Cinnamon Buns: A Swedish Cultural Treasure

In honor of Swedish cinnamon bun day today, October 4th,  I was inspired to release a 2-part series about this heavenly creation. This first part will cover the true Swedish cinnamon buns or “kanelbullar” as our neighbors call them, and the next part will include a recipe for American cinnamon buns, because – after all, Americans know a thing or two about this baked item as well! That said, after eating American cupcakes, Italian panettone and French macaroons and other international sweets and breads, there is nothing tastier than biting into the aromatic, delicate, soft and  juicy Swedish cinnamon bun….


The Swedes have celebrated the Cinnamon Bun Day every years since 1999. The day is observed to honor the tradition of baking at home and the Cinnamon Bun is one of the Swedish people’s pride and joy, ,something you are bound to see at every bakery and even people’s homes. The cinnamon bun originated in the 1920s, and were available for purchase for about 5 cents or so and school children would purchase these for breakfast.  Later on in the 1950s, as the economy got better, people were able to afford the expensive ingredients that go into cinnamon buns, and the tradition of baking them at home got started.  I have always wondered why the buns are shaped the way they are, and I read somewhere that after World War II, the cinnamon bun were developed as a variety of the traditional wheat bread. Originally wheat breads were shaped as a symbol of different religious and other celebratory gatherings.

In Norway we have also adapted these buns, and we share the love of cinnamon and cardamom in our baked goods.  These soft and delicious buns have gone from an every day wheat bread that was enjoyed during the Swedish”Fika” (Coffee time accompanied by some type of baked delicacy, typically in the afternoon), to a trendy tradition today.   In New York, we even have a cafe named Fika!


Because Scandinavians treasure their time at home and love to invite people over, it has always been tradition to bake something tasty and put on a pot of coffee. A variety of recipes fit for both every day and special occasions, exist – I’ve combined some of my favorite ones to the one below… I have to say the dough is one of the nicest ones I’ve worked with to date, so smooth, soft and easy to manipulate!  And the smell that comes out of your oven is nothing short of heavenly… My weekend sure is going to start off well !! Hopefully I will do my Swedish friends proud! 🙂


150 grams (or 1 stick 1 tbsp) unsalted butter

2 cups milk

1 egg

1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) dry yeast

3/4 cups sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp fresh, ground cardamom

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for kneading the dough


125 grams (1 stick ) unsalted butter ,room temperature (soft)

3/4 cup sugar

3 tsp ground cinnamon

1 egg for brushing the buns

Swedish Pearl Sugar and chopped almonds for decoration


Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Heat the milk and butter until lightly warm- mix in with the dry ingredients add the egg and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough comes together, it should be smooth and still a bit sticky.  You may need to add more flour and/or liquid, depending on where you are, temperature, etc.


Set aside and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap to rise until double in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the filling . Combine the soft butter with the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl  in to a mixable, soft spread.

Preheat oven to 425F or 250C.

Knead the dough in the bowl for a couple of minutes and pour onto a work surface. Add some flour and using a rolling pin, shape into a rectangular shape, about 20 x 40 cm – or 8 x 16 inches.  Spread the butter/sugar/cinnamon mix on to the dough.


You can cut the cinnamon buns in two ways: Either 1) fold the dough in half, and slice the dough in  1 inch strips,  then cut the strips in half again keeping the end part intact so that it looks like a pair of jeans. Twist the legs together and fold into a circle.  Or 2) Start rolling the dough together from the widest part into a roll, then cut into 1 each circle.  I chose #2:



Place cut side up onto a baking sheet and let rest for another 30 minutes under a towel.


Brush with the egg  and sprinkle on some pearl sugar and/or almonds if you wish.

Place the buns in the middle of the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven, until nice and golden.  The sugar filling may spill here, like with mine,  but that doesn’t stop them from being oh-so delicious!


This recipe makes a lot but they also freeze well!


10 thoughts on “Cinnamon Buns: A Swedish Cultural Treasure

  1. saucygander says:

    I’ve seen descriptions of Swedish cinnamon buns, and it was always the addition of cardamon that made my eyes light up. They would be a great tea or coffee time treat!

    • Sunny says:

      They definitely are, saucygander!! Not as sweet as their American cousin, but more like a light, soft and fluffy sweet roll. The problem with these is you can’t stop at just one!! 🙂

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