Swedish Cinnamon Buns Recipe for Fika and Beyond

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These Swedish cinnamon buns are just right. Not too huge, not too sweet. You can taste the cardamom and cinnamon and appreciate the yeasty goodness of the dough. This is how a cinnamon bun recipe should be.

It takes some time and patience to make cinnamon buns, but it’s really worth the effort. They make a fun kitchen project with kids, too.

top view of scandinavian style cinnamon buns with glaze

Why we love this cinnamon bun recipe

To tell the truth, I’d given up on cinnamon buns. Even as overdrawn emblems of American culture go, cinnamon buns had gotten particularly out of hand.

If you’d added up obesity, Texas, SUVs, the entire James Patterson canon and all of the seasons of The Bachelor, it’s possible that a single Cinnabon Pecanbon®, with its 1,080 gut-busting, butt-gusting, bun-hustling calories, could have out-Americaed them all.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the occasional nice little sweet as much as the next guy. And cinnamon is basically unimpeachable under normal circumstances. But when faced with a bun the size of my husband’s head that activates the nerve endings in my teeth at bite one and my gag reflex at bite three, all I can feel is terror.

That’s why I gave up on cinnamon buns, back around the time I got my driver’s license.

Swedish cinnamon buns are where it’s at

Then, though, Christmas came. And for Christmas, someone gave me the quietly enticing design book Handmade Living by Lotta Jansdotter. As if pretty handmade things weren’t enticing enough, this design book comes with recipe cards. Do you hear me, publishers? Recipe cards. In a design book. If this were facebook, I would slap a big fat “like” on the buns of that idea.

Lotta Jansdotter's Scandinavian-Style Cinnamon Buns 780 2

Lotta Jansdotter’s Handmade Living

You can tell by looking at the book cover that Lotta Jansdotter’s cinnamon buns will not make your head explode with over-sweetness. No one gazes lovingly at a hanging paper mobile or paints dainty dots on perfectly good plates and cups and then—bam!—sends you into diabetic coma or head explosion with a cinnamon bun. That just isn’t how the world works, people.

You have to trust a lady who hand-stencils her own lampshades and keeps all her possessions on open shelving, if only because when you don’t have closets, there’s nowhere to hide the skeletons.

That safe space is the reason I felt like maybe I could once again come face-to-face with a cinnamon bun. Well, technically it was the safe space plus an overabundance of recent excursions to IKEA, where I never ate a cinnamon bun but did fall prey to the wafting aroma of bunnitude, because let’s face it, that’s what IKEA pumps through the air ducts to keep people from smacking each other silly in the aisles.

The wafting wonders have certainly saved some of the Americans within striking distance of me from time to time, if you know what I mean.

These cinnamon buns are just right

Having baked and devoured these buns many times now, I can say for sure that my trust in this particular crafty, shelvy Scandinavian was not misplaced. These cinnamon buns are just right.

Not too huge, not too sweet (in fact, I’ve even added a little glaze to the recipe to sweeten them up a touch, because I guess I’m more American than I thought), you can taste the cardamom and cinnamon and appreciate the yeasty goodness of the dough.

collage of 8 photos showing stand mixer bowl with ingredients being added: warm milk, yeast, sugar

Ingredients for cinnamon buns

To make this recipe, here’s what you’ll need. I’m always amazed how few ingredients you need to make something so magical.

For the dough

  • Whole milk
  • Active dry yeast
  • Sugar
  • An egg
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Ground cardamom
  • All-purpose flour

For the filling

  • Butter
  • Granulated or brown sugar (whichever you like)
  • Ground cinnamon

To glaze Swedish-style

  • An egg
  • Water
  • Swedish pearl sugar

Or, to glaze American-style

  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk
  • Vanilla extract
more ingredients being added to stand mixer bowl: egg, butter, salt, cardamom, flour

How to make cinnamon buns

Making cinnamon buns requires some patience and dedication, including both active time and time spent waiting for the dough to rise (twice). This dough is easy to work with, though, so there’s nothing especially challenging about making these transcendent treats.

You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.

To make the dough

  • Warm the milk in the microwave or a small pot to between 105°F and 115°F.
  • Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl if you’ll be kneading by hand.
  • Sprinkle the yeast over the milk, along with a pinch of the sugar.
  • Stir to dissolve the yeast, and let it stand in a warm spot until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the sugar, the egg, the melted butter, the salt, and the cardamom and stir with a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula until smooth.
  • Add flour a little at a time, stirring between additions, to form a smooth dough.
  • Connect the bowl to the mixer at attach the dough hook. Knead for 10 minutes on Speed 2, until dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes on a lightly floured work surface.
  • Lightly oil the dough. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl and set it in a warm spot to rise until doubled, an hour or more.
sticky dough, kneading with dough hook, resting dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered by a tea towel

To roll and fill the dough

  • Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin.
  • Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each into a rectangle with your hands.
  • Roll out the first piece of dough into a rectangle.
shaping and rolling out dough on a lightly floured board
  • In a small bowl, mix together the butter, sugar or brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  • Spread half the filling evenly over surface of the rolled out dough.
making and spreading the filling (butter, sugar, cinnamon) and rolling up dough
  • Roll the dough into a log shape.
  • Use a piece of dental floss to slice the log. (See video for visual cues on how to do this.)
  • Place slices into a baking pan or muffin tin.
  • Repeat the process with the second square of dough and remaining filling.
  • Cover rolls with kitchen towels and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, an hour or more.
rolling dough and using dental floss to cut it into rounds, placing in greased pan and resting for an hour

To bake and glaze the rolls

  • If glazing Swedish-style, do it before baking. Beat together the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush onto the tops of the buns and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
  • Bake buns at 400°F until lightly browned and just cooked through. This will take about 12 minutes in muffin tins and up to 15 minutes in a 9×13-inch pan.
  • If glazing American-style, do it after baking. In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Drizzle a small amount of glaze over each roll.
making the glaze with powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, then spreading it over the cinnamon buns

Can you freeze cinnamon buns?

Sure can, and it’s a great idea. After you’ve rolled out filled, rolled up, and sliced the dough, you can freeze some or all of the rolls for later use. Freeze them on baking sheet until solid, and then transfer to an airtight container. They’ll keep well for at least three months.

What is fika again?

Fika is the loveliest Swedish tradition. It’s both a practice and a state of mind, where you make time (ideally every day) to sit with friends, colleagues, or family over coffee and a treat. It’s a break, a community builder, a relationship strengthener. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s the best.

In all fairness…

In all fairness, I should probably warn you that the next recipe I intend to try from this book is a Smörgåstårta, which I’m sure I don’t have to tell you is a savory birthday cake made from shrimp salad, salmon salad and sandwich fixins. Just as Lotta drew me in with her approachable design sensibility, I thought I’d warm you up first with a pastry less likely to have made you cry as a child. I hope you’ll join me in the deep end when Smörgåstårta time comes—although a birthday cake all to myself wouldn’t be the world’s worst idea, come to think of it. But until then, cinnamon buns.

closeup of cinnamon roll in a pan

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Lotta Jansdotter's Scandinavian-Style Cinnamon Buns

These diminutive cinnamon buns are adapted from the lovely design book (with recipes!) Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandanavian Style by Lotta Jansdotter. If you have a stand mixer, it will save you the time and energy of kneading the dough. If you don't, you can knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. There are two options for finishing these buns: either use an American-style glaze or follow the traditional Swedish method and bake with an egg wash and decorative sugar.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 12 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 12 minutes
Serves 22

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1 cup warm milk (105° to 115°F)
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) (8 tablespoons) (112 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom (see note)
  • 5 1/4 cups spooned and leveled (630 grams) all-purpose flour (see important note about measuring flour)
  • 1 teaspoon neutral-tasting oil, such as safflower

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) (8 tablespoons) (112 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams) granulated OR brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze (Swedish style)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pearl sugar for sprinkling

For the glaze (American style)

  • 1 cup (113 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

MAKE THE DOUGH

  1. Warm milk to between 105°F and 115°F. This takes about 30 seconds in my microwave when milk is straight from the fridge, but your mileage may vary.
  2. Pour milk into the bowl of a stand mixer (don't attach bowl to mixer just yet) and sprinkle with yeast. Add a pinch of the sugar. Stir to dissolve. Let stand in a warm spot until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add remaining sugar, egg, melted butter, salt, and cardamom. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  4. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring between additions, to form a smooth dough.
  5. Connect bowl to mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to speed 2 and knead for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes on a lightly floured work surface.
  6. Pour the teaspoon of oil onto dough and turn to coat lightly but completely. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl and set it in a warm spot to rise until doubled, an hour or more.

ROLL OUT, FILL, ROLL UP, AND SLICE THE DOUGH

  1. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin.
  2. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each into a rectangle with your hands.
  3. Roll out the first piece into a 12-inch by 11-inch by 1/2-inch-thick square. In a small bowl, combine the butter, sugar or brown sugar, and cinnamon. Mash it up with a fork (or even with your fingers) until well-combined.
  4. Spread half the filling evenly over surface of the rolled out dough.
  5. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a log shape.
  6. Use a piece of dental floss to slice the log crosswise into 11 slices. (See video for visual cues on how to do this.)
  7. Place slices into a greased 9x13x2" baking pan, or into a muffin pan lined with paper liners, with one of the cut sides facing up.
  8. Repeat the process with the second square of dough and remaining filling.
  9. Cover rolls with kitchen towels and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, an hour or more. (Note: At this stage, some or all rolls may be frozen for later use. Freeze on baking sheet until solid, then transfer to an airtight container. Thaw before continuing.)

BAKE AND GLAZE THE ROLLS

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. If glazing Swedish-style, beat together the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush onto the tops of the buns and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
  3. Bake buns until lightly browned and just cooked through, about 12 minutes in muffin tins and up to 15 minutes in a 9x13-inch pan.
  4. If glazing American-style: In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Drizzle a small amount of glaze over each roll.
  5. Serve rolls warm or at room temperature. Extras can be reheated one at a time in the microwave for 10 seconds if you like.

Notes

  1. I use ground cardamom from a spice jar and find it's the perfect amount. Many year ago, a commenter mentioned she ground her own cardamom and found this amount almost inedibly overpowering, so maybe use 1/2 or 1/3 of this amount if you're grinding from pods.
  2. Lotta Jansdotter's recipe calls for 4 cups/ 630 grams all-purpose flour. For me, using the spoon and level method, these measurements are not equal AT ALL. (When I measure flour by volume, four cups equals a mere 480 grams.) If you have a scale, PLEASE use it to weigh the flour for this recipe and all baking recipes. If not, please read my post and watch my video about measuring flour and use the spoon and level method to measure your 5 1/4 cups of flour.

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Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 215 Total Fat:: 8.7g Carbohydrates:: 31.3g Fiber:: 1.2g Protein:: 3.2g

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Comments

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  1. Island Vittles

    I have been looking for a recipe to replace the cinnamon buns my Dad used to bring home on Saturdays from a little Danish bakery just outside of Vancouver in the early 80s…I’ve already made the dough from your recipe, and the buns are rolled and rising in the fridge overnight…so excited, and I don’t even think we’ll need the glaze! Theresa

    1. Hi Theresa, I hope they turn out just like the ones you remember. In Lotta’s original recipe, which doesn’t have the glaze, she brushes the buns with egg wash and sprinkles with pearl sugar right before baking.

      1. Island Vittles

        Carolyn,
        The buns rose and baked up beautifully…the cardamom is overpoweringly strong however — almost inedible…is there a possibility that it should be 1 tsp and not 1 tble? Otherwise they’re great — very close to the ones I remember from my childhood. Thanks! Theresa

      2. Oh no! One tablespoon of ground cardamom is the correct measurement. Although it struck me as an awful lot when I first read Lotta’s recipe, we didn’t find it overpowering at all. I thought the cardamom and cinnamon balanced well. Maybe your cardamom was a lot stronger than mine? Did you grind your own?

      3. Island Vittles

        I did grind my own…and I wondered about reducing the amount as I was doing it, but it smelled so glorious that I think it went to my head and clouded my judgment! This recipe is definitely worth trying again though, next time with about 1.5 tsp of freshly ground cardamom. 😉

  2. I absolutely love Lotta, I had no idea she had a new book out. Thanks for sharing.
    I am with you on the whole Americanized thing. If I watch two hours of television a year it is an exaggeration. The other day I was in a cooking store and they had the Food Network on. Now, one would think that the Food Network of all things would not make me feel mortified to be from the United States. I honestly could not believe how ridiculous people were behaving on the show. It makes me wonder if people from other countries think this is how we all eat? Then I think to myself, “Is this how we all eat”? In any case I could go on forever….

    Your cinnamon rolls look lovely. I am not a fan of cinnamon rolls, but I do make them on occasion for my boyfriend. I end up ripping all the outside part off and only eating that little one inch circle from the center. I always say, “If it’s not worth it don’t eat it”. To me the rest of the cinnamon roll is not worth it. Looks like I might want to eat more than just the center of these ones.

    1. Nicole, I’m so with you on the inner inch. Even here it’s the best part, but you won’t meet with tragic misfortune in your quest to reach it.

  3. I’m with you about most cinnamon rolls, but these look great. I love the idea of cardamom and cinnamon together – what a unique addition. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks, Sara. These are more like a normal, mortal pastry than what we’ve come to think of as cinnamon rolls. Hope you’ll try them.

  4. Carrie

    We had these for breakfast today — yum! My first job at 15 was in a Cinnabon-type store, and I haven’t had a hankering to make cinnamon rolls again until I read your post. Thanks, on behalf of all the Ryan Gallias (or at least the three of us who have started on solid foods)!

    1. Oh, Carrie, yay! I’m glad you liked them. Your comment makes me think I should tackle fried chicken again one of these days, despite my sordid history as a KFC employee circa summer 1994. Love to all Ryan Gallias, solivore and liquivore alike. xx

  5. Beautiful Cinnamon Buns. I’ve never made them, but they always remind me of when I used to eat them with my mom as a little girl : )

    1. Thanks, Jenné. If you’re ever tempted to make them, these aren’t as much of a production as you’d think.

  6. Maria

    Hmm, swede as i am, i have to tell u great job!!!
    Another filling we usually do apart fro the cinnamon is just vanilla, sugar and butter, also try to add some shredded marzipan in the filling. makes them really juicy and yummy. also before we put them in the over we brush with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
    Cant wait to see your Smörgåstårta, it’s an all time favorite among the most swedes.

    1. Maria, thank you! I love the idea of using vanilla or marzipan. Do you use vanilla seeds, or does liquid extract work? For a while now I’ve suspected I may have a hidden (and expertly camouflaged) Swedish streak, or possibly just a Swedish food streak. Semla is also high on my to-make list, so watch for those, too.

      1. Maria

        Usually we use the vanilla sugar for it, but i guess you can use either or, mix the butter, sugar, vanilla i bowl and then spread it on the dough.
        Ah, semla 🙂 now were’re talking! 🙂
        You must do it, the story says that we had a king who adore them so much so he ate them every day, he died from heart failuer. Unfortunately!
        They are very fatty, but traditionally we ate them before the fasting around easter. To build up the body.
        Give them a try, i don’t think you will regret it, and it is a good time now since the national Semla day is 16 Februari.
        We have 2 ways to eat them here, either plain or in a bowl with hot milk

  7. I make cinnamon buns on special occasions – I roll them out the night before I bake them, and let them rise in the fridge. I love the idea of making them a little bit less indulgent and a little bit more unique (cardamom is amazing in baked good). Will def. need to check out this book.

    1. Hi Kasey, I just clicked through to your blog and am really glad to have discovered it. Love the concept of food and music pairings, and I like your style!