Lemon rolls are a lemon-flavored twist on classic cinnamon rolls! With their lemon sugar filling, lemon curd, and lemon cream cheese frosting, they are a citrusy dream!

Lemon rolls with lemon curd in a white baking dish.

After years of working as a pastry chef, I have perfected homemade sweet rolls— like my strawberry rolls and blueberry rolls! These lemon rolls have the same soft and fluffy texture but are packed with citrus flavor.

They are my go-to breakfast, brunch, or dessert recipe for Easter morning, Mother’s Day, or any spring and summer occasion!

If you love lemon recipes, try my lemon bar cake or lemon bar cookies next!

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

Ingredients needed to make lemon cinnamon rolls in bowls with labels.

Fresh lemons: We’re using fresh lemon zest for a sweet but not tart flavor. Look for large bright yellow lemons; they will have the best zest!

Lemon curd: I found that zest wasn’t enough for a strong flavor when developing this recipe. Adding a thin layer of lemon curd added that perfect lemony flavor that takes these lemon rolls over the top! Make my easy lemon curd, or buy a high-quality curd instead.

Yeast: I use instant yeast in all of my cinnamon roll recipes for a strong, yeasty flavor. It doesn’t need to be activated before use, and you can skip the first rise!

Whole milk: This ingredient is important for its rich flavor and moisture. The milk should be warm or room temperature, not cold, or it won’t activate the yeast.

Heavy cream: We’re using half milk and half heavy cream. The heavy cream gives the yeast dough a rich bakery-style flavor and super fluffy texture.

Flour:​ Bread flour gives the sweet rolls an extra chewy texture. If you don’t have any on hand, all-purpose flour also works!

Find the full list of ingredients, measurements, and instructions in the recipe card below!

Flavor Variations

Recipe Instructions

Step 1: Make the tangzhong. Cook a portion of the water and flour until thickened like a roux. (Image 1 below) Set aside.

Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients. In a stand mixing bowl, combine the flour, lemon sugar, yeast, and salt. (Image 2 below)

Step 3: Mix in the wet ingredients.​ Add the tangzhong, milk, heavy cream, egg, and vanilla extract and mix until a rough dough ball forms. (Image 3 below)

A process collage of the steps for making lemon sweet roll dough.

Step 4: Knead the dough. Knead in the cool room-temperature butter until combined. Then, continue kneading until a smooth dough ball forms. (Image 4 above)

Step 5: Let the dough rest. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly buttered bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes. (Image 5 below)

Step 6: Make the lemon filling. Combine the butter, zest, and brown sugar until smooth. Set aside. (Image 6 below)

A process collage of the steps for filling the lemon rolls with lemon curd.

Step 7: Roll out the dough. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 15×21-inch rectangle. (Image 7 above)

Step 8: Spread the filling on the dough. Evenly spread the sugar mixture across the surface of the dough. Then, spread the lemon curd on top. (Image 8 above)

Step 9: Cut and roll the sweet rolls. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut twelve 1 3/4-inch strips from the dough. Roll each one, then place it into the prepared baking pan. (Image 9 below)

A process collage of the steps for frosting lemon rolls with lemon frosting.

Step 10: Let rise until doubled. Cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. (Image 10 above)

Step 11: Make the lemon cream cheese icing. Combine the butter and cream cheese. Then mix in the powdered sugar, zest, and heavy cream. (Image 11 above)

Step 12: Bake and frost the rolls. Bake the buns until lightly golden brown. Cool briefly on a wire rack, then top with cream cheese frosting and lemon curd. Allow frosting to melt between rolls before serving warm! (Image 12 above)

Tips for the Best Lemon Rolls

Use a kitchen scaleBaking with a scale is my #1 baking tip! If you don’t have a scale, use a spoon to fluff the flour first, then spoon it into your measuring cup.

Use a pizza cutter instead of unflavored dental floss. The pizza cutter makes it easy to roll the rolls up without the filling spilling out.

Use cold lemon curd; the firmer texture is easier to spread and keep from spilling out the rolls!

Rub the zest into the sugar. This releases the zest’s natural oils and adds tons of flavor!

Storage, Reheating, and Make Ahead

Storage: Because the lemon rolls are topped with lemon curd, storing them in the fridge when not serving them is best.

Make ahead: Once the rolls are assembled, cover the top of the baking pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, let the rolls double in size at room temperature for a few hours before baking. Do not make them more than one day in advance, or the yeast will start to ferment.

Reheating: Warm the rolls in the microwave or oven until gooey and melty before serving!

FAQs

How sticky should the dough be? Do I need to add more flour if it’s too sticky?

The dough should feel soft and tacky, not sticky. Add extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is consistent with the process photo above or in the video below.

How long should I let the dough rise? Can I let it rise for longer if needed?

This will depend on how warm or cold your kitchen is. It can take roughly 1-2 hours for the rolls to double in size. Do not let it rise longer than this, or the rolls will deflate after baking.

How can I tell when they’re done baking?

Look for the tops of the sweet rolls to be a light golden brown. This will result in super soft and gooey rolls. If you prefer a less gooey roll, you can bake them a bit longer until the tops are more golden.

A lemon bun with lemon curd and cream cheese frosting on a white plate.

More Fresh Lemon Recipes

If you tried this or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how it went in the comments below, I love hearing from you! Also, please leave a star rating while you’re there! You can also tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can check it out!

Lemon cinnamon rolls with lemon curd in a white baking dish.

Lemon Rolls

5 from 7 votes

Lemon rolls are a lemon-flavored twist on classic cinnamon rolls! With their lemon sugar filling, lemon curd, and lemon cream cheese frosting, they are a citrusy dream!
Print Recipe Save Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Breakfast, brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 servings

Equipment

Need Metric Measurements?Use the button options below to toggle between US cups and Metric grams!

Ingredients 
 

For the Tangzong

For the Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, *see notes below for measuring*
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • Tangzhong from above
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature

Lemon Sugar Filling

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 ounces cold cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Lemon curd for the tops

Instructions

  • Whisk the water and flour in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened into a roux, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
    1/4 cup (35 g) all purpose flour, 3/4 cup (155 g) water
  • Rub the lemon zest into the sugar until it looks like wet sand.
    1/3 cup (66 g) granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Whisk together the flour, lemon sugar, yeast, and salt in a stand mixing bowl. Add the heavy cream, milk, egg, and tangzhong. Knead on low speed with the dough hook for 2 minutes until it forms a rough dough ball.
    3 2/3 cups (480 g) all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons instant yeast, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/3 cup (78 g) heavy cream, 1/3 cup (78 g) whole milk, 1 (50 g) egg, Tangzhong from above
  • With the mixer running on low, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, letting it fully incorporate before adding more. Then, continue kneading for 11-12 minutes or until the dough looks smooth and elastic.
    8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter
  • Form the dough into a smooth round ball. Place it seam-side down into a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Combine the butter, brown sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth.
    1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, 2/3 cup (133 g) light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 15×21-inch rectangle. Evenly spread the lemon-sugar mixture across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the top clean. Then spread the lemon curd on top.
    1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (100 g) lemon curd
  • Use a pizza cutter to cut twelve 1 3/4-inch strips. Roll each strip away from you, then carefully transfer them to a parchment-lined or buttered 9×13 baking pan.
  • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise for 1-2 hours or until the rolls double. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 F/162 C.
  • Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes or until the tops are light golden brown.
  • While the rolls are baking, make the cream cheese frosting. In a stand mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter until combined. Then, mix in the powdered sugar. Keep beating on low speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, then mix in the lemon zest and heavy cream.
    6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, 5 ounces (5 oz) cold cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups (120 g) powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon heavy cream, 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Let the pan cool on a wire cooling rack for 15 minutes, then spread the cream cheese frosting on top. Top with extra lemon curd and serve warm!
    Lemon curd for the tops

Video

Notes

*Measure your dry ingredients properly. This is my #1 baking tip! Do not ever scoop a measuring cup into your flour, as this always leads to using too much flour. Instead, use the spoon-level method. This means fluffing the flour first, then spooning it into your measuring cup/spoon. For the BEST results, use a kitchen scale!*
Cool room-temperature butter: The butter needs to be between 64 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is too warm, the dough will be sticky and hard to work with and leak out of the rolls when baking!
What to do if your dough is super sticky: Add 1 tablespoon of extra flour at a time until it is consistent with the process photo above or in the video below. 
Storage: Because the lemon rolls are topped with lemon curd, storing them in the fridge when not serving them is best.
Make ahead: Once the rolls are assembled, cover the top of the baking pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, let the rolls double in size at room temperature for a few hours before baking. Do not make them more than one day in advance, or the yeast will start to ferment.
Reheating: Warm the rolls in the microwave or oven until gooey and melty before serving!
Serving: 1serving | Calories: 546kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 251mg | Potassium: 127mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 950IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg

The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. These were to die for!! I didn’t have enough lemon curd to swirl on top, maybe I used too much in the filling so next time I’ll make more.5 stars

  2. Cassandra says:

    Delicious! Was very surprised with the lemon flavor. Sweet without being tart. Will be making them again this weekend!5 stars