Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls are soft and fluffy rolls filled with cinnamon spiced apples and topped with a caramel cream cheese frosting!
As the air turns cooler and the leaves start changing, I always start getting the itch to spend more time in my kitchen, especially to bake. There’s just something more enticing about a pan of warm brownies/bars/cinnamon rolls on a chilly fall day than on a hot an steamy summer afternoon, y’know?
Cinnamon rolls are definitely a treat in our house. I would say I typically have more of a savory breakfast palate, so while I love whipping up eggs, bacon, and avocado toast, cinnamon rolls are pretty rare. That said, I hope I make an exception to that more often because these Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls are quite heavenly!
While testing this recipe through and through, I found a few things essential to ensuring success that we should go over. First, and most importantly, I found it was best to shred the apples in the filling. I tried making these with diced apples and they just seemed too heavy and chunky in the filling. When I shredded the apples, they were noticeable but not overbearing in the rolls. The soft and fluffy rolls stood out, with that amazing cinnamon apple flavor.
Next, it was important to start off with room temperature ingredients in the rolls. This means having softened butter and room temperature eggs.
For the butter, I just set out a stick the night before. I’d say this isn’t too much to ask because, if you’re going to make cinnamon rolls, it probably isn’t a last minute decision. You go to bed knowing you’re going to get some rolls the next morning! For the eggs, just set them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes and they’ll be good to go.
Lastly, go with your gut when adding more flour. After kneading the dough it should be soft and not too sticky. If it still seems sticky (mine did), add a couple of tablespoons at a time until it stays away from the sides of the bowl. The amount that you will add will vary depending on humidity and temperature, but I added about 1/4 cup extra at the end.
If you follow these general guidelines, you should have Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll success! Ours were absolutely delicious straight out of the oven with a big slathering of caramel cream cheese frosting. Not only that, your kitchen will surely smell like fall. On a crisp autumn morning, these are the only thing I will be craving!
For the dough:
- 1 cup warm whole milk 100-110 degrees F
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, divided use
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar divided use
- 1 large apple shredded
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
For the caramel cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- 1/4 cup caramel sauce
- Place the warm milk and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Let it sit for 10 minutes, until it starts to get foamy.
- Add the sugar, butter, egg, egg yolk, and whisk to combine.
- Add the flour and knead with electric mixer for 8 minutes. At this point, you should have a soft dough ball. If it is still quite sticky, add more flour, approximately 2 tablespoons at a time.
- Transfer to a well-greased bowl and cover with a towel. Place in a warm area and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. I usually turn my oven on for a few minutes until it's warm, turn it off, and stick my dough in the slightly warm oven.
- Once it has doubled in size, place it on a well-floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle that is approximately 10"x18".
- Spread 3 tablespoons of the softened butter onto the rectangle, and then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons o brown sugar.
- In a small skillet, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, shredded apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Saute until the apple is softened, about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the apple over the dough.
- Roll the dough tightly so you have one long roll. Cut the roll into half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter into 3 even cinnamon rolls so you have 12 rolls total.
- Place the cinnamon rolls into a greased 9x13" baking dish.
- Cover with a towel and let it sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes, until rolls have risen.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes, until golden on top.
- Make the caramel cream cheese frosting by beating cream cheese, butter, and caramel sauce in a bowl with electric mixer until combined.
- Spread the frosting over the warm cinnamon rolls.
- Serve and enjoy!