You guys! I am getting really excited for Easter this weekend. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Obviously, being Christian it has deep personal significance for me. Then, on top of that I also love getting together with family to celebrate and all the fun traditions we have with the kids. Of course, there’s the ever messy, but beloved dyeing of Easter eggs. (Which means that my counter will have random rainbow colored splotches here and there for the next three months. Why does that stupid dye stain so badly?) There’s the making of the uber cute/but tasty spring goodies (cupcakes with pastel frosting!). And of course there’s the kiddos big candy hunt and Easter baskets.
In recent years my side of the family has been doing a celebration brunch right after church services. I always end up doing some kind of big egg casserole, Belgian waffles or some dish in the pancake family, a big fruit salad, bacon, sausage links, and maybe pastry or cinnamon rolls. I know a lot of people do cinnamon rolls around Christmas, but I feel they are totally Easter brunch friendly too.
I’m very excited, because this year I finally have an awesome dairy free cinnamon roll recipe that I’m going to make for brunch. Now Tristan can have a cinnamon roll too! To be perfectly honest, I’ve been working on this stupid recipe since Christmas. It took a long time to get it right. But, I felt like it was totally a necessity to develop. I know there are a few dairy free cinnamon roll recipes out there already, and I’ve tried several. I’m going to be brutally honest with you. They suck. No insult meant to anyone out there; a good dairy free version for something that usually relies so heavily on butter is really, really challenging.
Anyhow, after trying a few of these not so good recipes, I finally decided to start testing to come up with one of my own. Let me tell you, I had some really awful (read:toss in garbage immediately) test batches myself. For a number of my attempts I was working with Earth’s Balance Butter (dairy free, vegan), since it it is dairy free but behaves similar enough to butter for baking purposes. After some of those awful test batches, I finally realized that I HATE the flavor of Earth’s Balance, and that it makes particularly horrid frosting. (In fact, once I realized this it made me decide I totally needed to go back and edit my dairy free croissants post!)
I finally decided to substitute Smart Balance instead of Earth’s Balance in my cinnamon roll attempts. I had never tried it before, because it’s not recommended for baking. Fortunately it behaved perfectly in my cinnamon rolls; and it made killer frosting that actually tastes like it’s supposed to: creamy, buttery, vanilla-y goodness! (However, do be careful when you are purchasing Smart Balance because they make several versions, some of which are dairy free and some of which are not.) I knew I nailed it when my husband, who is pretty much a cinnamon roll addict, started taking the rolls to work for breakfast each morning, and never realized they were dairy free. Now that meets my criteria for dairy free baking: so good everyone wants to eat it, not just the people who need to eat dairy free.
Like my Best Ever Cinnamon Rolls (contains dairy), this recipe is an overnight rise, so start it the day before you need them. Also like my Best Ever Cinnamon Rolls, this recipe takes some time, and has the “extra” pour over step. I assure you, it is soooo worth it, so take the time and do it because you’ll end up with a cinnamon roll recipe that tastes just as good as it’s dairy filled cousins (score!). Hopefully cinnamon rolls will now grace your Easter bunch tables as well. Enjoy!
Dairy Free Cinnamon Rolls That Don’t Suck– Yields 12 cinnamon rolls.
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water + additional as needed
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup canola or other neutral oil
- 3 and 1/2 cups flour + additional for rolling/dusting
- 4 tablespoons Smart Balance Buttery Spread, melted
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons Smart Balance Buttery Spread
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons of Smart Balance Buttery Spread, chilled*
- 2 and 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-3 tablespoons soy milk
1. In the bowl of a large stand mixer add the yeast and sugar, then cover with warm water, swirl gently. Allow to stand for 10 minutes until foamy. Add the salt, eggs, vanilla, oil and flour and mix on low (3 on a Kitchen Aide) until a shaggy dough begins to form. Continue to knead on low for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and pulls away from the bowl. The dough will be fairly sticky. If the dough is too dry and doesn’t become smooth add an additional tablespoon of water at a time until the dough has smoothed out.
2. Cover the mixing bowl loosely with saran wrap and place in a warm location to rise for a hour, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile prepare the filling by mixing together the 1/2 cup brown sugar and cinnamon. Prepare a 9×13 pan by greasing with canola oil.
3. When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch down, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 9 X 24 inches.
3. Spread the melted Smart Balance Buttery Spread evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2 in margin around the outer edges. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly across the dough, maintaining the 1/2 inch margin. Starting with the long side closet to you roll the dough up (with the filing inside) towards the other long edge. Push along the outer edges of the roll to seal the dough. If you look at the ends of the roll you should see a spiral.
5. Cut the dough into 12 even parts and place the cut pieces spiral side up into the prepared pan. Space the rolls out evenly through the pan. Do not be concerned if the rolls do not touch. Cover the pan tightly with saran wrap and refrigerate over night.
Bake/ Pour Over/ Frost
1. Preheat the oven to 350.* Remove the cinnamon rolls from the fridge and remove the saran wrap. The rolls will have expanded to fill the entire pan. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes until the rolls are lightly golden brown and are no longer doughy where the edges meet. Remove the rolls from the oven and set aside.
2. In a small sauce pan melt together the ingredients for the pour over: Smart Balance Buttery Spread, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, over low heat. Stir gently until the brown sugar has fully dissolved. Pour the hot mixture evenly over the cooling cinnamon rolls. Allow the rolls and the pour over glaze to cool completely before frosting.
1. In a large bowl use a hand mixer to beat together the Smart Balance, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add the soy milk 1 tablespoon at a time until your desired frosting constancy is reached. Frost the rolls using a rubber spatula.
*Note: Smart Balance doesn’t behave exactly like butter. It needs to be kept really cold to make a good frosting, and the frosting should definitely be kept refrigerated!!
NOTE: This post has been updated as of 11/11/19 to reflect an updated cook time for the cinnamon rolls. The original recipe called for 40-45 minutes, and honestly I believe my oven I had while writing this recipe was starting to go bad or needed calibrating.