Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

Have you seen my award winning Old Fashioned Butterscotch Pecan Rolls yet? Well cranberry cinnamon rolls are their fruity, delectable cousin.

close up angled shot of cranberry cinnamon roll with text overlay for facebook


 

Funny thing about these sweet rolls, they have a long history in my family dating all the way back to my mother’s childhood in Nebraska. For ages, my mother’s side of the family indulged in the buttery, airy crumb created by allowing yeast to rise twice, long kneading and upside down baking on a bed of sticky goodness.

The Old Family Recipe

This was the type of breakfast that my great Aunt Beverly got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to bake and serve to hard working farm hands. A “normal” breakfast, laden with calories and a sugar high to get them through until lunch.

These days my sweet rolls are for special occasions only, like Christmas morning, birthdays and Saturdays (I consider Saturdays to be special occasions).

For me, cranberries are the ultimate holiday food, whether a main dish or an accoutrement, the beautiful deep red color will steal the show on any table, holidays or not.

Orange zest will fill your home with scents of the holidays without having to purchase an overpriced candle. They really are the perfect holiday specialty, whether for breakfast, dessert or a snack.

overhead shot of cranberry cinnamon rolls on cutting board

Why You’ll Love These Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon roll dough topped with a homemade cranberry filling and baked to perfection- what’s not to love!

  • Perfect for special occasions – These easy cranberry cinnamon rolls are perfect for the holiday season. Prep them Christmas Eve and they’re ready for the next morning.
  • Something different – While I love homemade cinnamon rolls, this recipe takes plain cinnamon rolls up a notch with so much added flavor.
  • Family favorite – This recipe is a fun twist on classic cinnamon buns, and it’s always loved by all who try it.

Ingredients

All of these simple ingredients can easily be found at your local grocery store.

  • Active yeast – You will want one packet of active dry yeast in order to let the dough rise. 
  • Whole milk – Instead of using warm water to activate the yeast, we use warm milk instead. Whole milk is necessary here.
  • Sugar – We want our dough to be just slightly sweet, and granulated sugar is the best way to do that.
  • Coarse kosher salt – If using salted butter to make these rolls, you can omit this ingredient.
  • Eggs – Eggs help to to make the dough even ricker or finer. Make sure they are beaten well.
  • Flour – Regular all purpose flour is all you need to make these cranberry cinnamon rolls.
  • Vegetable shortening – You can certainly use butter and shortening interchangeably, but we prefer shortening here.  
  • Unsalted butter – I always prefer to use unsalted butter so that I can control the amount of salt in the recipe.
  • Dark brown sugar – You could use light brown sugar if you’d like to, but I like the punch that dark brown sugar adds.
  • Cinnamon – You can’t have cinnamon rolls without cinnamon! Buy it from the store, or learn to make your own.
  • Light corn syrup – This is what we use to help gain the consistency of the cranberry topping that we need
  • Fresh cranberries – These are super easy to find in the produce section around the holidays. You can use frozen, just make sure to thaw them first.
  • Orange – We will use both the orange zest and fresh orange juice for the topping. I always prefer fresh juice to the bottled variety, and since you need the zest anyways, it works out perfectly.
straight on shot of side of cranberry cinnamon rolls

How to Make Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

While this is a labor of love, the end result is more than worth it!

  1. Activate yeast. Heat milk in microwave. Using the dough hook attachment, place the yeast, sugar and salt in bowl and stir. Add the hot milk and allow to sit until yeast has activated, bloomed and smells fragrant.
  2. Add remining dough ingredients. Stir in the eggs and then half of the the flour. Mix until the mixture is fully incorporated and dough drapes off of the hook. Add in shortening and remaining flour. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Allow dough to rise. Roll dough into a ball and place into mixing bowl. Turn once to cover all exterior with cooking spray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise. Dough will double in size.
  4. Make cranberry topping. Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, cranberries and the zest and juice one fresh orange. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and cranberries start to pop. 
  5. Make cinnamon filling. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  6. Add cranberry topping to dish. Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the cranberry topping into the bottom, tipping around until the bottom is fully covered.
  7. Roll dough and top with cinnamon mixture. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle. Baste the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar mixture.
  8. Slice rolls and add to pan. Roll the dough tightly from the short end. Using a sharp knife, cut into equal slices. Place slices directly on thin layer of cranberry-orange topping. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise again.
  9. Bake. Bake uncovered for until the tops of the rolls reach a golden brown color.
  10. Cool and flip over. Allow to cool, then place a serving platter. Using oven mitts, carefully and promptly turnover. If any of the topping sticks to the bottom of the dish, use a spatula to put it back on the rolls.

What to Serve with Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

Because this is a breakfast recipe, some of my favorite things to serve these warm rolls with are other breakfast favorites. Bacon, sausage or any other breakfast meats are great options.

You could also serve them with breakfast casserole. Savory ones like Eggs Benedict Casserole or Hash Brown Sausage Casserole or even sweet ones like Cranberry French Toast Casserole are perfect.

Variations

There are several ways you can make these cranberry orange cinnamon rolls your own.

  • Use leftover cranberry sauce – Instead of making the cranberry orange topping, use your leftover homemade cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving as a shortcut!
  • Cream cheese glaze – If you want to make these more like regular cinnamon rolls, try topping them with a cream cheese frosting. Keep in mind they will be very sweet.
  • Orange rolls – For even more orange flavor, you can add some orange extract into the bread dough itself.
  • Orange icing – You could make an orange icing with powdered sugar, milk and orange juice to drizzle on top.

Storage and Freezing

Storage: You can store any leftover cranberry cinnamon rolls in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap. 

Freezing: You can also freeze these orange cranberry cinnamon rolls. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then store in a freezer bag.

collage of cranberry cinnamon rolls for pinterest

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angled shot of cranberry cinnamon roll on plate with fork and cinnamon sticks

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Recipe

4.56 from 9 votes
The BEST Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls are perfect for a holiday breakfast. Orange cranberry bread in sweet roll form is an award winning recipe!
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 12

Ingredients

Bread Dough:

Filling:

Cranberry-Orange Topping:

Instructions

  • Heat the whole milk in the microwave for 1 minute (scalded milk). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook, or a large mixing bowl, place the yeast, sugar and salt, stir. Add the hot milk and allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes, or until yeast has activated, bloomed and smells fragrant.
  • Stir in the eggs and then half of the the flour. Mix with the bread hook until the mixture is fully incorporated and dough drapes off of the hook. Add in the melted shortening and then the remaining flour. Continue to knead with the bread hook or hands until dough is smooth and elastic, approximately 3-5 minutes.
  • Roll the dough into a ball and place into a large, well lubricated (cooking spray) mixing bowl. Turn once to cover all exterior with cooking spray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Dough will double in size.
  • While the dough rises, make the cranberry topping. Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, cranberries and the zest and juice one fresh orange. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and cranberries start to pop. Remove the heat.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  • Spray a 9×13 rectangular baking dish or two 9-inch circular pie plates with cooking spray. Pour the cranberry topping into the bottom, tipping around until the bottom is fully covered.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle, approximately 14×22 inches. Baste the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar mixture.
  • Roll the dough tightly from the short end. Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 equal slices. Place slices directly on thin layer of cranberry-orange topping (either all 12 in the 9×13 or 6 and 6 in pie plates). Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. If the tops start to brown, loosely lay a piece of aluminum foil over top.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Place a serving platter that is at least 1-2 inches larger than your pan over the top. Using oven mitts, carefully and promptly turnover. If any of the topping sticks to the bottom of the dish, use a spatula to put it back on the rolls.
  • Enjoy your cinnamon rolls!
  • If you have tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!

Notes

Note: If you get the topping on your counter tops, floor, etc, allow to cool and you should be able to easily peel it off. Not that I know from experience or anything….

Nutrition

Calories: 427 kcal, Carbohydrates: 75 g, Protein: 6 g, Fat: 11 g, Saturated Fat: 5 g, Cholesterol: 44 mg, Sodium: 277 mg, Potassium: 160 mg, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 43 g, Vitamin A: 290 IU, Vitamin C: 9.6 mg, Calcium: 54 mg, Iron: 2.1 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 427
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: sweet rolls
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
angled shot of cranberry cinnamon roll on plate with text overlay for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.56 from 9 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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Questions and Reviews

  1. Those look so good! I bet they would be perfect for Christmas breakfast. I like to make sticky buns for our Christmas breakfast and was looking for a new recipe to try this year.