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Last Updated on November 4, 2020 by Chenée Lewis
It’s the first day of fall! I’m so excited for cooler temps, changing leaves, and all my favorite fall traditions, the biggest of which is baking! Fall baking brings so many warm, comforting, and indulgent flavors — it’s like getting a hug from your food! And these pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls are a perfect example!
I can’t say enough about these — they are the BEST pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls! They’re full of all the best fall flavors — pumpkin (of course) pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, vanilla, and my favorite: brown butter! You’ll get the comforting goodness of the autumn season in every bite. These pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls are the perfect way to start your fall season!
How to make the best cinnamon rolls
I won’t lie — this pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls recipe does have a few more steps than my typical recipes. A cinnamon roll recipe is basically a bread recipe, after all. So we’re working with yeast and two dough rises. And because of the brown butter and toasted pecans, there are a few extra steps for recipe prep. But trust me when I say these big, gooey pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls are worth it! When you spread on that brown butter cream cheese frosting and bite into the soft dough, you’ll thank me!
But to help you make them the best they can be, I’m including all my tips for how to make pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls, step by step! So let’s get into it!
For these pecan pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls, you’ll need to gather ingredients for three parts: the dough, the brown butter pecan filling, and the brown butter cream cheese frosting for the cinnamon rolls.
Here’s what you’ll need to gather for the cinnamon roll dough:
- instant yeast – this helps cut down the rise time
- warm buttermilk – it should be around 110-115°F, or just slightly warm to the touch. If you’re unsure, check with an instant read thermometer before adding the yeast. I just heated mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
- melted butter – I also just popped this in the microwave to melt. Make sure it’s not hot when you add it to your yeast and milk.
- pumpkin purée – gives our cinnamon rolls pumpkin flavor! It should be in a can labeled “100% PUMPKIN” or something similar. Don’t use pumpkin pie filling, because that contains extra ingredients that will throw off the flavors and sweetness.
- one egg – this should be room temperature. If you’re pressed for time, get your egg to room temperature quickly by submerging it in warm water for 15 minutes.
- pure vanilla extract – I like this one, but I’m also in the process of making my own homemade vanilla extract! Stay tuned and I’ll share the recipe!
- light brown sugar – adds a bit of richness from the molasses, and helps the dough to stay nice and soft!
- all-purpose flour – you’ll need at least 2½ cups (320 grams), but then just keep adding flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. I recommend using a stand mixer for the dough mixing part if you have one, but otherwise a good old mixing bowl and wooden spoon will work too.
- pumpkin pie spice – because what else will give us that delicious fall flavor? You can use store-bought pumpkin pie spice, but I actually made my on with this recipe from Live Well Bake Often.
- salt – helps to balance out all the sweetness and bring out those flavors!
- cooking spray – this will keep the pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls dough from sticking to the pan.
For the brown butter pecan filling, you’ll need:
- salted butter – you’ll brown this butter in a pan, and then save half of it for your frosting later!
- pecan chips – I just picked up a bag of these pecan chips and they worked perfectly.
- light brown sugar – adds to that gooey sweet filling!
- pumpkin pie spice – we’re using pumpkin pie spice instead of just cinnamon to emphasize to the pumpkin flavors in these pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls! If you prefer, you can just use cinnamon and they’ll still be SO GOOD.
Finally, we’ll make our brown butter cream cheese frosting. This is the easiest part — here’s what you’ll need!
- brown butter – the remainder of the brown butter from the filling step. This is going to make the BEST cream cheese frosting you’ve ever had!
- cream cheese – it should be softened to room temperature — if you need to, you can soften it quickly in the microwave. Just unwrap it from the foil, place it on a microwave-safe plate, and heat for 10 seconds, flipping halfway through.
- pure vanilla extract – this gives a nice hint of vanilla to our frosting.
- powdered sugar – very key for making frosting. Powdered sugar provides the texture we want while providing a not-too-sweet sweetness.
These pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls doesn’t require any complicated tools, but for the dough you will want a stand mixer, or a wooden spoon, and you’ll need your pan to bake the cinnamon rolls in! I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet and I definitely enjoyed the results, but you’d be fine with a 9×9 baking pan as well.
Tips for the best pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls
Working with instant yeast. Making a yeast bread dough can be intimidating if you haven’t done it much, but this one is so easy, in part because we’re using instant yeast! First off, make sure you use a fresh packet of yeast to ensure that it’s active and ready to go. Then make sure your buttermilk is warm to the touch, but not too hot. If the yeast and buttermilk mixture doesn’t get foamy, then your yeast might be too old or the buttermilk may have been too warm. But not to worry — the good news is that you’ve figured that out right at the beginning of the process, and you can try again!
Letting your dough rise. You need to let your dough rise twice in a “warm place,” which will vary depending on your kitchen — for instance, I have a radiator in my kitchen so the air near it is around 80 degrees, and perfect for letting dough rise. But an easy way to get your dough to rise quickly is to heat your oven to 150 and turn it off; then let your dough rise inside. You can also try the top of your refrigerator, or just a high shelf. Just watch carefully, since the rising time may vary with each of these options. Your dough will need to rise until it’s doubled in size, which should take 30 minutes to an hour each time.
Browning your butter. I have a whole blog post about how to brown butter! It’s definitely a great cooking skill to master, because brown butter makes such a huge difference in both sweet and savory dishes! Check out that post for the easy step-by-step process!
Toasting your pecan chips. Toasted pecans make a huge difference in this recipe! I like to just throw my pecan chips in the same pan where I browned my butter, and toss them a bit until they’re slightly browned and smell fantastic! Let them cool a bit before adding them to your cinnamon rolls.
Rolling out your rolls. I’ve tried rolling out cinnamon rolls on parchment paper, but it’s hard to keep it from moving around. My favorite options are directly on the clean counter or table, dusted with a little flour, or if you have a nonstick pastry mat or pastry board, even better!
Overnight option. If you’re planning to make this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe for breakfast, it might be a good idea to start the night before! Once you have your cinnamon rolls in your greased pan, just cover the pan with plastic wrap and let them rest in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you’ll just need to let the rolls rise in a warm spot until they’ve doubled in size, which should take about an hour, and then bake them like normal!
Fresh vs. Canned Pumpkin Purée. I’ve heard from some of my fellow bakers that they’re having difficulty finding canned pumpkin — if you’re in the same boat, you might be wondering how this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe works with puréed fresh pumpkin. Unfortunately, I’m wondering that myself — I haven’t tested it out! But I would imagine that it would be fine. You might just have to adjust the amount of flour to accommodate any excess liquid from the purée. If you do try this pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls recipe with fresh pumpkin purée, let me know in the comments how it goes for you!
If you’re a fan of the amazing fall flavors in these pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls, you’ll love my Apple Cider Donut Cake! It’s another perfect way to welcome the autumn season and all its goodness! It’s got fresh apples, apple cider, brown sugar, sour cream, and vanilla, and it’s dusted with cinnamon sugar just like your favorite apple cider donuts!
For another delicious sweet roll recipe, try my Blackberry Lemon Sweet Rolls! They’re so good and can be made with frozen blackberries, so they’re perfect all year long!
Equipment you may need
- 1 packet instant yeast – 2¼ tsp
- 2/3 cup buttermilk – warm – approx. 110-115°F
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter – melted
- ½ cup pumpkin purée
- 1 large egg – room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 2½ cup all-purpose flour – 325g plus more as needed
- ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp salt
- cooking spray
Brown Butter Pecan Filling
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm buttermilk and let stand 3 to 5 minutes; stir. The mixture should begin to foam up — if it doesn't get foamy then your yeast may be too old or your buttermilk may have been too hot.
- Add the melted butter, pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and flour, mixing after each addition.
- Beat until smooth, adding more flour a little at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dough should still be tacky and still stick to the bottom of the bowl, so don’t add more flour than necessary!
- Knead dough on a lightly floured surface (or in the stand mixer using the hook attachment) for about 10 minutes, until soft and smooth.
- Place in a bowl in a warm spot and cover with plastic wrap to rise for about 40 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
While dough is rising, prepare filling:
- Melt salted butter over medium heat in a light-colored sauté pan. Allow to foam and continue stirring until milk solids have separated and butter begins to turn golden brown. Immediately transfer brown butter and pecans to a heat-proof bowl, scraping out brown bits with it. Divide equally into two bowls and cool to room temperature.
- Toast pecan chips in the same sauté pan over medium-high heat, tossing often, until lightly browned and aromatic. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
- Spray a 9×9 baking pan, 10-inch cast-iron skillet, or 7×11 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface or a nonstick pastry mat, forming a rectangle that is about 10 inches by 14 inches, with the long side facing you.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and pumpin pie spice until well mixed.
- Spread half of brown butter over dough, and sprinkle with brown sugar and spice mixture, followed by toasted pecans.
- Roll dough away from you into one long roll, with the seam on the bottom. Cut into 8-9 pieces using a serrated knife, or unwaxed dental floss for neat cuts.
- Carefully place rolls into prepared skillet or baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size again, approximately another 40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Remove rolls from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat softened cream cheese and reserved brown butter with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract.
- Gradually add in powdered sugar, mixing on low, until combined. Beat another minute to a smooth and creamy consistency.
- Spread frosting over warm rolls and serve immediately.
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