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Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

It’s been a while since I developed a new cinnamon roll recipe, so I knew I had to bring the series back with a BANG! Cue these out of this world carrot cake cinnamon rolls.

They are packed with warm spices, filled with fresh and sweet shredded carrots, and, of course, topped with a cream cheese drizzle.

image of a fluffy carrot cake cinnamon roll that's been cut into to show how tender and soft it is

Packing These Cinnamon Rolls with Carrot Cake Flavor

To give these carrot cake cinnamon rolls a nostalgic carrot cake flavor, I used lots of warm spices in the cinnamon filling!

In addition to cinnamon, I also add nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.

This iconic cake flavor fits seamlessly into this delicious cinnamon roll recipe.

Using the Right Type of Yeast: Active vs. Instant Yeast

Be sure you are using instant yeast! It comes in small packets that can usually be found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

You can also order larger packages of instant yeast online if you bake with yeast a lot!

You can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast in this recipe, just allow the dough to rise for longer. Active yeast takes longer to rise than instant.

Grating the Carrots for this Recipe

Using freshly grated carrots really makes this recipe!

I like peel my carrots then grate them on a microplane grater to make them extra fine.

They incorporate into the dough more easily when they’re finely grated.

However, you can also grate your carrots using a grating attachment on a food processor or with a regular cheese grater.

Whatever method you decide to use, be sure to wring out the shredded carrots with either a cheese cloth or a couple paper towels.

If you don’t do this your dough will be super sticky and hard to roll out.

This will also force you to add extra flour, which will make your cinnamon roll dough denser and less fluffy.

image of finely shredded carrots grated using a microplane grater

How Much Flour Am I Supposed to Use??

Now, the amount of flour you start with is set at 4 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour.

But as you add in your wet ingredients and the eggs, a sticky dough ball forms and you might need to add in additional flour.

I find kneading an additional 3-4 Tbsp of flour into the dough at the stage is the perfect amount.

It makes it easy enough to handle and knead by hand, but it’s still a tiny bit tacky and soft.

image of flour being added to cinnamon roll dough 1 tbsp at a time to make it the perfect consistency to roll out

You need just enough flour to make the dough workable.

If you add too much flour you can end up with dense, chewy cinnamon rolls that are difficult to roll.

This is why you want to be careful with how much flour you add, especially if you decide to add a bit more to get the consistency of your dough just right.

image of carrot cake cinnamon roll dough that's ready to be rolled out

Making These Cinnamon Rolls by Hand vs. Stand Mixer

My first couple of batches of cinnamon rolls were made when I was home for the holidays, and I didn’t have a stand mixer.

This recipe can be made by hand or with a dough hook / stand mixer.

It is definitely easier to make using a stand mixer, but a little elbow grease never hurt anyone.

I also find it’s easier to get the consistency of the dough right if you knead by hand.

I’ve found that starting the dough in my stand mixer and finishing the kneading process by hand gives me the best results.

The dough should be tacky but not sticky once it’s ready to be rested.

I like to test the dough by pressing into it with my finger.

It should feel tacky, but not leave any residue on your finger when you pull it away.

image of carrot cake cinnamon roll dough being made in a stand mixer using a dough hook

Whichever method you use to make the dough, just be sure to knead or mix the dough until it gets an elastic texture and just starts to pull away from the bowl or counter.

Once you get to this point, stop, and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

This little break allows the gluten to relax a bit and makes the dough easier to roll out.

Topping These Cinnamon Rolls

The finishing touch on any cinnamon roll has to be its topping!

A cinnamon roll isn’t complete without some type of melty topping.

Carrot cakes, like cinnamon rolls, are often topped with cream cheese icing!

That made my simple cream cheese frosting an easy decision that just felt right!

You can use a more traditional frosting if you prefer your cinnamon rolls that way though!

image of carrot cake cinnamon rolls in a pan that have been frosted with cream cheese frosting and decorated with cute little carrots

Substitutions and Swaps

While I love this recipe just the way it is, I know you might not have all these ingredients on hand!

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this recipe.

  • All-Purpose Flour – I haven’t tested this recipe out with gluten free flour, but it should work if you use a good blend like King Arthur’s GF flour. Just be sure to knead the dough a bit longer to help give these cinnamon rolls structure.
  • Instant / Rapid Rise Yeast – You can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast in this recipe, just be sure to activate it before adding it into the dough and allow the dough to rise for a bit longer. Active yeast takes longer to rise than instant.
  • Whole Milk – Most alternative milks work fine in this recipe, including soy, oat, and almond milk.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe. Just be sure to omit the salt that this recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Finely Shredded Carrots – I like peel my carrots then grate them on a microplane grater to make them extra fine. However, you can also grate your carrots using a grating attachment on a food processor or with a regular cheese grater.
  • Brown Sugar – You can use light or dark brown sugar to make the filling for these cinnamon rolls. I prefer using dark in this recipe!
  • Chopped Pecans – The nuts in this recipe are optional. I like the texture they add and find that toasting them really amps up their flavor (bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 5-7 minutes).
image of toasted pecans being added into the filling of a carrot cake cinnamon roll

Tips for Making the Best Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

  • Wring out the freshly grated carrots with a cheese cloth or paper towel. This will prevent your dough from becoming too sticky to roll out!
  • Don’t overwork the dough! Knead it just until it becomes elastic and easy to handle.
  • Test your dough with the finger test! When you think you’ve added enough flour, poke the dough with the tip of your finger. It’s ready when it feels tacky but doesn’t leave any residue on your finger.
  • Use a ruler to make sure your dough is rolled out to the right size (14 in x 18 in) and cut into even pieces.
  • Use dental floss to easily cut each cinnamon roll rather than a knife.
  • Mark the cinnamon roll log before cutting it to make sure your cinnamon rolls are all the same size. This will help them bake more evenly.
  • Bake the cinnamon rolls in a greased rectangular pan (mine is 9 in x 13 in).
  • Let the cinnamon rolls cool for about 10-20 minutes, then add the frosting. This will allow it to perfectly melt over your cinnamon rolls.
  • Store leftover cinnamon rolls or cinnamon rolls made ahead of time in an airtight container to keep them fresh.
image of carrot cake cinnamon rolls that have been proofed in a 9 by 13 inch pan and are ready to be baked

Making These Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls in Advance

If you want to make these Carrot Cake cinnamon rolls ahead of time, be my guest! I’m all about working ahead and making life easier.

This recipe can be made the evening before and then baked the following morning.

You can refrigerate these cinnamon rolls after they have been cut in a greased or lined pan.

Cover the cinnamon roll pan tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the seal is airtight.

If the cinnamon rolls are exposed to air, they can dry out and no one wants dry cinnamon rolls!

The morning you want to bake them, take them out 1 hour before you plan to bake them, then follow the recipe instructions to bake.

image of an overhead shot of carrot cake cinnamon rolls that have been proofed in a 9 by 13 inch pan and are ready to be baked

You can also bake the cinnamon rolls, then let them cool and freeze them individually.

This is what I do with our leftover cinnamon rolls. I leave the leftover rolls unfrosted, then tightly wrap each roll in a layer of plastic wrap then foil.

I move individual cinnamon rolls from the freezer to the fridge the night before I want to eat them.

Then in the morning, I unwrap the cinnamon roll and heat it up in the microwave until it’s warm and gooey (usually about 30 seconds!).

image of a fluffy carrot cake cinnamon roll that's been cut into to show how tender and soft it is

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this recipe for Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls, I’d love to hear what you think! Please leave a rating and a comment with your thoughts.

You can also tag me on social media @chelsweets or use #chelsweets so I can see your creations!

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Yield: 12

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

image of a fluffy carrot cake cinnamon roll that's been cut into to show how tender and soft it is

These carrot cake cinnamon rolls are made from scratch, bake up soft and fluffy, and are packed with warm spices!!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Additional Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 38 minutes

Ingredients

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (150g)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (113g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted - optional (125g)

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour + about 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to be added later (550g-615g)
  • 4 1/2 tsp or 2 packets instant dry yeast (14g, 1/2 oz.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 1 cup whole milk (240ml)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (113g)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (100g)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots, wrung out with a cheese cloth or paper towel (165g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56g)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature (226g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (190g)
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk (45ml)

Instructions

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Filling

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice and 1/4 tsp salt together and set aside. Set aside.

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Dough

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 1/4 cups of flour, 2 packets (4 1/2 tsp) of instant dry yeast and 1/2 tsp salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Heat for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave and stir to combine the ingredients. The butter should be melted and the mixture should be warm but not hot to the touch (you don't want to kill the yeast!).
  3. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix on medium speed with a dough hook or by hand. Scrape around the edges with a rubber spatula to make sure all the flour gets incorporated.
  4. Wring out 1/2 cups of freshly shredded carrots with a paper towel or cheesecloth, then mix them into the dough on a medium speed until they're worked into the dough.
  5. Add in 1 large egg. Mix on low speed at first, then increase to a medium speed until a sticky dough ball forms.
  6. Continue to mix the dough on a medium-low speed for 2-3 minutes until the dough becomes more elastic.
  7. Keep mixing the dough and add additional flour 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough is tacky but no longer sticky (usually takes me 3-4 additional Tbsp of flour). The best way to test the dough is to tap the dough with your finger. It should be tacky but shouldn't stick to your finger or leave any residue on your finger.
  8. Once the dough reaches this stage, cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough to rest for 10-20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. This will make it easier to roll out.
  9. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle that's about 14 in. x 18 in. It should be about a little less than 1 cm thick. 
  10. Spread 1/2 cup of softened butter evenly across the dough, leaving 1/2-inch strip of dough on the long side of the rectangle uncovered (this will help you seal off the roll and keep it tight).
  11. Sprinkle the brown sugar filling over the buttered section and top with a sprinkle of toasted pecans if desired.
  12. Roll the dough horizontally toward the uncovered strip and cut 12 equal pieces using dental floss. It sounds weird but it gives you super clean cuts! Place in a greased 9-in. x 13-in. pan.
  13. If you are making these cinnamon rolls the night before, cover the cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
  14. If you make these the morning of, at this stage you can let them proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes. I like to preheat my oven to 200 F, turn it off, then cover my cinnamon rolls with foil and place the pan in the oven to proof because my apartment is always cold!
  15. If you make these cinnamon rolls the night before, take them out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you want to bake them. Place the rolls in a warm place to thaw and proof.
  16. Once they have risen, preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Bake for 26-32 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway through to help them bake evenly.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. To make the glaze, mix 1 cup of room temperature cream cheese, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp of whole milk together with a whisk or electric mixer. Mix until smooth.
  2. Let the carrot cake cinnamon rolls cool for about 10-20 minutes, then spread the frosting over the cinnamon rolls and enjoy warm! If desired, cut a leftover carrot into tiny pieces and add as a garnish with small bits of carrot top greens to look like little carrots.

Notes

Using the Right Type of Yeast: Active vs. Instant Yeast

Be sure you are using instant yeast! It comes in small packets that can usually be found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

You can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast in this recipe, just be sure to activate it in a small bowl with 2 Tbsp of warm water and 1 tsp sugar before adding it into the dough and allow the dough to rise for longer (active yeast takes longer to rise than instant).

Tips for Making the Best Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

Wring out the freshly grated carrots with a cheese cloth or paper towel. This will prevent your dough from becoming too sticky to roll out!

Don’t overwork the dough. Knead it just until it becomes elastic and easy to handle.

Test your dough with the finger test! When you think you've added enough flour, poke the dough with the tip of your finger. The dough is ready when it feels tacky but doesn't leave any residue on your finger.

Use a ruler to make sure your dough is rolled out to the right size (14 in. x 18 in.).

Mark the cinnamon roll log before cutting it to make sure your cinnamon rolls are all the same size. This will help them bake more evenly.

  • Use dental floss to easily cut each cinnamon roll rather than a knife.
  • Bake the cinnamon rolls in a greased rectangular pan (mine is 9 in x 13 in).
  • Let the cinnamon rolls cool for about 10-20 minutes, then add the frosting. This will allow it to perfectly melt over your cinnamon rolls.
  • Store leftover cinnamon rolls or cinnamon rolls made ahead of time in an airtight container to keep them fresh.

Making These Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls in Advance

This recipe can be made the evening before and baked the following morning.

You can refrigerate these cinnamon rolls after they have been cut and placed in a greased or lined pan. Cover the cinnamon roll pan tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the seal is airtight.

Take them out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you plan to bake them the following morning to let them warm up and rise a bit. Then follow the recipe instructions in step 16 and bake until golden brown.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 460Total Fat 31gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 80mgSodium 254mgCarbohydrates 44gFiber 2gSugar 36gProtein 5g
Yield: 12

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

image of a fluffy carrot cake cinnamon roll that's been cut into to show how tender and soft it is

These carrot cake cinnamon rolls are made from scratch, bake up soft and fluffy, and are packed with warm spices!!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Additional Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 38 minutes

Ingredients

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (150g)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (113g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted - optional (125g)

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour + about 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to be added later (550g-615g)
  • 4 1/2 tsp or 2 packets instant dry yeast (14g, 1/2 oz.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 1 cup whole milk (240ml)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (113g)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (100g)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots, wrung out with a cheese cloth or paper towel (165g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56g)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature (226g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (190g)
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk (45ml)

Instructions

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Filling

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice and 1/4 tsp salt together and set aside. Set aside.

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Roll Dough

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 1/4 cups of flour, 2 packets (4 1/2 tsp) of instant dry yeast and 1/2 tsp salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Heat for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave and stir to combine the ingredients. The butter should be melted and the mixture should be warm but not hot to the touch (you don't want to kill the yeast!).
  3. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix on medium speed with a dough hook or by hand. Scrape around the edges with a rubber spatula to make sure all the flour gets incorporated.
  4. Wring out 1/2 cups of freshly shredded carrots with a paper towel or cheesecloth, then mix them into the dough on a medium speed until they're worked into the dough.
  5. Add in 1 large egg. Mix on low speed at first, then increase to a medium speed until a sticky dough ball forms.
  6. Continue to mix the dough on a medium-low speed for 2-3 minutes until the dough becomes more elastic.
  7. Keep mixing the dough and add additional flour 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough is tacky but no longer sticky (usually takes me 3-4 additional Tbsp of flour). The best way to test the dough is to tap the dough with your finger. It should be tacky but shouldn't stick to your finger or leave any residue on your finger.
  8. Once the dough reaches this stage, cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough to rest for 10-20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. This will make it easier to roll out.
  9. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle that's about 14 in. x 18 in. It should be about a little less than 1 cm thick. 
  10. Spread 1/2 cup of softened butter evenly across the dough, leaving 1/2-inch strip of dough on the long side of the rectangle uncovered (this will help you seal off the roll and keep it tight).
  11. Sprinkle the brown sugar filling over the buttered section and top with a sprinkle of toasted pecans if desired.
  12. Roll the dough horizontally toward the uncovered strip and cut 12 equal pieces using dental floss. It sounds weird but it gives you super clean cuts! Place in a greased 9-in. x 13-in. pan.
  13. If you are making these cinnamon rolls the night before, cover the cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
  14. If you make these the morning of, at this stage you can let them proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes. I like to preheat my oven to 200 F, turn it off, then cover my cinnamon rolls with foil and place the pan in the oven to proof because my apartment is always cold!
  15. If you make these cinnamon rolls the night before, take them out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you want to bake them. Place the rolls in a warm place to thaw and proof.
  16. Once they have risen, preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Bake for 26-32 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway through to help them bake evenly.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. To make the glaze, mix 1 cup of room temperature cream cheese, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp of whole milk together with a whisk or electric mixer. Mix until smooth.
  2. Let the carrot cake cinnamon rolls cool for about 10-20 minutes, then spread the frosting over the cinnamon rolls and enjoy warm! If desired, cut a leftover carrot into tiny pieces and add as a garnish with small bits of carrot top greens to look like little carrots.

Notes

Using the Right Type of Yeast: Active vs. Instant Yeast

Be sure you are using instant yeast! It comes in small packets that can usually be found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

You can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast in this recipe, just be sure to activate it in a small bowl with 2 Tbsp of warm water and 1 tsp sugar before adding it into the dough and allow the dough to rise for longer (active yeast takes longer to rise than instant).

Tips for Making the Best Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

Wring out the freshly grated carrots with a cheese cloth or paper towel. This will prevent your dough from becoming too sticky to roll out!

Don’t overwork the dough. Knead it just until it becomes elastic and easy to handle.

Test your dough with the finger test! When you think you've added enough flour, poke the dough with the tip of your finger. The dough is ready when it feels tacky but doesn't leave any residue on your finger.

Use a ruler to make sure your dough is rolled out to the right size (14 in. x 18 in.).

Mark the cinnamon roll log before cutting it to make sure your cinnamon rolls are all the same size. This will help them bake more evenly.

  • Use dental floss to easily cut each cinnamon roll rather than a knife.
  • Bake the cinnamon rolls in a greased rectangular pan (mine is 9 in x 13 in).
  • Let the cinnamon rolls cool for about 10-20 minutes, then add the frosting. This will allow it to perfectly melt over your cinnamon rolls.
  • Store leftover cinnamon rolls or cinnamon rolls made ahead of time in an airtight container to keep them fresh.

Making These Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls in Advance

This recipe can be made the evening before and baked the following morning.

You can refrigerate these cinnamon rolls after they have been cut and placed in a greased or lined pan. Cover the cinnamon roll pan tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the seal is airtight.

Take them out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you plan to bake them the following morning to let them warm up and rise a bit. Then follow the recipe instructions in step 16 and bake until golden brown.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 460Total Fat 31gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 80mgSodium 254mgCarbohydrates 44gFiber 2gSugar 36gProtein 5g

B

Saturday 8th of January 2022

Can theses be frozen raw? Then baked later?

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