Wake the household up this weekend with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Filled with homemade Slow-Cooker Apple Butter and dressed in an apple cider glaze, you get a delightful taste of autumn in every bite. Add chopped toasted pecans to the filling and sprinkle over the glaze for extra taste and texture. If you don’t have time to make your own apple butter, you can use a quality commercial brand. There really isn’t any butter in apple butter, it is simply a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by slow cooking apples to the point where the natural sugars caramelize. When you are expecting overnight guests or are hosting a brunch, make ahead recipes, such as these apple butter cinnamon rolls, are the way to go. Put these rolls together up to the point of the second rise, then freeze. Before serving, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator, let rise, and bake.  These breakfast sweet breads are enough on their own but add a bit of savory to the meal with a breakfast casserole, another make ahead favorite.

Pam Lolley


Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl Jones; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe Summary test

45 mins
2 hrs 30 mins
25 mins
15 mins
2 hrs 115 mins
12 rolls


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Heat 1 cup of the milk in a small saucepan over low until it reaches 95°F to 100°F. Pour warm milk into bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Sprinkle yeast and 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar over milk, and stir to combine. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add softened butter, eggs, lemon juice, nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and remaining ⅔ cup granulated sugar; beat on low speed just until combined.

  • Continue beating on low speed, and gradually add bread flour until well combined. Increase speed to medium, and beat until a soft dough begins to form, about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until dough is soft and supple and begins to pull away from bow, 7 to 9 minutes.

  • Scrape dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead 3 or 4 times. Shape dough into a ball, and transfer to a lightly greased (with cooking spray) large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

  • Punch dough down, and place on a heavily floured work surface; roll dough into an 18- x 14-inch rectangle. Spread Slow-Cooker Apple Butter over dough, leaving a 1-inch border around edges. Stir together brown sugar, all-purpose flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over apple butter.

  • Starting at 1 long side, roll up dough, jelly roll style, gently pushing and pressing ends to maintain an 18-inch length. Cut into 12 (1 ½-inch-thick) slices. Place rolls, cut side down, in a buttered 12-inch cast-iron skillet; cover with plastic wrap.

  • Let rolls rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, 1 ½ to 2 hours. (Rolls can also be placed in a buttered 13- x 9-inch baking pan, covered with plastic wrap, and chilled 8 hours or overnight. Let come to room temperature before baking.)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden brown and dough in center is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes, covering with aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes, if needed, to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes.

  • While rolls cool, whisk together powdered sugar, apple cider, vanilla, 1 tablespoon of the milk, and remaining ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl, stirring in remaining 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Brush glaze over warm cinnamon rolls, and serve warm.