Lemon–Poppy Seed Rolls

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 12 lemon-poppy seed rolls
This recipe takes iced cinnamon rolls and gives them a fresh twist by replacing the cinnamon and sugar swirl with canned poppy seed filling and fresh lemon. Canned poppy seed filling can be found in the baking aisle and is a thick mixture of sweet syrup and crunchy poppy seeds. It’s great in this recipe because there is no need to add any additional sugar to the filling.


For the Dough:

For the Filling:

For the Icing:


  1. Make the dough: Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until warm but not hot, about 100˚ F. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Whisk the melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla into the milk-yeast mixture, then pour into the well and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together into a wet shaggy dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead, dusting with flour as needed, until the dough comes together into a loose, slightly sticky ball, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling: Mash the poppy seed filling with the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl with a fork until combined; set aside.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface; pat and roll out into a 10-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on one long side. Brush the clean edge with water, then tightly roll up the dough into a log, starting with a long side and rolling toward the clean edge; pinch the seam to seal.
  6. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Slice the dough log into 12 pieces with a sharp knife and arrange cut-side up in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Uncover the rolls and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the icing: Mix the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and mix until smooth. Spread on the warm rolls.

Cook’s Note

The secret to these sweet rolls is canned poppy seed filling! Look for it with the canned pie fillings.