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Cinnamon buns

Sat, 25 May, 2024

My cinnamon buns shaped into twisty knots, with masses of spice and flavour from cinnamon and cardamom, with a sticky syrup glaze are inspired by Swedish kanelbullar rather than the bakes of Cinnabon.

cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns worldwide

The world of cinnamon buns stretches from Sweden to the US. In Sweden they bake and eat kanelbullar, cinnamon and cardamom flavoured, yeast-leavened buns or rolls, depending on how they are shaped.

In America cinnamon buns are enormous, and feature super thick icing or even cream cheese frosting, as immortalised by Saul Goodman and Cinnabon.

There are also some delicious cinnamon rolls around made with laminated pastry so the roll is like a cross between a fabulously layered croissant and kouign amann from Brittany, but that’s an awful lot of hassle. My baking aim was leaning towards Sweden with industrial amounts of the spices and not too much sugar overall, rather than thick layers of icing.

After several test bakes of varied quality outcomes, I settled on the ScandiKitchen recipe. Like they say on YouTube, I baked 70 cinnamon buns to create the perfect recipe. But as they say elsewhere, there’s always room for improvement.

swedish style cinnamon buns

The spices

Say what you will, but the Swedish cinnamon buns are really cardamom buns: the latter overpowers the dough and the filling albeit in a pleasing way. And that’s the only snag: cardamom preparation.

cardamom pods

You can source ground cardamom in the UK but it is a bit pointless. Cardamom is very fragrant when freshly ground but it goes stale quite quickly.

I believe it is worth going through the effort of squeezing those little black seeds out of the green pods and grinding them in a pestle and mortar or a spice mill, especially that cardamom is the nicest when coarsely ground, giving the baked goods a bit of a crunch in the texture.

The best method is to run a rolling pin over the pods, on a chopping board or paper towels, then pick out the seeds.

You can also buy cardamom seeds in jars which is the third way: not quite as fresh as podded there and then but much more fragrant than ready ground.

Thankfully cinnamon comes in the ground form and it keeps well if good quality.

cinnamon knots

The dough

The dough is quite straightforward, enriched with milk, egg and butter. Once mixed, by hand or machine, to a silky smooth and elastic, it needs to rise to twice its bulk, which takes about an hour.

proving dough

The next step is rolling out and it is a really pliant and obedient dough: it doesn’t shrink up into itself but happily stretches to a large sheet of 40 x 50cm/16 x 20 inch.

rolling out dough for cinnamon buns

The filling

The filling is soft butter beaten with sugar and an industrial quantity of cinnamon – and some cardamom for a good measure.

It needs to be very soft to spread it evenly, with an offset spatula. It is to die for, but the only problem is that it tends to leak in baking. Which doesn’t make the buns any less delicious, just a little messy.

cinnamon filling

The shaping

Once the filling is spread, you could just roll the dough up tightly into a log, then cut into thick slices. But the leaky risk increases with that shape, unless you arrange the rolls (which they will become in this case) close together on a tray.

Twisty knots are more pleasing, at least to my mind. To do that, you have to fold a third of the dough over towards the centre widthwise, then fold the other third over the top.

folding dough over filling

You can roll it out gently to help spread the filling evenly and ensure even thickness throughout.

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, slice the dough into strips about 2 cm/¾ inch wide. Stretch each gently, then twist opposite ends into a rope and curl it onto itself, making sure the ends are tucked underneath. The ScandiKitchen video is helpful in working it out.

shaping cinnamon buns

The baking

They will need to prove now, arranged on parchment-lined trays, for half an hour to an hour until slightly larger and softly puffy.

proving cinnamon buns

Brushing with egg wash will make them glossy but also keep longer. Baking is brief in a hot oven, fan-assisted if possible, 8 to 10 minutes max if you’ve made them quite substantial.

They’ll turn light brown on their extremities and pale golden in the nooks and twists. Some filling will invariably leak out a little.

The syrup glaze is optional, golden syrup mixed with date syrup or on its own, warmed up to loosen it up. You can obviously ice them, thus making a Swedish-American mini-fusion. And pearl sugar is also optional but doesn’t it look pretty?

glazed cinnamon buns

Do they keep?

They are really the best on the day of baking and tend to get drier and harder overnight. Therefore – unless you’re able to eat all 18 on the day, which I sense I possibly could in the right circumstances – freeze the surplus when they cool down.

You can stick the tray in the freezer for an hour, if it fits, and when frozen, slip the buns into a container or a bag. They defrost within a couple of hours or overnight and will be almost as fresh and delicious.


More sweet bun recipes

Marzipan buns flavoured with cinnamon and cardamom. Homemade marzipan fills these soft sweet buns baked in a muffin tin. These are perfect breakfast buns!

Yorkshire teacakes, with raisins or currants, toasted and buttered are the best tea time treat. And they are really easy to make.

Pistachio morning buns, a treat for breakfast, with cardamom scent and toasted pistachio and sugar crunch. Made from enriched bread dough on tangzhong milk starter.

More Swedish dessert recipes

King Oscar II cake is also known as Swedish almond tart. It's an almond macaron style cake filled with almond buttercream, easy to make and absolutely delightful.

Swedish almond caramel cake, Toscakaka, is a lovely and easy cake to make ahead. Bake the base in advance, then add caramel topping and blast it under the grill just before serving.

St Lucia buns, vibrant with saffron and elegantly twisted, are Swedish Christmas time bakes. Lucia Day and Lucia buns go back to the history of Lucia, an early Christian martyr.

the best swedish cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns

Servings: 16-18Time: 3 hours
Rating: (1 reviews)


  • For the dough:
  • 250g (1 cup) milk plus 2 tbsp if needed
  • 500g (4 cups) strong bread flour
  • 40g (3 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 74g (513 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 10g (3 tsp) coarsely ground cardamom (see Note)
  • 10g (312 tsp) instant yeast
  • 12 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • For the filling:
  • 100g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 50g (412 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 50g (412 tbsp) soft light brown sugar
  • 10g (3 tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 12 tsp ground cardamom
  • For the topping:
  • 1 egg
  • 30g (2 tbsp) date syrup
  • 30g (2 tbsp) golden syrup
  • pearl sugar


Note: you can buy ground cardamom but it’s very fine and usually not very potent. It’s worth popping cardamom seeds from the pods and grinding them coarsely in a pestle and mortar for a fuller flavour and a textural variety.

1. Warm the milk to body temperature. Place all the dough ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl and mix by hand or with a dough hook attachment to a rough dough. If it looks very dry, add the extra milk. Continue in the mixer at medium speed or by hand, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes in the mixer). Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 40-60 minutes until doubled in volume.

2. Prepare the filling: beat all the ingredients together until smooth and soft.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a large rectangle, roughly 40x50cm/20x16 inch. Spread the filling evenly all over the dough with an offset spatula. Fold the bottom third up, then the top third over and seal the seams.

4. Roll it out gently to spread the filling and the dough thickness evenly.

5. Slice strips about 2cm/34 inch wide. Shape them into knots and arrange on parchment lined baking trays, spaced well apart. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to prove for 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on ambient temperature, until slightly puffed up.

6. Preheat the oven to 200C fan if available/400F/gas 6.

7. Beat the egg and brush the buns thoroughly. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden brown and glossy.

8. While the buns are baking, warm up the two syrups until mixed and liquid. When the buns are out, leave them in the trays and brush immediately with the syrup glaze then sprinkle with pearl sugar. Cover the tray with a damp tea towel for 5 minutes, to keep them soft.

9. Cool on the parchment on a wire rack. They are best fresh, so freeze the surplus on the day. If you intend to freeze most, skip the glazing and dust them with icing sugar mixed with cinnamon when defrosted.

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Mike - yes, of course. You can skip it and use only golden syrup, make a simple syrup with brown sugar and a little water or you can glaze the buns with warmed up apricot jam.
5 days ago
Thank you for this recipe, they look delicious. Can the date syrup be substituted with anything else? I don't see it in stores and I really wouldn't use it for any other recipes I make. Thank you.
5 days ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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