These are THE BEST dirty chai cinnamon rolls! If you love dirty chai lattes, these are sure to be your new favorite version of a classic cinnamon roll. The rolls are spiced with a homemade chai mix and then topped with silky espresso cream cheese frosting.
What’s a Dirty Chai?
Dirty chai lattes are a classic chai latte, but with a shot (or two!) of espresso. For me, a regular chai is a little too milky, so I always order it with a shot of espresso. It’s my absolute favorite coffee house drink, especially in the fall.
What makes these dirty chai cinnamon rolls the best?
- Quick & Easy. This is a yeasted dough that results in rolls that are soft, gooey, and perfect. But, it uses rapid rise yeast, so these babies can be on the table in under an hour.
- No mixer required. I did use my mixer to make this dough, but it can also easily be made by hand. Just knead on a flour dusted countertop until the dough isn’t sticking to your hands and “springs back” when you press a finger into it.
- Flavors. These rolls are just a slight twist on the classic cinnamon rolls we know and love. The filling still has cinnamon, but with the addition of a few more cozy fall spices like nutmeg and cardamom. And the cream cheese frosting is still there and as delicious as ever with the addition of espresso powder.
- Adaptable. You can make these in less than an hour because the rapid rise yeast only requires one rise. But, if you’re a planner, you can make it the night before and let the dough rise in the fridge overnight. You can also use this dough for classic cinnamon rolls and omit the chai spices and espresso powder if it’s not your thing!
- All Purpose Flour. A lot of cinnamon roll recipes call for bread flour, which has a higher protein than all purpose flour and develops more gluten resulting in breads that are chewier and more delicious. I know that everyone doesn’t keep bread flour on hand, so I tested this recipe with both and found that they are just as delicious with regular all purpose flour.
- Rapid Rise Yeast. This is what allows you to make these rolls in under an hour. Rapid rise yeast only requires one rise, but still results in tall, fluffy, and soft rolls. Make sure the package says rapid rise, not instant or active dry.
- Spices. Instead of the traditional brown sugar/cinnamon combination, we’re going to add some extra spices to the party. You’ll need cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, ground cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and some fresh cracked black pepper.
- Cream Cheese. Grab the Philadelphia full fat cream cheese for the frosting. It really is the best!
- Espresso Powder. To create the espresso cream cheese frosting, you will dissolve espresso powder into heavy cream. I really like to use this one from starbucks, but your favorite will work just fine!
How to make dirty chai cinnamon rolls
Make the dough.
Melt the butter and let it cool slightly. Add 2 C of flour, sugar, salt, and rapid rise yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer. Warm the water in the microwave. You don’t want it to be hot or it could kill the yeast. Just warm to the touch or about 110 degrees. Add the slightly cooled melted butter and warm water to the mixing bowl. Use the dough hook to mix until well combined.
Then, add the remaining flour and knead with the dough hook until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl creating a ball on the dough hook. This will take 7-8 minutes on medium speed. To test the dough, press a clean finger into it and pull it away. If the dough doesn’t stick to your finger and “springs back” when you pull your finger away, it’s ready. Cover the bowl with a clean and let rise for 20 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the filling.
Make the chai spiced filling.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the softened butter, brown sugar, and spices until combined. I add a tiny bit of black pepper in my chai spice blend. It won’t make the rolls taste savory, don’t worry! You can omit it if you like, but I think it makes the perfect chai blend. Set the filling aside.
Roll, fill, and slice.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Lightly flour your countertop and roll the dough out into a rectangle roughly the size of a cookie sheet – about 13″ X 18″. Spread the filling onto the dough in an even thin layer, almost, but not quite to the edges. Start from the longer side, and roll into a log as tightly as possible. Pinch the edge closed and use your hands to squeeze the log where needed so that it is the same thickness all the way.
I like to use unscented dental floss to slice my cinnamon rolls. The floss cuts in all directions as opposed to a knife which cuts just from the top and will squish the rolls. Trim the edges first, then slice the log in half, then into 4 equal pieces. Then, slice 3 rolls from each piece so that you have 12 total rolls. Place the cinnamon rolls into a 9 X 13 baking pan greased with butter or nonstick spray. Pour the heavy cream evenly over all the rolls. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Make the espresso cream cheese frosting.
While the rolls bake, make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary so that there are no clumps of cream cheese. Once smooth, add the vanilla and mix to combine. Then, add the powdered sugar and mix about 3 minutes, or until smooth.
Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds. You just need it to me warm enough to dissolve the espresso powder, but not hot enough that it would melt the frosting. Stir the espresso powder into the warm cream until it’s fully dissolved. Then, mix it into the frosting until it’s well combined.
Frost & Serve.
Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven when the edges just start to become golden brown. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes, then spread the frosting on the warm rolls. Serve while still warm.
The rolls will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. I’d recommend popping them in the microwave for 15 seconds before serving.
Classic cinnamon rolls with a dirty chai twist! Soft, fluffy, and chewy spiced rolls topped with silky smooth espresso cream cheese buttercream ready in under an hour!
For the Dough
- 5 1/2 C (685 g) All Purpose Flour
- 1/3 C (75 g) Granulated Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 Packages Rapid Rise Yeast (about 5 tsp)
- 1 1/2 C Water
- 1/2 C (113 g) Salted Butter
For the Filling
- 4 TBSP (55 g) Salted Butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 C (100 g) Light Brown Sugar
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- 2 tsp Cardamom
- 1/2 tsp Allspice
- 1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
- 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- 1/3 C Heavy Cream to pour on rolls before baking
For the Frosting
- 4 oz (112 g) Full Fat Cream Cheese, at room temperature
- 4 TBSP (55 g) Salted Butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 C (125 g) Powdered Sugar
- 2 TBSP Heavy Cream
- 1 tsp Espresso Powder (more or less depending on how strong you’d like it)
For the rolls
- Melt the butter and let cool slightly. Warm the water in the microwave just until it’s warm to the touch or about 110 degrees F.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, add 2 C flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cooled melted butter, and warm water. Use the dough hook to mix until combined.
- Add the remaining flour and knead on medium speed for 7-8 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball on the dough hook. To test the dough, press a clean finger into it and pull it away. The dough shouldn’t stick to your finger and should “spring back” when you pull your finger away.
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 20 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
For the Filling
- While the dough rises, make the filling. Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined. Set aside
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to roughly the size of a cookie sheet – 13″ X 18″
- Spread the filling out onto the dough in a thin even layer almost to the edges. Then, start from the longer side and roll into a log as tightly as possible.
- Use unflavored dental floss to cut the rolls. First trim the edges, then slice the entire log in half. Slice each half in half again so that you have 4 equal pieces. Slice each piece into 3 rolls so that you have 12 total.
- Place the rolls into a greased 9 X 13 baking pan. Pour the heavy cream evenly over the rolls.
- Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
For the Frosting.
- While the rolls bake, make the frosting.
- In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed so that no clumps of cream cheese remain.
- Mix in the vanilla until combined. Then, mix in the powdered sugar until smooth.
- Warm the heavy cream in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. You want it to be warm enough the dissolve the espresso powder, but not so hot that it will melt the frosting.
- Stir the espresso powdered into the warm cream until dissolved, then mix it into the frosting until well combined.
- Remove the rolls from the oven when the edges are just starting to turn golden brown. Let them cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Spread the frosting on the warm rolls and serve immediately.
- To make ahead of time, prepare the dough as directed, then cover and place in the fridge overnight. Roll out, fill, slice, and bake the following morning.
- Baked a frosted rolls will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-5 days. I’d recommend popping in the microwave for 10-15 seconds before serving.
Keywords: dirty chai cinnamon rolls, quick cinnamon rolls, chai spiced desserts
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