Lemon Sticky Rolls


For “breakfast” on Christmas Eve, I made these lemon rolls. I say “breakfast” because they weren’t ready until about 12 or 1 pm. I know. Stellar planning on my part. My recommendation to you is that you make the rolls ahead of time and be prepared to let them rise and then bake them the morning you’ll be doing your serving. Trust me. You’ll save yourself tons of time the morning of!

Everyone who tried one (my dad and my neighbor) said they were delicious. These rolls are a lemon lover’s dream! I felt like they were a bit too lemony for my liking, but this is probably because I added more than the recommended amount of lemon rind. (I have this recurring thought that there’s no such thing as too much anything – like cheese, butter, and now, apparently, lemon, too.)

This recipe, from thekitchn.com, was featured in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Thank you Grandma Mo for passing it along!


  • 3 large lemons
  • 1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active yeast
  • 3/4 c. milk, warmed to about 100 to 110°F
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick)  butter, very soft, plus 3 tablespoons more for roll assembly
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

sticky lemon filling ingredients.

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • (lemon juice)

lemon cream cheese glaze ingredients.

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • (lemon juice)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes or until foamy.
  2. Zest the lemons. Divide the zest into three equal parts.
  3. With the mixer paddle, stir the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour into this milk and yeast mixture. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and one-third of the lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. (If you do not have a stand mixer, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.)
  5. Lightly grease the top of the dough with oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled.
  6. Meanwhile, make the filling. Juice the (zested) lemons. Divide the juice into two equal parts.
  7. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in one-third of the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in one half of the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when the sugar and lemon juice form a thick, clumpy mixture like wet sand. (You may or may not use all of the reserved half of the lemon juice.)20131229-221928.jpg
  8. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking dish with butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10×15 inches.20131229-221909.jpg
  9. Spread the dough evenly with 3 tablespoons of very soft butter, then spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top.20131229-221939.jpg
  10. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end.20131229-221948.jpg
  11. Cut the long dough roll in half, in half again, and then into thirds so that you get 12 even rolls.  20131229-221955.jpg
  12. Place each roll (cut side up) in the prepared baking dish.20131229-222003.jpg
  13. Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge and let them rise for an hour before baking.)20131229-222012.jpg
  14. Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.20131229-222022.jpg
  15. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the remaining lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.
  16. When the rolls are done, drizzle with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the final part (1/3) of the lemon zest over top to garnish. Let cool for a few minutes. Serve warm.20131229-222030.jpg


Recipe rating: 

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