Overnight Caramel Rolls

5 from 3 votes

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Indulge in irresistibly sweet, soft, and fluffy overnight caramel rolls – prepared the night before and baked fresh in the morning!   

Overnight caramel rolls in a baking dish with a center roll missing.


 

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Why you’ll love this recipe:

Made with homemade yeast dough and a cinnamon sugar filling, baked caramel rolls are similar to homemade cinnamon rolls but are drenched in luscious butterscotch caramel sauce and topped with crunchy pecans.

A melt-in-your-mouth, sugary treat, overnight caramel rolls are often enjoyed on cozy Sunday mornings, holidays, and special occasions. They’re a must-make recipe to add to your fall and winter collection! 

  • Decadent – Too tempting to ever pass up, caramel rolls are rich and delightfully sweet!
  • Comforting – When I think about the perfect warm and cozy winter morning, it always includes freshly baked sweet rolls! 
  • Approachable – My overnight caramel roll recipe is broken down into four easy-to-follow parts, most of which can be completed the night before, making it super easy to pop the rolls in the oven in the morning while you relax with a cup of coffee! 

The sweet aroma of freshly baked overnight caramel rolls will fill your kitchen, waking your family up in the best way possible! 

Butterscotch caramel sauce

  • Brown sugar – Packed light or dark brown sugar transforms traditional caramel sauce into decadent butterscotch caramel sauce! 
  • Heavy cream – Used in the butterscotch sauce, heavy cream adds to the sauce’s rich flavor and creamy texture.  
  • Pecans – Chopped pecans add the perfect amount of crunchy texture!

Key Ingredient Notes:

For the dough:

  • Active dry yeast is the key ingredient for light, airy rolls. When combined with warm water, the yeast will bubble up or “activate,” showing that it’s alive. You can use instant dry yeast (Red Star Platinum yeast is my go-to) in this recipe, just skip the proofing step. 
  • Warm water – Ideally, the water temperature should be between 105°F and 115°F when measured with a digital thermometer. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. On the flip side, if it’s too cold, the yeast won’t activate. 
  • Milk – For the richest-tasting dough, I recommend using whole milk. 2% could be used in a pinch, but I would definitely avoid using skim milk. 
  • All-purpose flour – For a light and fluffy roll, use all-purpose flour. Make sure your flour is fresh and correctly measured (spooned into a measuring cup and leveled off, or better yet weighed on a kitchen scale).
  • Egg – You’ll need one large egg that has been brought up to room temperature. Usually, 30 minutes on the counter will do the trick! 
  • Vegetable oil – Neutral-tasting vegetable oil will keep the caramel rolls extra moist! 
  • Granulated sugar – Sugar adds to the sweetness of the dough and helps activate the yeast. It’s also used in the cinnamon sugar filling.  
Ingredients needed to make overnight caramel rolls.

For the filling:

  • Granulated sugar is used in both the dough and the filling to create a sweet, uniform flavor throughout the rolls.
  • Unsalted butter – Melted butter is brushed onto the rolled-out dough and topped with the cinnamon sugar filling, giving the inside of the rolls a sweet, buttery flavor. 
  • Cinnamon – Ground cinnamon adds warmth and enhances that cozy, comfort food feeling! 
Butter, sugar, and cinnamon to make a caramel roll filling.

How to make this overnight caramel rolls recipe:

If you plan on baking your rolls right away, preheat your oven to 350°F during the second rise, after the caramel rolls are assembled and in the baking dish. 

1. Make the dough

  • Proof the yeast: Pour the warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and active. (*Skip this step if you’re using an instant dry yeast.)
  • Pour the milk into a small, microwave-safe bowl, and warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just until lukewarm. 
  • Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the mixing bowl. (*If using instant yeast, add it with the dry ingredients.)
  • Add the yeast mixture, warm milk, egg and vegetable oil.
Two images showing the process of mixing dry and wet ingredients for caramel roll dough.
  • Use the dough hook of your stand mixer (or hand mixer) to thoroughly combine all of the dough ingredients. Once combined, place the dough on a flat surface lightly dusted with flour. 
  • Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes.   
Caramel roll dough on a dough hook.
  • Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl and cover it with a clean, wet towel. Place the bowl in a warm place for an hour to rise.

Keep the dough warm

Yeast dough loves a warm environment! You can create a warm and steamy environment by microwaving a glass of water for 2 minutes. Then, place the covered dough bowl in the microwave along with the glass of hot water. Close the microwave door, and let it sit for 1 hour. 

I like to use my Instant Pot for proofing my yeast dough. Set the Instant Pot on “YOGURT” setting for 30 minutes.

Two images showing the process of proofing caramel roll dough until it's fluffy.

2. Prepare the butterscotch caramel sauce

For step-by-step directions with photos, check out my butterscotch recipe post.

  • Combine the heavy cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. 
  • Once the sugar has melted, continue to cook the sugar and heavy cream mixture for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently. 
  • Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Once cool, taste the caramel sauce. Feel free to add more salt and vanilla extract, if needed! 
brown sugar and cream in saucepan, butterscotch in saucepan.
  • Chop the pecan halves until coarse and crumbly.   
  • Pour half of the caramel sauce into a 9×13-inch baking pan. Evenly sprinkle the chopped pecans over the caramel sauce. Reserve the other half sauce to serve with the finished caramel rolls.  

3. Mix the Cinnamon Sugar Filling

  • Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
  • The melted butter will be spread on the rolled-out dough in the following steps. 
One image showing a cinnamon sugar mixture and a second showing melted butter.

4. Assemble the Caramel Rolls

  • Roll out the dough. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out into a 15×20 rectangle.
Two images showing the process of rolling out caramel roll dough.
  • Pour the melted butter over the entire rectangle of dough.
  • Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture onto the dough.
Caramel roll dough being brushed with melted butter and topped with cinnamon sugar.
  • Roll up the dough. Starting on the long edge, carefully roll the dough into a log. 
  • Cut the dough log into 20, 1-inch thick rolls. 
Two rolls of caramel rolls, one being sliced with dental floss.
  • Transfer to the baking dish. Arrange the rolls in the prepared baking pan (with the caramel sauce). Cover the pan with foil, and let it rise on the counter for 30-60 minutes, or refrigerate overnight. 
  • Bake the caramel rolls. If you’re baking your rolls right away, remove the foil, and bake them uncovered for 30-35 minutes. If you’re letting your rolls refrigerator overnight, take them out of the refrigerator and let them sit in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Then, bake as instructed. 
Two images showing a butterscotch caramel sauce in a dish being topped with raw caramel rolls.
  • Flip the rolls. This is my favorite step! As soon as the rolls come out of the oven, cover the baking dish with a flat cookie sheet, and quickly flip the baking dish over the baking sheet so it sits upside down on top. Allow it to rest for a few minutes to let every last drop of caramel sauce soak into the rolls. 
  • Serve, and enjoy! Lift up the baking dish to reveal the overnight caramel rolls beneath, and serve them hot with the reserved caramel sauce. Warm the caramel sauce in the microwave if needed.  

Working with yeast dough:

Baking with yeast dough might sound intimidating, but I can assure you there is nothing to fear! If you give yeast a warm environment, sugar, and lots of love, I guarantee you’ll conquer yeast dough baking with ease! 

  • Warm environment – Yeast dough thrives in a warm environment. The best temperature is between 75°F and 85°F. Find a warm spot in your kitchen, use a proofing box, or preheat your oven to the lowest temperature. Turn the oven off, and place your yeast dough inside. 
  • Sugar – Yeast feeds on sugar. Adding a small amount of sugar to the dough helps the yeast activate. 
  • Lots of love – Baking with yeast dough requires patience and can’t be rushed. Be kind to your dough, and don’t rush the process!      

Tips for Success:

  • Use a sharp knife to cut the rolls. A sharp knife will ensure your rolls don’t squish down while you’re cutting them. You can also use unflavored dental floss! 
  • Use the correct size baking dish. The caramel rolls should have a small amount of space between each roll so they have room to fluff up in the baking dish. If your pan is too small, it’ll be overcrowded, and the rolls won’t rise properly. 
  • Roll the dough evenly. Roll the dough starting from the long side. Make suer it it tight and even, and pinch the seam to seal it closed. 
  • Be careful turning the rolls out. The baking dish will be extremely hot; however, you don’t want to skip this step! Flipping the caramel rolls out onto a serving plate or baking sheet allows the sweet caramel sauce to drip into every nook and cranny of the roll. Use oven mitts, and flip the baking dish in one swift motion. 
An overnight caramel roll topped with caramel sauce on a plate.

Make-Ahead Tips:

You can prepare this entire caramel rolls recipe in advance! There’s no better way to start your morning than with a tray of sweet rolls ready to pop in the oven! 

  • Follow the recipe steps until the rolls are ready to be baked.
  • Tightly cover the pan with foil, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. 
  • Remove the foil, let the rolls sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature, and bake as directed.  

Storing Tips:

  • Store leftover caramel rolls for up to 2 days. Let the rolls cool completely. Then, transfer them to an airtight container. Place a layer of parchment paper between the rolls to prevent them from sticking together.  
  • To freeze leftover rolls, wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap, and place them in a sealable freezer bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.  
  • Reheat leftover rolls in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed to your liking. 

Caramel Rolls FAQs:

Should caramel rolls be refrigerated?

No, caramel rolls do not need to be refrigerated. They will stay fresh for about two days at room temperature if stored in an airtight container.  

What is the difference between a caramel roll and a cinnamon roll?

While both are very similar, the main difference is that cinnamon rolls are topped with a sweet cream cheese glaze or vanilla icing, and caramel rolls are covered in caramel sauce and pecans. 

How to tell if caramel rolls are done? 

The rolls should be soft, fluffy, and golden brown on top. Test for doneness using a toothpick or paring knife. 

An overnight caramel roll topped with caramel sauce on a plate.
5 from 3 votes

Caramel Rolls

Irresistibly soft and fluffy overnight caramel rolls, soaked in luscious butterscotch sauce. The best way to start the weekend!
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
2 hours 30 minutes
Total: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 20 rolls

Ingredients

For dough:

  • 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water
  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk Note 1
  • 4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For Butterscotch Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 cup (200 g) packed brown sugar either light or dark
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt or table salt
  • ½ cup pecans halves Note 2

For Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter melted
  • ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon

Equipment

  • 1 9×13 baking pan

Instructions 

To make the dough:

  • Sprinkle the yeast over warm water and let it stand for 10 min. (Make sure the water isn’t too hot, or it’ll kill the yeast. And if the water is too cool, it won’t activate the yeast.) The mixture should bubble up, which a sign that yeast is alive. And that’s a good thing!
    1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast, ¼ cup warm water
  • Warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just until it’s tepid.
    1 cup milk
  • In a mixing bowl with dough hook attachment, mix together flour, yeast mixture, milk, egg, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder and salt until everything is incorporated. Take the dough onto a flat surface dusted with a bit of flour and knead for a few minutes.
    1 large egg, ¼ cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Transfer the dough into large oiled bowl and cover it with wet towel. Put it in warm place for an hour to rise. I put it in a microwave with glass of hot water. (Don’t turn on the microwave.)

To prepare the butterscotch caramel sauce:

  • In a medium (at least 2.5 qt) saucepan, combine heavy cream and brown sugar. Bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
    1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • Once the sugar is melted, continue to cook it for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently.
  • Add vanilla extract and salt. Taste and make sure you’re happy with the flavor. Add more vanilla extract or salt, if needed. The sauce thickens as it cools.
    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Coarsely chop the pecans.
    ½ cup pecans halves
  • Pour half of the caramel sauce into 9×13 baking pan and spread the chopped pecans. Reserve the other half of caramel sauce to serve on the side.

To make the cinnamon sugar filling:

  • In a small dish, combine sugar and cinnamon for filling.
    ¼ cup granulated sugar, ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon

To make the rolls:

  • Once the dough is doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out into a 15×20 rectangle.
  • Pour melted butter all over the dough, and evenly sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture.
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Roll up the dough into a log, and cut into 20 1-inch rolls.
  • Arrange the rolls in the prepared baking pan. Cover the pan with a foil and let it rise for 30-60 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Take the rolls out of refrigerator and place in warm place for about 30 minute. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes.
  • As soon as you take the rolls out, cover it with flat cookie sheet and flip it over. (Be very careful as the baking pan is heavy and hot!!!) Let the baking dish sit over the rolls for couple minutes, so that caramel gets soaked into the rolls. Then remove the pan and serve with reserved caramel sauce. If needed, microwave the sauce until pourable.

Tips & Notes

Note 1: Whole milk will work best, but 2% can be substituted. 
Note 2: Feel free to replace the pecans with any other nut you like best such as walnuts or almonds. 
Storing Tips: 
– Once cooled completely, caramel rolls can be transferred to an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
– Place pieces of parchment paper between each roll to prevent them from sticking together! 
– You can freeze caramel rolls! To do so, wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap, and place them in a sealable bag. They’ll stay fresh for up to 2 months. 
– To reheat, thaw frozen rolls in the fridge overnight. Then, warm them in the microwave in 30-second increments until your desired temperature is achieved. 

Nutrition

Servings: 1 serving
Calories: 252kcal
Carbohydrates: 35g
Protein: 4g
Fat: 11g
Sugar: 16g
Sodium: 182mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

This recipe was originally published on January 23rd, 2013.

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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19 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My senior in high school and I made these last night before bed, popped them in the fridge and then finished them this morning. They.are.so.good! I love made from scratch everything and these rolls are super simple. I’m a very picky baker and this recipe is now printed and in my favorites. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi, Usha. My recipe calls for active dry yeast, not instant or rapid yeast. So if your regular tandaco yeast is dry one, then yes, you can use that just as per recipe.

  2. Is there a particular reason you use a minimal amount of yeast (per the amount of flour) and then subsidize with baking powder? Why not use all yeast? I’m planning to make these rolls this weekend. I don’t know if any recipes where both yeast and baking powder are used as leavening agents—curious why this is done. 

    1. My question is what is the purpose of the baking powder? It was asked before but unanswered. In Philadelphia we call these sticky buns ~ Thank you

      1. Hi, Di! Thanks for asking. A very good question! You don’t need baking powder. The base of the recipe is from my mother-in-law, it’s quite common for old-fashioned recipes to call for both baking powder and yeast. But baking powder is absolutely unnecessary. I’ll update the recipe with this note.

  3. Could I pour all the caramel sauce into the pan before laying the rolls in the pan instead of reserving half the sauce to add at the end, or would this effect how the rolls bake?

    1. Hi, Lauren. Yes, you can definitely pour all the sauce, it won’t affect the baking. Just be extra careful when flipping the rolls, as you may get lots of caramel sauce.

  4. Do you use regular sugar in the filling instead of brown sugar? Going to make these next week for my husbands birthday!

  5. These rolls look delicious. They remind me of the ones my grandmother used to make. As they were baking the house would smell wonderful. I would never have thought of making extra caramel sauce to add at the table. You have a very nice blog, Shinee.

    1. Oh that smell is amazing, Essie! And extra caramel sauce is a must. We never have enough of it. 🙂 Thank you so much!