This gooey apple cinnamon roll recipe with caramel frosting is a fun Fall dessert. Made from scratch, these sweet sticky buns are filled with fresh apples and then slathered in a homemade caramel frosting.
This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been updated for content.
This apple cinnamon roll recipe is a twist on our favorite, homemade cinnamon rolls. Filled with fresh apples they tasty cinnamon rolls come with the most delicious caramel frosting on top.
🍎 Ingredient notes
- Dough - This soft, sweet dough is perfect for these apple cinnamon rolls. It's the same one I use for my maple bacon cinnamon rolls as well as my overnight cinnamon rolls. I recommend using bread flour if you can for the best results for your caramel apple cinnamon rolls. Use all purpose flour as a substitute, if needed.
- Apples - There are a TON of varieties of apples to choose from when cooking or baking. I recommend using gala, fuji, or pink lady apples. They are all sweet apples that work great for baking. Granny smith apples can also be used for a more tart and sweet flavor.
📋 Substitutions and variations
- Nuts - Add chopped pecans or walnuts to the filling of these apple cinnamon rolls.
- Frosting - Use regular cinnamon roll frosting as a substitute or store-bought frosting.
🥣 Step by step instructions
First, heat the milk on the stovetop in a small pot until bubbles just start to form on the top. Mix the warm milk with the warm water, active dry yeast, and sugar in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Let it set for about 5 minutes until it gets foamy.
Mix the egg and 2 cups of flour into the milk mixture. With the mixer running, add a ½ cup of flour at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Knead the dough by hand or in a mixer for 5-10 minutes until it's smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a clean greased bowl. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour until doubled in size. Punch down the ball of dough and shape it into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface.
Spread the unsalted butter evenly over the dough and then sprinkle on the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and diced apples. Starting on the long side, roll up the dough as tightly as possible with the apple filling inside.
Cover the rolls and let them go through a second rise for another hour until doubled in size. Bake the apple cinnamon rolls in a 350˚ oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown
While the rolls are cooling, combine the butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream in a pot over medium heat on the stovetop. Allow the mixture to boil for about 5 minutes or until the temperature reaches 220˚ when checked with candy thermometer.
Remove the caramel sauce from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar. Continue to whisk until the frosting is smooth and no lumps of sugar remain.
Pour the fresh caramel frosting over the apple cinnamon rolls and use an offset spatula to spread the frosting completely over the top of them.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in our Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- Warm the milk up until it just barely shows bubbles on the surface. If you heat it too much, it will burn and ruin the yeast. The temperature of the warm water and milk should be around 110˚which can be easily checked with an infrared thermometer.
- The amount of flour required for the cinnamon roll dough will vary based on temperature, humidity, and method of measuring. The dough has enough flour when it pulls away from the bowl and is no longer sticky, but tacky when touched.
- Rise times may be less or more depending on the temperature and humidity. Try to place the dough in a warm place to help it rise properly.
- Allow the baked cinnamon rolls about 10-15 minutes to cool while you make the frosting. This will make sure that the frosting will coat and cover the cinnamon rolls, but not completely melt off of them.
- Pour and spread the caramel frosting over the cinnamon rolls immediately after it is done cooking because it stiffens as it cools.
⏲️ Make ahead instructions
Prep the apple cinnamon rolls the night before all the way up until the second rise time. Cover the sheet pan or baking dish tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the roll from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking time and then bake as directed. Make the caramel frosting while the rolls are cooling.
The caramel frosting can be made up to two days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Heat in a pot on low on the stovetop, stirring frequently until just warm enough to pour on the cinnamon rolls.
🥡 Storage suggestions
These apple cinnamon rolls will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. They can be heated up in the microwave for 15-30 seconds to make them warm again.
🍁 More Fall dessert recipes
If you loved this apple cinnamon roll recipe with caramel frosting, check out these other Fall dessert recipes that I know you will love too!
- Caramel Apple Sundaes
- Pumpkin Roll Cake with Mascarpone
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
- Tiramisu Brownies
Apple Cinnamon Roll Recipe with Caramel Frosting
Cinnamon Roll Dough
- ½ stick unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 medium gala apples peeled, cored and diced
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
Cinnamon Roll Dough
- Pour milk into a small pot and place on the stovetop over medium heat. Heat until the milk starts to steam and small bubbles start to form around the edges.
- Add in the egg, salt and two cups of the flour. Mix on low until the flour is incorporated.
- Mix in the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball. The dough should soft and tacky to the touch, but not sticky.
- Continue to knead the dough by hand or in the mixer for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth and quickly bounces back when a finger is pressed in it.
- Spray a clean bowl with baking spray or rub it lightly with butter. Place the dough in the greased bowl and cover it with a light towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour in a warm spot until doubled in size.
- Punch down the risen dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Shape the dough into a large rectangle that is about ½ - 1 inch thick.
- Spread the softened butter on the dough in an even layer and then sprinkle the buttered dough with the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and chopped apples.
- Starting on the long side of the rectangle, tightly roll up the dough into a large roll.
- Cut the rolled dough into 12 equal slices that are approximately 1 - 1 ½ inches thick.
- Place the cut rolls in a 9x13 inch baking dish that has been greased or a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Cover the pan with a light towel or plastic wrap and let the rolls rise in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- During the last 15 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 350˚. Bake the rolls in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
- Allow the rolls to cool for 10-15 minutes while the frosting is made.
- In a small pot, combine butter, brown sugar & heavy cream.
- Heat the mixture over medium high heat on the stove top, stirring occasionally, until the mixture boils.
- Continue to boil for 3-5 minutes or until the temperature comes to 220˚ when checked with a candy thermometer.
- Remove the pot off of the heat and whisk in powdered sugar until the frosting is smooth and no lumps of sugar remain.
- Pour the warm frosting over the apple cinnamon rolls and use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the rolls.
- Apples - Gala, fuji, or pink lady apples all have a fairly sweet flavor that is good for baking. Granny smith can be used for a more tart, sweet flavor.
- Nuts - Add chopped pecans or walnuts to the filling.
- Make Ahead - Prep the apple cinnamon rolls the night before all the way up until the second rise time. Cover the sheet pan or baking dish tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the roll from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking time and then bake as directed. Make the caramel frosting while the rolls are cooling. The caramel frosting can be made up to two days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Heat in a pot on low on the stovetop, stirring frequently until just warm enough to pour on the cinnamon rolls.
- Leftovers - Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Heat the cinnamon rolls in the microwave for 15-30 seconds to make them warm again.