Want an indulgent weekend breakfast or brunch? Look no further than these Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls. Gooey, caramelly, apple goodness in a soft cinnamon roll.

You may also love these Pecan Cinnamon Rolls or these Strawberry-iced Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls.

Caramel sauce being poured over cinnamon rolls

Like apple pie in cinnamon roll form with caramel sauce drizzled over, these truly are a special treat. Imagine buttery-sweet and warming cinnamon all one bite.

  • Soft, fluffy rolls
  • Warming spices
  • Sauteed cinnamon apples
  • Quick and rich caramel
A gold baking tray filled with cinnamon rolls

What you’ll need

These images make it look like a lot more ingredients than there really is – some are used in both the rolls and the sauce. Check out some of the most important ones.

Ingredients laid out for apple cinnamon rolls
  • Yeast: I use instant yeast. Active dry yeast will also work fine in the same quantity.
  • Apples: Use Granny Smith apples for this
  • Sugar: Two types – white and brown. The brown sugar adds to the caramel flavour and is used to make the quick caramel sauce.
  • Cinnamon: Can’t really have a cinnamon roll without it but feel free to add a pinch of nutmeg too.  
  • Frangelico: This secret ingredient gives the caramel sauce a subtle kick of hazelnut but you can leave it out or swap it for Amaretto, brandy or bourbon.

How to make them

Making these caramel apple cinnamon rolls from scratch is far easier than you think. Here’s the steps.

Dough in a bowl before and after rising
  1. Make the dough: You’ll start by melting some butter and warming a little milk together. The warmth will assist the yeast to come to life and do it’s work. Combine this with the rest of the dough ingredients and knead it together.
  2. Kneading: You can do this by hand or in the bowl of a stand-mixer with a dough hook attached. See my tips below.
  3. Rest the dough: The dough needs to be rested until it doubles in size (images 1&2). The time this takes will depend on the ambient temperature of your home.
A black pan with apples, sugar, butter and cinnamon being cooked
  1. Make the filling: This part is simply cooking together sliced apples, cinnamon, sugar and butter until soft and the liquid has become nice and thick and syrupy (images 3&4).
4 images showing dough being filled and rolled up for cinnamon rolls
  1. Form the rolls: Start by rolling the dough out into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface (image 5). Spread the filling evenly over the dough leaving one edge clear (image 6), then roll it up long side to long side. Cut it into 12 even pieces.
  2. Second rest: Sit the rolls, cut side up, in a greased 9×13 inch tray, then let them rest until they’re about 1.5 times the size again (image 7&8).
  3. Bake: Brush the dough with egg yolk, then bake for 22-24 minutes until golden.
Sugar and butter melted in a saucepan with cream being poured in
  1. Make the caramel: This is truly easy, I promise. Place the sugar, water and butter in a clean pan (image 9), then cook over medium heat until all dissolved. Let it bubble for a minute before adding the rest of the ingredients (image 10), then let it bubble for another 3 minutes until nice and thick.

Try not to drink the caramel all on it’s own. Oh, just me? Oops!

Birdseye view of a tray filled with cinnamon rolls.

Tips and Variations

  • Warming the milk: You’ll only warm a little of the milk while melting the butter. The rest of the milk is added to it to cool it to a warm temperature rather than hot, which could kill the yeast.
  • Kneading:
    • You can knead the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook attached for roughly 6-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic (it will bounce back when you lightly press your finger into it).
    • To knead by hand, mix all the ingredients in a bowl first. Turn it out onto a clean surface and knead for 10-12 minutes by folding and press it over and over. This is a sticky dough, please resist the urge to add extra flour. It’s a better idea to use a bench scraper in one hand to lift the dough, then knead with the other. It will eventually stop sticking to the benchtop as it becomes more elastic.
  • The filling: Make sure the liquid is quite thick otherwise it will all run straight out of the rolls when you roll them up. Also, make sure the filling is cool before you fill the rolls. It’s best to make the filling while the dough is resting.
  • Cutting: Use a sharp very knife to cut the rolls. If your knife is blunt it will squish the dough together and you’ll lose the lovely swirl. You can also use dental floss for a clean cut. Lay a long strand under the rolls right where you want to cut it, cross it over the top, then pull the ends away from each other to cut straight through.
  • How to cut them evenly: You need to cut the roll into 12 pieces. So that you don’t have to measure it or have all different sizes, start by cutting it directly in half. Now cut each half in half, so you have 4 equal pieces. Now cut each of those into 3.
  • Caramel: Make sure you use a perfectly clean pan for the caramel. Any bit of grease in the pan will cause the caramel to crystallise and that’s definitely no fun.

How to store them

Cinnamon rolls are best eaten fresh but they will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container. As these ones contain fresh fruit, keep them in the fridge.

Let them come to room temperature before eating, or warm them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to get them warm and fluffy again.

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A cinnamon roll covered in caramel sauce sitting on a white plate

More recipes you’ll love

A gold baking tray filled with cinnamon rolls

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

5 from 1 vote
These Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls are a soft and fluffy cinnamon roll bursting with cinnamon apples, then bathed in an easy homemade caramel sauce.

Ingredients

FOR THE CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 57 g unsalted butter (¼ cup / 2oz)
  • 1 cup cold milk (250ml)
  • 455 g plain (all purp) flour (3 ½ cups / 1lb)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or active dry yeast (1 sachet / 8g) (notes)
  • cup white granulated sugar (66g / 2.3oz)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg

FOR THE FILLING

  • 4 cups sliced Granny Smith apples (3 large or 4 medium)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar (100g / 3.5oz)
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 30 g unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 egg yolk with a dash of water

FRANGELICO CARAMEL SAUCE

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (57g / ½ stick)
  • ¼ cup thickened (heavy) cream
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur, optional (notes)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Equipment

Instructions
 

MAKING THE DOUGH

  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the butter and roughly one third of the milk. Stir or swirl to melt without overheating. Add the remaining cold milk and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or see notes) add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt then give it a good mix around.
  • Pour in the warm milk mixture, give it a quick stir then add the egg.
  • Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and mix the dough for 6-7 minutes until smooth and elastic looking.
  • Brush a clean bowl with a little oil then place the dough into it. flip it over so that has a coating of oil all over. Cover with a plate and let it sit in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

MAKE THE FILLING

  • Peel, then thinly slice the apples and chop into smaller chunks.
  • Add the chopped apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter to a heavy based pan and cook stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  • Let it simmer, stirring now and then, for a further 7-8 minutes or until the liquid reduces to at least a third and is quite thick.
  • Let the filling cool to room temperature (you can speed this up in the fridge if you need to).

ASSEMBLING THE CINNAMON ROLLS

  • Grease a 9×13 inch baking tray.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a large 30x35cm (12×14 inches) rectangle, about 5-6mm thick.
  • Evenly spread the cooled filling over the dough leaving 1 inch on the longest side uncovered.
  • Roll up from the longest side nearest you towards the other, as tightly as you can without squeezing the syrup out, then use a sharp knife to cut into 12 even pieces (notes).
  • Place the rolls evenly spaced onto the baking tray cut side up. Let them rest and rise for another 30 minutes until roughly 1.5 times the size.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced.

BAKING

  • Beat together the egg yolk and water then brush all over the exposed dough of the rolls.
  • Bake for 24 minutes, turning the tray at the halfway mark, until golden.

FRANGELICO CARAMEL SAUCE

  • While the rolls are baking, combine the sugar, water and butter in a heavy based saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring until all combined and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Once sugar is dissolved, bring it to a bubble and keep stirring for another minute.
  • Add the cream, liqueur and salt and stir in. Bring it back to a boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until you see it has thickened.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons worldwide)
  2. All ovens vary – always test for doneness 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests
  3. For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
  4. Yeast: You can use instant or active dry yeast. If you use rapid rise, your dough may double in size quicker.
  5. By hand: You can make the dough without a stand mixer, just make sure to knead until it is smooth and elastic (10-12 minutes) and resist the urge to add more flour. See the post for all the tips.
  6. Cutting the rolls: to cut them evenly, cut the log in half. Then cut each half in half. Now cut each of the 4 pieces into 3.
  7. Liqueur: the Frangelico gives a subtle but lovely flavour, if you want a stronger flavour add an extra tablespoon. You can also use other liqueurs of your choice like amaretto, brandy or bourbon but these all have a much stronger flavour, so stick to a maximum of 2 tablespoons.
  8. Make ahead: The recipe can be made ahead up to the step of placing the cut rolls on the baking tray. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge overnight. Let them come to room temperature before baking.
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Close up of caramel apple cinnamon rolls