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Swedish Cardamom Buns

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Swedish cardamom buns are traditional pastries, or kanelbullar, that are filled with cinnamon or cardamom butter and drizzled with a sweet glaze. They’re meant to be enjoyed with others as part of a relaxing afternoon break ritual known as fika, along with coffee or tea.

Several Swedish cardamom buns cooling on a wire rack.

Adapted from Kitty Tait and Al Tait | Breadsong | Bloomsbury, 2022

If we all ate fika, I think the world would be a much better place. Fika is a Scandinavian ritual, like afternoon tea. Traditionally, a range of spiced buns are served that you share with your neighbours, people you work with or friends (imaginary or otherwise). It’s such a great custom and even the mighty Volvo plant in Sweden stops for fika every day.

What follows here are the recipes for three different flavour buns, all made from the same dough, but with different fillings (butters) and glazes. We recommend the Milky Way glaze with the cinnamon bun, the coffee glaze with the cardamom and orange bun and the orange glaze with the Nutella bun, but it’s totally up to you. We’ve given quantities for the butter and glaze recipes, but to be honest, you can adjust them depending on whether you want a subtle hint of flavour or a big mouthful, so don’t feel tied down to the measurements.–Kitty and Al Tait

Three Swedish cardamom buns with different fillings laying on an old-fashioned tennis racket.
: Mark Lord

Swedish Cardamom Buns FAQs

What is fika?

Fika isn’t really something that’s eaten – it’s a way of life in Sweden. It’s mostly about having a bit of a break with friends, family, or coworkers. You can “have a fika” simply by bringing folks together and chatting. The key is taking those breaks to relax and unwind a bit. And pastries? They’re typically available during those breaks. In Swedish bakeries, pastries such as kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and kardemummabullar (cardamom buns) are often called fikabröd (fika bread). There you have it. Go forth and fika.

Can almond milk be substituted for dairy milk?

Yes. Unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk can be used one-for-one in place of dairy milk for these Swedish buns. Watch your buns while baking though, almond milk may cause them to bake a bit more quickly.

How do I host a fika?

Thinking about starting this Swedish tradition at home or work? It’s easy. You just need coffee or tea, fikabröd, plates, napkins, comfy chairs, a few willing folks, and easy conversation. No stress. Just fika.

Swedish Cardamom Buns

Several Swedish cardamom buns cooling on a wire rack.

Pastries filled with cardamom or cinnamon are often served as part of fika, a Scandinavian ritual, which is similar to afternoon tea. Traditionally, a range of buns are served that you share with your neighbors, people you work with or friends (imaginary or otherwise).

Kitty Tait and Al Tait

Prep 1 hr

Cook 25 mins

Total 4 hrs

For the cardamom and orange butter

Make the fika bun dough

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and instant dry yeast.

  • In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and ground cardamom, if using. (The ground cardamom is optional for the cinnamon butter buns, but it gives them a subtle Scandi flavor.) Make a small well in the flour, pour in the milk mixture and stir together until it forms a rough dough.

  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and either knead by hand for 8 to 10 minutes or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually working the cubes of butter into the dough as you knead until it is smooth.

  • Pop the dough back into the bowl, place a damp tea towel or shower cap over the rim and leave to prove until the dough has almost doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough (still covered) for anywhere between 4 hours and overnight. It will still proof, just more slowly, and the dough will be much easier to handle.

  • Tip your puffy dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a 12- by 8-inch (30- by 20-cm) rectangle that is roughly 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick. Transfer the dough to a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes. (Chilling firms up the dough, which makes it easier to spread over the butter filling during the next stage.) Meanwhile, prepare your chosen butter filling.

Make the butter filling

  • If making cinnamon butter, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until fully combined into a smooth paste.If making cardamom and orange butter, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until fully combined into a smooth paste.If making Nutella butter, use a jar of Nutella for the butter filling (this is plenty but I promise you’ll end up adding a bit more which is why you just need the jar on standby). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can add some tahini – this adds a really nice extra nuttiness. Simply drizzle the tahini over the top of the Nutella when spreading it over the dough.
  • Once the dough is chilled and the butter filling is ready, lay the dough rectangle on the work surface with a longer side facing you. Spread your butter filling across the bottom two-thirds of the dough, fold the naked one-third towards you into the middle over the top of the buttered third and then fold the buttered third nearest to you over the folded layers, as if you were folding a letter. You now have a long triple-decker sandwich of layers of dough and butter filling, which will give your buns their signature lamination.

  • Again, roll out the dough into a 12- by 8-inch (30-by 20-cm) rectangle with a longer side facing you. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice the dough into 15 equal strips, each roughly 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide, so that your dough looks like a picket fence.

  • Take one strip of dough and, while twisting the dough strip, coil it up from one end so that it looks like a snail’s shell. Stretch the last 3/4 inch (2 cm) of the strip, wrap it over the top of the coil and then tuck it underneath – your snail now looks like it is checking its undercarriage. Repeat for all the dough strips.

  • Place the coiled buns on two rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them 3/4 inch (2 cm) apart. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave somewhere warm to prove for 30 minutes.

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

  • Bake the buns until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

Prepare the glaze

  • If making milky way glaze, warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar and stir until it has all dissolved.If making the coffee glaze, warm the coffee in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar and stir until it has all dissolved.If making the orange glaze, warm the orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the marmalade and stir together until you’re left with a mouth-watering syrup. After glazing the buns, scatter over a few chopped hazelnuts, if you want.

Serving: 1bunCalories: 303kcal (15%)Carbohydrates: 39g (13%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 14g (22%)Saturated Fat: 8g (50%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 47mg (16%)Sodium: 274mg (12%)Potassium: 101mg (3%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 13g (14%)Vitamin A: 433IU (9%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 48mg (5%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Originally published May 24, 2022

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.



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