writer + artist

Swedish Cinnamon Buns (with Apple Filling) to Celebrate Kanelbullens Dag

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Swedish cinnamon buns are so iconic that they get their very own day: October 4th. That’s right, today is the official Kanelbullens Dag. And you know what you should do to celebrate? Make a batch of cinnamon buns and invite a friend over for fika.

I don’t make kanelbullar very regularly, so when I do it’s a special affair. (Quick Swedish lesson: kanelbulle is singular, kanelbullar is plural.)

For the uninitiated, kanelbullar carry a lot of importance in Swedish food culture. It’s a staple of fika, and baking them at home is a special affair. Thinking about kanelbullar and my own connection to them makes me think of this passage from my friend Sara Bir’s book The Fruit Forager’s Companion:

“It would be wonderful to make and eat pie every day, but that is unrealistic for most of us… As it stands, I do not make pies for special occasions, but allow the pie itself to be the occasion. That way, if someone asks me how I am, I can simply say, ‘I ate piece today,’ and they know I am well.”

The way Sara feels about pie is how I feel about kanelbullar. You don’t need a special occasion to make them. Instead they turn an ordinary day into something much more exciting. Baking kanelbullar is an act of celebrating the everyday.

While I certainly enjoy the pure, unadulterated version, I often enjoy experimenting with different flours and fillings. My current favorite is to make them with whole wheat flour (I use hard white wheat from Bluebird Grain Farms) and let the dough rise overnight. I find that this slower rise makes for a slightly more interesting taste. To take full advantage of the fall season, these kanelbullar are filled with grated apple. You can certainly go classic and make it without that addition.

But I know, you need to celebrate TODAY. The recipe below (adapted from my and Johanna Kindvall’s book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break) will allow you to get a batch in the oven this afternoon.

Or you can make one this evening and try the overnight version and have fresh kanelbullar tomorrow morning. After all, who needs a holiday to have an excuse to eat kanelbullar and drink a cup of coffee?


7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted organic butter

1 1/2 cups (360 milliliters) milk

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 tablespoons natural cane sugar

4  to 4 1/2 cups  (16 – 18 ounces, 450 – 510 grams) organic white whole wheat flour*

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

*if you make these with all purpose flour, you will use closer to 4 1/2 cups 


7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted organic butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons natural cane sugar

1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds, crushed

1 large organic apple, grated (you can do a blend of pear and apple too)


1 small egg, whisked

Pearl sugar or a little ground cardamom mixed with sugar (like you would make a cinnamon sugar blend)


To prepare the dough, melt the butter in a saucepan; then stir in the milk. Heat until warm to the touch (about 110°F/43°C). In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the milk/butter mixture. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form on top of the yeast.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, carda­mom, and salt. Add the yeast mixture along with the remaining butter and milk and stir together. Add in the flour, a half a cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a dough and you can make it into a ball.

The dough should feel moist but workable (ie not sticky or runny). Err on the side of sticky, as you can work in more flour as you knead the dough.

Knead the dough for about 3 to 5 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and let sit for about an hour. If you are letting the dough rise overnight, wrap the dough in a tea towel and place it in the refrigerator. I know, people tell you to wrap this kind of thing in plastic wrap, but I hate single-use plastic so tea towel it is. 

While the dough is rising, make the filling. Using a fork, cream the butter together with the sugar and the cardamom until you get an evenly mixed, spreadable paste. In a separate bowl, mix the grated apple with the cinnamon until the apple is fully coated.

After your dough has risen, grease two baking sheets, or line them with a silicone baking mat. If you have let the dough rise overnight, remove it from the refrigerator about a half hour to an hour before you want to put in the filling, so that it has time to come to room temperature. 

When the dough has finished rising, take half of the dough and place it on a flat surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin to approximately an 11 by 17-inch (28 by 43-centimeter) rectangle. Place the rectangle on the surface so that the long side is closest to you. If you have a large kitchen counter, you can also just make one enormous rectangle instead of doing two batches.

Carefully spread half of the butter filling on top of the rolled-out dough so that it covers the entire area; be sure to go all the way to the edges. Sprinkle half of the apple mixture on top and lightly press down so that the mixture is securely in place.

Roll the dough into a log, then cut into about 7 to 9 pieces. Place the buns on the baking trays and cover with a tea towel. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Let sit for about an hour.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).

Carefully brush the buns with the whisked egg, then sprinkle with pearl sugar or a cardamom/sugar blend.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and cover with a tea towel to let cool. Serve freshly baked, and if not eaten the same day you bake them, store in the freezer once they are completely cooled.

Don’t already own my book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break? I have signed copies available in my shop! The Fika papercut above is from a template I did for Paper Artist Collective.

Written by Anna Brones

October 4, 2018 at 08:45

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