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Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

All of the goodness of a classic cinnamon roll but filled with delicious bits of chocolate and topped with a sweet chocolate icing! These chocolate cinnamons rolls are a chocolate lover’s dream!

Chocolate cinnamon roll on white plate with bite taken.
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A Chocolate Lover’s Dream

One of my all time favorite things to make is cinnamon rolls for a special occasion. I’ve posted the best orange sweet rolls and shared my one hour cinnamon rolls which are perfect for busy mornings. However these chocolate cinnamon rolls are an extra fun variation and sure to be a treat!

These rolls truly are a chocolate lover’s dream with both the chocolate filling and chocolate icing on top. At first I was skeptical of mixing together the cinnamon and chocolate, but it really is divine. It takes the classic cinnamon sugar filling to a whole new level.

These were officially named “heavenly rolls” by all who consumed. They make an extra special addition to any Sunday brunch or holiday breakfast. Whether it’s Easter brunch, Christmas breakfast or just a cozy weekend with your family, these chocolate cinnamon rolls are perfect for all occasions!

Dough Ingredients

Chocolate cinnamon roll ingredients on counter.

See full printable recipe below.

  • Milk: Make sure to warm it up to help activate the yeast. I prefer to use whole milk.
  • Active dry yeast: This is what will help your chocolate cinnamon rolls rise. Make sure that it’s fresh.
  • Flour: I use all-purpose flour in this recipe. I prefer to use an unbleached flour. Make sure you know how to measure flour correctly for the best results.
  • Egg: I love to add 1 egg to my cinnamon roll dough. It helps make a nice sturdy yet tender dough. It should be at room temperature before using.
  • Granulated and Brown sugar: A dessert needs sweetness! 
  • Unsalted butter: It’s melted for the dough, however softened to room temperature for the filling. If you’ve forgotten to take it out of the fridge, here are some tips on how to soften butter
  • Fine sea salt: We’re using unsalted butter which allows us to control the amount of salt we use. I love the flavor fine sea salt adds to help to bring out the other flavors.
  • Cocoa powder: This is going to bring out the chocolate flavor in both the filling and icing.
  • Chocolate: I love the flavor the added bits of chocolate in the center adds.
  • Cinnamon: These are, in fact, cinnamon rolls! However the cinnamon flavor isn’t the main focus of the recipe. When mixed with the chocolate, it creates a delicious combination that is subtle and warm.

Chocolate Icing

Instead of the classic cinnamon roll frosting with cream cheese, these rolls are topped with a sweet chocolate icing made with a simple combination of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, butter, vanilla and salt. It has the best chocolate flavor, a smooth consistency and is the perfect finishing touch for these chocolate cinnamon rolls!

How to Make Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

Step by step collage making chocolate cinnamon rolls.
  • Proof yeast. Mix together the warm milk, yeast and 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar in a small bowl. When it begins to bubble (usually after 5 or so minutes), it’s ready to use. Check out more tips for how to proof yeast.
  • Prepare dough and let rest. Start by whisking the egg in a large bowl, then mix in the sea salt and remaining granulated sugar. Next add the melted butter, as well as the proofed yeast. Mix in 2 cups of flour until smooth, then add the rest of the flour in 1/2 cup increments. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and soft. Then cover the bowl and let rest in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Make filling. Mix together the softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder. Remove the cover from the dough and punch it down. Then roll the dough out into a rectangular shape on a floured surface.
  • Spread filling and roll. Using a pastry brush, spread the filling mixture out evenly on top of the dough and then sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Starting at the shorter side, begin to tightly roll the dough. Once rolled, pinch the sides together at the end to create a seam. Then cut into 12 rolls and place on a buttered 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
  • Bake in oven. Bake at 350°F for about 25 to 30 minutes. The tops should be lightly golden brown when ready. Then remove and let cool.
  • Frost. Mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa, milk, melted butter, vanilla and salt until smooth and creamy. Then drizzle the icing over the cooled cinnamon rolls with a spoon.
Chocolate cinnamon roll on a white plate.

Expert Tips

  • The milk temperature should be as warm as bath water, about 105-110°F. If it’s too hot, the yeast mixture will not foam up properly.
  • For a faster rise, preheat the oven to 175°F and then turn off. The oven will be just warm enough to where the dough will rise quicker without baking.
  • If the dough is too sticky, try adding in a couple more Tablespoons of flour. Once your finger no longer sticks to the dough when pressing on it, it’s ready.
  • Use dental floss for a super clean cut on the dough. A serrated knife also works well too.
  • Let the rolls cool before adding the icing. If they are still too warm, the icing will melt and create a gooey mess.

How to Make Ahead

Turn these into overnight cinnamon rolls by making them a day ahead! After you’ve rolled and cut the dough, place the rolls in the pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap (do not let rise again). Then store the rolls in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours.

The next morning, remove the pan from the fridge and let rise on the counter until the dough has doubled in size. This usually takes about 1 to 2 hours. Once risen, bake the chocolate cinnamon rolls as directed.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use instant dry yeast instead?

Sure, simply skip the proofing process and whisk the instant yeast in with the dry ingredients.

What does proofed yeast looked like?

You want a nice, foamy top with lots of bubbles. Once it looks like this, that’s an indicator that the yeast is alive, active and ready to use.

Why didn’t my yeast proof?

Either your yeast was expired or the milk was too hot. Make sure to use fresh yeast (if the opened jar has been sitting in your pantry for awhile, it’s probably time for a new one). The temperature of the milk should be similar to bath water, about 105-110°F.

Freezer Instructions

Once they have baked and cooled, transfer the chocolate cinnamon rolls to a freezer bag or container and store in freezer. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight. Then the next morning, warm individually in the microwave for about 10 to 20 seconds.

Close up of chocolate cinnamon roll on white plate with fork.

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Close up of chocolate cinnamon roll on white plate with fork.

Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

4.80 from 5 votes
All of the goodness of a classic cinnamon roll but filled with delicious bits of chocolate and topped with a sweet chocolate icing! These chocolate cinnamons rolls are a chocolate lover's dream!
Prep Time: 35 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Rise: 2 hrs
Total Time: 3 hrs
Servings: 12

Ingredients 

Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups warm milk , 105-110°F
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast , about 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 large egg , at room temperature
  • 8 Tablespoons granulated sugar , divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter , melted
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour , more or less as needed

Chocolate Filling

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bar (or semi-sweet chocolate chips), finely chopped

Chocolate Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3-4 Tablespoons milk , more for consistency
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

Dough

  • In a small bowl , stir together the warm milk, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Let sit about 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Beat in the remaining 7 Tablespoons sugar and salt. Stir in the melted butter and the yeast mixture. Add 2 cups flour and stir until smooth. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Knead 4 to 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and soft. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 to 2 Tablespoons flour.
  • Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about an hour (see notes). Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down.

Chocolate Filling

  • Butter or spray a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.
  • On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle, approximately 15×20 inches. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Spread butter mixture onto the dough with a pastry brush.
  • Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over top. Gently press down into the butter. Roll the dough up tightly starting at the shorter side. Pinch the sides together at the end.
  • Using floss or a large serrated knife, cut the dough in half and cut each half into 6 (1-inch pieces) for a total of 12 rolls. Place rolls in baking dish, about 1-inch apart. Cover with a towel and let the rolls sit 1 hour, or until rolls have doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool 20 to 30 minutes before frosting.

Chocolate Icing

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa, milk, butter, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Mix until well combined. You can add more milk or powdered sugar to reach your desired consistency. It should fall like a ribbon from the spoon.
  • Drizzle the icing over the slightly cooled cinnamon rolls.

Notes

Rising tip: Turn the oven to 175°F. Once preheated, turn off the oven and place the dough inside to rise. 
Make ahead: Before the 2nd rise, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and then place in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours. Then the next morning, pull them out onto the counter and let them rise until doubled, about 1 to 2 hours. It is normal for there to be a little liquid, but if there’s too much, get a paper towel and dab it out.
Freezing the cinnamon rolls: You can freeze the chocolate cinnamon rolls after they have been baked and cooled. Simply place in a freezer container or zip-top bag. Place in refrigerator to thaw overnight. Warm individual rolls in microwave for 10 to 20 seconds.

Calories: 496kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 219mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 545IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Jamielyn Nye

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