I am an idealist by nature, and I have a very romantic notion about what a good cinnamon bun should be. The icon of fika treats, the perfect cinnamon bun should be billowy soft on the inside and laced with a touch of cardamom and a decadent swirl of cinnamon and sugar. It should be twisty and golden brown on the outside, showered generously with crunchy pearl sugar. Oh, and did I mention they should be relatively straightforward and easy to make? This is meant to be a simple homemade fika treat, not a two day bakery-style affair.
I've made several cinnamon bun recipes at home over the years and to be honest, none of them have really come close to what I really longed for them to be. Sure, they weren't bad straight out of the oven, but they were never as tender as I had hoped and quickly became tough and stale as they cooled.
My Ideal Swedish Cinnamon Bun
Soft and Billowy
I decided to channel my idealistic tendencies and demanding nature into something constructive and downright delicious: Creating MY ideal Swedish Cinnamon Bun. I began by researching several of the basic recipes out there. Most are very similar in nature...melted butter, milk, maybe an egg, yeast, flour, a bit of sugar (not too much, these are not meant to be overly sweet), salt and cardamom and a filling of butter, cinnamon and sugar. There were a couple of recipes that swapped out buttermilk for the milk. I gave this a try hoping that the acidic buttermilk would result in a more tender bun. This batch wasn't bad, but they were by no means "billowy" and they aged quickly becoming dry within the first 12 hours of baking.
The Tangzhong Method
I went back to my research and found a recipe from King Arthur Flour for Soft Cinnamon Rolls. Promising! This particular recipe used a Japanese bread-making method called tangzhong which they claimed would result in exceptionally soft cinnamon rolls that would STAY soft for a couple of days. Yes, please. I began researching the technique itself. Basically, a small amount of the flour and liquid (water, milk or a combination of the two) is cooked on the stove for a very short period of time creating a roux-like mixture. This process gelatinizes the starches in the flour allowing them to absorb more liquid and results in a higher rise (hello billowy buns!) and a more tender, moist bun that stays that way for a longer period of time.
This technique was easily incorporated into my basic bun recipe and resulted in the most perfectly soft, golden brown Swedish cinnamon buns I had every tasted. Finally, an easy cinnamon bun worth making!
The easy tangzhong method outline above is what makes these buns special. The ingredients themselves couldn't be more basic and straightforward:
- Instant yeast (more on this below)
- Fine salt
- Brown sugar
- Pearl sugar
Tips and Tricks for the Best Swedish Cinnamon Buns
Making Swedish Cinnamon Buns is a relatively simple process, but I have a few tips and tricks for ensuring that your buns are perfect every time:
- Use the Tangzhong Method. As I mentioned above, the simple process of creating a roux with water, milk and flour and adding it to the dough makes a HUGE difference in the final product. The dough itself is silky and smooth, and the buns emerge from the oven soft and tender with a golden brown crust. It's 5 minutes well spent.
- Use Instant Yeast. Instant yeast is my go-to for baked goods. When you go to the store to buy yeast, you will see two different kinds: Instant or rapid rise yeast and active dry yeast. The essential difference between the two is that instant yeast can be mixed right in with the dry ingredients whereas active dry yeast needs to be proofed in warm liquid prior to adding it to the recipe. Instant yeast is also more reliable, effective and fast-acting. While this recipe calls for instant yeast, you can certainly substitute active dry yeast for the instant yeast by proofing it in the warm milk prior to adding it to the dough.
- Roll the dough out on an unfloured countertop and use a dough scraper to help coax it off of the surface if necessary. It's nice if the dough sticks to the countertop just enough so that it keeps it in place as you are rolling. If you've floured the surface, this won't happen. A dough scraper is an inexpensive and excellent tool to have in your kitchen and will easily help the dough release from countertop.
- If you are having a hard time twisting and shaping the buns because they seem too warm, pop them into the refrigerator briefly. Depending on the time of year and the temperature of my kitchen, sometimes the strips of filled dough become too soft and are difficult to work with. Simply cover them with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator until they firm up slightly and continue with the recipe.
- Don't worry too much about the twisting and shaping, especially at first. It may take a little time to get the hang of the shaping process. Hopefully my instructions and photos are helpful, but really however you twist them will be just fine and they will be delicious in any shape. I personally prefer a bun that is a little more rustic in nature anyway. Need more instruction? Watch the video included in this post for a full tutorial on how to make and shape cinnamon buns.
I hope you give these Swedish Cinnamon Buns a try! They are especially wonderful as an afternoon fika treat with a cup of coffee. Looking for more traditional Swedish treats to enjoy with your afternoon cup of coffee? I've got you covered:
- Swedish Apple Cake
- Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake (Kladdkaka)
- Brown Butter Swedish Oat Crisps (Havrelflarn)
- Tosca Cake
- Swedish Almond Cake
- Swedish Gingersnaps (Pepparkakor)
Swedish Cinnamon Buns
For the Tangzhong:
- 5 tablespoons water
- 5 tablespoons whole milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the Dough:
- 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter cooled
- ½ cup whole milk slightly warm
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom optional
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- All of the tangzhong cooled
For the Filling:
- 5 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- Pinch of fine salt
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Egg Wash and Topping:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pearl sugar for topping
- Make the tangzhong: Combine water, milk and flour in a medium saucepan. Whisk until combined and no lumps remain. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Make the dough: While the tangzhong is cooling, begin preparing the rest of the ingredients for the dough. If you haven't already, melt the butter and warm the milk to give them a chance to cool slightly. Combine yeast, cardamom, salt, sugar and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk briefly by hand to combine.
- Attach the dough hook to the mixer. Add melted and cooled butter, slightly warm milk, egg and the cooled tangzhong (it can be slightly warm to the touch) to the dry ingredients. Mix on medium low until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Increase mixer speed to medium and knead mixture for 4 minutes or until dough is smooth and clears the side of the bowl. It’s okay if it’s sticking to the bottom of the bowl. You can also mix and knead the dough by hand but it will take longer, more like 8-10 minutes.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for an hour or until 1 ½ or 2 times its original size. The time will largely depend on the temperature of your kitchen.
- In the meantime, make the filling. Combine butter, flour, salt, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Using a fork, mix ingredients together until a smooth, spreadable paste forms.
- Once the dough has risen, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it onto a clean countertop. Roll out with a rolling pin until it is in the shape of a rectangle that is about 16 by 20 inches in size. The dough should be smooth enough that you do not need to add flour during the rolling process. If yours is sticking the rolling pin, however, sprinkle a little flour over the dough as necessary to prevent this from happening.
- Using an off-set spatula, spread filling in a thin layer over the entire surface of the dough.
- Fold the dough like a business letter going the long way: bring the top third of the dough down over the center third and bring the bottom third up over both the center and top third. You may need a metal dough scraper to help coax your dough from the counter top if it is sticking. Roll out folded dough just to flatten slightly.
- Using your dough scraper, sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the folded dough into 12 equal size pieces.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, twist the strip of dough as you hold it between your thumbs and forefingers until it has a nice spiralized appearance.
- While you continue to hold the dough in the thumb and forefinger of one hand, use your free hand to wrap the twisted strip of dough around the three middle fingers of the hand that holds the dough strip, tucking the last bit of the dough strip up and through the center of the circle you have just created (see photo below). Place shaped bun on a prepared baking sheet. Once you have six buns shaped and placed on one of the baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Continue with remaining buns, shaping and placing them on the second baking sheet before covering with plastic wrap. Let covered buns rise for an additional 30-45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the egg wash. Whisk egg and water together in a small bowl. Once the buns have risen and are ready to go into the oven, remove plastic wrap and brush the surface of each bun with the egg wash Generously sprinkle pearl sugar over the top of each bun.
- Starting with the batch of buns you shaped first, bake one pan of buns at a time for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining pan. Move to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days. Rewarm for a few minutes in a 300 degree oven if desired.
Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that. There are three possible reasons why this might have happened. (1). The yeast would not activate properly if you used active dry yeast as opposed to instant yeast. Active dry yeast needs to be proofed in warm liquid prior to adding it to the dry ingredients but instant yeast (which this recipe calls for) does not. (2). The yeast would not activate if it wasn't fresh. Yeast has an expiration date and can sometimes fail to activate if it's been sitting around too long or not stored properly. (3). The wet ingredients were too warm when added to the dry ingredients and the yeast wasn't able to rise because they were killed off by too high of a temperature. Yeast will start to die off at temperatures around 120 degrees F. I hope this helps troubleshoot the situation! Please reach out to me with any other questions! I'm always happy to help.
Hi Kristi, your reply does help a lot. I was using active dry yeast and not instant yeast *facepalm*...to be honest, even though the dough didn't rise as I expected, I still made the buns and the consistency was the closest to an authentic "kanelbulle" that I have ever tried at home. I'll make modifications and I'm sure they'll be amazing!
Thanks for getting back to me! I thought that might be the issue. Please report back after round two! And thank you again for your honest feedback. It’s really helpful. I will go back and edit the post/recipe to make sure the distinction between active dry and instant yeast is very clear to the reader. Happy baking!
I made this recipe to share with my son who loves cinnamon buns. They were amazing! I had never heard of the tangzhong method before and was excited to try it. And even though mine were not as beautiful as the ones on the blog, I enjoyed twisting them using the method shown and they looked great! A good recipe for breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea or dessert!
Glad you enjoyed them Pat!
How would I substitute all purpose with whole wheat flour? Thanks!
Hi Susanna! You could try replacing 25-30% of all purpose flour with whole wheat, but if you try to replace all of the AP flour with WW, the buns will likely be heavy and dense and not rise very well. Hope this helps! Happy baking! Kristi
Thanks for responding! I only had whole wheat flout and couldn't find white due to COVID-19 grocery shortage BUT I found it last minute and they came out SO GOOD!!
Hi Susanna! So glad to hear that you were able to find some AP flour and that you enjoyed the buns. Thanks for checking back in!
I cannot wait to try these tomorrow morning for my co-worker's birthday!! I'm going to use jam for the filling instead of the cinnamon mixture. I'll let you know how they turn out!
Yay! That sounds delicious! I can't wait to hear how they turn out!
Delicious! I used jam instead of the cinnamon mixture for the filling, which definitely made the twisting a little challenging haha! I also used fresh yeast since my local store had that and it expires sooner than dry yeast. (Just triple the amount needed and you're set.) I only brushed them with whole milk rather than an egg wash, which worked fine and saved an egg. And last, I baked them all on one sheet because I was too lazy to do two separate bakings lol. I look forward to trying them again with the cinnamon. Great recipe, thank you!
That's great, Casey! I'm glad they turned out well. I love that jam idea! I might have to play around with that in my own kitchen. Thanks for your feedback!
Very well put together instructions such could detail my grandchildren will love them, instructions so precise even a president could understand them
Thank you, Roger! I will definitely take that as a compliment!
The best dough so far and how easy! Thank you for clear recipe. Minimum of sugar is also highly appreciated! Thank you!
Thanks for your feedback! It is such an easy dough to work with, isn't it? So glad you enjoyed them!
These buns were delicious! I did everything the same except I didn’t have the pearl sugar. I sprinkled vanilla flavored turbinado sugar instead. Very interesting using the Tangzhong step. My mom was Swedish and my kitchen now smells like hers did at Christmas! Thank you for bringing a little bit of nostalgia back!
I'm so glad you enjoyed the buns. I bet vanilla turbinado sugar was really delicious on these! The Tangzhong step is pure magic as far as I'm concerned. Love that light and fluffy texture! Thanks for taking the time to let me know how they turned out. I really appreciate it! Happy Midsommar to you!
Started this recipe first thing in the morning before I was fully awake so made a couple of mistakes and they still turned out fabulous! Incredibly light The best cinnamon bun recipe I’ve tried and will definitely stick with it. The search for the perfect cinnamon bun recipe is over! Thank you Kristi!
Thanks for your comment! So glad the buns were delicious even in a sleepy situation! And I'm happy to have helped you end the quest for the perfect cinnamon bun. Thanks for taking the time to send me note and let me know how they turned out. It is much appreciated.
My daughter and I visited Stockholm a couple of years ago and fell in love with Cinnamon Buns. Apparently 4th October is Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try to make my own. This recipe was really easy to follow and the buns came out brilliantly. I was just disappointed that I couldn't find pearl sugar in any local supermarkets. I will keep searching, and will definitely use this recipe again!
Thanks for your comment! I'm so glad you enjoyed the buns. I have had the same trouble finding pearl sugar in local stores. We have a local Scandinavian specialty store that sells it, and I have also purchased it on Amazon. I've had other readers say they sprinkled a little turbinado sugar over the top as a replacement for pearl sugar and that seems to work just fine. It's just not quite the same appearance. Again, thank you for taking the time to leave me a note. I really appreciate it.
I've made these today and they turned out brilliantly. Thank you for such a great recipe.
I'm glad the buns turned out well for you! Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment. It is greatly appreciated!
Hello, I’m excited to make these. I was planning on making them on Christmas Eve. Can you make the twisted buns ahead of time and keep them covered in the refrigerator overnight, remove them and bake them in the morning?
I haven't tried doing them the night before but I think you could give it a try as long as they are well chilled overnight. Let me know how it goes!
We love this recipe it is so good and we made it for my Swedish grandmother and she said that they reminded her of the ones her mother used to make! In the dough the ingredients say to have an egg but when we look in the instructions it does not say to add an egg. ours still turn out great but we were wondering if we were doing something wrong. Thanks!
Thanks for your comment! So glad you enjoyed the buns and that your grandmother found some fond memories in them. It is supposed to have an egg. I checked the website on my end, and the recipe has you add the egg in step 3 with the other liquid ingredients and the tangzhong. Hopefully I'm not missing something. Glad they worked out for you even without the egg! Happy baking!
Thank you for the straightforward instructions including the photos. Made the dough Christmas Eve and put into the fridge overnight. Rolled it out on Christmas morning; it seemed right, neither over- nor under- risen. My family loves cardamom so I made the filling with cardamom instead of cinnamon. Had some trouble spreading it - my house is too cold! Next time I'll make sure the filling is softer before I start. The buns were delicious, and are gone, so I won't be able to report on whether or not the tangzhong method keeps them soft! Will have to double it next time. Thanks again.
So glad to hear they turned out well with the overnight stay in the fridge! Thanks so much for your feedback!
These are delicious. The only issue that I had was that the bottoms burned before they were even cooked through. I think that the oven temp is a bit too high. I will try again at a lower temp and see how it goes. The dough was easy to work with and the instructions were straightforward. Thank you!!
Thanks so much for your feedback! Definitely try reducing the temperature 25 degrees and see how that goes. Mine are always just the right amount of brown on the bottom but ovens vary widely, even at the same temperature, so it is quite possible yours runs hotter than mine. I will make a note to test it at a lower temperature next time I bake them. Thanks again for your comment. It is so helpful!
I made these buns with the rests of cherry jam and marzipan and... oh my god, it was so delicious that we already ate them all in less than 24 hours 😀 😀 😀
The recipe is easy to follow and not at all hard, thank you very much for sharing!
Thank you for your feedback! Cherry jam and marzipan sound AMAZING!
During the pandemic I have tried several different online bullar recipes. This is my favorite to make (and my family enjoys eating it, too - even the kids’ Farmor gives her approval!) Thank you.
Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment! I'm so glad you enjoy making, eating and sharing these cinnamon buns! They are definitely a favorite around our house, too.
Happy baking to you!
I made these buns yesterday. Perfect! Thank you very much!
So glad you enjoyed them! Thanks for the feedback!
Mede these today!!! Whole house smells delicious!!! I had some trouble with the twisting though! Alot of the filling squeeze right out and I couldn't make them long enough. Uses error on my part! Any advice?
Sorry that you had trouble with the twisting. Hopefully they are still delicious! My first thought is that maybe the temperature in the kitchen was warm? I've had trouble with twisting these when the dough and filling are too warm. Next time I would recommend popping them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to let the buttery filling firm up a bit if you are having trouble with the twisting. Hope this helps!
I made it a few times and shared with friends and they loved and they said that they were delicious. I agree, I absolutely loved them!
So glad you and your friends enjoyed the cinnamon buns. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a note!
I have tried multiple versions of Swedish cinnamon buns, and my family has declared this to be their favorite version. I had heard of the tangzhong method but had never tried it before using this recipe; it truly makes a dramatic difference! My younger (43 year old) son is very picky about what he will eat. On his last visit he ate six! Thank you for your encouragement to try the recipe!☘️
I'm SO glad you and your family enjoyed the cinnamon buns! That tangzhong method is pure magic, isn't it!? Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a review. It is much appreciated. Happy baking to you!
These turned out fantastic! The offset spatula was a gamechanger for spreading the filling. Thanks for the recommendation! I love that these aren't slathered in icing, and the pearl sugar adds a nice, sweet crunch. Will definitely make these again!
So glad you enjoyed them! Thanks for the feedback!
Could you please break down the recipe into grams as well? I think I used way too much flour....
I will put it on my to do list, for sure! Thanks for the feedback!
Truly delicious buns, perfect for fika!
I have baked various sweet rolls and buns over the years, and always wondered what I was doing wrong because the rolls or buns would become dense and sort of chewy so quickly.
As others have said, I hadn't used the tangzhong method before, this was the magic I needed for soft, pillowy buns!
So glad you enjoyed them. I agree....the tangzhong method is pure magic!
This dough is excellent and it does hold fresher than other yeast doughs I've tried. Buns with cinnamon were very good. I've made also rolls with blueberry stuffing with this dough, because I like them soft as well and it worked. Thank you very much for this recipe.
So glad you enjoyed the buns! Thanks so much for your feedback. The blueberry version sounds amazing!
OMG! I love to bake and have to buy flour in 50 lb. bags because I use so much. I like any product that includes cinnamon and/or cardamom. Everyone enjoys my cinnamon and cardamom buns, but I have never been satisfied with the end product- until NOW! This was the first time that I considered my cinnamon buns perfect in every way! I can’t believe the difference that one step makes. Everyone who ate my cinnamon buns noticed the improvement without me having to say anything. That tangzhong method is the way to go!!☘️
Thanks for your feedback! I agree...the tangzhong method is magical! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe.
keep coming back to this recipe, the roux makes all the difference. Only thing I adjust is to add more cardamom AND to not use powdered cardamom but to break some whole cardamom seeds, makes all the difference!! the cardamom flavor - and the robust visible seeds in the bun are a must!! yum yum
So glad you are enjoying the buns! I agree...the roux makes a HUGE difference. Thanks so much for your comment!
These sound delicious, I would love to make them using my sourdough starter, would you happen to know how much starter I should use in place of the yeast for your recipe? I may have to just make them using commercial yeast to try them they look so delicious.
Thanks for your question! I haven't used a sourdough starter in this recipe but I'm sure you could make it work. Here is a link to a good basic blog post about converting recipes to sourdough. Maybe a good place to start: https://truesourdough.com/want-to-convert-your-recipe-to-sourdough-heres-how/ The instant yeast version is also delicious if you want to give it a try as is!
Love your recipe, made it today and love the result. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for the review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe.
I would like to bake these fresh in the morning and take them to coworkers; is it possible to leave them pre-made resting in the fridge overnight and just bake them in the morning? Sorry if the question has been asked before och ack så mycket,
Yes, I think if you shape the night before and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, you should be able to easily bake them in the morning. Just give them 45 minutes or so to warm up a bit before popping them in the oven. Hope this helps!
I would love it if you could supply the weight of the ingredients, or at least for the main portion of flour. That's the one I'm most concerned about getting a different amount on.
I will definitely do that! In the meantime, the weight of the main portion of flour is 435 grams. Hope this helps!