Sometimes when I’m brainstorming recipe ideas I ask my mom for suggestions even though I know exactly what she’s going to say: something maple. Maple cookies, maple doughnuts, maple anything as long as there’s plenty of maple.
Such is her love for maple that when I was telling her about my Fourth of July cake she suggested maple frosting. For a summer-themed cake.
Not happening, Mom.
After falling in love with my overnight salted caramel chocolate cinnamon rolls a few months ago I knew I wanted to come up with a winter version, something that would be perfect for Christmas breakfast. (Although the salted caramel cinnamon rolls would be pretty perfect too.)
Because you do the majority of the work the night before, these make-ahead cinnamon rolls with gingerbread spices are just the ticket if you need a mostly hands-off breakfast on Christmas Day.
And because they’re slathered in maple cream cheese frosting, my mother is sure to want at least one, despite the fact she no longer eats gluten or refined sugar. Or dairy? I’m not 100% sure at this point.
So Mom, these are for you! The gingerbread cinnamon rolls are delicious all by themselves but the maple cream cheese frosting is my favorite part. You instilled in me a love for all things maple so I’m forever grateful.
I should add that the frosting isn’t completely necessary; it’s there because I can’t leave well enough alone. The cinnamon rolls bake in a brown sugar glaze so they’re wonderfully soft and moist even without the frosting on top. But if you’re a paint-the-lily type then go for it.
If Christmas were a competitive sport then gingerbread cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese frosting would win the day. No contest. They’re just that good.
A few notes:
Take care not to over-process your dough or it will get tough.
As stated above, the frosting is delicious but not absolutely necessary.
The recipe calls for a pinch of black pepper because I love adding it to gingerbread. If that weirds you out then omit it. Your gingerbread cinnamon rolls will still be delicious!
Make-ahead gingerbread cinnamon rolls with maple cream cheese frosting are a delicious breakfast or brunch for the holidays and all winter long.
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup lukewarm whole milk plus more as needed
- 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons molasses
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon maple flavor optional, for a more pronounced maple flavor
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- whole milk as needed for consistency
Place the flour, sugar, molasses, yeast, salt, spices, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined. Add the eggs and pulse a few times more.
With the machine running, slowly pour the milk through the feed tube. Process for 30 seconds, adding additional lukewarm milk 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary, until the mixture forms a ball that is sticky to the touch. Take care not to over-process or your rolls will be tough.
Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times, then shape the dough into a ball. Place dough in the prepared bowl and turn it over a few times to coat in cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Gently deflate the dough, then form it into a ball again. Place on a lightly floured surface and let rest 20 minutes.
While dough is resting, mix the butter and molasses together in a small bowl. Mix the sugar and spices together in a second small bowl.
Generously spray a 13- by 9-inch baking pan (or 2 8-inch round cake pans) with cooking spray. Combine the brown sugar and heavy cream in a small mixing bowl, then spread evenly in the bottom of the pan(s).
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 13- by 9-inch rectangle. Spread the butter-molasses mixture over the rectangle, top the butter with the sugar-spice mixture. Roll the dough lengthwise into a tight log, then pinch the seam closed. Carefully cut the log into 15 to 16 slices. Arrange the slices in the prepared pan(s). Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. (If you’re not making the rolls ahead, let the rolls rise at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.)
In the morning, remove the rolls from the fridge and let sit in a warm place until they’ve puffed up a bit, about 20 to 30 minutes. (If it’s really cold in your house, preheat the oven and let the rolls sit next to the stove until they get puffy.)
Once the rolls have puffed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the rolls are golden.
While cinnamon rolls are in the oven, combine the butter and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set to medium speed until very smooth. Beat in the maple syrup, maple flavor, salt until combined, then turn mixer to low and gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. Turn mixer to medium and beat until frosting is completely smooth. If necessary, add milk (if frosting is too thick) or powdered sugar (if frosting is too thin) to achieve desired consistency.
Let the rolls cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Top with frosting and serve.
Adapted from How to Bake Everything