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Cinnamon twist star bread

Updated: Mon, 18 March, 2024

Swedish cinnamon twisted buns, kanelbullar, made into a cinnamon, cocoa and apple star bread. Isn’t it so pretty? I’m amazed I was able to make something this pretty.

cinnamon twist star bread

The star of breads

The star of breads, cinnamon star bread, or my interpretation of a cross between Swedish kanelbuller, cinnamon buns, and the twisty star bread made from layers of dough interspersed with chocolate, cinnamon, cardamom, pesto, cheese, sausage (made up the last one) fillings.

The Swedish buns are so much loved that they even have their traditional celebration day, 4th October. But the Swedes eat them all year round and who would blame them? Cinnamon-sugar filling in near-plain fluffy bun, prettily shaped with slash ‘n twist, with a glass of milk or hot cocoa must be one of the world’s most blissfully comforting feasts.

Swedish style cinnamon star bread

Slash/twist in wreath breads

The slash/twist technique is well known in babkas and all kinds of wreath breads. The incision is made through layers of pastry and the twist exposes colour-contrasting filling.

I have been in awe of those bakery artworks for ages and never thought I’d manage to create anything as neat and pretty. As those who read CF know, I do tasty; I don’t do pretty.

But lo! behold, it’s not so hard; surely not if I managed to shape and prove and bake it, retaining the beauty of the shape. The dough is brioche, the fillings are threefold: cocoa, apple-almond and cinnamon.

I found the brioche perfectly well-behaved dough when it comes to rolling out and cutting and my fillings are easy to put together. Above all though, the star passes my, most important, taste test: it’s unbelievably delicious.

festive twist star bread with three fillings

Is it cinnamon bread? Is it a kanelbullar?

The name is somewhat ad libbed: it’s not technically kanelbullar because it’s not a bun; it isn’t kanelbrød because that tends to be shaped into a log and – well, duh! – has solely cinnamon filling.

Star bread is not actually what it is commonly thought to be, so I call this cinnamon twist star bread where the twist is both on cinnamon and on bread.

It's a star

But privately I just call it ‘star’. After the star of Bethlehem, because it makes a great Christmas table centrepiece; the star of the show, ditto.

Christmas star (poinsettia); A Star is Born; that old Nazareth track that nobody remembers; Mazzy Star; Death Star; Michelin star; Starsky and Hutch (all right – not the last one).

Star – because it’s my star bake of this season.

swedish cinnamon twist giant bread

The brioche dough

Brioche dough is best done over two days. That’s because unless chilled properly, it is Sticky Central, impossible to roll out and generally unruly.

It starts off by mixing together, standing mixer or a food processor recommended, a ferment of yeast, some sugar and the liquid. I like making brioche with buttermilk, for the lovely, tangy flavour, but you can use milk if you like.

The ferment is joined by the flour, remaining sugar, eggs and salt and mixed, processed or kneaded (the least appealing option) into a smooth, silky ball of dough that preferably passes the windowpane test.

Now you can start adding softened butter, gradually, next tablespoon only after the previous one is incorporated. Finished dough then needs to prove for an hour, before going to the fridge for the night, or at least a couple of hours.

cinnamon brioche dough

The fillings

This recipe has three kinds of fillings, but you can pick just one or two of them, as you like.

The first is the traditional cinnamon mixed with sugar, the second: cocoa with sugar and some oil, worked into a paste with some of the beaten egg prepared for brushing the finished thing. The third is my favourite: some light coloured jam, in this case apple preserve, thickened with ground almonds. They are all three as easy to make as each other.

rolling out dough

The assembly

It is really simple: stacking four rolled out layers of dough, each spread with a different filling, except the top one of course.

building star layers

Trim it to a neat circle with a pastry or pizza cutter. Then make 16 incisions towards the centre.

making cuts

And the twisting is hopefully explained pretty well in the recipe below, and the pictures.

shaping star

Brush the star to a glossy shine with beaten egg and bake till evenly golden. Remove, cool, admire.

baked star

More festive bake recipes

Danish marzipan kringle, the perfect cake for festive times is easier to bake than most Christmas breads and it is insanely delicious. Especially with homemade marzipan remonce (filling).

Schiacciata con l'uva (pronounced ‘ski-a-charter’ and meaning 'squashed'), Tuscan grape focaccia is a sweet version of the flat bread, with grapes and raisins.

Colomba di Pasqua, Easter Dove is the traditional Italian cake baked for Easter in cases shaped like a dove. A gorgeous, almond studded and orange flavoured colomba is perfect for Easter Sunday.

More brioche recipes

Soft and rich brioche base with plum and cinnamon crumble topping. It means brioche is not just for breakfast. It means turning bread into cake!

Fluffy and rich brioche rolls made with Japanese milk starter, tangzhong, proved overnight for rich flavour. Well suited for fine dinner and for a bacon butty.

Buttery and barely sweet brioche, home baked breakfast fit for a king. Paper-thin glossy crust and the softest, meltiest crumb hiding inside, waiting only for a lick of good jam.

cinnamon star bread

Cinnamon twist star bread

Servings: 8Time: 1 hour plus overnight proving


  • 15g fresh or 5g instant yeast
  • 100g buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 380g French flour type 55 or strong bread flour
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 extra beaten, for brushing
  • 170g unsalted butter, softened
  • For the fillings:
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar, divided
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp apple or apricot preserve
  • 3 tbsp ground almonds


1. Stir the fresh yeast into the buttermilk in a large bowl, or the bowl of the standing mixer (it will be a real chore to knead it by hand). Sprinkle a spoonful of sugar and leave to foam up a little, about 30 minutes. If using instant yeast, you can add it straight into the flour.

2. Add the remaining sugar, flour, salt and eggs to the bowl and mix with a dough hook attachment for 10 minutes at high speed until the dough gathers into a ball and, ideally, bounces off the walls of the bowl.

3. Turn the speed down to medium and add the butter by a tablespoon, waiting for each one to be absorbed. Scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary. The dough should be smooth, glossy and very sticky.

4. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl in a warm place for 2 hours, till it doubles in volume; then chill it in the fridge overnight.

5. Turn the dough gently onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 4 equal pieces and gather them into balls. Cover them with a tea towel and leave for 15 minutes.

6. Prepare the three fillings: stir together the cocoa, sugar and vegetable oil, then add some of the beaten egg (for brushing) to make a spreadable paste. In another bowl stir cinnamon with sugar, and in the third – the apple preserve with ground almonds.

7. On a lightly floured surface roll out each piece of dough to a disc, about 30cm in diameter so fairly thin. You can stack them, separated with sheets of parchment. Place the first layer on parchment on a large baking sheet. Mark a neat circle using a plate or a large pan. Spread the cocoa filling thinly, leaving a 1cm rim.

8. Transfer the next pastry disc on a rolling pin and lay it over the first. Spread the apple filling, leaving a rim again. Repeat with the next pastry layer over which you will sprinkle cinnamon sugar, and cover with the final sheet.

9. Mark the circle on the pastry again and trim using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife (these offcuts will make a delicious bonus piece; sprinkle them with leftover cinnamon sugar and bake alongside the star). Place a small round pastry cutter or ring to mark the middle. Make 16 incisions up to the ring in the middle.

10. Now grab two adjacent pieces and twist them away from each other three times. Pinch the pastry together at the end. Continue with the other pieces until you shape all eight arms. Cover the star lightly with cling film and leave to prove for 40 minutes.

11. Preheat the oven to 170C (no fan)/340F/gas 3. Brush the risen star with beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar if you like. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden.

12. Let the star cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring it carefully with the parchment onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar or leave it golden and glossy for an impressive centrepiece.

Originally published: Fri, 20 December, 2019

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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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