This Lemon Rolls recipe is a fun spring take on classic cinnamon rolls. This recipe for Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing features a lemony brioche dough topped with a delicious lemon cream cheese icing. The sweet, tangy taste of these lemon rolls is perfect for this time of year! Read on to learn how to make this easy lemon roll recipe, make ahead tips, and freezing instructions.
Creating This Lemon Rolls Recipe
Last week I had a few “I just had to” moments. First, I just had to buy 2 bags of Meyer Lemons when I saw them at the grocery store.
For those not familiar with Meyer Lemons, their defining characteristics are slightly rounder shape when compared with a regular lemon, a thin yellow-orange colored peel, and a sweeter taste than a traditional lemon.
They are thought to be a cross between an lemon and a mandarin. Can you see why I just had to buy them?
Then I saw this recipe for Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze. Sort of like a spring time version of a cinnamon roll, but without the cinnamon.
Yeah, I had to make those. And then I remembered the Meyer Lemons and decided that not only was I going to make those rolls, but I was going to experiment with my new lemons.
I didn’t want the lemon rolls to be too sweet, so I included a bit of regular lemon zest and juice as well.
This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
What I Love About these Lemon Rolls
Just look at them. What isn’t to love?
I always make Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas Morning. It has been a family tradition for years. But, that’s the only time I make them from scratch so they’ve become completely associated with Christmas in our family.
I love that these Lemon Rolls are a fun, springtime take on a breakfast roll. They’re perfect for any spring special event, like a Mother’s Day Brunch. Or just because you feel like it!
This recipe for Meyer Lemon Sticky Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze has definitely earned a favored spot in our family!
Ingredients for Lemon Sweet Rolls
The lemon cinnamon rolls have three components: a lemon dough, lemon filling, and the lemony cream cheese icing. To make the entire recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:
For the Lemon Sticky Dough:
- Whole Milk
- Unsalted Butter
- Granulated Sugar
- Vanilla Bean and Vanilla Extract
- All-Purpose Flour
- Ground Nutmeg and Ginger
- Zest from Meyer Lemons and Regular Lemons
For the Sweet Lemon Filling:
- Unsalted Butter
- Granulated Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Zest from Meyer Lemons and Regular Lemons
For the Lemon Cream Cheese Icing:
- Cream Cheese
- Powdered Sugar
- Lemon Zest
- Vanilla Extract
For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.
How to Make Lemon Sweet Rolls
Making the lemon sweet rolls with cream cheese icing takes some time, but the process is very straightforward.
- First, line a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Then, make the dough: Combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and knead until an elastic, pliable, soft dough forms.
- First rise: Spray the dough with non-stick spray (this prevents it from drying out) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let the dough rinse in a warm place until doubled in size.
- Prepare the filling: While the dough is rising, whisk together the lemon sugar filling.
- After that, shape the rolls: On a floured surface, pat the dough out into a large rectangle.
- Spread evenly with the softened butter, then sprinkle the lemon-sugar mixture over top.
- Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, into a prepared baking dish.
- Second rise: Cover the rolls with a towel and let rise again until doubled in size.
- Bake and ice: After the rolls have risen, bake until lightly golden brown. Immediately top the warm rolls with cream cheese icing.
New to baking with yeast? Check out my 5 Tips for Baking with Yeast for my tips to help you achieve the best results!
The above is simply a quick summary of this recipe. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.
Can I Use Regular Lemons in This Recipe?
Of course! If you don’t have any Meyer lemons on hand, you can make the lemon cinnamon rolls with regular lemons instead.
Can Lemon Rolls Be Prepared in Advance?
Yes, after the dough has risen the first time and been cut into rolls, cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours before baking.
Then, the next morning when you’re ready to bake the cinnamon rolls, place the baking dish on the counter for one hour and then bake them as instructed.
You can also prepare the recipe the day before and store them unfrosted in an airtight container. Before serving, bring them to room temperature, then gently reheat them in a warm oven before frosting.
Do Lemon Rolls Freeze Well?
Freezing lemon rolls is a great way to keep this tasty recipe on hand for a later date. You can freeze them baked or unbaked. Here’s how to do it:
How to Freeze Unbaked Lemon Rolls
- Prepare the recipe as instructed through the step that details how to roll and slice the dough.
- Place the sliced lemon rolls in a freezer safe container with a lid. Transfer the container to the freezer and freeze until solid.
- You can store the frozen rolls in the container in your freezer if you like, but I prefer to transfer them to a vacuum seal bag for maximum freshness. Store the rolls in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To bake the frozen lemon rolls: Remove the rolls from the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, bring the rolls out of the fridge and transfer to you preferred baking dish. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let come to room temperature and rise until doubled in size (this is the second rise in the instructions). Bake and frost according to directions.
How to Freeze Baked Lemon Rolls
- Prepare the recipe as instructed through the baking steps
- Place the unfrosted, baked lemon rolls in a freezer safe container with a lid. Transfer the container to the freezer and freeze until solid.
- Store the rolls in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Thawing and frosting the frozen, baked rolls: Remove the rolls from the freezer and thaw overnight on the counter. Transfer the thawed rolls to a baking dish and transfer to a warm oven to reheat. Alternatively, you can reheat the rolls one at a time in the microwave on partial power for 30-45 seconds each. After reheating the rolls, frost as instructed.
Tips for Making Lemon Rolls
- You can also prepare this recipe in the bowl of a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment.
- I actually made a double batch of the lemon sweet rolls and froze half of them to enjoy later on, something I will definitely be doing again.
- I recommend using full-fat, brick-style cream cheese to make the icing. It will result in a richer, thicker icing.
- Once baked and glazed, you can store the cinnamon rolls at room temperature for up to three days. Note that they dry out over time.
What to Serve with Lemon Sweet Rolls
These lemony rolls are a wonderful addition to a Mother’s Day brunch. Here are some of my suggestions for serving alongside this delicious treat:
- Hot cup of Tea or Coffee
- Arugula and Chive Baked Egg Cups
- Easy Peel Boiled Eggs
- Fresh Bacon (check this out: How to Bake Bacon)
- Citrus Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
- Crustless Broccoli Quiche
More Lemon Breakfast Recipes:
Looking for more tasty lemon recipes to try? Here are a few of my favorites:
This Lemon Blueberry Bread is studded with juicy blueberries and topped with a simple lemon drizzle. This is such a simple quick bread recipe!
I really enjoyed the texture that the shredded coconut combined with the poppy seeds offered in these Coconut Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.
This Coconut Lemon Banana Bread is packed with tropical flavors that you’ll love!
Lemon Strawberry Scones can be enjoyed for breakfast, tea, or as a mid-day snack. So easy and delicious!
Get More Recipes via Email
Did you love this recipe? Sign up to receive Good Life Eats Email Updates and never miss another recipe!
Lemon Roll Dough
- 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F (or warm but not hot on your wrist)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds only
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 meyer lemon, zested
- 2 eggs
Sticky Lemon Filling
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 meyer lemon, zested
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 meyer lemon, juiced and zested
To Make the Lemon Roll Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes.
- With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour.
- Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zests.
- Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.
- Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.
To Make the Sticky Lemon Filling
- In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the lemon juice.
To Prepare the Rolls
- Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter.
- On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches.
- Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top.
- Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.
Letting the Rolls Rise
- Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. )
- Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)
To Bake the Lemon Rolls
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.
Making the Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
- While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.
Frosting the Rolls
- When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze.
- Serve while warm.
adapted from The Kitchn
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 417Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 143mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 2gSugar: 30gProtein: 7g
Photography: photos taken in this post are by Rachael from Set the Table.