Nothing feels more special for a holiday season breakfast than cinnamon rolls. I love cinnamon rolls of every sort: from a pop tube, from scratch, eaten by unraveling the fluffy dough, and starting with the gooey centers first. And while I can’t get enough of the classic, I made a few tweaks to tradition with this recipe by featuring an unexpected but wildly delicious ingredient in the filling: dates.
These Spiced Orange Date Paste Cinnamon Rolls are just as ooey and gooey as the classic, but they’re made with no refined sugar in the filling. Instead, soaked dates blended with tons of spices and orange zest turn into the ultimate flavor spread that takes these cinnamon rolls to the next level. Trust me, your holiday brunch is about to get even more delicious.
How do you make date paste?
There’s nothing wrong with using a classic cinnamon-brown sugar crumble mixed with butter for a cinnamon roll filling. But truthfully, I am an absolute fiend about making my desserts and sweet treats not too sweet. I am a self-proclaimed dessert person, but I want to thoroughly enjoy my sweet treats. That means finding the right balance of flavors.
Using dates in the filling gives these cinnamon rolls their classic gooey texture while retaining that caramel flavor. In fact, if you didn’t know I used dates, it might be hard to guess they’re in there. To get the dates into an easily spreadable, paste-like texture, soak pitted dates in hot water until they are soft. (This will take about 20-30 minutes.) Then, you’ll add the dates to a food processor with the spices and blitz until very smooth. If the spread feels too thick, I add some of the reserved date water as I’m blending to get a smooth texture. Don’t worry—I was a date skeptic, too. But this is a great party trick for imparting flavor in an unexpected way.
What spices go into the filling for these cinnamon rolls?
Y’all know I love fresh spices. And because I like to make these cinnamon rolls as balanced in flavor as possible, I go heavy-handed on the spices. I used fresh ground cinnamon, a healthy dose of ginger, cardamom, salt, and lots of orange zest. If you taste the date spread before they bake, the filling will be a little spicy, savory on the backend—and as one of my friends described it—addictive like a hot tamale. But once the cinnamon rolls are baked and covered in frosting, all the heat mellows out and turns into an unctuous and flavor-forward treat.
How do I make cinnamon roll dough?
I have been a disciple of Sarah Kieffer’s for a long time, and I’ve made her cinnamon rolls more times than I can count. Making risen dough can feel intimidating. I myself have had to learn to go through the motions and understand how to feel the dough to know if it’s ready and where I can make edits based on temperatures in my kitchen and rise times. Sarah’s recipe has been my go-to for years, so for these cinnamon rolls, I use her cinnamon roll dough.
Plus, the best part of cinnamon rolls is that the dough rises overnight, meaning that assembly and final rise times can happen in the morning before baking.
What do I frost these cinnamon rolls with?
Four words: orange cream cheese frosting. Silky, slightly sweet, and balanced with zesty orange makes this frosting the ultimate topping. When the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven, I add a thin layer over the rolls while they are still warm so the frosting gets all gooey, and then add the rest after it cools a bit. Save any extra frosting—you’ll want it around.
If you make these cinnamon rolls, be sure to give the recipe a rating below. And don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @camillestyles to show off your cozy Christmas morning breakfast. Happy holiday baking!
This post was originally published on December 14, 2017, and has since been updated.
for the dough:
- Use your favorite cinnamon roll dough recipe—I used Sarah Kieffer's recipe for the dough. Follow prep instructions.
for the filling:
- 12-15 Medjool dates, pitted
- 2 cups of simmering hot water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp salt
- zest of 1 orange
- 1-2 tablespoons orange juice
for the orange cream cheese frosting:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 - 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- zest of 1/2 an orange
- Prep your favorite cinnamon roll dough. Make the date paste during final rise.
- To make the date paste, add about 2 cups of water to a stovetop pot and bring to a simmer or to a tea kettle. Add the pitted dates to a large bowl and pour over the hot water. Let the dates sit in the water for about 20-30 minutes until they are soft.
- In a food processor, add the softened dates (reserve the water), cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, and orange zest and juice. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust spices. If you like your mixture a little sweeter, you can add a tablespoon of coconut sugar, but I think these come out sweet enough without. If the paste is too thick, add a tablespoon of the date water at a time if needed.
- Roll out your dough into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle and spread the date paste into an even layer on the dough. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a tight log. Using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss, cut the dough into 1-2 inch thick rolls (depending on how big you like your cinnamon rolls).
- Place the rolls into a prepped pan and follow your dough instructions if the rolls need another rise and follow dough instructions for the baking directions.
- While the rolls are baking, prep the frosting. Add the cream cheese, butter powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, orange juice and zest into a bowl. Mix until smooth using a hand mixer or whisk. Taste and adjust sugar if needed.
- When the rolls are done baking, remove from oven and spread over 1/2 cup of frosting on the warm rolls. Set aside and let come to room temperature. When slightly cooler, spread over additional frosting. Enjoy!
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