The Orange Rolls That Were


A few weeks ago, after trying to make up my own recipe for homemade orange rolls, I was frustrated.

I made the dough twice. And both times, I ended up throwing every last bit of it away. I hate wasting food and I really hated that nothing about these recipes turned out right. Absolutely nothing – the dough didn’t rise, the process just didn’t work out, and they were not edible.


This past weekend, Nick and I were at home with no big plans, so I decided to try again.

I sat down with the recipe that totally failed in every way and reworked it. I mixed in new ingredients, took out a few things, added a few more steps, and prayed that they would turn out.

Looking at the recipe, I had no idea if this batch would work or not but I was hoping for the best.


Thankfully, everything about this batch worked.

The dough rose beautifully.

The orange butter filling smelled incredible.

They baked up perfectly.

And the orange glaze? Over the top.


These are sweet. Sticky, syrupy, sickly sweet in the best way. But the orange zest and juice cut through the sugar so they’re not super rich.

And – like almost everything in this house – they’re mostly whole wheat. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe. A lot of the prep work is hands-free (waiting for the dough to rise, etc), and they’re totally worth it.

Thank goodness I was able to conquer these rolls before citrus season was over!


Redemption is super sweet.


Orange Rolls

  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 3/4 cup fat free milk, warmed
  • 1/4 cup water, warmed
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, warmed
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp orange zest (the zest of one medium orange)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar


  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp milk

Combine the flour, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer or large bowl.

Add in salt, milk, water, orange juice, melted butter, and eggs and mix with dough hook or mixer (or your hands) until combined.

Mix in the whole wheat pastry and all purpose flour, and let mix 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth, elastic, and a little sticky. If it’s too wet and sticky, add in more flour, a little at a time, until the dough stays together when you pick it up.

Put dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled (about an hour).

Once the dough has doubled, punch down and roll out into a rectangle on a floured surface.

Mix orange zest with the 4 Tbsp softened butter and spread butter mixture on the dough.

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of powdered sugar on top of the orange butter.

Roll up the dough (starting with the side farthest away from you). Slice into 12 pieces and place in a greased baking dish.

Cover and place dish in the refrigerator overnight*.

In the morning, take rolls out and place in a cold oven. Put baking dish on rack below rolls and fill with boiling water. Close the oven door and the rolls sit in the oven for 30 minutes to rise.

Once the rolls have doubled again (about 30-40 minutes), take out and let rest at room temperature while the oven heats up.

Turn oven on to 350 degrees.

Bake rolls 20-25 minutes.

Mix together the powdered sugar, orange juice, and milk to make the glaze. Pour onto the orange rolls before serving.

*If you’re going to be making these in the morning, skip the refrigerator step and just leave the rolls out, covered again, in a warm place to do the second rise. Then follow with the same baking instructions.


  1. They look absolutely incredible! My mom always made orange rolls when I was growing up… from a can. I would love to try these!

    • I think we need a roll party – I’ll bring the orange rolls and you can bring your cake batter ones :)

  2. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  3. I’ve never had orange rolls, but I made some maple-orange butter a few weeks ago that was to die for. Willing to bet these rolls are top-notch and I can’t wait to try them!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh my, I love Orange Rolls. YUM

  5. They look sooooooooo good!!! And I’m so impressed that you made up your own recipe and got it to work!!!

  6. Congrats on getting the recipe right! Doesn’t it feel(and taste!) great to nail it?

  7. I can’t wait to try these! I just printed them. I have some oranges that need to be used up. :-)

  8. Omgoshhhh these look perfect! I haven’t had breakfast yet so my tummy was rumbling before..but it’s really yelling at me now!

  9. Mmm rolls! They look yummy!

  10. Congratulations! They look delish. I love orange rolls…drool…

  11. these look so good! i love the orange inside. i’ve been having bad luck with these kind of rolls so this might be just the recipe.

  12. Perfection! Totally worth all of the effort. I bet these made the house smell amazing

  13. I’ve never had an orange roll, but I imagine the smell to be amazing!! Glad these turned out for you Brandi – I am like you – get frustrated and pissed when a recipe doesn’t turn out like it does in my head :D

  14. ha, i love your title. there is a brunch spot that has orange rolls which i LOVE. i think these look even better than theirs.. i need to give them a whirl! xoxo

  15. These look absolutely incredible!!!

  16. omgshh~~I definitely want to try this. I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before, and only had 2 rolls in my life. I bet yours are great :D

  17. i keep eating all my oranges before i get to play with them :) these look amazing… i totally need to make them!!

  18. What beautiful orange rolls!

  19. I love orange flavored pastries! I also love that they’re whole wheat:) Looks delish!

  20. Reminds me of Sunday morning breakfast when you girls were young

    Love Ya

  21. the glaze is perfect! wow and the inside shot- major YUMSSSS <3

  22. Those look amazing. I really want to try these now. I’ve always been too intimidated to make my own cinnamon (or orange in your case) rolls at home.

  23. Glad these finally worked out for you. How fun! I have to admit I’ve never tried whole wheat pastry flour because it’s low protein so I always assumed it wouldn’t have enough gluten for a risen bread. But you’ve proven me wrong!

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  28. These look great. So glad you conquered them. Bread is a wonderful thing and can be made into so many different forms.

  29. Can you suggest a way to alter and use lemon instead of orange? My kids are allergic to orange…I know you would have to use less juice…but otherwise I am stumped…Sounds like a fabulous recipe!

    • HI Susan! I would definitely add some extra sugar to the lemon butter filling mixture and to the glaze, but I think they’d be delicious. Maybe also add some berries, too?

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