Marvelous Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls

Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls

Bake and Be Happy


“There wasn’t any limit, no boundary at all, to the future.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


A belated Happy New Year! I took a break to enjoy the holidays and I hope you did too. I like to start the New Year with a baking recipe that has been lingering on my must-try list. This not a diet or Whole 30 recipe, just one mighty fine sweet roll recipe. The recipe is adapted from a 3-hole punched page from the November 1973 Family Circle magazine. It arrived in my life with a stack of old, forgotten recipes. The title, “Prize Recipes from Women’s Clubs” told me this is very likely an excellent recipe. In my kitchen, Orange Rolls from the Sunflower Sampler (Oh, what a name!) of Wichita, Kansas became Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls. Light, super fluffy with the sweet, tart allure of lemon and warmth from candied ginger these marvelous sweet rolls are winter comfort in every bite. Eating one Lemon Ginger Sweet Roll can only be achieved with super human will power. Just serve two and be happy.

Lemon Ginger Sweet Roll Dough


Citrus season is one of my favorite parts of a California winter. Lemons always get the most attention. My travel mug is filled daily with ice water and lemon slices and I make tangy vinaigrettes with lemon juice, but lemon sweets are the very best. The sweet roll dough is soft and fluffy from butter, eggs and sour cream. Of course, I added more sour cream and a hefty amount of lemon zest to the dough. All the lemon zest and juice can be switched to orange and the candied ginger could be omitted too. But if lemon sweets are a temptation, this is a recipe to make and share.

Most yeast breads can be made ahead of time and frozen before baking. For instance, this recipe makes 24 rolls, in a 13” x 9” pan. To make smaller batches, the recipe could be divided into 2 smaller baking pans of 12 rolls each. Bake one now and freeze the other pan for later. After shaping the sweet rolls, before the final rise, is the time to wrap the pan tightly and securely in plastic wrap and freeze. I use 2 layers of plastic wrap and write the date of freezing directly on the wrap. To bake, defrost the dough in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Once defrosted, finish the recipe as directed, with the final rise and then baking. One month or less is the optimum time to store, unbaked, yeast breads in the freezer and keep enough of the yeast alive for a good baked product.

Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls

Lemon Ginger Sweet Roll dough
1/4C warm water, 110° or less
1pkg/2-1/2t active dry yeast
1/2C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1C full-fat sour cream
2 eggs
1/4C sugar
4C all-purpose flour
1t fine grain sea salt
2T finely grated lemon zest
Lemon Ginger Sweet Roll filling
3/4C sugar
3T finely grated lemon zest
2T finely minced candied ginger
1/4C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Lemon Ginger Sweet Roll glaze
1/4C sugar
1/4C lemon juice

Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls

  1. Butter a large mixing bowl and a 13” x 9” baking pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment add the warm water and yeast. Mix to dissolve the yeast. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the cooled butter and sour cream. Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is throughly combined and there are no visible lumps of sour cream. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing throughly after each one is added to the bowl.
  3. Remove the bowl and whisk attachment from the stand mixer. Add the remaining dough ingredients to the bowl: sugar, flour, sea salt and lemon zest. Return the bowl to the stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Mix the dough ingredients together on medium-low, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Continue to mix the dough for 5 minutes to throughly combine the ingredients and develop the gluten. As needed, stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. The dough should remain sticky and barely cling to the outer edges of the mixing bowl. If the dough is too wet and remains flat across the bottom of the bowl add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, at the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. Resit the temptation to knead more flour into the dough. Place the dough in the buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warmed oven or other draft free place to rise until fluffy and almost doubled in size. Depending on the temperature, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. While the dough rises make the sweet roll filling. In a small bowl add the sugar and lemon zest. Using fingertips, rub the sugar and lemon zest together. When no clumps of zest remain, stir in the candied ginger.
  5. Turn the dough out unto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough to deflate. Cut the dough in half. Form half the dough into a ball and then roll the dough into a 12 inch circle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Generously brush the circle with butter and spread half of the sugar infused filling evenly across the circle. Cut the circle into 12 wedges, by cutting the dough into quarters and then cutting the quarters into thirds. Roll up each wedge starting with the widest end. Repeat with all 12 pieces of dough. Place the sweet rolls in the prepared pan, point side down, in rows of 3 across the width of the pan. Repeat the process with the second half of the dough for a total of 24 sweet rolls. Fill the pan with 3 rolls across, and 8 rows the length of the pan. (At this point the sweet rolls can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to three months before baking. To bake, defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Then continue with the next step, the final rise and baking.)
  6. Heat the oven to 350°. Set the sweet rolls in a warm place or other draft free place to rise until fluffy and almost doubled in size. Depending on the temperature, 30 minutes to an hour. Bake the sweet rolls for 20-25 minutes. If the rolls around the edges of the pan brown too quickly cover them with foil. The rolls will be golden brown and have pulled away from the edge of the pan when finished baking. While the sweet rolls bake make the glaze by combining the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Brush the warm rolls with the glaze.

Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls

25 Replies to “Marvelous Lemon Ginger Sweet Rolls”

  1. I think I can put away my super-human willpower this one time and EAT-ALL-THE-ROLLS! Lemon and ginger remind me so much of time spent with my grandparents, to this day they still tell us kids to have ginger, lemon and a drop of honey to ‘cure’ the cold. What a scrumptious way to start the year!

  2. Deb, we are playing with the same flavors ~ ginger and lemon (both in the quince cake recipe I posted). These rolls look so inviting. The dough must have perfumed your entire house as it was rising. Cheers, D

  3. What a wonderful way to begin the year Deb, with the brightness of lemon, the warmth and comfort of a warm yeasted treat, and a touch of sugar foretelling a sweet year ahead. I think you should make these a January tradition – and so should I!
    P.S. Love, love, love, your green zester!

  4. Oh these do look good Deb! And your photos are gorgeous too. My mouth is watering! I never would have thought to make rolls with a lemon filling, such a great idea. 🙂

  5. You’ve really excited my palate with the lemon in these rolls! Like you, I love citrus season! Oranges, grapefruits and the wonderful, wonderful lemon. These rolls have everything and will be made! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    1. Thank you so much Carol! If lemon is a favorite these sweet rolls will bring much sweet pleasure.

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