Yield: 6 pumpkin cinnamon rolls // Total Time: 2 hr. 50 min. // Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links.
Light and fluffy pumpkin brioche, filled with butter, brown sugar & cinnamon, and topped with a cream cheese frosting. Oh also – these are egg free and small batch!
Small Batch Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
When it comes to Thanksgiving, all the focus goes straight to dinner – but what about breakfast?! These pumpkin cinnamon rolls are extremely light and fluffy, filled with cinnamon brown sugar goodness, and topped with a cream cheese frosting. The best part? You can make them at night so that they can just be baked off in the morning! In the middle of this blog post is a detailed description on how to make these pumpkin cinnamon rolls 3 different ways. You can make them all in one day, make the dough ahead of time, or make the whole assembled rolls ahead of time. So please don’t be alarmed at the large chunk of text – I promise these are not that intense!
Why do you post small batch recipes?
I love making small batch bakes because they are the perfect size myself and others who don’t have a lot of people to bake for in their home. Small batch helps cut down on waste and eliminates the feeling that all that excess dessert MUST be eaten. Here on my blog I post a lot of small batch bakes with a mix of some 8-10″ single layer cakes from time to time. All my recipes can easily be doubled or tripled to fit your need, so long as you use grams to measure!
Small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe tips
Weigh your ingredients
Weighing your ingredients is important for getting the recipe perfect and getting consistent results. Not weighing your ingredients can lead to adding too much or too little of an ingredient and can easily throw off a recipe. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend purchasing a kitchen scale. This one is super cheap and worked well for me when I was starting out!
Kneading the dough
Kneading this dough will take a longer time than you are probably used to. This dough is enriched which makes it harder for gluten to develop. Kneading in the mixer can take me anywhere from 10-20 minutes. The dough is ready to be used when it passes the windowpane test and has pulled away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If you are weighing your ingredients, just trust the process! If you are using cup measurements and the dough just is not coming together after 15 minutes, try adding in 1 tbsp. of flour at a time.
Room temperature ingredients
It is important for the ingredients to be at room temperature so that they properly incorporate with each other. Take out the butter at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hr 30 min. before starting the recipe. To bring butter to room temperature quickly, slice it, place it on a plate, and microwave it in 5 second intervals!
Heating the milk
Heating the milk is important for bringing the yeast to an optimal temperature for rising. The milk should be heated to ~100°F / 38°C but it does not have to be exact. As long as the milk is between 95°F – 110°F, it is good to be used. If the temperature exceeds 110°F, wait for it to cool down before using it. This way you will avoid killing the yeast!
Dough rising environment
For the first rise, I highly recommend letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight. The dough is much easier to work with when it’s cold, and then you don’t have to worry about doing everything in one day. For the second rise, the dough should be in a warm environment. If the room is cold, the dough will take longer to rise. I like to place my bowl of dough on top of my oven and preheat it to the lowest temperature. Then, I turn off the oven and continue to let the dough rise on top.
The windowpane test
The windowpane test is (in my opinion) the best way to tell that your dough has been properly kneaded. Once the dough starts to pull away from the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl, it is most likely ready. However, just to be sure that it’s good to go I check if it passes the windowpane test. To do that, take some of the dough in your hands and start to slowly stretch it out. If it can get thin enough to where light passes through it before tearing, then it’s good to go! If not, keep kneading until it does!
Ingredients and substitutions
For the brioche rolls:
All purpose flour: for structure and chewiness.
Active dry yeast: for making the dough rise. You can easily substitute in instant yeast if that is what you have on hand. You will just skip the step of combining the warm milk, sugar, and yeast!
Salt: for balancing and bringing out the sweetness of the brioche. Salt also “controls” the yeast to make sure that it does not overly expand.
Granulated sugar: for sweetening the brioche and for helping the yeast with rising. We will use a little bit of sugar in the brioche as well as in the hazelnut sugar.
Canned pumpkin: for flavor! Make sure you are using 100% pure pumpkin
Unsalted butter: for tenderizing the brioche rolls and giving them a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth feel. I would not recommend substituting in salted butter since salt is important to controlling yeast growth and the amount of salt in salted butter is quite variable.
Whole milk: for tenderizing and hydrating the dough. Whole milk will provide the softest rolls because the extra fat helps tenderize the dough. You can however swap in 1%, 2% or your favorite non dairy milk alternative! Just note that the dough may be a little less soft and fluffy due to the varying fat content.
For the filling:
Unsalted butter: for buttery goodness and for giving the sugar something to stick to.
Dark brown sugar: I absolutely love using dark brown sugar in the fall just for all the rich flavor it brings. Feel free to substitute light brown sugar here though, I promise it’s still delicious!
Ground cinnamon: for flavor of course! If you’re up for it, these are also delicious with pumpkin pie spice.
For the cream cheese frosting:
Cream cheese: the base of the icing! Lends a slight tanginess to contrast the sweetness of the rolls.
Powdered sugar: to sweeten up the frosting.
Vanilla: for flavor.
Salt: a pinch of salt helps bring out the flavor and sweetness of the icing.
How to make small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls:
Here’s a detailed description of how to make these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, including how to make them overnight two different ways. You can find the complete recipe (which is printable!) at the end of this blog post. The printable recipe exclusively includes the way that I make these rolls.
1. Make the dough. In a microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop, heat the milk until it reaches ~100°F / 38°C, making sure it does not exceed 110°F / 43°C. To the milk, mix in the sugar and yeast and leave to rest until the mixture begins to foam. The foaming simply means that the yeast is alive and that the dough will rise. Then, combine all of the dough ingredients in a stand mixer and knead. You will know the dough is ready when it passes the windowpane test. If you’re unsure of what the windowpane test, it’s detailed below in this post!
2. Let the dough rise. There are really three ways to go about this:
- Make the cinnamon rolls all in one day. This option I recommend the least, just because the dough is super hydrated and difficult to work with when it’s warm. If you want to make the rolls all in one day, simply form the dough into a ball, butter your mixing bowl, and place the dough into the buttered bowl. Place a towel loosely over the bowl and leave it to rise in a warm environment until it has doubled in size (~1 hr.)
- Let the dough rise overnight. After making the dough, form it into a ball, butter the mixing bowl, and place the dough into the buttered bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (making sure there is room for the dough to rise), and place it in the fridge overnight, for at least 12 hours and up to 24.
- Let the assembled cinnamon rolls rise overnight. After making the dough, form it into a ball, butter the mixing bowl, and place the dough into the buttered bowl. Place a towel loosely over the bowl and leave it to rise in a warm environment until it has doubled in size. Continue with the recipe but once the rolls are assembled and in the pan, cover the top tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.
3. Shape the rolls. Once the dough has finished rising (either overnight or same-day), lightly punch it down to remove any excess air in it. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly floured surface, then roll it out to a 12″ x 10″ (30 x 25 cm) rectangle.
4. Form the rolls. Microwave the butter in 20 second intervals, until it is just melted. Spread the butter over the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter. Tightly roll up the dough into a cylinder starting from the shorter (10″) side. Then, use a sharp knife to slice the roll into 6 even cinnamon rolls.
5. Let the rolls rise. Here are the two ways to go about this.
- If making the same day / if the dough itself already rose overnight: Transfer the rolls to a lightly buttered and/or lined 8″ cake pan or pie dish. Lightly cover the pan with a towel, and let the rolls rise in a warm environment until doubled in size (~30-45 minutes.)
- If letting the assembled cinnamon rolls rise overnight: Transfer the rolls to a lightly buttered and/or lined 8″ cake pan or pie dish. Tightly cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap, and place the rolls in the fridge overnight.
6. Bake. Again, here are the two ways to go about this depending on how you made your dough!
- If making the same day / if the dough itself already rose overnight: Once the rolls have doubled in size, pour the heavy cream evenly over them. Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, and use a thermometer to check when the rolls are done cooking (190°F / 88°C.)
- If the assembled cinnamon rolls rose overnight: Take the cinnamon rolls out of the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to baking them. When they’re ready to be baked, evenly pour the heavy cream over them and bake for 15-20 minutes. Use a thermometer to check when the rolls are done cooking (190°F / 88°C.)
7. Make the cream cheese frosting. In a small mixing bowl, lightly beat the cream cheese with the salt to make sure it’s smooth. Then mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until the mixture is smooth. Adjust sugar as desired.
8. Serve and enjoy! Top the rolls with the cream cheese frosting, serve, and enjoy!
Small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls Q & A
How to store small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls
Is there anything better than fresh brioche? These rolls will definitely taste the best on the day that they are baked, but if you would like to keep some for later, I recommend only frosting the ones you are going to eat right away. Because the frosting is made out of cream cheese, it must be refrigerated for food safety. Keep the frosting stored in an airtight container in the fridge, and the rolls stored in an airtight container at room temperature. When you would like a cinnamon roll, simply pop one in the microwave for 5 seconds, then top it with icing!
Can I double this recipe?
Yes! I can’t emphasize using a kitchen scale enough for especially this recipe already, but if you are going to double or half the ingredients it is even more important that you weigh your ingredients. The dough is very hydrated and slight alterations can change the texture of the dough.
Can I make this in a larger cake pan?
You certainly could make this in a larger cake pan, but I unfortunately don’t recommend it. Since this recipe is small batch, it won’t fill out a 9″ or 10″ cake pan as well as it fills out the 8″ pan. So, if you do choose to make it in a larger pan – just know that the rolls may flatten out and not hold their shape as well.
Can I use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast?
Yes of course! Instead of mixing the heated milk, sugar, and yeast together, just pop all of the dough ingredients into your mixing bowl to start kneading. I do highly recommend refrigerating the dough overnight to make it easier to work with and more flavorful. However, if you are making the recipe all in one day, and using instant yeast, simply let the dough rest for just 10 minutes as the first rise, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Can I make the dough ahead of time?
Yes, and I highly recommend it! Brioche dough is a very enriched dough that can be hard to work with when warm. There are detailed notes on different ways you can make this dough ahead of time listed earlier in this post, under “How to make small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls.”
Why do you measure in grams?
My recipes are all written in grams because it is a more accurate way to bake. When you use a kitchen scale, you ensure that your baked goods turn out as close to the written recipe as possible. Plus, the cleanup is way easier when using a scale! I will provide standard cup measurements but please note that I have not tested the recipe using cup measurements. Here is my favorite kitchen scale, and here’s an article about why I use a kitchen scale, and why you should too!
A note on oven temperature.
Ovens vary and fluctuate in temperature. For example, I always have to set my oven to 330°F if I want it to bake at 350°F. If you love to bake like I do, I highly recommend getting an oven thermometer. They are super helpful for letting you know when your oven might be lying to you. I use this one.
Small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls troubleshooting
My dough just isn’t coming together
I can’t recommend the use of a kitchen scale enough, especially for something as hydrated as brioche dough. If you’ve been kneading and kneading and the dough still won’t pass the windowpane test, add 1 tbsp. of flour at a time and knead for 2 minutes until the dough comes together.
My yeast mixture isn’t foaming, what should I do?
The mixture should start foaming around 5 minutes in. If it has not foamed after 10 minutes, the yeast is likely dead. You want to make sure that the milk temperature does not exceed 110°F / 43°C or it will kill the yeast. If you try it again and it still does not foam, the yeast you are using may be expired and you will want to purchase some more before proceeding.
Tools and ingredients
You can find all my favorite tools and ingredients that I use on my Amazon Storefront page, here!
Did you make these small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls?
If you made these small batch pumpkin cinnamon rolls I would love to see them and know your thoughts! Please leave a comment and review down below, and tag me on Instagram @freshbeanbakery. If you have any questions about the recipe I will gladly do my best to answer them in the comments below!
Small Batch Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- 60 g whole milk (¼ c.)
- 1 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 160 g all purpose flour (1 ⅓ c.)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 80 g pure pumpkin (⅓ c.)
- 42 g unsalted butter (3 tbsp.) room temperature
- 42 g unsalted butter (3 tbsp.)
- 80 g dark brown sugar (¼ c. + 2 tbsp.)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 90 mL heavy cream (3 oz.)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 113 g cream cheese (½ c.) room temperature
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 30 g powdered sugar (¼ c.)
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- In a microwave safe measuring cup, heat the milk to 100°F / 38°C. Whisk in the yeast and the sugar. Set aside until the mixture begins to foam. (~5 minutes)
- While waiting, add the flour, salt, pumpkin, and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. When the yeast mixture begins to foam, add it in to the rest of the ingredients.
- Knead the dough on low speed for 1 minute to allow the ingredients to come together. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead for an additional 10 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test. (This will happen after the dough has cleaned the sides and bottom of the bowl)
- At this point I would recommend covering the bowl with plastic wrap and leaving it to rise overnight in the fridge. If making the buns in one day, cover the bowl with a towel and leave it to rise in a warm environment until doubled in size (~1 hr.)
- Once the dough has doubled in size (or after taking it out of the fridge after rising overnight), lightly punch it down to remove excess air. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly floured surface, then roll it out to a 12″ x 10″ (30 x 25 cm) rectangle.
- Melt the butter. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Spread the butter over the rolls, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter.
- Tightly roll the dough up into a cylinder starting from the longer (12") side. Use a sharp knife to slice the roll into 6 even rolls.
- Transfer the rolls to a lightly buttered and/or lined 8" cake pan or pie dish. Lightly cover the pan with a towel, and let the rolls rise in a warm environment until doubled in size (~30-45 minutes).
- When the rolls are close to doubling in size, preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C.
- Once the rolls have doubled in size, pour the heavy cream evenly over them. Bake for 15-20 minutes. using a thermometer to check when the rolls are done cooking (190°F / 88°C.)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a small mixing bowl, lightly beat the cream cheese with the salt to make sure it's smooth. Then mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until the mixture is smooth. Adjust sugar as desired.
- Top the warm rolls with the cream cheese frosting. Serve and enjoy!