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Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve been having tons of fun playing around with different cinnamon roll flavors. This weekend was not exception, and I decided to 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.

image of chocolate cinnamon rolls glazed in chocolate glaze

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!

image of different types of cocoa

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. But as you add in your wet ingredients a sticky dough ball begins to form, you will need to add in additional flour.

image of milk being poured into dry ingredients to make a chocolate enriched dough

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.

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.

image of chocolate dough ready to be rolled out into cinnamon rolls

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 easier to sense when the dough is ready if you’re kneading by hand.

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.

image of chocolate cinnamon rolls being glazed in a chocolate icing

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 every time 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 these ingredients on hand!

image of ingredients laid out to make chocolate cinnamon rolls

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 it structure.
  • Cocoa Powder – This recipe uses two different types of cocoa. I highly recommend using a black or dark cocoa 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 longer and activate it with water and sugar before you use it.
  • 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 (12 in. x 18 in.) 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 8 in. x 8 in.)
  • Let the cinnamon rolls cool for about 10-20 minutes, then add the glaze. 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 Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls in Advance

If you want to make these 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 proofed chocolate cinnamon rolls 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 chocolate cinnamon roll that's been cut into to show how fluffy and delicious it is

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 your creations!!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 9

Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

image of chocolate cinnamon rolls glazed in chocolate glaze

These fluffy chocolate cinnamon rolls are made with a dark chocolate cinnamon sugar filling, and are drizzled with a delicious chocolate glaze.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (133g)
  • 2 Tbsp black cocoa (14g)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (3g)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (56g) - to be spread on the dough

Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour + up to 1/2 cup addition flour to be added later in process (406-500g)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (50g)
  • 2 tsp or 1 packet instant dry yeast (7g, 1/4 oz.)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee (2g)
  • 1 cup whole milk (240ml)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (56g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56g)

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (8g)
  • 2/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips (120g)
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk (45ml)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (125g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4ml)

Instructions

Chocolate Cinnamon Roll Filling

  1. While the dough rises, make the chocolate cinnamon roll filling.
  2. 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 Dough

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 F / 95 C.
  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 1/4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 packet instant yeast (or about 2 teaspoons), 1 tsp instant coffee and 1 tsp salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, add 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup softened butter into a microwave safe bowl.
  4. Heat on high power for 60-90 seconds, until the mixture is warm to the touch. Stir to combine the ingredients.
  5. Slowly add the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix on medium speed with a dough hook until the dough comes together.
  6. Add in one large egg and mix on a low speed until a sticky dough ball forms.
  7. Continue to mix on a medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the dough becomes more elastic.
  8. As the dough mixes, add additional flour 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. My favorite way to know if my dough is ready is to poke it with my finger. It should feel tacky but not sticky. As you pull your finger away, there should be no residue on your finger.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 
  11. 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.
  12. Sprinkle the chocolate cinnamon roll filling (instructions above) evenly over the buttered area, and pat down with the back of a spoon or spatula.
  13. Tightly roll the dough horizontally, toward the uncovered strip.
  14. 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).
  15. Turn the oven off! I REPEAT, TURN THE OVEN OFF.
  16. Cover the cinnamon roll pan with foil and place in a the oven for 30 minutes (or until the cinnamon rolls have risen).
  17. Remove the pan from the oven and take off the tinfoil. Turn the oven back on, and heat to 350 F / 175 C.
  18. Once the oven has preheated to 350 F / 175 C, 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 Glaze

  1. 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.
  2. Heat in the microwave on a medium-high heat (power level 7) for 60 seconds.
  3. Stir the mixture together with a spoon or whisk, making sure all the chocolate is melted.
  4. Add in 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix together until smooth.
  5. Let the cinnamon rolls cool for 5-10 minutes, then drizzle the chocolate glaze over the cinnamon rolls. Serve warm.

Notes

Using the Right Type of Yeast: Active Dry Yeast 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).

Making These 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 in a greased or lined pan. Cover the cinnamon roll pan tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the seal is airtight.

The morning you want to bake them, take them out 1-2 hours before you plan to bake them to let them warm up and rise a bit. Then follow the recipe instructions to bake in step 18.

Nutrition Information

Yield

9

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 644Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 56mgSodium 402mgCarbohydrates 101gFiber 4gSugar 40gProtein 10g

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