Citrus Cream Cheese Pull Apart Rolls

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Cream Cheese Pull Apart Rolls with a tangy and bright orange cream cheese filling and a zesty lemon glaze are the perfect sweet and tart treat for breakfast or tea.

close up on a loaf of cream cheese pull apart rolls

It’s hard to have a bad day if it starts with a fresh-from-the-oven buttery and soft homemade rolls. And when that roll is surround with tangy citrus cream cheese filling, topped with citrus sugar,  and drizzled with a sweet lemon glaze, all the better!

These delicious cream cheese pull apart rolls are easy to make, thanks to premade dough, and are always a crowd-pleaser. I’m sharing them just in time for Easter so your family can start off the holiday on a sweet and creamy note. This recipe is a fun twist on more traditional hot cross buns

This is a family favorite recipe that is slightly adapted from a 1999 Cooking Light recipe. My family would be disappointed if I didn’t make these for Easter morning. 

pinterest button for cream cheese pull apart rolls

How to Make Fluffy Cream Cheese Rolls

Note that this recipe makes two 9-inch cake pans of rolls. You’ll cut the 18 rolls in half and divide the halves between two pans. Then top them with dried cranberries, cream cheese filling, and orange sugar for a crisp and sweet topping. 

ovheread collage of the steps to make pull apart rolls with cream cheese and orange

When arranging the halves in the pans, they will not completely cover the bottom of your pans. This is fine. As the rolls rise they will fill in any space. In particular, the rolls will expand quite a bit during the second rise and even more while baking.  

Overnight Method: The recipe also includes an overnight method so you can get the rolls started the night before you want to serve them. 

overhead collage of filling a cake pan with rolls and cream cheese filling

Cream Cheese Orange Filling

Before whipping up the tangy cream cheese mixture, make sure your cream cheese and egg are at room temperature. If you start with cold cream cheese, you may end up with tiny lumps in your mixture that will not cream together with the other ingredients.

The citrus in this recipe adds the perfect amount of brightness and tang to cut through rich cream cheese. 

You can buy one lemon and one orange for the recipe. This will get you both the zest and orange and lemon juice needed. I recommend zesting your lemon and orange before juicing it. It is hard to zest a flimsy juiceless orange.

close up on a loaf of cream cheese pull apart rolls

Sugar & Citrus Zest Mixture

Mixing the zest into the sugar will help release the flavor of the zest. A trick to maximize the citrus flavor is to roll the zest and sugar mixture between your fingers to release even more of the zest flavor.

side view of a loaf of cream cheese rolls with citrus

Glazing Cream Cheese Pull-Apart Rolls 

While the rolls bake and cool, you can make the simple two-ingredient lemon glaze to drizzle on top. The ingredients for this simple glaze blend together easily with a whisk or a fork. 

If you’re not using the glaze immediately, place a damp paper towel over the bowl so the surface doesn’t crust over. If you have a dry home (forced air heat, etc.) you may need to dampen the towel a few times.

showing how to remvoe a loaf of pull apart rolls from a cake pan

Serving Homemade Citrus Cream Cheese Pull Apart Rolls

Serve these fluffy citrus rolls warm and with extra glaze if you’d like. You can unmold the rolls, as shown above, onto a platter once the rolls have cooled for 15 minutes, but I generally serve them right from the cake pan.

If you end up with leftovers, store them in an airtight container on the counter. To serve, gently reheat the rolls in the microwave to soften a bit. 

Single citrus roll on a plate

More Homemade Roll Recipes

There are more fluffy and sweet roll recipes where this came from! Try these treats next:

close up on a loaf of cream cheese pull apart rolls
Yield: 36 rolls

Citrus Cream Cheese Pull Apart Rolls

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes

Fluffy and soft citrus cream cheese pull apart rolls with lemon glaze and orange cream cheese filling are the perfect sweet treat for breakfast or tea time.

Ingredients

  • 1 25-ounce package frozen roll dough*
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine -- melted
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries -- (such as Craisins) OR 1/2 cup dried apricots -- chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar -- divided
  • 8 ounces regular or 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Thaw roll dough at room temperature 30 - 60 minutes until rolls are easy to cut in half.
  2. Cut rolls in half. Place 18 halves, cut sides down, in the bottom of each of 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray. Brush butter evenly over rolls. Cover; let rise in a warm place (85º), free from drafts, 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with dried cranberries. In a mixing bowl, add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cream cheese and beat at low speed of a mixer until smooth. Add orange juice and egg and best until well blended. Pour cream cheese mixture evenly over rolls.
  4. Cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 350º.
  6. Combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and rinds in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over rolls.
  7. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes. Cover with foil. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until rolls in the center are done. Remove from oven; cool 15 minutes.
  8. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle over rolls.

Notes

Overnight Variation: After pouring the cream cheese mixture over rolls, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours. Gently remove plastic wrap from rolls. Let stand at room temperature 30 - 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Sprinkle with rind mixture. Proceed with recipe as directed.

*I usually use 18 Rhodes rolls

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

36

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 87Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information is calculated by Nutritionix and may not always be accurate.

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