Orange Sweet Rolls: tangy twist on a favorite classic

Drip… Drip… Drip…

This is definitely NOT the sound you want to hear in the middle of a dark and stormy night, with the wind howling and tugging at those old shingles on your roof – you know, the ones you meant to replace last year only you spent your income tax refund on a stand mixer and a week at the beach.

This is also not the sound you want to hear when, against your better judgment, you left the dog alone in the kitchen with a pot of cooling soup barely within inquisitive nose reach on the counter.

And in fact, this is not the sound you hear at all when you drizzle vanilla glaze on a sweet roll.

No, that process is entirely silent – unless you count your own barely audible sigh of bliss as you watch that glaze drip… drip… drip down the side of a warm bun.

Carly Simon said it best: Anticipation…

Are you a fan of cinnamon rolls? Is orange a favorite flavor?

Then you absolutely need to make these Orange Sweet Rolls. Soft dough wrapped around orange marmalade (or not – I’ll offer a substitute for you marmalade non-fans), drizzled with an orange-scented vanilla glaze…

Anticipation is about to turn into action.

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As usual, we love it when readers help do our marketing for us.

From Cookie Munster, a member of our Baking Circle community, commenting on our recipe for Cinnamon Rolls: “Cannot imagine making buns without the Buttery Sweet Dough extract, SAF GOLD yeast and your Cinnamon Filling Mix – there is an extraordinary difference!!!!”

“So, this person is talking about cinnamon rolls,” you say. “What does that have to do with these orange sweet buns?”

Good question. And because you’re being so thoughtful, dear reader, I’m going to let you in on a test kitchen secret:

Very few recipes are brand new.

Rather than start with a blank slate, we build on previous successes to create something fresh and different.

A white sandwich bread recipe might evolve into oatmeal-raisin rolls. Plain scones constantly take a new turn with the addition of nuts, chips, fruit, and flavors.

Chocolate chip cookies morph into salty-sweet butter-pecan cookies. Or chocolate chip blondies.

And the dough used in our guaranteed Cinnamon Rolls has become the base for many a sticky bun and sweet breakfast roll over the years. Like these Orange Sweet Rolls.

Cookie Munster is right. The Buttery Sweet Dough flavor adds that certain bakery je ne sais quoi flavor to sweet rolls, breads, even cookies and bars of all kinds. Part citrus, part vanilla, and wonderfully buttery, just a half-teaspoon or so takes a good bun and makes it, as Tony the Tiger would say, GRRRRREAT!

And that SAF Gold instant yeast… gotta love it.

Suffice it to say, if you’re frustrated waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for sweet doughs to rise, substitute SAF Gold for your usual SAF Red.

Specially formulated to work quickly and efficiently in sweet dough (definition: at least 1 tablespoon sugar per cup of flour), SAF Gold is a sticky bun baker’s (and sweet roll, challah, and panettone maker’s) dream come true.

First, let’s mix up some sweet dough. Put the following in a mixing bowl:

7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water*
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor, optional but yummy
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, SAF Gold preferred
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Yes, that’s the Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor you see. I’m with Cookie Munster – it makes a wonderful difference.

Mix and knead everything together — by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle — until you’ve made a smooth dough.

If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, it should take about 7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. In a bread machine (or by hand), it should form a smooth ball.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl – or in a greased 8-cup measure, as I’ve done here. I like to use this clear measuring cup, as it’s so easy to tell just how much the dough has risen.

Cover the bowl or cup, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Rising may take longer (up to about 2 hours), especially if you haven’t used SAF Gold yeast, or if you’ve kneaded by hand; give the dough enough time to become quite puffy.

While the dough is rising, lightly grease two 9″ round cake pans.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface (or silicone rolling mat), and pat or roll it into a 16″ x 12″ rectangle. It’s a nice, soft dough, and pats out easily.

Mix 1/4 cup orange marmalade and 2 tablespoons orange juice powder. The OJ powder is optional, but really does kick up the flavor.

Spread the mixture evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving just a bit of the edge clean.

So what’s up with the half-and-half look?

I decided to do half the rolls with marmalade, half with just orange juice powder, to see what difference the marmalade makes. Stay tuned for the answer.

Roll the dough into a log the long way. When the log is completely rolled, pinch the seam closed as best you can.

Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 16 slices. It helps to score the log where you want to cut it; you know the old woodworker’s saw, measure twice, cut once.

If the knife drags through the dough, rinse the blade in hot water and wipe it off between slices.

Space eight rolls in each of the prepared pans.

Cover the pans, and let the rolls rise until they’re noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes to 1 hour (again, longer if you haven’t used SAF Gold yeast); they should spread out and start to crowd one another.

While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the rolls until they’re brown around the edges and beginning to turn golden brown across the center, about 23 to 25 minutes.

If you’re going to serve the rolls immediately, make the icing while the rolls are baking. Combine 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon orange juice powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia), and 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons orange juice, enough to make a spreadable icing.

If you’re not serving the rolls immediately, don’t make the icing just yet.

Remove the rolls from the oven, and loosen their edges with a knife. Turn them out of the pan onto a rack.

To enjoy right away, drizzle/spread with the icing and serve.

To serve the rolls later, allow them to cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Shortly before you’re ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F. Unwrap the rolls, place them on an ungreased baking sheet, and tent lightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re nicely warmed. While the rolls are reheating, make the icing. Remove the rolls from the oven, and spread with the icing.

Serve immediately – so you can appreciate the silent drip… drip… drip…

And what about omitting the orange marmalade from these rolls, and using just orange juice powder?

Well, the rolls with the marmalade were definitely tastier and moister. But hey, I understand not liking orange marmalade; it’s an acquired taste for some. If you’re not a marmalade fan, substitute apricot preserves, if desired; the rolls won’t be as “orange-y,” but will be delicious nonetheless.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Orange Sweet Rolls.

Print just the recipe.

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. Cre8apic

    Would orange oil be okay to use in place of the powder? If so, how much would you recommend for each use in this recipe that I must try?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I am not sure what powder in the recipe you are referring to. We would love to help, so please call our toll free Bakers’ Hotline, 1-855-371-BAKE. We are here every day! Elisabeth

    2. Sid Beaty

      I am an rookie baker and have had no experience with yeast breads, but I am anxious to learn and expand my baking experiences. I am recently retired and in the past have enjoyed baking the “basics” such as cookies, brownies, quick breads, etc., especially at the Christmas holidays for gifts.

      So, now my question(s). I would like to begin making different kinds of “cinnamon roll”-type sweet rolls. I would think (hope) in order to make it easy I could have a consistent recipe for just the dough, and then just make the FILLING and ICING parts unique based on the type of rolls I am making (e.g., cinnamon apple, carmel pecan, chocolate, blueberry lemon, pumpkin, etc., etc…you get the idea).

      Searching the internet I found recipes that called for putting eggs, butter, whole milk and (sometimes) water in the dough mix (along with other incidentals). Then there were other recipes (that received rave reviews) that had no eggs or butter in the dough mix, but instead had milk and OIL (either vegetable or canola) but no eggs or butter. Then, I stumbled on the recipes on your website…non-fat dry milk, potato flakes (or flour) along with butter and eggs usually. Non-fat dry milk, potato flakes…Oh my God…this is crazy!! (LOL!) And then on top of all of that, there were a couple of recipes (one of them from the Disneyland Main Street Cafe) that included instant pudding in the dough mix. I am so confused!!!

      My goal is to make the absolutely best tasting sweet rolls I can, but also I’d like to make something that is a healthy choice also. So maybe that’s impossible…I don’t know. Also, I am doing this as a fund-raising activity for my church besides for my own family and friends.

      I know this long…sorry! I really not an idiot, just very ignorant when it comes to understanding much about baking. So, please help me understand what I should do. I would appreciate your very welcomed education and advice! Thanks!

      Laguna Niguel, CA

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sid, think of it like this: choosing a recipe is like choosing a car. Cars come in all sizes, colors, styles, prices… yet they all get you from point A to point B. No recipe is “the one” – they all have their own personality. Yet all (if they’re good recipes) yield something delicious. Your quest to identify one recipe as the one you’ll use for multiple sweet breads is a good one; as you say, identifying which of the recipes is “the one” is the challenge, just as it’s a challenge to select which car you want to buy.

      Keep this in mind: the higher the fat (eggs, butter, oil, milk) and the more the starch (pudding, potato), the softer/moister your rolls will be. A roll with no fat – just flour, water, and yeast – will be very chewy, and dry out very quickly; think baguette. So yes, if you’re looking for a low-fat, low-sugar sweet roll, you’ve got yourself a challenge.

      Here’s my advice: Make our recipe for Amish Dinner Rolls, and use that as your base dough; fill/finish with whatever combination of flavors you like. Bake in three 9″ round cake pans (or a 9″ x 13″ pan + one 9″ round cake pan). If you like the result, the next time, substitute white whole wheat flour for half the all-purpose flour in the recipe; read our blog post on substituting whole wheat for all-purpose flour for some a visual. (And yeah, you might want to try the Cinna-Buns in that post, too…)

      Why, with all the cinnamon bun recipes out there, am I suggesting a recipe that’s not even a sweet roll? Because these Amish rolls make a moist, light-textured roll that converts well to whole wheat flour; and isn’t overly sweet or high-fat. The recipe also makes three pans of rolls, and since you’re baking these as a fund-raiser, you probably want a recipe with a bigger yield than usual. Speaking of baking for a fund-raiser – you might be interested in our Bake for Good initiative. Post a photo of your buns to our Facebook or Instagram page, using hashtag #bakeforgood, and we can all share in your sweet triumph!

      Good luck, and please call our baker’s hotline if you have any questions along the way – 855-371-2253. Happy baking! PJH

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