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black hand holding lemon sweet roll on small white plate

Lemon Sweet Rolls (The Best!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 70 reviews
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8-12 rolls 1x
  • Category: Desserts & Sweets
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


These lemon sweet rolls are the best treat you could have for breakfast or dessert. Bright lemony citrus flavor throughout these rolls and smothered with a delightful gooey lemon cream cheese icing!



Yeast Dough

  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
  • 1 cup whole milk, lightly warmed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of an entire lemon, about 1 tablespoon 
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of an entire lemon, about 1 tablespoon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

  • 4 ounces cream cheese (brick-style), softened to room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • zest of an entire lemon, about 1 tablespoon 


Lemon Sweet Rolls:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer: add yeast, milk, and sugar. Let sit for 5-7 minutes to activate. Mixture will be bubbly and somewhat fragrant. Then add in eggs, butter, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Attach dough hook attachment to mixer and add in flour and salt.
  2. Knead/mix on medium-low speed until dough begins to come together. Add in more flour, a tablespoon at a time, only if needed to make sure dough does not stick to bowl. Knead dough until smooth but still soft, about 6-7 minutes. Alternatively, knead dough by hand if not using a stand mixer. 
  3. Shape the dough into a ball. Then butter (or use baking spray) a large bowl. Add the dough into bowl and turn to coat dough. Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
  4. Once dough has risen, punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a rectangle (about 14×9 inches) with the longer side facing you. Use a little extra flour if dough is sticking. Filling: spread the butter over the dough and then sprinkle sugar, lemon zest, and salt evenly over the dough leaving a 1 inch border at the top and bottom. 
  5. Roll up the dough into a log starting with the longest side furthest from you. Granulated sugar is loose so some may spill out, it’s okay. Just gather as much of it as you can back into the rolls. Pinch seams of dough to seal. Cut the log crosswise into 8 equal slices using a sharp knife.
  6. Butter/spray a 9×13 inch baking pan. Arrange the slices with the cut side up in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator overnight, 8-12 hours. Alternatively, to make rolls on the same-day, allow rolls to rise again in a warm environment for another 1-2 hours until puffy and then bake.
  7. Remove from refrigerator and let rolls sit out to reach room temperature for 1 – 2 hours, until puffy, before baking. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake rolls until lightly golden brown, about 30 minutes. While lemon sweet rolls bake, prepare icing.
  8. Once rolls are done, immediately spread icing over rolls and serve. Enjoy!

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing:

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add powdered sugar and slowly add in milk and then lemon zest. Mix until everything is fully incorporated.


1. For dough: place milk into a microwave-safe dish and warm milk in microwave for 1 minute.

2. This recipe can make more than 8 rolls if the rolls are cut smaller.