From the Swedish variety to rolls in a can, cinnamon rolls are a favourite around the world. It makes sense – soft, fluffy bread, laced with cinnamon and sugar and topped with some variety of icing that you can actually get away with for breakfast.
Not to be confused with pecan sticky buns (which are covered in gooey caramel sauce and no icing), these Pecan Cinnamon Rolls are just that – wonderfully fluffy cinnamon rolls, filled with little pecan morsels and topped with a simple coffee icing.
Coffee! My favourite waker-uperer and convenient hand warmer and now I have a way to combine this with breakfast and fresh bread all into one sweet, delicious treat. If you don’t like coffee, don’t worry. I have some tips to easily swap it for vanilla or chocolate too.
These are yeasted cinnamon rolls, just like making a regular bread dough except this is a sweet bread dough. Don’t worry, active dry yeast or instant yeast is very simple to use.
If the thought of making bread sounds daunting or time-consuming, never fear. This is my tried and true sweet bread dough recipe and it never fails me. This recipe is an adaptation of my White Chocolate Cranberry Hot Cross Buns and, later, these Strawberry Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls.
Hands on time: roughly 30 minutes and that includes you kneading by hand. And check out the list of simple ingredients.
Why you’ll love these Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
- Totally delicious and they smell divine
- Sweet, sticky, nutty
- Warming and comforting
- Simple, everyday ingredients
- Can be started the night before
- Made completely from scratch so you know what’s in them
- A special, indulgent brunch or breakfast treat
Ingredients in cinnamon rolls
So if you’re ready to get started on baking up a batch of these gorgeous coffee sweet rolls, here are the ingredients you’ll need.
- Dough: Butter, milk, plain (all-purpose) flour, yeast, white sugar, salt and egg.
- Filling & topping: Cinnamon, brown sugar, pecans, maple syrup.
- Icing: instant coffee, cream and icing (powdered) sugar.
How to make Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Make the dough: Heat a little milk and butter until melted together, then combine with the remaining dough ingredients. Knead it in a stand mixer or by hand. (Images 1 & 2)
Let the dough rise: Place the smooth and elastic dough into a greased glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit to rise for 45 minutes – 1 hour (this will depend on the ambient temperature in your home) (Image 3)
Roll it out and fill: Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, then brush over melted butter and sprinkle over the filling. (Images 4 & 5)
Cut it into rolls: Roll the dough up (from long side to long side), then cut it into 12 even portions (Image 6)
Second rise: Place the rolls, side by side in a greased 9×13 baking tin or casserole dish and lay a light tea towel over the top. (Images 7 & 8)
Bake: Brush the rolls with an egg wash, then scatter over some pecans mixed with maple syrup. Bake for 25 minutes until deep golden. Take them out and let them cool in the tin. (Image 9)
Make the icing: Heat together some cream and instant coffee in the microwave then mix through sifted icing (powdered) sugar. Pipe or spread it over your buns.
I find making bread deeply satisfying. Watching the ingredients evolve from a lumpy mess when they’re first mixed together into soft, fluffy bread just soothes me.
- Make sure you don’t use old yeast. Yeast is perishable, so keep it stored in your fridge and always use it by the use by date. If it’s been sitting around in your cupboard for 6 months, you’ll want to test it first by mixing some with a little warm (not hot) water. After 5-10 minutes it should look bubbly. If not, it’s probably dead and you’ll need to start with a new pack.
- Don’t add the salt directly on top of the yeast as it can kill it and the yeast may not work. I always put my dough ingredients into the bowl flour, yeast, sugar, salt, to keep them separate.
- Make sure your milk mixture is just warm, not hot, to the touch. In my recipes, I start with cold milk and heat just 1/3 of it with the butter until melted. Adding the remaining cold milk once it comes off the stove is a simple way of achieving a tepid / warm temperature. Hot liquid will kill your yeast.
- Resting / rising is a must. When you knead and roll dough, gluten develops which stiffens up the dough. Letting the dough rest is crucial to let it relax and give you a softer bread with more volume. Imagine you get home from work and your muscles are tight and sore, then you relax and your muscles soften. Same thing. Kinda. Not really.
When it’s broken down into steps like this, you truly can see how simple the process is. I promise your home will be filled with the most wonderful, cosy aroma of cinnamon and bread all at once and just try not to eat one, still warm from the oven
Variations and substitutions
- Coffee: Want to change that icing to another flavour? It’s easy. Swap the coffee for cocoa and make a chocolate version, or swap it for 2 teaspoons of vanilla and make a vanilla icing. You could even make a strawberry icing as on my Strawberry Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls.
- Nuts: The pecans work a treat but use whatever nuts you love – walnuts, almonds, macadamias – all would be lovely.
- Star bread: I recently turned this recipe into a Nutella Star Bread too. This showstopping dessert is a gorgeous sweet brunch.
Can I make cinnamon rolls ahead
You can make these cinnamon rolls the night before, right up to the step where you place them on the baking tray. Cover the baking tray with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake them, loosen the plastic wrap and let them come to room temperature (1-2 hours). Then continue as per the recipe.
Serving and storage
These pecan cinnamon rolls are best fresh. You can eat them warm from the oven but the icing will soften and run. The other option is to wait until they get to room temperature before icing and serving.
If you’re lucky enough to have any leftover, reheat them just slightly in the microwave for 10 seconds to fluff them back up.
I think these are the absolute best cinnamon rolls (I may be biased) so please give them a try. With pecans strewn throughout and on top and a glorious soft coffee icing, I know you’ll love them too.
MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
Pecan Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Icing
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 / 7g) (notes)
- ⅓ cup white granulated sugar (66g / 2.3oz)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
FOR THE FILLING
- ½ cup, packed brown sugar (100g / 3.5oz)
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ cup pecans, roughly chopped (60g / 2.1oz)
- 57 g unsalted butter, melted (¼ cup / 2oz)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 6 teaspoons finely ground instant coffee
- 2 ½ cups icing (powdered) sugar (325g / 11.4oz) (notes)
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 plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
ASSEMBLING THE CINNAMON ROLLS
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a large rectangle, about 5-6mm thick.
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 375F / 180C fan forced and grease a 9x13 inch baking tray.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and most of the pecans (reserving a couple tablespoons)
- Brush the melted butter over the dough then scatter over the combined filling ingredients.
- Roll the dough up (from one long side to other) into a long log, then cut into 12 even pieces.
- Place the rolls evenly spaced onto the baking tray cut side up. Let them rest and rise for another 15 minutes.
- Beat together the egg yolk and water then brush all over the exposed dough of the rolls.
- Mix the remaining pecan pieces with the maple syrup, then dot them all over the top of the rolls.
- Bake for 22-25 minutes, turning the tray at the halfway mark, until deep golden. Let them cool before icing.
FOR THE ICING
- Place the cream and instant coffee in a medium microwave safe bowl and heat for 20-30 seconds until quite warm. Mix until the coffee has dissolved.
- Sift in the icing sugar and stir well. Make it thicker (more sugar) or thinner (more cream) to your liking, then pipe or spoon onto the top of your cinnamon rolls.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons worldwide)
- All ovens vary – always test for doneness 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests
- 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).
- Yeast: You can use instant or active dry yeast. If you use rapid rise, your dough may double in size quicker.
- By hand: You can make the dough without a stand mixer, just make sure to knead until it is smooth and elastic - about 10-12 minutes.
- Cinnamon rolls are best eaten fresh but will keep in an airtight container 2-3 days. They can be warmed for 10-15 seconds in the microwave (even iced) to soften them if a little stale.
- Make ahead: The recipe can be made ahead up to step 11. Cover the trays with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge overnight. Let them come to room temperature before baking.
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