25 to 27 minutes or until light brown.
  17. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until glaze is whipped.
  18. When the rolls are done, remove from oven and set on a wire rack for 1 minute. Drizzle with cream cheese glaze and serve warm.

Store in the fridge if keeping more than one day. To reheat, microwave for 35 seconds on high.

Prep:2 hour 30 min

Cook:27 min

Total:2 hour 57 min

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