Swedish cardamom buns

Swedish Buns cardamom recipe

Cinnamon Bun Day 2013 was celebrated without cinnamon but with the best bun.

At one stage back in time I ended up – and don’t ask me how – in a discussion about which spice you absolutely couldn’t live without. The obvious choices came up, like vanilla, chili and someone who had had one Fernet Branca too many suggested Fish spice (he was immediately disqualified). But nobody thought of cardamom. Forgotten in the heat of battle, it had been left on its shelf and nobody even looked its way all night.

It wasn’t until the following day that, whilst collecting empty bottles, chaff from a cinnamon stick – which, in a sudden state of excitement, we had grinded under a grog glass on the kitchen table and in the process managed to pour out salt all over the kitchen sink (again, thanks to the person who did the oldest joke in the world with an upside-down salt shaker with its cap removed…) – that I found the cardamom, just in front of the coffee filters, looking so miserably forgotten.

So totally unworthy, especially since this is my true favourite. Those little lovely seeds which unleash a whole tsunami of fragrances at the very moment they are being struck by the sheer power of the mortar. I could make bread using nothing but cardamom for a whole summer without getting tired of it. Sponge cakes, pies, little crusty things with lots of butter and cardamom, toffees, add it to tea, sprinkle over the foam of a cappuccino and above all – use it for buns.

Because yes, it’s although it’s not Cinnamon Bun Day today I still had a few. And you don’t put cinnamon in your best buns – you fill them with cardamom.

I have a pretty bad history when it comes to buns – or rather, I used to have.  However, a few months back I managed to sort them out and this is really all thanks to a colleague asking me why you don’t use a starter when making buns, as you do when making ordinary bread. I went home to experiment a bit and of course, this was the missing point. You get a great oomph in the dough even with just a little bit of yeast. Next step will be to just use sourdough.

The key, when making buns, is to really work the dough. You want loads of gluten threads to keep it together for when you later roll, stretch and shape it. I nearly always use the food processor to ensure the work gets done properly, but if in crisis, or if I’m in our countryside kitchen I work it by hand. The most important thing then is to have patience and strong hands, because you must count at least 15 minutes of dedication to make it really smooth, strong and fine.

Do not buy ground cardamom. It might seem tempting, but in no way can you compare it to the type you grind yourself. Clas Ohlson has a basic mortar and pestle which works just fine, so if you don’t have any, this is the moment to buy one. The one in our countryside kitchen is the same my grandmother used to use and probably her mum before her. It’s as heavy as a cannonball but boy, what a delight it is to work with.

If you’ve come this far there are a few more, small recommendations which will make the end result worth writing home about – use proper butter (not margarine), use vanilla (not vanilla sugar) and do let this take the time it takes.

The amount of yeast has been adapted to suit what I consider be an acceptable time to get it all ready. If in a hurry, you can increase it to 40 or even 50 grams, but I do think the buns tend to lose flavour and consistency when you stress it that way.

You can usually get around 50 buns from this dough, but if that’s too much you can of course half the amounts.

Swedish cardamom buns

Time: From 4 hours and up, depending on the amount of yeast


  • 20 g fresh yeast (if you use dry yest, follow instructions on packaging)
  • 350 g water
  • 650 g milk
  • 1.100 wheat flour
  • 20 g caster sugar (a heaped tablespoon)
  • The whole starter
  • 8 g salt (a heaped teaspoon)
  • 25 g ground cardamom (about 2.5 tablespoon)
  • 700-800 wheat flour
  • 350 g caster sugar
  • 320 g butter (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 600 g butter (at room temperature)
  • 500 g caster sugar
  • 80-100 g cardamom (8-10 tablespoons)
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 100 g water
  • 1 vanilla pod
  1. Heat milk and water in a saucepan until luke warm. Careful now, so it doesn’t get too hot! Stick your little finger in and if it feels comfortably warm but not hot, it’s OK.
  2. Bring out a bowl and crumble the yeast into it. Pour over the liquid and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved.
  3. Add the flour and stir until everything is mixed. Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in a warm place until it has risen and reached the point where it sort of wants to deflate. It takes around 3-4 hours for me, depending on how warm and cosy it is. In other words, a good opportunity to bake other bread while waiting, to maintain the extra warmth in the kitchen.
  4. Pour in all of the pre-dough in the food processor and add salt and cardamom. Add most of the flour but save about 60 g (1 dl) for the kneading.
  5. Run it until you have a dough, even if it feels somewhat heavy.
  6. Now add the sugar, butter and the scraped vanilla and run the machine until the dough becomes smooth and shiny and feels a bit sticky without actually sticking to the sides. This is where you might have to use some of the saved flour, but go easy, as a dry dough means boring buns. I usually let the mixer run 12-15 minutes, at medium speed.
  7. Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  8. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shove it together, to make a bun of it all. Divide the bun into two parts and roll them out, one at a time.
  9. I roll out one of the halves to a square, measuring about 60×80 cm. Cut the edges to make them straight.
  10. Mix butter, caster sugar and cardamom in a bowl and then spread half of the mixture (save the remaining mixture for the dough which has yet to be rolled out). Then turn the dough by grabbing the corners of one of the short sides and fold them to a point 2/3 further down. Grab the bottom corners and fold up to the new upper edge. A bit like you would fold old fashioned stationary.
  11. Turn the dough 90 degrees and then roll it out again, but this time make a square which is around 50×20. If it tends to contract you can let it rest a few minutes after having rolled it halfway, to relax the gluten. Then take a knife or preferably a pizza cutter and cut strips, around 0.8 – 1 cm wide, alongside the short side. Pull them a bit, turn them around your finger first, then turn the strips into the shape of an 8 and place on a non-stick baking paper, with plenty of space in between. I usually manage to get 9 on a baking sheet.
  12. Let it rise for around 1 hour. Meanwhile, warm the oven to 220 degrees so it’s ready to go.
  13. Boil the syrup (split and scrape the vanilla pod and include the whole pod, for added flavour) and let it boil a few minutes. Put to one side.
  14. Bake the buns for around 10 minutes – they should have plenty of colour when ready.
  15. Brush them with the syrup immediately after removing them from the oven and allow to cool down on a rack.
  16. Freeze when cool if not eaten within a day.