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Lemon Sugar Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing…the perfect brunch rolls for the spring and summer months ahead. Soft buttery dough swirled with sweet lemon sugar then generously topped with creamy vanilla cream cheese icing. There’s nothing not to love about these lemony rolls, every bite is melt in your mouth delicious. These rolls are a great make-ahead breakfast or a special brunch item for any upcoming occasions. Eat these warm…with plenty of that icing smeared on top – trust me.

overhead photo of Lemon Sugar Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

Happy Good Friday guys! Whether you celebrate Easter or not, the holiday always gives me the feeling that spring has really arrived. After spending the last week in California, I am so ready for warmer days and sunshine. Of course, it’s not exactly eighty degrees (but it is sunny) back home in Colorado, but the quick trip has definitely inspired some fresh spring recipes.

And possibly a vacation to Florida. I’m really dreaming of that right now, which you all might have guessed from my recent stories about my Nonnie. She just always makes me think of Easter and vacations spent in Florida. I miss them so much!

Anyway, as I write this I am in the airport headed home (Wednesday night). But come Friday (when you see this) I’ll be home. I’m sure it will feel nice…even if it is cold. And we still have spring and Easter to think about this weekend, so that’s nice. And that kind of brings me to these sweet rolls.

prep photo of Lemon Sugar

More times than not, when it comes to breakfast recipes, I sway towards something with cinnamon-sugar. Usually something like cinnamon rolls or a Dutch baby, which we all know I love. But I’ve never created a sweet roll that didn’t have cinnamon…or chocolate.

However, I love using lemon as a key flavor in sweet recipes. So I thought these sweet lemon rolls would be perfect for this weekend!!

And while my Nonnie didn’t bake many sweet rolls, she loved brunch just as much as my mom and I. She would order a stack of waffles with maple on top or pancakes. Guess we know where I got my love of sweets from!!

Lemon Sugar Rolls dough

Here are the details.

While these rolls seem a little fancy, I promise you they are the easiest to make. You can even make them the night before, so they’re great for entertaining!

To make the dough, simply mix flour with a bit of yeast, warm milk, and honey. You’ll want to let this mix proof until it’s foamy on top and smells like bread. And then the remaining ingredients go into the mixing bowl. I love to use a pinch of cardamom in the dough, which helps to highlight the lemony, vanilla flavors throughout the rolls.

Lemon Sugar Rolls before rising

While the rolls rise, mix up the filling. It’s simply granulated sugar and lemon…yes, lemon sugar! If you have any vanilla beans lying around, the vanilla beans mixed with the sugar will make these rolls just that much more delicious!

Once the dough has doubled in size, roll the dough out, spread with butter, then top with the lemon sugar. Roll the dough up into a log, cut it into rolls, and place them onto a baking dish. Now you can either let the rolls rest, get puffy, and then bake. Or you can keep the rolls in the fridge overnight to rise and bake in the morning. Either option works, it just depends when you’d like to enjoy your rolls.

Lemon Sugar Rolls before icing

While the rolls bake…

Mix up the cream cheese icing, which is reason enough to make these rolls. If you grew up eating classic cinnamon rolls, this icing is going to be your favorite. You’ll want to beat the cream cheese together with the powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla.

As the rolls bake, the kitchen will fill with the sweet lemony smells, it’s like spring, but in a very sweet way.

Lemon Sugar Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

When you pull the rolls out of the oven, slather on that icing while they are still warm. The icing melts over the rolls and everything becomes the gooiest mess, which is exactly what you want!

The rolls kind of just melt in your mouth. The bread is soft and buttery, but the swirl of lemon sugar is the real special touch. And of course, the icing is just the finishing touch these rolls need to make them over the top delicious. Even little Asher, who is a hard-core cinnamon roll purist loves these! She said, “please make them on Sunday”!!

Lemon Sugar Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

Looking for other spring brunch recipes? Here are some of my favorites:

Buttery Raspberry Crumble Bars

Berry and Cream Cheese Croissant French Toast Bake

Blackberry Lavender White Chocolate Scones

Baked Blackberry Ricotta French Toast

Lastly, if you make these Lemon Sugar Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Lemon Sugar Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rising time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 12 rolls
Calories Per Serving: 470 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Cream Cheese Icing


  • 1. To make the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk, yeast, and honey. Let sit 5-10 minutes, until bubbly on top. Add 3 ½ cups flour, the cardamom, salt, eggs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Using the dough hook, mix until the flour is completely incorporated, about 4-5 minutes. If the dough seems sticky, add the remaining ½ cup of flour.
    2. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
    3. To make the filling. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and the remaining 1-2 tablespoons lemon zest. Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment. 
    4. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Turn out the dough, punch it down, and roll it into a rectangle about 10 x 16 inches. Spread 6 tablespoons softened butter evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the lemon sugar evenly over the butter and lightly push into the butter. Starting with the long edge closest to you, carefully roll the dough into a log, keeping it fairly tight as you go. When you reach the edge, pinch along the edge to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 12-16 rolls. Place the rolls in the prepared baking dish. Cover and let rise 20-30 minutes or transfer to the fridge to rise overnight (see notes).
    5. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
    6. Meanwhile, make the icing. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until light and creamy.
    7. Spread the icing over the warm rolls. Serve warm and enjoy!


Overnight Rising: Cover the rolls and transfer to the fridge to rise overnight. In the morning, remove the rolls from the fridge and let come to room temp while the oven preheats. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
To Make Gluten Free: Use an equal amount of your favorite gluten free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour. I recommend Cup4Cup gluten free flour
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    1. Hey Emma,
      Totally, that will work well for you! Please let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it:) xx

  1. We don’t have a stand mixer, do you think this recipe is achievable by hand kneading the dough?

    1. Hey Victoria,
      Yes totally! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xx

  2. I am excited to make these! I plan to mix them today and bake them tomorrow morning. I see that the oven temp is different in the overnight rising directions. I just want to be sure I should bake them at 350 and not 375? Also, would a few drops of lemon essential oil in the icing work?

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Yes, 350F is correct. I have never worked with essential oils, but if it’s edible and something you enjoy then go for it! I hope you love the recipe! xTieghan

    1. Hey Kelsey,
      Perfect!! Thanks so much for giving this recipe a go, I am thrilled to hear that it was a winner! Have the best week!🌸 xT

  3. I tried four times to make these and the yeast wouldn’t bubble! I feel like a failure cause this has never happened. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      So sorry to hear this!! What kind of yeast did you use? Is it possible that your milk was too warm? Let me know how I can help! xTieghan

  4. 5 stars
    Im doing something wrong – would love tips. The first time I made these, they turned out fluffy and perfect. Second and third time, they didn’t rise, and turned out very dense, doughy and oily. I’ve checked that my yeast is not expired. Tips or suggestions? Am I perhaps over-mixing? Under-mixing? Too generous with the lemon zest so too much moisture? I did the overnight refrigeration on all 3 tries so not sure where Im going wrong. I loved these the first time I made them so would love suggestions on what I might be doing wrong! Thanks!

    1. Hey Alyson,
      Thanks so much for making the recipe, so sorry you are struggling! You could possibly be over mixing, how strange that it worked the first time! I would check and make sure your flour is fresh too! I hope this helps! xTieghan

      1. UPDATE! (hopefully this helps others). I looked up the temperature that milk needs to be at for yeast to bloom (100 – 110 degrees). I was making my milk FAR too hot. Warm milk isn’t as hot as you might think! Using the correct temp milk seems to have solved the problem!

  5. Made a double batch and delivered to all local family for Easter Breakfast tomorrow. Of course I had to taste and they are delish.

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      Happy Sunday!! Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am so glad to hear that it was enjoyed! xx

  6. 5 stars
    This recipe is fantastic!! When followed word-for-word I bet it’s even better (LOL). For any fellow spelt bakers, these are the substitutions I made:
    – cup for cup flour sub of ground spelt + oats (2:1 ratio of spelt flour to oat flour)
    – sift the flour in (it will never be as fluffy but we can try)
    – oil your workspace instead of lightly flouring cause the dough is thirsty
    – added lemon to the icing like someone here suggested. I combined lemon juice with the sugar (used coconut) and beat that into the cream cheese etc. It was wayyyy too runny to be icing so I called it a glaze LOL but if I had lemon essence drops I’d use that instead to compete with the spelt-ish flavour and still remain thick. Also added coconut cream.

    Sooo tasty & congrats on your book launch Tieghan!! xxxx

    1. Hi Rosie,
      Thank you so much for trying this recipe, I am thrilled that it was enjoyed!! Thanks for sharing what worked well for you and your feedback! xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    These were amazing! Made them exactly as the recipe says and will 100% be making them again. I’m a die hard cinnamon bun fan but these are sooo tasty!

    1. Hi Meghan,
      I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks a lot for trying it out! Have the best day:) xT

  8. Hey, how much of a vanilla bean should I add to the sugar mixture? I typically only use vanilla beans for making vanilla extract so I am not familiar with how strong they are when used directly in recipes. Thank you!

    1. Hi Katherine,
      I would just use 1 vanilla bean. Please let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it! xTieghan

  9. Have not tried these yet but they look yummy. What do you think about adding a little lemon to the frosting

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Sure, that would work well for you!! Let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope it turns out amazing for you! xx

    2. 5 stars
      I added a squeeze of lemon juice to the frosting and highly recommend the addition! Will be making these spring through summer! So fresh and delicious

  10. Made these for my office to celebrate a coworker and they turned out beautifully. They feel decadent but the lemon keeps them tasting light. Perfect combo for spring. Also, the cardamon is a must add!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Happy Friday!! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for making it! xx

    1. Hey Alexa,
      You can follow the overnight instructions, or make the dough up to 48 hours in advance. Please let me know if you have any other questions, I hope you love the recipe! xTieghan

  11. So delicious! I ended up using the extra butter from the filling to grease the 9×13 pan so I didn’t have to use parchment paper. Also made a double batch of the frosting because who doesn’t like a lot of cream cheese frosting on their rolls?! I had about 1/3 of the frosting leftover then.

    1. What would you suggest I do for gluten free version? I have the same flour but I notice that GF baking tends to make more of a batter than a dough. How do you suggest I roll them out?

      1. Hey there,
        I would use an equal amount of GF flour, slowly add more until you get a dough consistency. I hope you love the recipe! xTieghan