These Swedish orange cardamom buns are fluffy knots of sweetened dough, lightly spiced with a cardamom-orange filling, and topped with a zesty orange glaze.
Here we are, December 1st already! Christmas is right around the corner. It’s the time of the year when you listen to Christmas songs all day long, light up candles, make a cozy home, maybe start an advent calendar, and decorate your Christmas tree. If you’re lucky, you might enjoy a little bit of snow (it didn’t come to Chicago yet – just a couple of days in November so far, but I was not even in town when it happened). With or without snow, Christmas is always magical in so many ways, and that’s why we are all excited about it, year after year…
In Sweden, where I spent 7 years, I learned some local traditions that have now become part of my culture too. Among them, three are observed around Christmas time: the mulled wine “glögg” tradition, the Christmas dinner “Julbord”, and the “Santa Lucia” chords. It all starts with the glögg tradition, from mid-November until Christmas Eve. Every weekend during that period, people invite each other in their cozy homes while it’s dark outside. Together, they socialize around spiced mulled wine “glögg” topped with white almonds and dried fruit. The tradition includes Swedish Christmas baking treats usually prepared with saffron, such as the traditional saffron buns “Lussekatter”.
Baking is a serious matter in Sweden: every family has their own baking secrets on top of the traditional recipes. This love for baking and the culture of “fika” (tea time) explains why I fell in love with this beautiful country (I’m such a sweet tooth!). The use of spices in baking is a also common thing, cinnamon and cardamom being the most common ones used year round, while saffron is specific to Christmas baking. Among the three of them, cardamom is definitely my favorite one.
Swedish cardamom buns “kardemummabullar” (I know, not an easy one to pronounce) are by far my go-to baking treat. Whether you are used to cook/bake with cardamom or not, there is a fundamental rule to follow: always grind the cardamom seeds yourself right before using them. You can buy the entire green pod and extract all the seeds to grind, or you can buy the extracted seeds (easier and quicker). Then, just use a mortar or a spice mill, to grind the seeds. The reason to grind the seeds at the last minute is because ground cardamom loses its flavor very quickly. In my cardamom buns recipe, I use crushed cardamom seeds (use a mortar) for the dough and ground cardamom for the filling. This way, you make sure that cardamom releases its flavors beautifully.
This time, I twisted the traditional cardamom buns, adding a simple a hint of orange. I used the zest only: in the dough itself (you’ll notice a wonderful orange scent while the dough rises), in the filling, and in the glaze. Orange zest and cardamom get along very well and give a very “Christmassy” touch to the recipe.
Find below other Swedish Baking treats that I love:
- Swedish Cinnamon Rolls “Kanelbullar”
- Swedish Cardamom Buns “kardemummabullar” (and why you should use a pre-dough)
- Swedish Cinnamon Star Bread like a “kanelbulle”
- Swedish Raspberry Cardamom Buns
- Swedish While Chocolate and Cardamome Wreath
- Swedish Christmas Saffron Buns “Lussekatter”
- Swedish Saffron Braided Bread with Vanilla Cream
- Chocolate-Orange Sweet Rolls Christmas Tree
- Swedish Blueberry Vanilla Buns
- Swedish Semlor
The funny thing about Swedish treats using a sweet dough is the shape we give them. You can bake some classic rolls (the easiest), and some other lovely bun shapes, like the one I used for my cardamom buns. Today I suggest another way to shape them often used in Swedish bakeries. It might appear a bit tricky to understand if you read the recipe only, and that’s why I made a little video for you. I personally find it really amusing and entertaining to shape, but if you are a bit in a hurry, simply roll them as you would do for regular cinnamon rolls, and it will work beautifully too.
One last thing about the glaze. Here again, there are two options: either use a beaten egg (with or without sugar and milk), or make a simple syrup with water and sugar as I did here. Both options work but my preference goes to the last one as it keeps the dough tender and soft while the beaten egg can make it slightly dry and/or crispy on top. If you go for the syrup, brush the buns right after you removed them from the oven for better results. Happy baking!
- 1.2 oz (35g) fresh yeast
- 1½ cup (36 cl) milk
- ½ cup (120g) butter, melted
- ½ cup (100g) white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon crushed cardamom
- 1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
- 6¼ cups (750g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon freshly ground cardamom
- ½ cup (120g) butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (50g) white sugar
- 2 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
- ¼ cup (6 cl) water
- ⅓ cup (50g) sugar + 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- ½ Tablespoon orange zest
- For the dough: crumble the fresh yeast in a bowl and stir in a few Tablespoons of milk. Let sit for about 5 minutes before using, until yeast is completely dissolved.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast, milk, and combine with melted butter.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough for approx. 10-15 minutes (very important), by hand or using a stand mixer.
- Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes, until the dough has almost doubled in size.
- In the meantime, prepare the filling: crush the cardamom seeds with a rolling pin (the seeds need to be crushed right before use as they lose their intense flavor if left for too long) and mix them with butter and sugar. Add the freshly grated orange zest, and stir well.
- Flip the dough onto a floured worktop. Knead a little to reshape it roll into a large rectangle.
- Spread the cardamom-orange filling on half of the dough lengthwise.
- Fold the empty side onto the filled one.
- Using your ruler and sharp knife or pastry wheel, cut 2 cm strips sideways. You should have about a dozen of strips.
- To shape the buns: starting from the end, wrap one strip around the tips of your thumb and four fingers (three if you have big hands) twice, twisting slightly as you wrap, then slip your thumb out of the roll, loop the strip around one last time then tuck the end and your thumb loop into the bottom. If you're having trouble, please re-watch the GIF below. Repeat with all strips.
- Place buns on a previously lined baking sheets, giving enough space for dough to rise and spread during proofing and baking. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
- For the glaze: heat water and sugar in a small saucepan on high until sugar has dissolved completely. Stir and set syrup aside. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining Tablespoon of sugar with cardamom and orange zest.
- Bake the orange-cardamom buns for 7-8 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
- Immediately brush with syrup and sprinkle the sugar-cardamom-orange zest mixture over. Let cool completely before serving.