Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

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Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls are a delicious twist on traditional cinnamon rolls. These perfectly spiced rolls with grated carrots in the dough and topped with a rich cream cheese frosting are a must-try!

Several months ago I started thinking about new desserts to share for this upcoming Easter. I wanted something that was perfect for luncheons, social gatherings, or a weekend brunch. Of course, it had to be full of springtime flavors, too.

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know how much I adore cinnamon roll recipes. You may also know that we have an amazing carrot cake recipe

It made sense to combine the two and make these carrot cake cinnamon rolls. They make a great Easter dessert. Or, breakfast. These are good anytime of day!

Carrot cake sweet roll on a plate.

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls Tips

Tips
  • Don’t overwork the dough! This causes overdevelopment in the gluten and the cinnamon rolls may become tough and dense.
  • Start with less flour! When adding the flour, start with less and add more only if needed. Too much flour leads to dry, tough rolls.
  • Check the yeast! Make sure your yeast isn’t expired before you start the recipe. The yeast may not work if it’s past its expiration date.
  • Don’t overheat the milk! Warm the milk to 110-115°F, so it’s the perfect temperature to activate the yeast.

Kim’s Notes


  • This dough will have a tacky, slightly sticky texture when it’s finished mixing. Small bits may stick to your fingers, but you shouldn’t need to scrape your hands clean.
  • Due to the carrots and other ingredients, this dough won’t form into a smooth ball. It will have a bit of rough texture.
  • The softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and spices melt together as the cinnamon rolls bake to make a gooey filling. It’s fine to omit or adjust a spice, but the filling may spill out of the bottom of the rolls if too many adjustments are made.
  • Feel free to sprinkle chopped pecans or walnuts to the filling or across the top. I like to wait and add chopped nuts to individual rolls just before serving. That way if anyone doesn’t want them they don’t have to add them.
  • I love the flavor dark brown sugar gives these cinnamon rolls, but light brown sugar also works.
Outer layers of sweet roll torn open.

Storage

Refrigerator: Store leftover carrot cake cinnamon rolls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

FAQs

Yes, they can be prepared ahead of time. To do so, simply follow the recipe up to the point of slicing the rolls and placing them in your baking pan. Instead of baking, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

When you’re ready to bake, remove the rolls from the fridge, allow them to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then proceed with baking as directed. 

The pizza cutter method involves a simple way to ensure evenly sized rolls. Lay a ruler next to the dough to mark how wide you want each roll. 

For this recipe, divide the dough length by 12 and cut notches at equally spaced intervals. Use the pizza cutter to cut the dough along the markings you made. 

You’ll end up with 12 equal strips of dough with filling. Simply roll up the individual strips and place them into the prepared baking dish. 

I use this method to get tall, equally sized cinnamon rolls every time.

If you don’t have a stand mixer, we recommend kneading this dough by hand. 

For this recipe, we like to use instant yeast. If you only have active dry yeast, you can still use it.

To activate it, dissolve it in ¼ cup of the warm milk with a pinch of sugar and wait for it to foam (about 5-10 minutes). Then add it to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl.

The best way to grate the carrots is with a microplane. It allows for fine shreds of carrot that mix well with the dough.

To remove moisture from the carrots, wrap them in heavy-duty paper towels or cheesecloth and squeeze out the excess liquid. This step is crucial for preventing the dough from becoming too wet.

After removing the moisture, the carrots will appear pale orange and be reduced in volume.

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Close up view of a carrot cake cinnamon roll on a plate.

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

5 from 2 votes
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Author: Kimberly
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Rise Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 38 minutes
Servings: 12 Servings

Ingredients

For the Rolls:

  • 4 to 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups finely shredded carrots, moisture removed; See note!

For the Filling:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

For the Glaze:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ⅓ cups powdered sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons milk, adjust to reach desired consistency
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

To Make the Rolls:

  • In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 ½ cups of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
    ½ cup granulated sugar
    2 tablespoons instant yeast
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Heat the milk and butter in the microwave or on the stove top over low heat until it reaches 110°F to 115°F. It should feel just warm to the touch but not too hot (similar to a warm bath or slightly warmer than a baby’s bottle).
    1 cup whole milk
    ½ cup unsalted butter
  • Pour the milk and butter into the flour mixture along with the egg. Use a dough hook to mix the ingredients until the flour gets completely incorporated.
    1 large egg
  • Make sure to read the note below before completing this step! The moisture from the carrots should be removed before adding them to the dough. Add the carrots, and continue mixing the dough on medium speed until they're fully combined.
    1 ½ cups finely shredded carrots
  • Once the carrots are combined, adjust the speed to low-medium and mix for another 2-3 minutes until the dough becomes more elastic.
  • Add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough feels slightly tacky. It shouldn’t coat to your fingers if you touch it but small amounts may stick.
  • Form the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour until doubled in size.

To Make the Filling:

  • Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray, and set aside.
  • Lightly flour a large work surface, and roll out the dough into a 12×15-inch rectangle. The dough should be between ¼ and ½ -inch thick. If needed, make the rectangle slightly larger in size. (Depending on the amount of flour used, the rectangle could be as large as 15×18-inches.)
  • Use a spatula to spread the softened butter across the dough. Leave ½ – inch of dough exposed along one of the long sides. You’ll use that side to seal the rolls closed.
    ½ cup unsalted butter
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and spices. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the softened butter.
    1 cup dark brown sugar
    2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    ½ teaspoon ground ginger
    ¼ teaspoon cardamom
    ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
    ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Beginning with a long side, tightly roll up the dough and seal it shut. Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces. Or use the pizza cutter method: Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into evenly spaced strips. Roll up each strip of dough, and place the rolled dough into the prepared pan. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel or greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F, and bake the rolls for 26-32 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and add the cream cheese glaze.

To Make the Glaze:

  • In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
    8 ounces cream cheese
    ½ cup unsalted butter
  • Add the powdered sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of milk, and vanilla extract, and mix to combine. Add additional milk to reach desired consistency.
    1 ⅓ cups powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pour over the warm cinnamon rolls, and serve.
  • Scroll up and see the post for tips, notes, storage information, and more about the pizza cutter method.

Suggested Equipment

Nutrition

Serving: 1cinnamon roll | Calories: 629kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 372mg | Potassium: 217mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 3701IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 3mg

Notes

*The carrots should be finely grated either with a microplane, small cheese grater, or food processor. You should have 1 ½ cups of grated carrots from about 3 large carrots.
From there, place the grated carrots onto several sturdy paper towels or into a cheesecloth, and wring out as much moisture as possible.
The carrots should look dry and the amount will be less than 1 cup when finished. You want the carrots as dry as possible so the moisture doesn’t interfere with the way the cinnamon rolls bake.
*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 cinnamon roll. Actual calories will vary. (These rolls are large enough that they can be cut in half and shared!)
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