Recipe Review

I Tried Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls and They Just May Be the Best Baking Project for Fall Weather

published Nov 9, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
I Tried Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls
Credit: Nathan Hutsenpiller

In my opinion, cinnamon rolls are the only baked good that matters. They are a classic treat from my childhood that I hold near and dear to my heart. The fluffy pull-apart nature and sticky exterior are all a little kid needs to put a smile on their face, and I never want to forget that feeling.

As an adult, I’ve tried multiple times to make cinnamon rolls at home from scratch. Usually, something goes wrong or they don’t come out exactly as I imagined — which admittedly has made me apprehensive about trying again. When I came across Sarah Keiffer of the Vanilla Bean Blog‘s recipe for Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls, however, I had to rush to the grocery store to grab ingredients because I was not going to let myself be defeated. I needed redemption and the time was now. 

Get the recipe: Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls

How to Make Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls

This is a multiple-part recipe, but at the same time very straightforward. If you follow along closely, you’ll be rewarded in the end. 

Beginning with the dough, start by greasing a large bowl and setting it aside. Next, combine eggs, 3/4 cup of apple cider, and 1/4 cup of honey in a large measuring cup. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons of instant yeast, and salt on low until combined. Slowly add the egg mixture, followed by the butter. Increase to medium speed for about 1 minute, or until the butter has been incorporated entirely.

Credit: Nathan Hutsenpiller

Then, carefully transfer the dough into your prepared greased bowl, using a spatula to scrape the excess dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 30 minutes. Using a spatula, flip and fold the dough back over itself, then turn the bowl and repeat the folding process six to eight more times before recovering and letting rise for another 30 minutes. Continue these steps three more times, for a total rise time of 2 hours, and a total folding count of four. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

Once your dough has risen to your satisfaction, remove from the fridge, and flour a large work surface. Knead the dough about 10 to 12 times and shape into a ball, covering with a bit of flour, before finally covering with a tea towel and allowing to reach room temperature. Grease a 9×13-inch pan and set aside. Then, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, ground ginger, a pinch of ground cloves, and a pinch of salt. 

Back on your floured work surface, roll the dough into a 16×12-inch rectangular shape. Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture evenly across the top, remembering to press lightly into the butter to ensure that the mixture sticks. Beginning with a long side of the rectangle, roll the dough into as tight of a cylinder as possible. Pinch the seams to seal, then position the dough seam-side down before cutting with a sharp knife into 12 equal pieces. Move each piece into the prepared pan, making sure to place them cut side facing up. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, which would be about an hour minimum. 

Credit: Nathan Hutsenpiller

Now we’re getting to the good parts. Preheat your oven to 350°F, remove the plastic from your tray, and bake for 27-32 minutes. Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through and remove when beautifully golden brown.

While the rolls are cooling, grab a medium saucepan and heat up 1/2 cup of apple cider and a pinch of salt over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes for the icing. Remove from heat and whisk in your cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly add in the confectioners sugar, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Use a spatula to spread the icing over top of the cinnamon rolls and serve immediately. 

My Honest Opinion of Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls

There’s something about making cinnamon rolls from scratch that has always  intimidated me. After a couple of failed attempts in the past, I was eager to take on this recipe in the form of redemption, and prove to myself that I can make a semi-decent roll. While making the dough was a bit intimidating, I stuck to my plan and followed the instructions carefully. And I’m so glad I did because the result left me pleasantly surprised.

The addition of apple cider to the mix was just the right amount of sweet, and the fluffiness paired with the glossy texture of the icing were the small details that made the recipe really stand out. I still think I have some improvements to make, but I’ll chalk that up to trial and error as I am still learning that baking is an ongoing learning process. I would definitely recommend this recipe to anyone interested in a seasonal take on a classic baked treat. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. 

Credit: Nathan Hutsenpiller

3 Tips for Making Apple Cider Cinnamon Rolls

  1. Roll it tight. When rolling your already seasoned and prepped dough, try to make the rolls as tight as possible. You’ll want multiple layers to your cinnamon rolls to ensure the best outcome as well as the fluffiest layers. 
  2. Use this sticky dough hack. During the kneading process, if your dough is sticking to your surface, sprinkle a little bit of flour onto the surface as needed to prevent any unwanted stickiness. This will make the process of kneading and folding a lot easier and cleaner.
  3. Let it rise. The biggest area of improvement that I identified was the process of the dough rising. After the first initial folds and rises that took place over a two-hour period, the recipe calls for leaving your dough in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours. The more you let the dough rise, the better results you are going to get. So while I was still impressed with how much my dough rose during an 8-hour period, I can’t help but wonder how much different it would have turned out had I given it a full 24-48 hours.