Orange Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Coffee Cake

Late last week I finally got the island I ordered for my kitchen, which adds almost 4 glorious feet of counter space, so on Saturday I had an itch to break it in with some type of fun recipe that involved rolling out dough. Scanning through my cookbooks, I saw this recipe and it definitely fit the bill. I wound up modifying it to fit the ingredients I had in my pantry (mainly I substituted raisins for figs and added cinnamon and ginger), but it turned out really, really good.

And seriously, what’s not to love? It’s a giant cinnamon roll. Let me say that again: a cinnamon roll the size of a cake! It’s taken a lot of effort to eat this thing like an actual cake (ie you cut a small section from it) instead of just unrolling and eating the whole thing the way I usually eat cinnamon rolls.

One thing I like about this recipe is that it’s a slightly healthier version of a cinnamon roll, but it doesn’t taste like it all. It totally tastes like it should be really bad for you, but it has whole wheat flour (mixed with equal parts AP flour) and the raisin filling is sweetened with orange juice instead of tons of sugar. I also added cinnamon and ginger, which the original recipe didn’t have. Finally I added orange extract to the icing to make it even more orange-y.

Orange Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Coffee Cake

There’s a lot of steps involved in this recipe and it’s a yeast bread, so you need about 2 hours to let it rise, but I don’t think this is a terribly complicated recipe. If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls before, this is pretty much the same. You can even make the dough the day before (through Step 7), refrigerate it overnight and do the shaping and final rise the next morning.

The way you shape this recipe is interesting and different from anything I’ve seen. Normally with cinnamon rolls, you roll up the dough then slice off pieces, width-wise. This recipe is the opposite: you roll up the dough and slice it in half across the whole length of the piece. Then you take those two halves, which are full of the layers of filling and coil them around in a big swirl. It was a lot of fun to do and I think it creates a really pretty cake (which the icing kind of hides…I guess I could have gone lighter with that, but I love icing!). I usually don’t put process photos because I find it distracting to have to take photos while I’m working on something–plus the lighting always sucks–but I’ve included some below so you can see how it’s supposed to be done. I’m a more of a visual person and didn’t really understand until I saw a picture, so if you are like me, hopefully they help!

Orange Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Coffee Cake

Orange Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Coffee Cake

adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook

Breakfast | Servings: 12-16
Prep time: 45 min | Cook time: 25 min | Total time: 2 hour 15 min


  • 2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100 -110 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. orange extract
  • 2 tbsp. fat-free milk


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tsp. sugar in the warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir milk, 1 tsp. vanilla and egg into the yeast mixture. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl (or a food processor), mix both flours, 1/3 cup sugar and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter (or pulse about 5 times in your FP) until blended.
  4. Slowly pour in yeast mixture and stir (or process) until dough forms into a ball. (Note: Mine was pretty dry so I added a bit more milk until it formed a ball.)
  5. Place dough on a floured surface and knead lightly 4-5 times.
  6. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough inside. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees) for 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.

    (Note: It’s pretty cold in my house these days, so I turned my oven on to 150 degrees for 1 minute and then turned it off. I waited another minute and then put bowl in the oven. Even doing that it still hadn’t risen completely after an hour, so I took the bowl out and turned the oven back on again for 1 minute and put the bowl back in there for about 30 minutes more. If you gently press two fingers into the dough and indentation remains, it has risen enough.)

  7. Punch dough down, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, place 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 1/2 cups raisins, cinnamon, ginger and orange juice. Blend until the raisins are chopped up but the mixture is still thick and chunky, about 1-2 minutes. You can add in a little bit more orange juice if it gets hard to blend. Set aside.
  9. On a floured surface, roll dough into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.
  10. Spread the raisin mixture evenly across the dough but leave a 1 inch space across the top (long) edge. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of raisins.
  11. Coffee Cake Prep

    Roll up the dough tightly starting at the bottom (long) edge. Pinch the seam to seal well.

  12. Coffee Cake Prep

    Roll over so the seam is down. With a serrated knife cut the dough in half, lengthwise.

  13. Coffee Cake Prep

    Spray a 12″ round pizza pan with cooking spray. Take one half of your dough and coil it around itself with the cut side up. Then take the other half, making sure the cut side it up, join the end with the end of the first half and continue coiling it around to create one big swirl. Cover with plastic wrap and left rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size (Note: I used the same warm oven method as I noted above).

  14. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Remove plastic wrap and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and put on a plate.
  15. Mix powdered sugar, milk and orange extract until smooth. The consistency should be thick, but pourable. You can add a bit more milk if it’s too thick. Drizzle over the warm cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: This can be made ahead of time. Follow the recipe through the first rise (step 6). After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in your fridge and chill up to 8 hours or overnight. The next day, resume the recipe to shape and bake the coffee cake.