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Christmas Cinnamon Roll or Pecan Roll Recipe

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls or Pecan Rolls Recipe

Growing up we always had Pecan Rolls on Christmas morning. My aunt would bring them with her if she came to Maui for Christmas, or would send them to my grandmother if she didn’t come. Since we’ve all grown up we don’t spend Christmas with my aunt as much so I started making Pecan Rolls using her recipe.

Well, my sister-in-law doesn’t like nuts. And that’s kind of the point of Pecan Rolls. So I started making Christmas cinnamon rolls instead following a “Knock-off Cinnabon” recipe. There’s things about each recipe (my aunt’s and the cinnabon one) that I really like, so this year I decided to combine them into my own recipe.

This recipe will get you 2 plates of 8 Christmas Cinnamon Rolls or Pecan Rolls each. They will all be stuck together. You can separate them if you want and wrap them individually, but I find it easier to store all together.

A couple notes:

  • It really helps having a mixer with a dough hook. I wouldn’t recommend doing this without one.
  • I have several things listed as ‘optional.’ I do make the sticky mixture and the icing, but I don’t usually add the nuts or raisins since I have a couple family members who don’t like them. Omitting the sticky mixture would make them slightly healthier – but if you want healthy why would you even make cinnamon rolls?!
  • If you are saving them and want to reheat them, I recommend using the microwave and covering them with a wet paper towel to kind of steam them.
  • I usually make the icing right before eating them because if you keep it in the fridge it hardens a little.
  • I hate sifting powdered sugar – it does make a difference, but I’m usually too lazy to do it. No one in my family has complained about it yet.
  • Flip the rolls onto a paper plate at the end for easy storage. A regular plate might be fancier, but if it will take a couple days to get through all of them then you’re out a plate or two. Plus with paper plates you can give these babies away as gifts.
  • Wash the cake pans immediately or the sticky mixture will never come off.
  • Make sure your yeast is not expired or this will not work.
  • I have you flip the rolls a second time if you don’t use pecans. Leaving the sticky mixture with pecans face up is the style of the Pecan Roll. Flipping a second time so the sticky mixture is down is the style of Christmas cinnamon rolls. Choose wisely…

Here’s the recipe:

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

TIME REQUIRED: Prep – 15 minutes; Rise – 60-90 minutes; Assembly – 15 minutes; Rise – 45-60 minutes; Bake – 20 minutes; Total – approximately 3 hours

Rolls can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. I usually make the icing right before eating the rolls – it can be stored in the fridge, but it will harden.

Makes 16 rolls


FILLING (I usually have lots extra):

  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • Raisins to taste (optional)


  • 1 pkg active dry yeast + ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup of shortening
  • ½ cup 110 degree water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • Up to 4 cups flour

STICKY MIXTURE (optional):

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lt corn syrup
  • 1 cup pecans (optional)

ICING (optional):

  • 2 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 7 Tbsp. butter (softened)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar (sifted)


Mix together granulated sugar, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a bowl. Set aside.


  1. Preheat oven to 200 deg. Turn off the oven when it’s hot.
  2. In a small bowl, soften the yeast and ¼ tsp sugar in the warm water (I find that the hot water out of my faucet is pretty close to 110 degrees).
  3. Scald the milk (bring almost to a boil).
  4. Using a mixer and dough hook combine the milk, sugar, shortening, salt and egg. Cool slightly. Add yeast mixture and 2 cups of flour; beat until smooth. Add in enough of the remaining flour to form a slightly stiff dough. Knead with the dough hook for approximately 5-8 minutes until the dough is stretchy.
  5. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a dish towel. Put the bowl in the oven until the dough doubles in size (1 – 1 ½ hours).


  1. While dough is rising make the sticky mixture.
  2. Grease the bottom of 2 cake pans.
  3. On the stove, melt butter in a pan over medium heat; add sugar and corn syrup. Heat slowly. Chop pecans (optional).
  4. Pour half of the mixture in each pan and spread across the bottom. Sprinkle pecans on top of filling (optional).

DOUGH (After Rising):

  1. Turn on oven to 200 degrees and turn off when hot.
  2. Remove dough from oven. Punch down dough and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in half. For each half, make a log shape and roll into a rectangle using a floured rolling pin. Spread half of the melted butter for the FILLING over each dough rectangle; sprinkle the filling mix over the butter (I usually have a lot leftover); add raisins to taste (optional).
  4. Roll up each dough rectangle into a log, pushing in the sides; cut each log into 8 rolls. Take the ends and put them good side down in the center of one of the cake pans and fill in the rest of the rolls around them.
  5. Cover both pans with dish towels and put them in the oven to rise (45 minutes – 1 hour).
  6. Remove pans from the oven and uncover.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 20 minutes.
  8. Take pans out and immediately flip rolls onto a plate. Wait a minute and remove the pans (wash immediately). If you did NOT use pecans in the sticky mixture, flip the rolls one more time to get them right side up.

Using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese and butter (softened) in a bowl until creamy. Add in vanilla and milk. Gradually add in powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy.

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