Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls: A Classic Breakfast Staple for the Fall

making new traditions with cinnamon rolls

In my family, Thanksgiving mornings have always been quick, light bites first thing when you wake, as the scent of roasting turkey barely begins to float through the kitchen.

In our pajamas, we eat cereal, cups of coffee, maybe a piece of toast. But, anticipating, we stop there.

It’s no different than any other kind of delayed gratification, just like working this week means a paycheck next or not buying yourself new clothes – not even the creamy white coat with the 3/4 sleeves – means more money in your savings account or a little extra to spend on Christmas gifts.

That’s all well and good, most years. When the turkey is a sure thing, when the stock market is strong, by all means put off pleasure. Look ahead to the later reward.

But what about when the long-term benefit seems a little, well, unsure? This year, for example, the economy is in flux. Also, I’d be responsible for getting the Thanksgiving meal on the table.

While very different situations, putting all my faith in the chances of the meal going well could be as foolish as putting all my money into one Big Company.

Always one to hedge my bets, this year I made a Thanksgiving back-up plan. Even if I burnt the turkey or the stuffing lacked flavor, at least I’d know no one went hungry.

Contrary to tradition, I’d make a breakfast tasty enough to distract my family without overstuffing them, buying me extra cooking time.

Enter pumpkin cinnamon rolls. These tender pillows can be made before you go to bed and left covered in the draft-free, unheated oven overnight.

In the morning, remove the towel to find fluffy, fat circles of dough, rich with ribbons of cinnamon, ready to be baked.


pumpkin cinnamon rolls

Fresh from the oven, these rolls emerge plump and golden, decorated with dark cinnamon stripes and bubbling over with browned butter.

Let them cool a bit, then top with caramel frosting, a homemade blend of butter, sugars, milk and vanilla that softens on the warm, pumpkin-colored dough and dissolves into its crust.

The entire kitchen will be aglow with warm cinnamon and yeast, drawing sleeping family members with curiosity. And be prepared: these go quickly.

I found myself, waiting on onions for the stuffing to cook, reaching for another bite of breakfast with a free hand, pulling at one end of the cinnamon roll and breaking it off into a curved, sugary piece, crystallized at the top with icing.

iced pumpkin cinnamon rolls

By the time the turkey was half-cooked, three rolls were left. By the time the turkey was done, one.

Oh, and also, that whole rule about not eating in order to have room for the meal? Total rubbish.

By the time the meal was hot, dished up and plated, we were more than ready.

Truly, this whole experience is enough to make me throw caution to the wind and insist on instant gratification in all of life or, at least, possibly, with a new pair of jeans.

The Recipe

pumpkin cinnamon rolls
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 rolls 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 minutes 9 hours
Servings Prep Time
12 rolls 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 minutes 9 hours
pumpkin cinnamon rolls
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 rolls 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 minutes 9 hours
Servings Prep Time
12 rolls 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 minutes 9 hours
For the Dough:
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast 1 packet
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour divided
  • 3/4 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the Icing:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash salt
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar sifted
Servings: rolls
The night before:
  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water in a small bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Mixture should be foamy if your yeast is still good (and if it isn't, toss it out and start over with fresh; if it helps at all, I did stir mine just a bit to get the foam to come).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups flour, pumpkin puree, milk, melted butter, sugar, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. Stir in yeast mixture and continue stirring until evenly mixed. Turn dough out onto a floured surface.
  3. Begin kneading. As you go, add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour, a bit at a time, until the dough is soft and elastic (it should feel a bit tacky, but shouldn't stick to your hands).
  4. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled, turning to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the cinnamon filling by stirring together the softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
  6. Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12x10" rectangle on a floured surface. Spread the cinnamon mixture in a thin layer over the dough, leaving a bit of a border at the edges.
  7. Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to get rid of any air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut roll into 12 1-inch slices. Place slices in a lightly buttered 9x13" rectangular pan. Cover with a clean towel and place in an unheated oven overnight.
In the morning:
  1. Remove pan from the oven and remove the towel. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake rolls for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes before drizzling with caramel icing.


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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

12 thoughts on “Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls: A Classic Breakfast Staple for the Fall

  1. you are too cute! having a Plan B in cooking is important but i was thinking more along the lines of take out.

    honey, despite the economy and the state of this world, treat yourself to that coat and/or jeans… i went a little crazy myself, even tho i survived a layoff…

  2. I am so making those tonight. I’ll have to bring them to work though right away because I would seriously eat them all. Living alone is risky. 🙂

  3. How do you think they would taste with a cream cheese frosting instead? They sound fun -but I don’t know if Tim would like the carmel frosting? Just curious.

  4. cooooool. i made pumpkin rolls (basically the dough you made) for dinner that day!!

    neato. i’d love to try it in cinnamon roll fashion!!

  5. I never woulda thunk it. What a great idea. I’m with you though. I think I had toast for breakfast – half a piece. We are serious about our eating. I don’t think my husband had anything until the turkey was carved. Then we all put on our stretchy pants and didn’t get off the couch for a few hours. I love Thanksgiving.

  6. Have I said lately how much I love comments? I love comments.

    Lan: Big hug. You’re the girl to go shopping with, clearly. Good perspective. As far as the coat and jeans, I don’t know. There’s still a part of me that thinks I should wait… and then, maybe the waiting means I don’t want them enough. Maybe I’d rather have instant gratification on some more sugar or flour or butter, to bake more things that I also don’t need, lol. Tough decisions, these are.

    Joanna: Oooh can’t wait to hear how you like them! (And living alone nothing–I ate THREE before I knew what happened, and that was with three other people nearby.)

    Katie: I think cream cheese frosting would be delightful on these. Although… does Tim not like caramel or not like super-sweet icing? Because even though this is called “caramel frosting,” it’s more like sugary icing. Kind of a misnomer, now that I think of it.

    Nick: For Christmas! Brilliant!

    MFK: LOL about the stretchy pants. I do that every night. 🙂

    Amy: Oh believe me, dent we did!

    Rachel: I saw your pics of the pumpkin rolls! We are so sympatico, practically cooking together states away.

  7. So good. They were labeled amazing by several. I’m going to make these for my fam when I go home for Christmas. We always make cinnamon rolls, but I think these are going to be an improvement. 🙂

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