Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

A few years ago I was looking for something sweet, decadent and just over-the-top to make for Valentine’s Day weekend. I had the idea to take my favorite cinnamon rolls and turn them into a delicious red velvet counterpart. And now, I’ve made a sourdough version. Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls are decadent, delicious and perfect for any red velvet and chocolate lovers. Rich chocolate filling rolled between red velvet dough, baked to perfection and drizzled with a creamy cream cheese icing. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Sample Baking Schedule

A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.

A few notes: This schedule assumes the dough temperature is 78-80℉ throughout the process. If you’d like to make these red velvet sourdough rolls for a late breakfast, stick the dough in the refrigerator after bulk fermentation and shape in the morning to rise before baking.

Day 1
8:00 PM – 8:00AMMake Stiff Sweet Levain. Let rise overnight for 10-12 hours.
Day 2
8:00 AMMix Dough
8:15 AMBegin Bulk Fermentation
12:15 PMEnd Bulk Fermentation
Option 1: Shape Rolls
Option 2: Refrigerate the dough for 12-24 hours and shape rolls the next morning
12: 15PM- 12:30PMShape Red Velvet Rolls
12:30PM – 3:30PMRise in a warm (80℉) place for 3-4 hours until puffed up and touching. Do not bake unless dough has puffed up and risen.
3:30PM – 4:15PMBake and frost. Serve warm.

Making a Stiff Sweet Levain

One of the reasons I advocate for making a levain instead of using straight sourdough starter is in cases like these red velvet sourdough cinnamon rolls. Maintaining a sourdough starter at 100% hydration makes it easy for me to create a stiff sweet levain when I need it for an enriched dough. I use a stiff sweet levain for enriched breads like my favorite sourdough cinnamon rolls and this cinnamon sugar babka. A stiff levain is a levain that mixes up to a firm consistency and is anywhere from 50%-65% hydration. It adds elasticity to dough and helps temper the acid in the sourdough which gives all the benefit of sourdough fermentation but not the tang. The sugar in the levain helps counteract the acidity and creates a more mild flavor. My picky kids are especially grateful for this! To make a stiff sweet levain:

  • Use 100% hydration sourdough starter at its peak
  • Add 20 grams of ripe sourdough starter to 100 grams of all purpose flour, 50 grams of water and 20 grams of sugar. Mix together.
  • A stiff starter will be a little more difficult to mix together because it forms a dough ball instead of a batter. Knead the ball of dough a few times until smooth.
  • Place the stiff sweet levain in a liquid measuring cup and set in a warm (78℉) spot for 10-12 hours.
  • Stiff Sweet Levain is ready to use when it has doubled in size and has a rounded top. Using it right when it reaches its peak will help decrease the acidity in the dough.

Mixing the Dough

I use a Bosch mixer to mix this dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use your hands, though it will take longer. Add all the dough ingredients to the mixer fitted with a dough hook. Reserve a little bit of the flour to add toward the end of mixing the dough as needed. Weight measurements are always more accurate than volume, but I always like to reserve a bit of flour so I don’t over-flour my dough. Varieties of flour and weight of eggs can impact the amount of flour added to dough, so I play it safe. It’s easier to add more flour than fix over-floured dough. Mix the dough on low speed for about 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky. Continue kneading about 5 more minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a container or bowl for bulk fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation

Bulk fermentation is the name for when the dough ferments in one big mass. Put the dough in a container and cover it (I like using these shower caps). The entire bulk fermentation should take about 4 hours at 78-80℉ Take the temperature of the dough, it should be between 78-80℉. If your dough is significantly colder, bulk fermentation will take longer. If it’s warmer, the bulk fermentation will be a bit shorter. Wild yeast perform best in the 78℉ range, so do your best to keep the dough in that range. I use a dough proofer or the inside of my oven with the light turned on (don’t turn the oven on!) to keep my dough warm. Let the dough sit for 4 hours in that warm place. By the end of 4 hours it should have puffed up and risen a little. The dough will feel aerated and smooth.

Red Velvet Roll Filling

Toward the end of bulk fermentation, make the red velvet roll filling. I use a combination of brown sugar and cocoa powder to get a rich chocolatey flavor in these rolls. I recommend using a dutch cocoa powder (I linked my favorite one) for the most chocolate flavor. Stir together melted butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Set aside to spread when shaping the rolls.

What Pan Should I Bake Red Velvet Rolls in?

I’ve experimented with a couple different options. I found that when the rolls are touching, they need a little bit longer to bake through completely.

Shaping Sourdough Red Velvet Rolls

Roll the dough out in a 16 by 10 inch rectangle. I like to do this on a pastry mat with measurements on the side. Due to the nature of the mat, I don’t usually need to dust the mat with flour, but if your dough is a little sticky you can use a slight dusting of flour. Spread the reserved filling over the dough, making sure to cover up to the edges. Sprinkle chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate over the filling. Roll the red velvet rolls up, cinnamon-roll-style, starting at the edge closest to you and rolling tightly. Pinch the seam closed and flip the log seam-side down. Slice into 8 equal rolls and place into pan, leaving a little space between rolls for them to rise.

Proofing Sourdough Red Velvet Rolls

If I could give one piece of advice on sourdough is let the rolls rise until they are fully proofed. Keep the temperature in the 78-80℉ t range. I cover my rolls with. a plastic shower cap and stick them in a dough proofer or my oven with the light on (don’t actually turn the oven on). Let the rolls puff up and rise. If you touch the risen rolls with your finger they will feel light and airy. Use the timeline as a guide and go by the feel and appearance of the rolls before baking them. Once the rolls have risen, bake them in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. How close together your rolls are will affect the length of time to bake them. Typically I bake these rolls for 30-35 minutes in a baking dish, unless they are crammed together–then I’ll add on an extra 10-15 minutes to make sure the middles are baked through. If you use a baking sheet where the rolls are not touching at all, they will need less time, around 22-25 minutes.

Whip up the Cream Cheese Frosting

Using a hand mixer, whip the softened butter and cream cheese together.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy whipping cream and salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The frosting will be light and fluffy. Top the warm rolls with creamy cream cheese frosting and enjoy warm!

More Amazing Cinnamon Roll Recipes Here

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t have Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion. What can I substitute?

If you really love and want the flavor of red velvet, you will want to purchase and use a red velvet bakery emulsion. You can also substitute red food coloring instead of the emulsion but it may not have quite the same flavor. Add food coloring in with the cocoa powder and melted butter until you get your desired color of red. If you don’t want ANY red dye, you can leave it out and your rolls will look more like chocolate cinnamon rolls instead of red velvet ones.

How should I store extra red velvet sourdough cinnamon rolls?

These rolls should be eaten right away. If you have extras, let them cool and then stick them in a ziplock bag. Put the bag in the freezer and freeze for up to a month or two. To re-heat, pull the roll out of the freezer and warm up in the microwave to enjoy.

I want to make sourdough red velvet rolls for breakfast or brunch. How can I do that?

I would make the red velvet dough the day before you want them. After bulk fermentation, cover the dough and put the dough in the refrigerator. The next morning, roll out the dough and shape the rolls. Let rise and then bake.

Should I use salted or unsalted butter when baking?

I always use unsalted butter when baking. It allows me to have more control over how much salt is added, which directly affects the taste of the recipe. If you choose to use salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe accordingly.

Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Rich, chocolatey red velvet sourdough cinnamon rolls are the perfect way to start your weekend. Red velvet rolls are soft, tender and made with 100% natural yeast sourdough. Fill them with a chocolate cinnamon-roll-style filling and chocolate chips before baking and drizzling with a creamy icing.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Fermentation Time 1 day 8 hours
Total Time 1 day 9 hours 45 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 8 rolls


Day 1 Stiff Sweet Levain (12 hours/overnight)

  • 20 grams sourdough starter 100% hydration, see recipe notes
  • 100 grams all purpose flour
  • 20 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams water

Day 2 Red Velvet Rolls

  • 130 grams levain
  • 238 grams whole milk warmed
  • 60 grams unsalted butter melted
  • 58 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg about 50 grams
  • 23 grams cocoa powder see recipe notes
  • 13 grams red velvet bakery emulsion see recipe notes
  • 6 grams salt about 1 teaspoon
  • 480 grams bread flour

Red Velvet Roll Filling

  • 57 grams melted unsalted butter about 1/4 cup
  • 75 grams brown sugar 1/3 cup
  • 9 grams cocoa powder see recipe notes, about 1 Tablespoon
  • 10 grams all purpose flour about 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 grams ground cinnamon about 1 teaspoon
  • 4 grams vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 80 grams chocolate chips about 3/4 cup

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 57 grams unsalted butter softened
  • 113 grams cream cheese softened
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 5 grams vanilla extract
  • 80 grams heavy whipping cream
  • a pinch of salt


Stiff Sweet Levain (12 hours/overnight)

  • Mix together ripe sourdough starter, all purpose flour, granulated sugar and water. Knead the levain until it forms a cohesive ball. Set in a liquid measuring cup and cover for 12 hours until the levain has doubled in size and the top is rounded.

Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

  • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. It should be around 90-100 degrees F, no warmer than that. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the ripe levain, warmed milk and melted butter.
  • Add the sugar, egg, cocoa powder, red velvet bakery emulsion, salt and most of the bread flour. Turn on the dough hook and knead for a few minutes. Add the remainder of the bread flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky and should all cling to one side of the bowl (or away from the edges depending on your mixer). Knead for a total of 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth.
  • Bulk Fermentation: Put the dough in a container and cover. Set the dough in a warm, 76-78 degree F place for 4 hours. Take the temperature of the dough as needed to make sure the dough temperature is right around 78 degrees F. This temperature is the optimal fermentation.
  • At the end of about 4 hours, the dough should be puffed up and feel very elastic. If it doesn't feel this way, let it bulk ferment for another half hour and check again.
  • Overnight Option: At this point, after the bulk fermentation has finished, you can cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator. Proceed with the recipe the next day, shaping and proofing the rolls before baking. This allows you to time the red velvet rolls for breakfast or brunch if desired.
  • Mix up the Filling: Near the end of bulk fermentation, mix up the red velvet roll filling. To a small bowl, add the melted butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, flour, vanilla and salt. Mix together. Set aside.
  • Prepare Baking Pans: This recipe makes 8 red velvet rolls. Use a pie plate, fitting 4 rolls per pie plate for a beautiful circular shape. You could also use a 9 by 13 pan and put all the rolls in the pan. I've also crammed all 8 rolls in a large pie tin if you want a fuller look (but it will take longer to bake). Choose your pan and spray with cooking spray.
  • Shaping: Roll the dough out in a 16 by 10 inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the filling. Roll the red velvet rolls up, cinnamon-roll-style, starting at the edge closest to you and rolling tightly. Pinch the seam closed and flip seam-side down.
  • Cut the log of dough into 8 equal pieces. Place each red velvet roll in the pan, nestling them together. You can also bake these on a baking sheet, spread out a little, if desired (they will take less time if they aren't nestled together, so watch carefully).
  • Proofing: Cover the pan and let rise in a 78 degree F place until puffed up and risen, about 3 hours. Do not bake these rolls if they have not risen.
  • Baking: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. For rolls that are 4 to a pan, bake for about 30-35 minutes until baked all the way through. For rolls 8 to a pan, bake a little longer, 40-45 minutes. For rolls baked on a baking sheet and not touching, bake for about 20-25 minutes.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: Using a hand mixer, whip together softened butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy whipping cream and salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The frosting should be light and fluffy.
  • Spread frosting over the tops of the red velvet rolls while they are still warm. Enjoy!


Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion: If you really love and want the flavor of red velvet, you will want to purchase and use a red velvet bakery emulsion. You can also substitute red food coloring instead of the emulsion but it may not have quite the same flavor. Add food coloring in with the cocoa powder and melted butter until you get your desired color of red.
Whole Milk: 2% milk can be substituted
Cocoa Powder: For a rich chocolate flavor, use a good quality dutched cocoa powder.
Bread Flour: I always think it’s wise to use the best possible flour for a great product. Bread flour creates dough with more elasticity thanks to the higher protein content, and I prefer the texture of cinnamon rolls and these red velvet rolls made with bread flour. If you don’t have bread flour, you can use all purpose flour and substitute some vital wheat gluten to increase the protein content of the flour.
Keyword easy sourdough recipe, leavin, natural yeast cinnamon rolls, natural yeast recipe, natural yeast rolls, red velvet, red velvet rolls, red velvet sourdough cinnamon rolls, sourdough cinnamon rolls, sourdough recipe, sourodough, wild yeast
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Recipe Rating


  1. Yummmmm! It’s a perfect roll for Valentine’s Day breakfast! Thanks for sharing!! 😍❤️

    1. I don’t. I don’t recommend using cups/teaspoons etc… with sourdough recipes because there is so much variation in volume measurements. Using weight measurements is much more accurate.

  2. Hi! I made your red velvet rolls today! They are fabulous! I’m making more for a retreat on Saturday. Can I make them through the second rise and put them in the fridge overnight? To bake them right before I go to the retreat? Thanks! Annette

    1. I’m so glad you loved them! I don’t know if they would rise enough doing it that way to bake right before. You could probably do that partway, letting them rise outside the fridge and then sticking in the fridge for that last little bit of the rise, then bake them, but it’s a delicate balance of proofing them enough and you may have to warm them up again to get them puffy and risen before baking.

    1. You can try that. It may need some more liquid added due to the higher protein content of the whole wheat and they won’t be as soft and fluffy (nature of whole wheat).

  3. I noticed the links for the red velvet bakery emulsion go to LorAnn Butter Vanilla Bakery Emulsion. Is this what you use, or should it really be LorAnn Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion?
    I also noticed the recipe states it makes 8 rolls, but the directions for cutting state to cut the log of dough into 12 equal pieces. Should it be 8 or 12?
    I will be making this recipe this week and just wanted to clarify before making it.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I can’t wait to try it.

    1. Thanks for this. The recipe makes 8 rolls. I updated that. I’m not sure why it was linking to the butter vanilla emulsion, but it is definitely the red velvet one that you want. I updated that too. Enjoy! These are so yummy!

  4. 5 stars
    One of my son’s co-worker’s wife took red velevet sourdough cinnamon rolls to work on Valentine’s Day. My son raved about how good they were. I’m not much of a red velevet lover, but I needed a new challenge to try with my sourdough. I found this recipe to try. As I said before, I’m not much for red velvet lover. However, I have to reconsider my like for red velvet after tasting these rolls. These are amazing and delicious! Everyone should give them a try. I scraped most of the frosting off though. It’s good frosting, but I’m not much of a frosting lover. I like less frosting and would make less the next time I make them. After rolling and shaping the rolls, I raised them for six hours and put them in the fridge to bake the next day for another son’s birthday. Baked them the next morning and they turned out great. The cinnamon rolls were fun and easy to make. Thank you for sharing such a good recipe!