Orange Chai-Spiced Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Weekends are the best, aren’t they? Coffee in your pajamas, a warm dog at your feet, and a good cinnamon roll: that is the cornerstone of a cozy morning.

We both really enjoyed these rolls. The dough for them is an adaptation from another cinnamon roll recipe; the original author raved about the results, but I thought they bordered on gross didn’t like them very much. I won’t name the source, because that would be catty (besides, everyone has their own personal tastes).

Still, I thought the dough had promise, so I tagged it as a “maybe” and played with it a little. I’m so glad I did! You could certainly adapt it to other flavor combinations by swapping in your own spices, or leave them out entirely. In any case, I’d love to get feedback from anyone who tries the recipe, and I hope you enjoy!

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Homemade spice mix

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No, you can’t eat them yet. But soon, my pet. Soon.

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You can never go wrong with a roll full of butter, sugar, and spices. Unless you’re serving it to nihilists, and we all know there’s no pleasing a nihilist.

Orange Chai-Spiced Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I think we’re gonna need more cinnamon rolls.

Orange-Chai Cinnamon Rolls
Makes about 21 rolls

Chai Spice Mix
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp cardamom
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp clove
1 tsp allspice

Dough
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp orange zest
2 tsp Chai Spice Mix
1 small piece of ginger, about 1″, peeled
2¼ tsp yeast (1 packet)
4½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp salt

Filling
½ cup butter (1 stick), very soft
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tbsp Chai Spice Mix (the remaining spices)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Frosting
4 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp almond extract
1 to 2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice (juice the same orange that you zested for the dough)

Directions

  1. Combine the spices in a small bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, oil, zest, ginger, and spice mix. Warm the mixture, whisking often, until hot and steaming, but not boiling (the sugar should be dissolved). Remove from the heat, and let the mixture cool until just warm.
  3. Remove the chunk of ginger, and discard. Sprinkle the yeast evenly on top of the warm milk mixture, and let it sit until moistened, a minute or two. Then stir in 4 cups of the flour until just combined. Cover the pot with a clean towel, and put it someplace warm and cozy until it doubles in size, at least an hour, but it may take longer depending on where you put it. (I like to put my dough in the furnace room to rise.)
  4. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on top of the dough, and stir it in. At first you will think that this is backwards and can’t possibly work, but do it anyway.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface, and roll it into a large rectangle, about 11×17.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar with the remaining spices (should be approximately 2 tbsp of spice). Spread the butter over the rectangle of dough, and then sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the butter. Distribute the chopped walnuts evenly on top, if using.
  7. Starting with a long edge, roll the dough tightly towards the other edge. Pinch the edges to seal the roll. You should now have a log of goodness.
  8. Using a very sharp knife, slice the log of goodness into rolls of goodness, each about 1 1/2″ thick . You should end up with around 21 rolls, including the ugly little half-rolls on the ends of the log.
  9. Arrange the rolls into a lightly buttered baking dish, leaving a little room between each roll. Cover the rolls with a towel, and put them back in the same warm, cozy place that you used for the first rise. Leave them to rise until they have spread enough to fill the gaps in the pan, about 30 minutes to an hour.
  10. Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and almond extract in a medium bowl. Drizzle in the orange juice a little at a time until the frosting is smooth and spreadable, but not runny.
  11. When the rolls have finished rising, bake them at 375°F for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top. This may vary depending on your oven, so start checking them after about 12 minutes.
  12. Immediately after the rolls come out of the oven, top them with the frosting, making sure to coat the rolls evenly.
  13. Eat!