After making my first batch of quick yeast cinnamon rolls a few months ago, they’ve become a part of our weekend routine. This weekend I decided to play around with the flavor and make chocolate cinnamon rolls!
It’s a sneaky way to eat chocolate for breakfast and I’m all for it!
The unique chocolate filling combined with a generous drizzle of delicious chocolate glaze make this recipe a wonderful way to start the weekend.
The Secret Ingredient in These Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
To give these chocolate cinnamon rolls an intensely chocolate flavor, I use black cocoa in the filling.
Black cocoa has a slightly higher pH than dutch-processed cocoa (8 vs.7) and is less acidic than natural baking cocoa (5-6).
This gives the cinnamon rolls a bittersweet, chocolaty taste kind of like an Oreo cookie! It’s absolutely delicious, and pairs great with the brown sugar and hint of cinnamon in the filling.
If you can’t find or order black cocoa in time, you can also use dark cocoa powder. Hershey’s makes a popular version of this that can be found at most large grocery stores. You can also use regular baking cocoa if that’s what you have on hand!
How Much Flour Am I Supposed to Use??
One part of this recipe that can be a bit daunting or hard to interpret is the amount of flour this recipe uses. As you can see on the recipe card, it isn’t a set amount.
I tried so hard to find the perfect amount, but the truth is it will vary batch to batch, and kitchen to kitchen.
I’ve made these by hand, in a stand mixer, here in NYC, and in my childhood home in Seattle. Each time I use a slightly different amount of flour.
Now, the amount of flour you start with is set at 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
But as you add in your wet ingredients a sticky dough ball forms, you will need to add in additional flour.
I do this as I knead the dough and add in a Tablespoon at a time. You need enough to create an elastic, workable dough that you can roll out.
However, if you add too much flour you can end up with dense, chewy cinnamon rolls that are difficult to roll.
This is why it’s a range. When using my stand mixer with this recipe, I usually add in 2-3 additional Tbsp as the dough is kneaded.
With that being said, in some batches I’ve used less, and in a few I’ve used the full additional 1/2 cup of flour.
Making These Cinnamon Rolls By Hand vs.Stand Mixer
My first couple 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.
Whichever method you use to make the dough, just be sure to knead or mix the dough until it gets an elastic texture, and pulls away from the bowl or counter.
Once you get to this point, stop and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes. This little break allows the gluten to relax bit and will help them bake up better.
If you continue to work the dough, the gluten strands can become too tight. Just like adding in too much flour, this can also lead to dense cinnamon rolls.
It’s pretty easy to sense when the dough is ready if you’re kneading by hand.
However, if you’re using a stand mixer keep a close eye on your dough to ensure you don’t accidentally overwork it.
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 icing. I decided to top these chocolate cinnamon rolls with a delicious chocolate glaze.
While I was tempted to use my cream cheese buttercream or my american buttercream, for some reason a chocolate glaze just felt right. You can use a more traditional frosting if you prefer your cinnamon rolls that way though!
If you opt to make a chocolate glaze like I did, you want the consistency to be just right. The glaze should be thick enough to drizzle over your finger, and keep its shape.
I use this finger test everytime I make a glaze and show what I mean in the video shared with this post. If the glaze keeps its shape once it’s drizzled over your finger, you know it’s the right consistency.
Substitutions and Swaps
While I love this recipe just the way it is, I know some of you might not have all of 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 as long as you use a good blend like King Arthur’s GF flour. Just be sure to knead the dough a bit longer, to help give it structure.
- Cocoa Powder – This recipe uses two different types of cocoa. I highly recommend using a black or dark cocoa if possible in the filling, because it gives the cinnamon rolls such an intense and delicious chocolatey taste.
- Instant Espresso or Coffee – The instant coffee in this recipe is optional, so if you hate coffee you can omit it. However, you can’t really taste the coffee once the cinnamon rolls are baked! I just like adding a bit of coffee because it enhances the chocolate flavor.
- Instant / Rapid Rise Yeast – You can use active dry yeast in place of the instant yeast in this recipe, just allow the dough to rise for an extra 15 minutes (active yeast takes longer to rise than instant).
- 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!
- Whole Milk – Most alternative milks work fine in this recipe, including soy, oat, and almond milk!
- 1 Large Egg – This is an enriched dough, so it uses an egg! You can use a flaxseed egg in its place to make eggless or vegan chocolate cinnamon rolls.
- Chocolate Chips – You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make the chocolate glaze! Just be sure it’s a good quality chocolate, so it will melt down smoothly.
Tips for Making the Best Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls:
- Use a ruler to make sure your dough is rolled out to the right size (10in x 18in) and cut into even pieces.
- Use dental floss to easily cut each cinnamon roll, rather than a knife.
- Only cut 9 cinnamon rolls from your log, to create tall and fluffy cinnamon rolls
- Bake the cinnamon rolls in a greased square pan (mine is 8in x 8in)
- Let the cinnamon rolls cool for about 5-10 minutes, then add the glaze. This will allow it to perfectly melt over your cinnamon rolls
Making These Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls in Advance
If you want to make these chocolate cinnamon rolls ahead of time, be sure to use regular yeast rather than instant yeast and double the amount.
Some of the yeast may be damaged when frozen, so doubling the amount ensures your cinnamon rolls will rise properly.
You can freeze the cinnamon rolls after they have been cut and proofed in a greased pan.
Cover the cinnamon rolls with an airtight lid or plastic and freeze for up to a week.
To thaw, take them out 2 hours before you plan to bake them, and then follow the recipe instructions to bake. Keep in mind they make take a few extra minutes to fully bake through!
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 unglazed, then tightly wrap each roll in a layer if 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!).
Let Me Know What You Think!
If you try this recipe for chocolate 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 you creations!!
Other Recipes You Might Like:
Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Dough
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + up to 1/2 cup addition flour (added later in process) (455 grams)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (50 grams)
- 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
- 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee (2 grams)
- 2 tsp or 1 packet instant dry yeast (7 grams, 1/4 oz.)
- 1 cup whole milk (245 grams)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (56 grams)
- 1 large egg, room temperature (56 grams)
Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Filling
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (133 grams)
- 2 Tbsp black cocoa (14 grams)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (3 grams)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (56 grams) - to be spread on the dough
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (8 grams)
- 2/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips (120 grams)
- 3 Tbsp whole milk (45 grams)
- 1 cup powdered sugar (125 grams)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Dough
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup baking cocoa, 1 packet instant dry yeast (or about 2 teaspoons), 1 tsp instant coffee and 1 tsp salt.
- In a separate bowl, add 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup softened butter, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a microwave safe bowl.
- Heat on high power for 60-90 seconds, until the mixture is warm to the touch. Stir to combine the ingredients.
- Slowly add the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix on medium speed with a dough hook until the dough comes together.
- Add in one large egg and mix on a low speed until a sticky dough ball forms.
- Continue to mix on a medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the dough becomes more elastic.
- As the dough mixes, add additional flour (1 Tablespoon at a time) until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl.
- Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough to rest for 15 minutes. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax a bit, which will make it easier to roll out. The plastic wrap should fog up a bit from the warmth of the dough.
- Generously flour your counter and roll your dough ball into a large rectangle 12 inches x 18 inches. It should be about 1/2 cm thick.
- Spread 1/4 cup of softened butter over the dough, leaving 1 inch on the long side of the rectangle uncovered. This will make it easier to seal the log once it's rolled.
- Sprinkle the chocolate cinnamon roll filling (instructions below) evenly over the buttered area, and pat down with the back of a spoon or spatula.
- Tightly roll the dough horizontally, toward the uncovered strip.
- Cut dough log into 9 equal pieces with dental floss (you can cut it into more pieces if you want smaller/shorter cinnamon rolls), and place in a greased square pan (mine is 8in x 8in).
- Turn the oven off! I REPEAT, TURN THE OVEN OFF.
- Cover the cinnamon roll pan with foil and place in a the oven for 30 minutes (or until the cinnamon rolls have risen).
- Remove the pan from the oven and take off the tinfoil. Turn the oven back on, and heat to 350 degrees.
- Once the oven has preheated to 350 F, bake for 26-32 minutes. I find the sweet spot in my oven is about 28 minutes. Bake time can vary based on how gooey or baked through you like your cinnamon rolls.
Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Filling
- While the dough rises, make the chocolate cinnamon roll filling.
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons of black cocoa, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, then set aside.
Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Glaze
- To make the cinnamon roll frosting, place 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter, 2/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips, and 3 Tbsp of whole milk in a medium sized bowl.
- Heat in the microwave on a medium high heat (powder level 7) for 60 seconds.
- Stir the mixture together with a spoon or whisk, making sure all the chocolate is melted.
- Add in 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix together until smooth.
- Let the cinnamon rolls cool for 5-10 minutes, then drizzle the chocolate glaze over the cinnamon rolls. Serve warm.
Making These Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls in Advance:
If you want to make these chocolate cinnamon rolls ahead of time, be sure to use regular yeast rather than instant yeast, and double the amount (some of the yeast may be damaged when frozen, so doubling the amount ensures your cinnamon rolls will rise properly). Freeze the cinnamon rolls after they have been cut and proofed in a greased pan.
Cover the cinnamon rolls with an airtight lid or plastic and freeze for up to a week. To thaw, take them out 2 hours before you plan to bake them, and then follow the recipe to bake.
If you want to make smaller cinnamon rolls, cut the rolled dough into 12 pieces.
Amount Per Serving Calories 644Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 56mgSodium 402mgCarbohydrates 101gFiber 4gSugar 40gProtein 10g