Pumpkin-Walnut Cinnamon Rolls

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(Original Post Date:  November 08, 2010)

The real story behind this recipe was a pumpkin fudge disaster.  With all the extra pumpkin puree leftover from Halloween, I decided to try some new recipes… and a “pumpkin fudge” recipe from the internet looked promising.  The only thing, is that fudge is on the more difficult side to make, and I really screwed this one up.  I was using two different thermometers – one of those high tech infrared ones, and an old school candy thermometer.  The candy thermometer registered about 225 degrees, meanwhile the infrared thermometer registered about 255 degrees.  Which one was right?  In addition to an inaccurate temperature, I made the rookie mistake of stirring frequently, and did not allow all the sugar crystals to dissolve off the sides of the pan.  My bad.  The end result was a delicious and tasty pile of crumble… definitely NOT slice-able fudge.

I thought about using the non-fudge as a topping for coffee cake… but then cinnamon rolls came to mind, as I was interested in trying Pioneer Woman’s popular cinnamon roll dough recipe.  I substituted my failed fudge for the cinnamon-sugar filling.  I’m also not a fan of sugar glaze on cinnamon rolls – I like a nice sweet cream cheese frosting… so I substituted that too.  Now, I don’t know if I should call these “cinnamon rolls”, since technically, there is only 1 tsp. of cinnamon in the entire recipe.  However, these look like cinnamon rolls (structurally)… and if I were to call them “pumpkin rolls”, that brings to mind instead the rolled cake recipe of the same name (which was not at all what I made).   This turned out sooooooooo good.  I will be ruining all my fudge on purpose from now on, just so I have an excuse to make these…

Pumpkin-Walnut Cinnamon Rolls:


  • 2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 1/4. tsp. (1 pkg.) yeast
  • 4 c. + 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. table salt


  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c. evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

1.  First, make the filling.  Set a saucepan over medium heat, and add sugar, pumpkin, milk, and spices.

2.  Simmer until the mixture reaches 236 degrees, or the soft ball stage.  Stir frequently to promote crystallization, and to make sure the mixture is not burning on the bottom.

3.  When the mixture begins to pull away from the sides, remove from heat, and stir in the butter, vanilla, and chopped walnuts.

4.  Dump the mixture into a plastic wrap lined baking dish, and press into place with a spatula.

5.  Leave overnight or several hours (covered with foil) to cool.  In the morning, lift the plastic wrap to remove the mixture, and you will have a crumbly filling for the cinnamon rolls.

6.  The night before, or 4 hours before you plan on serving the cinnamon rolls, make the dough.  Mix the milk, oil, and sugar in a large pot (or wok), and heat over medium until scalded (just before boiling).  Turn off the heat, and allow to cool for 1 hour.

7. Test and make sure the temperature is lukewarm to warm, but not hot.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top, and let sit for 1 minute.

8.  Add 4 cups of flour, and stir to form a smooth paste.  Cover loosely, and allow to rise for 1 hour.

9.  Add 1/2 c. remaining flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

10.  Knead into a smooth dough ball.  Cover, and allow to rise for 1 more hour.  (Or, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, allow to come to room temperature, and allow to rise for 1 hour before proceeding).

11.  Grease two 9″ round cake pans.  Generously sprinkle the clean counter top with flour.  Form a rough rectangle with the dough, and roll out into a 12″ X 24″ rectangle.

12.  Spread the melted butter all over the surface of the dough.

13.  Then top the butter with the crumbly pumpkin mixture.  (Break up pieces with your fingers as you sprinkle it on.)

14.  Roll the long edge inward to form a log.  Pinch the seams, and roll over so that the seams are facing downward.

15.  Using a serrated bread knife, cut the log into 1 inch slices.  This will give you approximately 16 good pieces, and the 2 end pieces that you can discard.

16.  Place 8 slices into each round cake pan, cover, and allow to rise for 20 more minutes.

17.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 – 17 minutes.

18.  While still warm, smother with cream cheese frosting.

19.  (To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the room temperature butter, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla until smooth with a hand mixer.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar on low speed, beat until fluffy.)

Serve the rolls warm, with a cold glass of milk.