Lemon Sticky Rolls

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for about as long as I can remember (not saying much), but always figured I’d make regular cinnamon rolls first. That still hasn’t happened, although I did at one point make Peabody’s Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake, but it was definitely time to get on this recipe. They were gooey, sticky, basically everything you could want in a breakfast, and the recipe can be mostly done the night before.

Start off by zesting your 3 lemons and juicing them. You’re going to want 3 portions of zest later, so you might as well keep them separate as you zest them, but the juice can all go in one cup.

zest piles

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over your warmed milk and let it sit while you grab the next several ingredients. Stir in the butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Then add the salt, nutmeg, and one of the zest piles.

Someday I'll have a Kitchenaid. Not today, though...

Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. For me that was about 4 cups total.

Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes, until smooth and pliable. Place the dough in a greased bowl, rotating so that it gets greased on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled, about an hour.

My risen dough.

In the last 5 minutes of that hour, make the filling. Begin by mixing together sugar, nutmeg, and ginger. Using your fingers, combine the second portion of zest by rubbing it into the sugar mixture until it resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in lemon juice, stirring, until the sugar is a wet, clumpy mixture. This took muchless than half of the lemon juice for me.

Wet, clumpy sand anyone?

It’s then time to assemble the rolls! Start out by greasing a 9X13″ dish. Turn your risen dough out again onto a lightly floured surface and pat/roll it out to a 10X15″ rectangle. The dough will still be thick.

Spread the dough with melted butter, and cover that with the sugar mixture.

Roll the dough up tightly from one of the long sides, keeping the dough taught to prevent leakage.  Cut the roll into 12 slices. Pinch one side of each roll closed, to hold in the filling, and lay them in the pan, pinched side down. Cover the rolls and allow them to rise for an hour, or until nearly doubled. You can refrigerate the rolls at this point for up to a day, just give them an hour to rise the next day between the fridge and the oven.

No more gaps by the next day...

Bake the rolls for 35 minutes, during which time you can clean up and make the glaze.

Looking a bit gooey straight out of the oven, pre-glaze.

For the glaze, whip your cream cheese in a food processor, mixer, or blender until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and blend until well combined. The original recipe says ‘the remaining lemon juice,’ but I found that to be too much – 1/4 cup is probably plenty. Then add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

When the rolls come out of the oven, smear them with the glaze and sprinkle the remaining lemon zest on top. Let cool 10 minutes, and then dig in!

Too much lemon juice made this a bit of a flood, but it solidified over time.


I’m submitting this post to YeastSpotting, a grand place to find baking ideas.

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze

Adapted from The Kitchn

Lemon Roll Dough

  • 3 lemons
  • 1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F (warm but not hot on your wrist)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Making the dough:
Zest and juice the lemons, keeping the zest in 3 parts and setting aside the juice for now.

In a large bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and one part (1/3) of the lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. Turn the  dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, rotating to oil the dough on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled — about an hour.

Making the filling:
In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and cinnamon, then work in the second part of the lemon zest (1/3) with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in one part of the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when the sugar and lemon juice form a wet, clumpy mixture. (You may use one half of the lemon juice; you may stop before completely adding that half of the lemon juice.)

Assembling the rolls:
Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10×15 inches.

Spread the dough evenly with the 3 tablespoons of softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon sugar firml inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls. Pinch the bottom of each roll closed and place each one, open and cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

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.)

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 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 roughly 1/4 cup of the remaining lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the final remaining lemon zest over top to garnish. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but do serve while still warm.


About sparecake

My name's Corinne, and I like cake, cookies, and chocolate! Also, non-c-things such as ponies, Star Trek, and biking. I write a food blog and a blog about life, wide open spaces, and museum work. Nice to meet you!
This entry was posted in Breakfast, Brunch and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lemon Sticky Rolls

  1. hobby baker says:

    I adore sticky buns and lemon is one of my favorite flavors! I’m guilty of many more bookmarks than I have baked, but I really want to make this one!

Leave a Reply to sparecake Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.