pumpkin cinnamon rolls: Beyond pie

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South, come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?

– John Greenleaf Whittier

You know, I just HAD to print that 19th-century poem here, even though Thanksgiving is weeks away. And the recipe we’re making today isn’t pumpkin pie. Because, if you think you don’t like poetry, the verse above might make you think again.

Indeed, what DOES call back the past, like the rich pumpkin… sweet roll?

While you may be a dyed-in-the-wool pumpkin pie aficionado, there’s so much more to this humble gourd than a once-a-year Thanksgiving pie. Think pumpkin soup. And pumpkin muffins. And how about curried pumpkin scones? To say nothing of a pumpkin “jelly roll,” filled with a rich cream cheese filling…

Never knew pumpkin was such a versatile baking ingredient, did you?

Not only does pumpkin add great texture and flavor to all kinds of treats; it adds deep-gold color, as well. Beauty may be only crust-deep, but it doesn’t hurt to put something delicious AND pretty on the table. And what easier way to add color to what can often be a pretty beige-brown-tan affair: the holiday bread basket?

The following pumpkin rolls feature a swirl of cinnamon, plus cranberries and bits of crystallized ginger scattered throughout.

That’s a combination that certainly brightens my eye. How about you?


Here’s the ingredient that’ll give your rolls their distinctive flavor and lovely golden color: canned pumpkin. NOT pumpkin pie filling; just plain ol’ pumpkin.

Can you use your own homemade puréed pumpkin? Sure. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe to balance the amount of liquid in your purée.


This is one of those easy “put everything into a bowl” recipes:

1 cup canned pumpkin or squash
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup lukewarm water*
1/4 cup soft butter
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
3 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

*Adjust the amount of water by the time of year or your climate. For summer, or in a humid environment, use the lesser amount of water. In winter, or in a dry climate, use the greater amount. It’s always best to start with the lesser amount; you can always add more, but it’s pretty hard to go back and add less!


Mix to combine…


…then knead till smooth. The dough may be fairly sticky; that’s OK. So long as it holds its shape, you’re good.


Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container; I’m using an 8-cup measure here, so I can track how much it’s risen.


Cover, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, until it’s puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.


Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.


Roll the dough into a 14” x 22” rectangle.


It’ll be very thin. Don’t stress if you can’t make it exactly 14” x 22”.


Next up: the flavors of fall. Here we have 1/4 cup of dried cranberries on the left, 1/4 cup of diced crystallized ginger on the right. These will be sprinkled on the rolled dough…


…after we’ve spread it with the filling.

Combine the following:

3/4 cup Baker’s Cinnamon Filling*
3 tablespoons water

*Substitute 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for the Baker’s Cinnamon Filling and water, if desired. If you use sugar and cinnamon, DO NOT ADD THE WATER.


Doesn’t that filling look GOOOOOOD!


Spread it over the dough. If you use sugar and cinnamon, brush the dough with water, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.


Leave one short edge free of filling.


Sprinkle the cranberries and ginger atop the filling. Don’t like cranberries? Leave ’em out. Don’t like crystallized ginger? Leave it out. Don’t like cinnamon filling? Try another recipe!


Starting with the end with filling, roll the dough into a log.


Seal it closed. Next, you’re going to cut it into 9 rolls. It helps to use a ruler and measure the entire log, divide by 9, then actually make slight cuts, as a guide.


A serrated knife is the easiest way to cut this dough. If things start getting too sticky, rinse the knife in hot water (don’t dry it), and continue.


There you have it: 9 fat rolls.


Lay the rolls in a  lightly greased 9” square pan; the pan needs to be at least 2” deep.


Flatten them with your fingers, so they’re fairly tightly packed.


Then cover, and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they look puffy – like this. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.


Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re lightly browned and feel set.


Remove them from the oven, and set them on a rack.


Turn them out of the pan, and allow them to cool for about 15 minutes. Towards the end of the cooling time, make the glaze.


Combine the followoing:

1 cup glazing or confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons milk, or enough to make a “drizzlable” glaze


Stir till smooth.


Drizzle atop the warm buns.


Like this.


Plan B: If you like a glaze that seeps down into the buns, leaving a translucent (rather than bright white) layer on top, apply the glaze while the buns are HOT.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Rolls.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. fer

    It’s me again. This is some beautiful dough! I would highly recommend it for beginners or for anyone cooking with kids. I kneaded it in my Kitchen-Aid, using the smaller amount of water plus about 1 teaspoon more since it was quite humid here when I started. It’s SO easy to roll out, even thinly. But I’m going to have to get a bigger silicone mat as mine was no where big enough!

  2. fer

    The dough is rising as I type, and it is some beautiful dough! But I’m wondering why you called for all-purpose flour in the recipe instead of bread flour. Ever since I discovered KAF bread flour quite a few years ago, I have used it exclusively whenever I use any unbleached flour in yeast baking.

    It seems that these rolls will be awfully big if I make just 9 so I’m going to try making 12.

    1. Amy Trage

      Usually AP flour would be used for this application, but if you are happy with the bread flour, you certainly may use it! It will give a tighter, sturdier crumb and a chewier texture to whatever you are making. ~Amy

  3. Shannon Ratliff

    I would love to try these. What do you suggest to use to make them Gluten Free? I am new to gf baking and don’t know what substitutes would be good.



    Shape the rolls, place in the baking pan – then refrigerate overnight. Next morning, remove from the fridge, preheat the oven and place the fridge risen rolls right in. Now that’s happy – and efficient baking! Irene@KAF

  5. MyThy as in "Mighty"

    I made this last night and it came out great! (wish you could post photos here)

    I made the following substitutions b/c it’s what I had on hand:
    3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/4 all spice for the 1/2tsp ginger
    1/2 cup milk (replaced all water w/ 1% milk b/c I didn’t have dried milk as mentioned in a previous review)

    For half the cinnamon rolls:1/2 cinnamon sugar spread like recipe
    dried cranberries
    chopped pecans
    The other half I used Trader Joe’s Almond Cocoa spread (like nutella) and added chopped pecans.

    1/2 cup Fat free sour cream
    5 TBP powdered sugar
    1 TBP maple syrup

    I used my dough hook for the first time and I’m glad I did b/c it the dough was stiff w/ just 1/4 cup milk. It took me 1/2 milk. The first rise was slow and it took 2 hrs for it to double.

    I filled my dough w/ half

    Its cold here in MI so I shaped filled and shaped my rolls and left them on the warm electric oven top to rise overnight. They “poofed up” nicely and into the oven they went this AM!

    Glazed after 10 mins and it was delish!

  6. misoranomegami

    This right here is why I love King Arthur. I was thinking of pumpkin breads on the way home from school and though “Hmmm I wonder if there are any good recipes for pumpkin cinnamon rolls.” Lo and behold!
    I am so pleased our bloggers did not disappoint! Elisabeth

  7. rochelle_keefer

    If anyone is like me and doesn’t have a dough hook, I can say this is difficult to hand knead, but not impossible. I put my new silicone rolling mat to use- a very good purchase- to minimize the mess. After mixing the ingredients by hand, the mixture looked dry, but it was actually very wet once I dug in. I kneaded for about 20 minutes to get it smooth and holding shape. The dough rose great. From all the previous comments about maple icing, I threw in some maple flavor bites to the cinnamon filling which is very yummy. Great hot out of the oven. Looking forward to having another for breakfast!


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