Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Ube Cinnamon Rolls with Coconut-Pandan glaze #recipe by Mia P. Manansala @MPMtheWriter

Ube cinnamon rolls with coconut-pandan glaze

My last recipe (Prosciutto, Apple, Cheddar Pastries) provided a savory take on store-bought crescent dough sheets, so today I’m sharing a sweet recipe. To put a Filipino spin on the classic cinnamon roll, I used ube halaya (ube is a purple yam commonly used in Filipino desserts--it has a mild sweet potato flavor with vanilla overtones) in the filling and pandan extract in the glaze (though check my notes for other options).

I was very sloppy with my cuts, but you can still see how lovely the rolls are with that purple swirl. It’s a quick, tasty, impressive dessert/snack that I plan to make for Christmas breakfast every year. I’m not really a bread/yeast person, so I love being able to take these shortcuts with store-bought dough. What are your favorite uses for store-bought/canned dough? Let me know in the comments!

Ube Cinnamon Rolls with Coconut-Pandan Glaze
Yield: 6 (I know there's 7 in this pic, but I cut them unevenly)
One can Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheet (or knock yourself out and make your dough from scratch)
About one cup of ube halaya*
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
2 - 4 TBSP coconut milk
Extract of choice**
Dash of salt (I used Pink Himalayan Sea Salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, then open can of crescent dough and spread sheet out over clean surface.
  2. Spread the ube halaya out over the dough, leaving a little empty space around the edges. It's thick and might not spread well, so I dropped the jam in clumps and spread them out with my (very clean) fingers. You can also swipe some melted butter on the dough before the jam, but it's not necessary.
  3. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the ube halaya. How much you use depends on which ingredient you want to be dominant: the earthiness of the ube or the familiar spice of cinnamon.
  4. Roll up the dough sheet and cut it into 6 equal pieces with a very sharp knife. Your rolls will likely squish a bit, but they'll still be tasty. Place in an 8-inch round tin*** or similar vessel. If baking for a crowd, double up the recipe and bake in a 9x13 dish.
  5. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Take out and let cool, either on a rack or in the baking dish (if leaving in the baking dish, might want to take it out of the oven a minute or so early since it'll continue cooking in the residual heat)
  6. While the rolls are cooling, prepare the glaze: mix the powdered sugar and extract with enough coconut milk to reach your desired consistency. Some people like it runny and drizzle it over the entire roll, some prefer it thicker and to just coat the top. You're the one eating it, so it's up to you. Add a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness. Taste the mixture and make any necessary adjustments--some extracts are stronger than others, so start with a few drops and adjust accordingly.
  7. Once the ube cinnamon rolls are mostly cool (don't be impatient like me or you'll get a runny, melted mess like in my photo), glaze the rolls.
  8. Enjoy! They're excellent the first day, but I've also enjoyed them days later slightly reheated in the microwave.
*Ube halaya, or purple yam jam, is a common ingredient in Filipino desserts. You can use a jarred version, make your own from freeze-dried ube powder (which I did with these rolls, using this powder and following the instructions on the back), or make it completely from scratch, using the recipe on my website.
**I used pandan extract to play with the flavors of the classic Filipino dessert buko pandan, but you can use vanilla to keep it classic, coconut to boost that coconut flavor (which will make it reminiscent of the classic ube-macapuno pairing) or even ube to really boost that ube profile and turn the glaze a lovely lavender shade. Here's a link to various extracts we use in the Philippines.
***If you're using a springform pan like I did, you might want to place something underneath the pan (or remove rolls from it entirely) before adding the glaze. Because it's not one solid piece, when I poured the runny glaze over the too-hot rolls, the extra glaze seeped through the crack between the bottom and interlocking side, causing a bit of a mess. Also, the pan I used was too big--you want your cinnamon rolls to bake and rise up next to each other.
NOTE: These are not affiliate links, just links to products I've used from a shop I like.

Cast of Characters

Lay out the crescent dough sheet on a clean surface

Spread out the ube halaya and top with cinnamon, leaving a narrow border all around the edges

Carefully roll up the dough sheet, starting from the short end. Try to keep it even or you'll end up with extra dough on the sides (like mine).

Slice into six even rolls (my cuts were off) and lay in pan that fits almost snuggly, but with a bit of room to grow (this pan is too big)

Bake in a 375 F oven for 20-25 minutes.

While the ube-cinnamon rolls cool, mix the powdered sugar with enough coconut milk to reach the consistency you want and flavor with your desired extract.

Possible extracts: Pandan, Buko Pandan, Ube, and Vanilla

Once the rolls have cooled slightly, glaze and serve. Enjoy!

If you liked this recipe, make sure you sign up for my newsletter! I include a Filipino-themed recipe every month, as well as giveaways and book recommendations!
One of BuzzFeed’s Highly Anticipated Mystery Novels of 2021!
The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….
When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.
With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…


Order from my local indies for signed, personalized copies:  

The Book Table (Oak Park, IL)

Centuries & Sleuths (Forest Park, IL)


  1. How can you not love a recipe that includes purple yam jam? Looking forward to making these.

  2. Gonna have to make this when I get back to Hilo, where you can buy purple yams (they call them "Okinawan sweet potatoes" in Hawai'i) in most of the markets. Ono-licious!

    1. I have yet to make ube halaya with fresh ube, but I can only imagine how much more delicious they'd be. You probably have easier access to Filipino ingredients than I do considering the large Filipino population in Hawai'i!

    2. Yes, lots of Filipino foods and restaurants in Hilo, indeed! But I bet you could grow the purple yams on Mainland.

  3. What fun.
    You do have to watch out for those sneaky, leaky springform pans!

    1. Haha, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought removing the sides would make for easier access, but now I know better.

    2. That's why you wrap them in foil for things like cheesecake that use a water bath.

  4. Yum! These rolls look delicious!