Lemon Sweet Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing Recipe (2024)

By Yossy Arefi

Lemon Sweet Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour, plus rising
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These sweet, lemony rolls are a fresh alternative to classic cinnamon rolls. A little cardamom in the dough and filling enhances the bright citrus flavor without overtaking it.This dough is adaptable: You can let the dough rise in the refrigerator, instead of at room temperature, so you can serve fresh, warm rolls for breakfast without getting up at the crack of dawn to make them.

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Yield:12 large rolls

    For the Dough

    • 1(2¼ teaspoons/7 grams) package active dry yeast
    • 1cup buttermilk, warmed to 100 degrees
    • ¼cup/50 grams granulated sugar
    • ½cup/113 grams unsalted butter, softened
    • 1tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
    • 1teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½teaspoon cardamom
    • 3large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 4 to 4½cups/512 to 576 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

    For the Filling

    • 1cup/201 grams granulated sugar
    • 1tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
    • ¼teaspoon cardamom
    • Pinch kosher salt
    • 6tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter, very soft, plus more for the parchment paper

    For the Icing

    • 6ounces/170 grams cream cheese, softened
    • 1cup/123 grams powdered sugar
    • 1 to 2tablespoons lemon juice, plus more as needed

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (12 servings)

482 calories; 20 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 1 gram trans fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 68 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 33 grams sugars; 8 grams protein; 278 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Lemon Sweet Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Make the dough: Combine the yeast, buttermilk and 1 tablespoon sugar and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

  2. Step


    Add the butter, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, lemon zest, salt and cardamom to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low to combine. Add the eggs and buttermilk mixture, and stir until combined.

  3. Step


    With the mixer on low speed, slowly add 4 cups/510 grams of the flour and stir until all of the flour is moistened. Switch to the dough hook, and mix for 5 more minutes. The dough will be soft and billowy, and it will stick to the bottom of the bowl. Add more flour if the dough seems very, very soft.

  4. Transfer the dough to a fresh, lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat it with oil, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Alternately, refrigerate the dough before rising for up to 24 hours and proceed with the recipe as written. The rolls may need a slightly longer second rise.

  5. Step


    Make the filling: Combine the sugar, lemon zest, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Use your fingers to rub the lemon zest into the sugar.

  6. Step


    Assemble the rolls: Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and butter the pan and paper. Gently deflate the dough by folding it over itself a few times in the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat or roll it into a rectangle about 12-by-16-inches and ¼-inch thick. Gently spread the soft butter over the dough, and sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the top. Roll the dough into a tight log and use a serrated knife or length of floss to cut the log into 12 even pieces.

  7. Step


    Place the rolls into the prepared pan, cover, and let rise again until doubled in size, about 1 hour. You can also refrigerate the rolls before the second rise for up to 24 hours, if you’d like to bake them later. Let the rolls rise at room temperature until doubled in size before baking.

  8. Step


    Finish the rolls: Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the rolls are golden and cooked through. While the rolls are baking, make the icing: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. The icing should be quite thick, but spreadable. Add a little more lemon juice if necessary.

  9. Step


    Let the rolls cool for about 5 minutes, then spread the icing over the top. Enjoy warm.



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Cooking Notes


Could we please always have baking measurements in grams as well as cups? Thank you!!


This is actually my recipe. I published it on my bakery website years ago when we couldn't keep up with the demand.The original also had a filling variation using 1 1/2 cup frozen raspberries tossed with 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, and lemon juice in the cream cheese frosting.Notes: Knead 7 minutes in Kitchen Aid, it is a *very* wet dough, do *not* add extra flour. Use a dough scraper to pull dough from bowl and add oil, then turn dough over so it is coated. Internal temp should be 190F.


Wonderful flavor and aroma! I bake a lot of yeast breads and rolls. This one is a keeper! I divided the rolls into two buttered and lined 8-inch cake pans...6 rolls in each. I had some lemon sugar left from the filling, so I scattered it on top before baking. The rolls looked beautiful right out of the oven with this sparkling granular topping. So I decided not to make the heavy cream cheese icing and used a drizzled lemon-confectioner sugar glaze instead.

Kathy Kerr-Carpenter

This recipe can also be made with orange zest and nutmeg in place of the lemon zest and cardemom.


Internal temp should be around 190.I used at least 2 Tbsp. lemon juice in icing; it could probably even handle more.I did the overnight rise.

Amy Bell

I was so excited to try these and they are delicious, but much heavier than I prefer--dough was denser and cakier. I tried them again, but only added one egg, much better! Kept everything else the same. Will do that from now on. :)

Sticky Dough Solotion

Completely by chance, I once had olive oil on my hands and realized that it makes it MUCH easier to handle a sticky dough. Is this trick well-known? No need to add more flour - simply rub hands with a nice olive oil and working with the dough becomes very easy!

Carla Hanrahan

These taste wonderful and are fun to make. I followed one suggestion and cut the sugar in the filling to 3/4 cup. Another reader suggested adding more lemon juice to the icing, did that. Both worked out well. Next time - and there will definitely be more next times - I'll add more zest to the dough. I also think it would be good to add zest to the icing as well. Excellent recipe!


I assembled the rolls last night and did the overnight rise; the oven rise was lovely.1. Dental floss is a must.2. This made 18 rolls -- 6 were small thanks to uneven rolling. I put 6 to rise overnight in a 9" round pan and froze the rest. With a little practice I can see getting 18 even rolls from this recipe.3. There was a little syrup leaking from the rolls at the bottom, so I inverted the rolls onto a plate for a minute or so to let the syrup absorb before icing.


I do find it frustrating that almost all baking recipes these days are written using only stand mixers. Some of us just have a handheld! It would be nice to include the alternative options for mixing in the recipe.


Oh dear God. These are the best sweet rolls I've ever had. CRAZY good.


I made these again this weekend for brunch. I had Meyer lemons so reduced the sugar in the filling to 3/4 cup. Rather than try to roll out a rectangle, I pressed the dough into a rimmed half sheet pan. Magic! I was able to make 12 evenly sized rolls. Next time I might line the sheet pan with parchment to make the rolling a little easier. The dough is SO soft!


I made a small 1/3 batch:Dough - 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1T lemon juice milk to reach 1/3 cup), 1 tablespoon sugar, 2-2/3 tablespoon butter, 1/2 heaping tablespoon lemon zest, 1/3 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, 1 egg, 1-1/3 cup flour.Filling - scant 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 heaping tablespoon lemon zest, pinch cardamom, pinch kosher salt, 2 tablespoons butterPat out to 12”x8”, cut into 8 pieces, then rise and 25-30 min at 350 in a 8”x8” glass pan


Couldn't/wouldn't stop myself from adding a tablespoon of Meyers lemon honey (thank you Bees Knees!). Used SAF instant yeast, upped the cardamom to a teaspoon and added 1tsp powdered lemon juice (King Arthur's) . The lemon sugar filling caramelized during baking and the rolls were divinely (oh, c'mon it's Easter) light and ethereal. The frosting was tangy, having dropped the powdered sugar to 3/4 cup. I'll be making this again.

Rich O'Bryant

I would recommend rolling the dough much thinner than recommended. Making these again, I'll do more lemon zest - they are a bright and wonderful change from cinnamon rolls!


add zest in dough, 3/4 c sugar is plenty, cinnamon or nutmeg in sugar mix, pour a bit of milk/halfnhalf/heavy cream on top before baking


Just came to say I absolutely love this recipe! I’ve made it for years as my “impressive” dish when guests are over (and I have time)—never fails. I never use all the icing, and I’ve learned to ask guests if they even want it because many people prefer them plain. I’ve tried a few yeasted roll recipes and none compare to the texture of this one.


Used two 8” round pans and it worked perfectly! Also reduced icing sugar to 3/4 cups and increased lemon juice. Did the overnight second rise and the next morning pulled it out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour in a warm room before baking. Baked for only 30 minutes


Delicious fresh. Maybe try with a tangzong like the KAF cinnamon rolls recipe to see if they’ll stay fresh better.

A Gunn

If using Rapid Rise yeast, no need to warm the buttermilk or pre soak the yeast. Add 2 packets of yeast, not one,directly to the flour. This should help the dough to adequately rise. Without doing this, the dough did not rise enough and was dense, even after doubling the proving time. Very tasty nonetheless.


I had a happy accident of mixing the sugar, lemon zest and butter for the filling instead of doing the lemon sugar separated from the butter. When you combine them I ended up breaking it up in little clumps onto the dough. Then you end up getting delicious little bits of caramelized buttery sugar on the tops. I’ve made this recipe several times, and this was the first time I did it like this and I definitely prefer it.


Has anyone successfully made these using gluten free one2one flour? (Ex Bobs red mill)


5 g lemon zest


This didn’t turn out right for me. Maybe some more information about what the dough should look like after the 5 minutes of kneading would help. Mine turned out biscuity/cakey so I think my rolls needed some more kneading.


Accidentally curdled my cream cheese with the lemon juice in the dressing somehow haha. Not the best quality cream cheese anyway. Lovely recipe, I did the first rise overnight in the fridge. Second rise was very fluffy. Full to the brim now of lemon scrolls! Will be making again.


Some fam members don't like lemon, how do I adjust to make these cinnamon and/or cinnamon w/ some nuts? I'll then make both kinds. Thank you! CH

menej cukru

Kefir, 2/3 cukru, na polevu 250 ml mascarpone


These are incredible. That's all.


I found that 5 mins of kneading with the dough hook wasn’t enough to develop the right amount of gluten, so the rolls came out more cakey than a traditional roll. Next time, I’ll increase the kneading time. The flavor of these was outstanding, though!

Deborah VC

My word these are fabulous! The dough was soft - I added maybe 2 addt’l tablespoons of flour while kneading. The dough rose beautifully and was easily patted/rolled out on lightly floured parchment paper. I froze 6 unbaked rolls and refrigerated the remaining 6 overnight. Put them in the oven with the light on early the next morning and baked after about 2 hours rising time. I used 2-3 T lemon juice in the icing. Simply outstanding. I’ll try it with orange next time.

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Lemon Sweet Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing Recipe (2024)


Do cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing need to be refrigerated? ›

Do you need to refrigerate cinnamon rolls? Unfrosted cinnamon rolls do not need to be refrigerated and will keep best at room temperature. Iced cinnamon rolls, and especially rolls with cream cheese frosting, should be stored in the fridge.

Is it better to freeze cinnamon rolls before or after baking? ›

I prefer to shape and then freeze. It makes it much easier to bake and use. I haven't had as much success freezing dough and then shaping. My cinnamon rolls freeze really well once they are baked as well, so if you'd rather go that route, you can bake and then freeze them.

Can homemade cinnamon rolls be refrigerated before baking? ›

Cover the rolls tightly and refrigerate for 8–12 hours. (16 hours max. 8–12 hours is best, but 16 hours is OK if absolutely needed. Do not exceed 16 hours.) The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1–2 hours before continuing with step 9.

Can I leave raw cinnamon rolls out overnight? ›

Instead of letting the rolls rise at room temperature and baking them, you'll cut and arrange the rolls in the baking pan, tightly cover them with plastic wrap, immediately transfer them to the fridge and let them rest overnight. (Do not leave them out at room temperature for any longer than needed.)

Do you need to refrigerate desserts with cream cheese frosting? ›

Though we prefer to leave cake on the counter, where it stays tender and moist, if it's made with cream cheese frosting (or almost any other kind of frosting), chances are it will need to be refrigerated.

Can you eat cream cheese frosting left out overnight? ›

At room temperature, cream cheese frosting only lasts two hours, which is why it needs to be refrigerated if you don't want to waste leftovers. Cream cheese frosting will usually last in the refrigerator for up to a week, which gives you plenty of time to use it on various baked goods.

Should the cinnamon rolls touch or be kept apart while baking? ›

Cinnamon rolls are notably very elastic and stretchy. As the dough bakes, it will expand and cover more space than you'd think. If you want perfectly-cooked cinnamon rolls, you need to give enough space for the rolls to expand during baking.

What happens if you freeze Pillsbury cinnamon roll dough? ›

A: Freezing unbaked cinnamon rolls is not recommended as freezing may cause them to lose their leavening power and they may not rise as expected. You can freeze fully baked cinnamon rolls. After completely cooling, tightly wrap each in plastic wrap and place in an air tight container. Label and enjoy within 30 days.

How do you keep cinnamon rolls fresh and soft? ›

Store in an airtight container or tightly wrapped: This will help seal out any air and keep your homemade cinnamon rolls soft!

What is the secret ingredient in Cinnabon? ›

Cinnabon's Secret Ingredient

This special Indonesian cinnamon, called Makara, is trademarked by Cinnabon. And because of that trademark, you won't find this product in your local grocery store spice aisle.

How to tell when cinnamon rolls are done? ›

After approximately 30 minutes, test for doneness. Use a paring knife or fork to pull up the center-most roll; if the dough is still sticky and raw-looking, return the pan to the oven for about ten more minutes. The rolls should be golden to dark brown on top, and fully baked in the center of the coil. 12.

What happens if you overproof cinnamon rolls? ›

Can cinnamon rolls rise for too long? Yes definitely! If you let your cinnamon rolls rise for too long you can over-proof them. This can lead to dense rolls or rolls that collapse after baking.

How long can uncooked cinnamon rolls stay in the fridge? ›

They can stay in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours (the longer they are refrigerated, the more the filling might liquify and seep out of the rolls – that may happen to a minor extent anyway, so don't panic).

Why are my cinnamon rolls dry the next day? ›

A lot of people think dry cinnamon rolls result from not using enough cinnamon filling. Not true! It's usually the roll dough itself that makes cinnamon rolls taste dry. If you do not have enough moisture in your bread, your rolls will dry out faster than you can say glass-a-milk.

How long can cinnamon rolls with cream cheese sit out? ›

With that in mind, you might be shocked to think about cream cheese frosting sitting out for a day or two. But that's exactly what Cinnabon recommends! They say it's best to to store their cinnamon rolls at room temperature for up to 2 days and don't recommend storing them in the refrigerator.

Do cream cheese rolls need to be refrigerated? ›

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that any foods made with cream cheese, including cream cheese frosting, need to be refrigerated within two hours. This includes baked goods made with cream cheese, such as pound cakes and cream cheese cookies.

What kind of frosting doesn't need to be refrigerated? ›

American buttercream recipes (made from whipped butter, heavy cream, and confectioner's sugar) are technically not shelf stable, but they can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container.

Does cream cheese frosting get hard in the fridge? ›

Will cream cheese frosting harden in the fridge? Yes, this frosting will harden in the fridge. So if your frosting is too soft to pipe once beaten, you can pop it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to harden up.

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