Date Bourbon Cinnamon Rolls

No-fuss, totally hands-off Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing.  Perfect for freezing, too!

Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.
Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.
Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Today we celebrate one of the kindest souls in the blog world, Cynthia of Two Red Bowls, and her new little love bug.  I’ve made these Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting for her Virtual Baby Shower, because one (or five) of these warm, gooey treats is pretty much what one needs to get through those first couple sleepless weeks with a newborn.  

When I was pregnant with Everett and went through my “nesting” phase, I had every intention of stocking my freezer with semi-made meals and zip-top bags full of pre-cut veggies and proteins ready for the slow-cooker.  I purchased large freezer bags to house cut up fruit for easy smoothies and those disposable, foil baking pans for casseroles (the same things I made boxed sheet cake with in college, lol).  I’m pretty sure I made one lasagne to freeze and one batch of breakfast sandwiches before cramming the rest of those foil thingys in the back of a closet, later to be buried in back-up diapers and all the other baby accessories that have consumed our home these past couple years.

In the end, my mom was my saviour those first few weeks with a new baby.  She helped with last-minute baby purchases because you will inevitably need something no matter how well you plan, took care of our pup, picked-up the burp clothes, yesterday's pyjamas, and stray pacifies around me while I was stuck breastfeeding on the couch, and laundered all of our clothes as often as should could.  Most importantly, she made us dinner nearly every night for the first few weeks of Everett’s life, before having to head back to California. 

Having a baby, especially your first, is intimate, unpredictable, exhausting, and exciting.  You will want to soak up those first few weeks as much as you can, but doing so while suffering from exhausting and the adjustment of having a new tiny human in your house can be rough.  Plus, all that dang laundry!  It’s not joke.  Finding the balance between accepting help and wanting to have private time with your new little family can be hard, too.  Of course I can only speak from my own experience, and most of our family and friends live far away, but for those new moms where you have plenty of visitors in the beginning, I am sure it can be draining.  One thing I can suggest no matter if you are a new mom wanting some privacy or a friend/family member wanting to help out without being too intrusive, turn to food!  If you don’t know what else to do, always accept or bring food – preferably items that can be eaten with one hand, haha.  And if you are really good friend, you will make and freeze cinnamon rolls for the new mom to pop into the oven when the sweet cravings strike.


Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.
Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.

So back to these cinnamon rolls… Like I mentioned before, I had lofty goals of stocking my freezer full of ready-made meals that I could just throw in the oven between bundling my winter babe and milk schedule.  One thing I failed to add to the list was sweets.  Shocking, right??  Had I filled my pre-baby to-do list with freezer-friendly dessert recipes, I bet I would have gotten more done.  Because let me tell you, after being interrupted every 2-3 hours to breastfeed and trying to figure out parenthood for the first time, all you will want to something warm, gooey, and slathered with boozy frosting.

Now that Everett is nearly two years old, I hardly have more free time than I did when he was an infant.  And if I do find the time here and there, you bet I’m not going to waste it babysitting cinnamon roll dough.  This hands-off, freezer-friendly cinnamon roll recipe is pretty much the only way to go when it comes to fresh-from-the-oven pastries.  Want warm cinnamon rolls in the morning, but don’t have the time and patience to watch rising dough nor want to wake at 3am to have them ready for breakfast?  Then this recipe is the way to go.

I was inspired by Cynthia’s own date-filled buns for this recipe.  Coincidently, I had a Costco-sized box of medjool dates that I purchased with the intentions of making healthy-ish raw desserts and homemade granola bars.  Thankfully for us all, those things never happened and I was able to turn these gorgeously plump dates into a naturally sweet and totally gooey filling for these otherwise traditional cinnamon rolls.  The dates blend down into a paste and spread so nicely over my cardamom-scented dough.  Once baked, I slathered them with a Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting that is literally to die for!

Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.
Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.

The thing about making cinnamon rolls from home, and I’m not talking about the kind that you break free of a cardboard tube, is the waiting and timing can be frustrating.  Want fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning?  Then set your alarm for 4am.  Want fresh cinnamon rolls RIGHT NOW? Then you better hope you have some stored away in your freezer.  Thankfully, with proper planning, your dreams of eating sticky, swirly buns in your pj’s can be fulfilled.  By placing the dough in the refrigerator to rise, you are essentially hitting “pause” in the process.  The cool temps in the fridge dramatically slow down the yeast, so the dough continues to rise but at a much slower rate.  Instead of scheduling 1 to 2 hours between steps, you can pop the dough into the fridge for 8 hours (or overnight) and continue on with your day. 

Cynthia has an AMAZING breakdown of a schedule that produces AM cinnamon rolls that you should check out, but I am going to take it one step further and offer some freezer options.  After the second rise (once they are filled and sliced), place the buns individually on a baking sheet and freeze until firm.  From there, you can place them in a freezer bag and then wrap in foil.  Freezing them individually first means that they don’t stick together and you can bake them off one or two at a time.  Alternatively, you can freeze them together in one of those foil pans if you know you will be serving them all up at the same time.  However, the buns will need to come back to room temperature before being baked off.  To do so, let them thaw in the fridge overnight and come to room temp as the oven pre-heats in the morning.  This obviously takes longer for the full recipe.  If you are baking off individual buns, then this process is much much shorter, so you can literally have fresh cinnamon rolls in almost no time, yay! 

Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.
Date Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting.

A BIG thank you to Steph and Alana for hosting the baby shower!!

Date Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Alton Brown and Two Red Bowls

¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 to 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
large pinch cardamom
¼ cup plain yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

8 to 10 medjoor dates, pitted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown sugar

Heat the milk to about 110 degrees F (just above body temperature, if testing by touch) and stir in the yeast.  Set aside for about 5 minutes or until the yeast dissolves and begins to foam up.

In a separate bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cardamom.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the yogurt, egg, yolk and butter.
Once the yeast has foamed up, combine with the other wet ingredients.  Once mixed together, add all of the wet + yeast mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture.  Stir to combine.

Using the dough hook, knead the dough for about 5 minutes.  It should be smooth, elastic and lightly sticky when done.  Add in as little flour as possible to keep from getting too sticky and driving yourself crazy.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic for two hours on the counter or 8 hours (or overnight) in the fridge.

Meanwhile, place the dates in a heat-safe bowl.  Pour boiling water to cover and let rest 10 minutes.  Drain the dates and add to a food processor along with the cinnamon and salt.  Puree the date mixture until it forms a thick paste.  Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll into a 10 X 12 inch rectangle.  If coming from the refrigerator, you will need to let the dough rest at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before rolling it out.
Spread the date paste over the rolled-out dough, leaving about a ½-inch boarder on each side.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar then pat down until it sticks.

Starting at one of the long sides, carefully but tightly roll up the dough.  Use dental floss, kitchen shears, or a serrated knife to cut the dough into 8 to 10 even pieces. 

Place the rolls in a glass baking pan, skillet, or on a baking sheet.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to bake (or overnight) or move to the next step.

Let the rolls rise at room temperature one last time for 30 to 45 minutes as the over pre-heats to 350 degrees.
Bake the rolls for about 18 to 25 minutes, or until slightly golden.  Remove from the oven and slather on the cream cheese frosting while they are still warm.

Note: If freezing, do so after the rolls have been sliced but before the final rise.  Thaw in the refrigerator before baking.


Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
¼ cup cream cheese, softened
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon, or to taste
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
splash milk

Stir together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Gradually add in the remaining ingredients until desired consistency and sweetness.  It should be thick yet spreadable.  Frost the cinnamon rolls while they are still warm for optimum ooey, gooey-ness.

Date Bourbon Cinnamon Rolls

Be sure to check out all the amazing recipes from the virtual baby shower here (hint, they are all served in bowls!):

I am a Food Blog | Mac and Kimcheese Dolsot Bibimbap
Fix Feast Flair | Dishoom's Chicken Ruby Murray
The Fauxmartha | Mom Lunches
A Cozy Kitchen | Cornbread Chicken + Dumplings
Cake Over Steak | Salted Caramel Chocolate Crackles
The Pancake Princess | Stovetop Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Snixy Kitchen | Chicken Pot Pie with Chestnut Biscuits
Lady and Pups | Egg Florentine in Pullman "Bowls"
Betty Liu | Honeynut Squash Congee
Style Sweet CA | Date Bourbon Cinnamon Rolls
Warm Vanilla Sugar | Broccoli Quinoa Bowl with Avocado Sauce
A Beautiful Plate | Coconut Cauliflower Soup
Girl Versus Dough | Tomato Grilled Cheese Soup
Fork to Belly | A HUGE Hawaiian Fruit Bowl!!!
Donny Tsang | Chawanmushi
Wit & Vinegar | Jerk Chicken Chili
Constellation Inspiration | Salted Egg Yolk Custard Mochi
twigg studios | Katsu Udon Soup wth Popcorn Chicken Croutons
Edible Perspective | Acorn Squash Bowls with Pears, Pecans, and Vanilla Bean Cream
Coco Cake Land | Asian Bowl Cut Sugar Cookies
Southern Souffle | Sorghum Apple Biscuits In A Bowl
The Bojon Gourmet | Smoky Sweet Potato & Lentil Tortilla Soup
Flourishing Foodie | Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup
What should I eat for breakfast today | Little Bowl with Creamy Polenta, Cheese, Onions and Mushrooms
Top with Cinnamon | Squash & Crispy Kale Bowls with Pomegranate and Miso-Ginger Dressing
the broken bread | Roasted Celeriac + Fennel Soup
Fig+Bleu | Cauliflower Harissa Soup
my name is yeh | Corn Dog In A Bowl
Crepes of Wrath | Mini Scallion Pancake Challah Buns
O&O Eats | Persimmon Cobbler

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hey Guys!  Only two more days of my first Back to Basics series!  I hope you’ve been enjoying the lessons so far.  What have your favorite points been so far?  Earlier this week I talked all about Layer Cakes.  If you couldn’t tell already, my love for layer cakes runs pretty deep.  I got so carried away with my post that I decided to separate the recipe for this Red Velvet Cake and let it have its own spotlight (it’s that good!).  Tomorrow I will be announcing the giveaway winner, so make sure to tune in. Jump down to the bottom of this post to enter!

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

In my research for Layered, I found all sorts of interesting tidbits about classic layer cakes, including Red Velvet Cake.  For example, this widely considered southern dessert was actually first served at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC!  It was originally paired with a cooked-flour frosting or “Heritage” icing, but today you’ll most likely find the bright red layers slathered in whipped cream cheese frosting (like with this recipe).  Who would have thought, right?

Other layer cakes throughout history include:
Boston Cream Pie– Parker House Hotel, Boston; 1856: luscious pastry cream sandwiched between two layers of vanilla sponge and topped with chocolate.

Black Forest Cake – Germany; 1915:  layers of kirsch-soaked chocolate cake slathered in whipped cream and stuffed with cherries from the Black Forest region in Germany that is known for producing the cherry liqueur. 

Brooklyn Blackout – Brooklyn, NY: layers of chocolate cake filled and frosting with chocolate custard and topped with cake crumbles.  It was named after the World War 2 blackout drills and was made famous by Ebinger’s Bakery (1898 to 1972).

Hummingbird Cake – Jamaica, 1979: this southern classic actually dates back to Jamaica.  Named after the Jamaican nation fowl or “doctor bird,” it is a pineapple-banana cake with either pecans or walnuts and smothered in cream cheese icing.

Opera Cake – Paris; Early 20th century: meticulously layered almond sponge soaked with espresso, ganache, and coffee buttercream cut into precise portions.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pretty interesting, right?  Or at least is it to me.  I could go on, but let’s get back to the Red Velvet.  I feel like people are very divided over red velvet cake.  Either you love it or hate it.  Years ago, you probably would have found me closer to hate.  Honestly, I just didn't understand the appeal.  Artificially dyed cake slathered in sickly sweet frosting?  No thanks.  Overtime, I had so many clients request the classic at my bakery that I ended up giving in and became determined to create a red velvet that I could be confident in.

Take the color out of the equation, and it is a delicious buttermilk cake with a hint of cocoa and whipped cream cheese.  Okay, now we are getting places.  Naturally, there is a bit of a red hue when the acidic properties in natural cocoa powder reacts with the vinegar and buttermilk. The velvet part?  This refers to the texture of the moist and tight crumb of the cake.  You can certainly still make this cake without the food coloring or use a natural substitute, like beet!


Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cake
2 ¼ cup cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 ½ sticks)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
red food coloring (optional)
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low, add in the cocoa, vanilla, red coloring, and eggs – one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low, add in half of the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk and vinegar.  Add the second half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.


Cream Cheese Frosting
12 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 to 5 cups confectioners sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  With the mixer on low, mix in the remaining ingredients until just combined.  Once incorporated, turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy.  Adjust the sugar and milk until your desired consistency in achieved.

Once the cakes are completely cool, place the bottom layer on a cake plate or serving.  Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top.  Invert the second cake and place upside on top of the frosting.  Crumb coat the cake then fully frost.  Serve at room temperature.

Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

Layers of slightly spiced ginger cake smothered with a rhubarb buttercream frosting.  Inside, silky cream cheese filling is rippled with poached rhubarb.  The perfect cake to make when those coveted red stalks of rhubarb begin to arrive at the market!

Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

I’ve had a life-long dream to live in a city.  Growing up deep into the suburbs but being fortunate enough to travel since a young age, it was established pretty early on that I was destined to be a city girl.  When I’d vacation to different cities, I’d image myself living there – walking to get my morning cup of coffee, picking up groceries at the local market, taking the dog to the park, and enjoying meals out on a terrace somewhere attached to my eclectic yet chic apartment.  Being in the middle of it all, with restaurants, shops, nightlife, and culture just steps outside my door, is where I always thought I’d end up.

New York City has always been my favorite, and after college I assumed I’d end up there at some point – perhaps not permanently, but at least a few seasons.  After getting married and starting up my bakery, I pretty much gave up on my big-city dreams… Instead, we lived in Midtown Sacramento.  Sure there were coffee shops and a few great restaurants walking-distance from our townhouse, but I began to grow impatient of the city’s slow growth and always having to drive everywhere (although my parents still live there part-time, and the city it really stepping it up lately!). 

Like I’ve mentioned time and time again, my husband and I fell completely in love with the city of Vancouver.  We used to come visit a few times a year to enjoy both the city life and the beautiful outdoors. We’d stay at my parents’ place long enough to see ourselves living there and not just being tourists.  Most significantly, we never needed a car and could walk EVERYWHERE!  Eventually, we decided just to go for it and move here. 

Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake
Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

Now I know Vancouver isn’t the biggest city out there, but it has turned out to be just perfect for us.  A city made of glass that reflects the water, mountains, and gorgeous parks that surround it.  The best of all worlds, if you ask me.  And unlike NYC, this is the kind of city I could see us living in for a long time. 

Did I mention how much I enjoy walking everywhere?  Now that the weather is clearing up and the sun is staying out much later, I am already finding myself outside a lot more – toddler and pup in tow.  One my all-time FAVORITE activities to do in the city is to walk to the farmer’s market.  While some people might dream of owning a four-bedroom house with a pool, my dream is to be able to push the stroller to a local farmer’s market with my little man from my home. 

Deep into the West End, just about an 8 minute walk away, we have own little local market.  Last year, when Brett had class on Saturday mornings, Everett and I would go there every weekend together. He was just starting to enjoy solid foods around this time last year, so it felt great knowing exactly where his food was coming from.  We would hunt for the freshest berries, juiciest plums, and most vibrant stalks of rhubarb. 

Whenever I see rhubarb for the first time each season, I snatch it up like it’s gold!  You never really know when it won’t be there anymore – or at least not as fresh as the stalks at the local markets.  This cake is the end product of one such haul. 

For this cake, I combined warm, spicy ginger with tantalizing, tart rhubarb.  A small amount of freshly grated ginger packs a deceptive amount of flavour, quickly transforming and elevating a simple butter cake into something a bit more complex and exotic.  The rhubarb is poached in blood orange juice with more ginger and real vanilla bean seeds.  Once cooked down, the tart rhubarb blends perfectly with tangy cream cheese for the filling and is an excellent contrast to the silky sweet frosting.  The vanilla-flecked buttercream becomes beautifully blushed with the natural color of the rhubarb.

Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

Ginger Butter Cake
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 ¼ cup whole milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter until smooth.  Add in the sugar and mix on medium for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.  With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and egg whites – incorporating one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low and in alternating batches, add in the dry ingredients and milk.  Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after all of the ingredients are added in.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for about 23-26 minutes or until done and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.


Poached Rhubarb
3 – 3 ½ cups chopped rhubarb (about 350 grams)
½ cup blood orange juice
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

Chop rhubarb into 1-inch long pieces.  Place rhubarb and all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once the juices begin to boil, reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 15 minutes until rhubarb breaks down and begins to thicken.  Remove from heat.

Strain the rhubarb pulp with a mesh sieve – reserving the liquids separately.  Set both aside.


Rhubarb Cream Cheese Swirl Filling
½ cup cream cheese, softened
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup strained rhubarb

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add in the sugar and vanilla.  Mix on low until all of the ingredients begin to come together.  Turn mixer up to medium and mix until smooth.  Stop the mixer and gently fold in the rhubarb.


Rhubarb Buttercream Frosting
4 large egg whites
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup rhubarb puree
rhubarb syrup – to taste

Puree the remaining strained rhubarb until smooth.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar.  Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan and heat over medium.  Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.  Heat egg white mixture until it reaches 155 F degrees on a candy thermometer – or until hot to the touch.  Once hot, remove the bowl and carefully return it to the electric mixer.  Fitted with the whisk attachment, mix on high until the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature – about 8 minutes.  Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.

With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and butter – a couple tablespoons at a time.  Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until smooth.  Turn mixer down to medium-low and mix in the rhubarb puree until combined.  Add 1-3 teaspoons of the rhubarb syrup, if desired.


Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving dish.  Spread on half of the rhubarb cream cheese with an offset spatula.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.  Frost cake with rhubarb buttercream and decorate with sugar peals, if desired.

Recipe as seen in Cake Central Magazine, Sept 2015.