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  • Megan

orange chocolate cinnamon rolls with citrus cream cheese frosting

Updated: May 27, 2023

In these rolls:

- flour

- salt

- milk

- yogurt

- yeast

- white sugar

- butter

- eggs

- brown sugar

- cinnamon

- cardamom

- orange zest

- chocolate chips

- cream cheese

- vanilla

- powdered sugar

Makes 12 to 16 rolls

My ideal Christmas would be spent entirely in pajamas, periodically napping, reading, and grazing on leftovers from the night before. I’ve never had such a Christmas; historically the day has demanded more of me than this.

But Christmas 2020? I’m thinking this may be the year. I keep hearing the same tune from others: it sucks to not see family, but it sure does simplify things.

God, I love simple. And though making this recipe is arguably not simple (try making it while filming it with a cream cheese-spotted iPhone), you’ll ideally spread it out over two days: make the dough and shape the rolls on day one, have yourself a long winter’s nap, then bake the rolls and whip up the frosting the next morning.

And once they’re out of the oven and frosted? That’s when the simple starts. Throw on a Christmas record, brew a pot of coffee, and eat an orange chocolate cinnamon roll with citrus cream cheese frosting. Because it’s been a goddamn year.


3 ¼ cups flour, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup milk plus scoop of plain yogurt, warmed

1 tablespoon (or one 0.25 oz packet) active dry yeast

¼ cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted but not hot

2 eggs


4 tablespoons butter, softened*

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cardamom

1 tablespoon orange zest

½ to ¾ cup chocolate chips, depending on preference


4 tablespoons butter

4 oz cream cheese

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon orange zest


1. To make the dough, whisk together the flour and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Whisk together the milk and yogurt in a microwave-safe glass or bowl. Heat in the microwave for two 30-second intervals, whisking in-between; the milk should be the temp of warm bathwater (that is, you should be able to comfortably bathe in the milk).

3. Whisk together the warm milk, yeast, and sugar in a big bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Let the mixture sit for five minutes.

4. Add to the bowl the eggs and melted butter. Whisk to combine.

5. Gradually add the flour to the wet ingredients until a dough starts to come together. It’s easiest to do this initial mix with a wooden spoon, even if you’re using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Once all the flour has been added, the dough should be sticky; but if it looks too wet, add an extra fourth to half cup of flour.

6. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, either by machine or by hand. Again, it’ll be sticky; resist the urge to compensate by over-flouring.

7. Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

8. While the dough is rising, make the filling.* Throw everything except the chocolate chips into a bowl and mix together until there are no more streaks of butter. Set aside.

9. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface. Push all the air bubbles out of the dough. Then roll it out into a rectangle that’s about 18 by 12 inches.

10. Spread the filling evenly over the dough (you could use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread it; I just used my fingers). Then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.

11. Roll up the rectangle of dough from one long end to the other. Then cut the long roll of dough into 12 to 16 pieces (I used a pastry scraper; a serrated knife will work too).

12. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter. Then place the rolls into the dish and cover the dish with plastic wrap. If you are baking them that same day, let the rolls rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. If you are baking the next morning, place the covered rolls into the fridge overnight. Out of the fridge, let the rolls rise until doubled in size. This will take 1 to 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature (set the rolls near a warm oven or fireplace to speed up the process).

13. Bake the rolls at 350°F until they are golden—about 25 to 30 minutes.

14. For the frosting, combine the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until creamy. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Last, mix in the milk and orange zest.

15. Let the baked rolls cool—so they are warm but not hot—before frosting.

*A note on the filling: more recently I decided to leave the butter out of the filling mix and instead melt it separately; I then spread the melted butter over the dough before sprinkling the sugar mix on top of it. I found this much easier than the original method.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!



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