Swedish Cinnamon Buns Kanelbullar

Swedish cinnamon buns kanelbullar are the best cinnamon rolls! What makes them special is the combination of cinnamon and cardamom! Nicely spiced and not too sweet, these fluffy dough pinwheels filled with cinnamon sugar are Sweden’s favourite pastry.

When the days are short up in Scandinavia you need lots of coffee breaks to power through the day. This is why the Nordic countries rank among those with the highest coffee consumption. What’s wonderful in Sweden is that coffee almost always goes along with some pastry, something sweet to balance the bitter beverage (most people have their coffee black and unsweetened). The most popular choice of pastry is the cinnamon bun!

Swedish cinnamon rolls kanelbullar fully baked.

And when I say that the cinnamon bun is special in Sweden I really mean it. Walk through Stockholm Airport and the first smell to hit your nostrils is that of freshly-baked cinnamon buns. That’s Sweden’s way to welcome you, or at least this is what I like to think. I promise, kanelbullar are the best.

What makes Swedish cinnamon rolls special?

Cinnamon rolls are not just a Swedish thing, as they are fairly popular elsewhere, too, namely in other Nordic countries. The are very popular in the United States, too. But there are some interesting differences worth noting that set the Swedish cinnamon buns apart.

  • Pearl sugar. Swedish kanelbullar never come with icing. The traditional topping is pearl sugar (nib sugar). Cream cheese icing or similar glazes are most common in the US but never in Sweden.
  • Cardamom. Cinnamon may be the main ingredient as it gets to feature in the filling, but original Swedish kanelbullar also feature ground cardamom in the dough. It’s the cardamom and cinnamon combined that make their distinct flavour.
  • Various shapes. Pinwheels tend to be the most common shape and also the one preferred by IKEA for their kanelbullar but the truth is that Swedish cinnamon buns often come in other shapes like knots and twists. Pinwheels are definitely the easiest to make.
Twisted kanelbulle.
A twisted cinnamon bun, pretty common in Sweden.

Furthermore, Swedish cinnamon buns even get their very own special day. October 4 is known in Sweden as kanelbullens dag – cinnamon bun day! On that day every store sells cinnamon buns and employers usually offer cinnamon buns to their employees. It’s definitely a good day to be in Sweden.

But making Swedish cinnamon rolls is pretty easy, so you can have your cinnamon bun day any day.

The ingredients

For detailed quantities, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

The ingredients needed in this recipe.

Swedish cinnamon buns step by step

  • Prep. Break open the cardamom pods and add the seeds to a mortar. Crush with the pestle to a medium-fine grind. Skip if using crushed cardamom. Warm the milk to lukewarm (37°C or 99°F) and dissolve the fresh yeast in it.
  • Mix. Separate the egg white from the yolk. Set the egg white aside and add the yolk to a stand mixer along with the softened butter, sugar, crushed cardamom and milk mixture. Start the mixer on low speed and carefully add the flour.
  • Knead. When all the flour has been added and the dough starts coming together, increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can work your dough by hand. Begin in a large bowl and when the dough starts coming together transfer it to a working surface and knead 5 minutes.
  • Cover the dough with cling film or a plastic lid and let prove for 40 minutes. It should grow considerably, up to double its size.
  • In the meantime, prepare the cinnamon filling. Combine the softened butter with the sugar and cinnamon and whisk together until homogeneous. See recipe tips below for best results.
  • Take the proofed dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured working surface. Roll it out aiming for a rectangular shape measuring about 45*30 cm (17*12 inches).
  • Spread the filling all over the dough using an angled spatula, then roll the dough up the short side. Slice up the dough every 2 cm either with a sharp knife or using a thread. Place each cinnamon roll on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Leave some room in between each roll as they will grow as they bake.
  • Cover the cinnamon rolls with a tea towel and allow to prove for another 40 minutes. They should grow in size during this second proof, and will grow some more in the oven, too.
  • Preheat the oven to 225°C (435°F). Add a tablespoon of cold water to the egg white and lightly whisk together. Brush the top of each cinnamon roll with egg wash and sprinkle pearl sugar over each bun.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. A fan-forced oven will likely have them ready at 12 minutes, allow a couple of minutes more if the oven is static. The centre of the buns may be a bit softer – as a general rule it’s better to have a slightly underbaked core than dry overbaked sides. Also, if the buns do stick together as they bake, those in the centre may be lighter in colour than those on the edges.

Recipe tips

Cardamom is as key as cinnamon. While the buttery cinnamon sugar is what hits your nostrils first, the cardamom-scented dough is what makes Swedish cinnamon rolls unique. You can by all means make this recipe without the cardamom (that’s what I did the first time I baked them, as I didn’t have any!), but I recommend buying some for this recipe. Freshly-crushed cardamom seeds from pods are best for their stronger flavour, but if you can only buy ground that will obviously work, too.

The filling should be easy to spread. Depending on location, room temperature butter might be too hard to spread and for the filling we want it really soft. If your butter is too warm, place it near a heater or in the sun as the dough proves, or carefully microwave it at 10-second intervals until you get the right texture. It should be very soft but still solid and not melted (liquid).

Overhead view of Swedish cinnamon rolls topped with pearl sugar.

How to serve and store

Wanna know what is the best thing about cinnamon buns? They microwave great! In fact, most Swedish families usually bake larger batches and freeze the buns for later. Just wait until they have cooled completely, then divide into freezer bags and store away. Defrost and lightly warm them in the microwave and they will taste and feel freshly-baked!

If you don’t plan on storing away your leftovers in the freezer, you can keep them airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days. To “refresh” just microwave 30 seconds. Your “stale” cinnamon buns will soften and the warm cinnamon scent will fill your kitchen. Don’t have a microwave? Defrost at room temperature and warm for a few minutes in an oven or toaster.

Swedish cinnamon bun on a small white plate.

You may also like

Did you ever try a Swedish cinnamon bun? Perhaps at your local IKEA? Let me know in the comments!

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Swedish cinnamon rolls Kanelbullar

Swedish cinnamon buns are made with cardamom in the dough and a fragrant buttery cinnamon filling. The traditional topping is with pearl sugar.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Scandinavian, Swedish
Keyword kanelbullar, swedish cinnamon bun, swedish cinnamon rolls
Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 13 portions
Calories 283 kcal
Author Eva

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 420 g flour
  • 250 ml milk
  • 25 g fresh yeast
  • 75 g butter room temperature
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10 cardamom pods or 1 tsp ground
  • pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 100 g butter softened
  • 50 g sugar
  • 8 g cinnamon powder
  • 50 g pearl sugar

Instructions

  1. Break open the cardamom pods and add the seeds to a mortar. Crush with the pestle to a medium-fine grind.

  2. Separate the egg white from the yolk. Warm the milk to lukewarm (37°C or 99°F) and dissolve the fresh yeast in it. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer along with egg yolk, softened butter, sugar and crushed cardamom.

  3. Start the mixer on low speed and carefully add the flour. When the dough starts coming together, increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes.

  4. Cover the dough with cling film or a plastic lid and let prove for 40 minutes.

  5. Transfer the proofed dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Roll it out to a rectangular shape measuring about 45*30 cm (17*12 inches).

  6. Combine the softened butter with the sugar and cinnamon and whisk together until homogeneous.. Spread the filling all over the dough using an angled spatula, then roll the dough up the short side.

  7. Slice up the dough every 2 cm either with a sharp knife or using a thread. Place each cinnamon roll on an oven tray lined with baking paper leaving some room in between for growing. Cover the cinnamon rolls with a tea towel and allow to prove for another 40 minutes.

  8. Add a tablespoon of cold water to the egg white and lightly whisk together. Brush the top of each cinnamon roll with egg wash and sprinkle pearl sugar over each bun.

  9. Bake in the preheated oven at 225°C (435°F) for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Fan-forced ovens usually require the minimum time.

Recipe Notes

  • If you don't have a stand mixer, you can work your dough by hand. Begin in a large bowl and when the dough starts coming together transfer it to a working surface and knead 5 minutes.
  • Freshly-crushed cardamom seeds from pods are best for their stronger flavour, but if you can only buy ground that will obviously work, too. 10 cardamom pods equal 1 tsp finely ground cardamom.
  • The filling should be easy to spread. Depending on location, room temperature butter might be too hard. If your butter is too warm, place it near a heater or in the sun as the dough proves, or carefully microwave it at 10-second intervals until you get the right texture. It should be very soft but still solid and not completely melted (liquid).

Please notice that the nutrition information provided in this recipe card is made by an online calculator and only meant as a guideline.

Nutrition Facts
Swedish cinnamon rolls Kanelbullar
Amount Per Serving
Calories 283 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 43mg14%
Sodium 111mg5%
Potassium 99mg3%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 388IU8%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 44mg4%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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