Cardamom buns are a Scandinavian specialty widely available in cafés and bakeries in Nordic regions like Sweden and Denmark. I think of them as a more twisted, texturally interesting, tender-to-the-tooth cinnamon bun with spicy floral notes and eye-catching beauty. The cardamom-spiked dough, filling and glaze bring hygge vibes and cozy winter appeal to your kitchen, perfect for fika (the Swedish coffee break), a lazy winter weekend or your holiday brunch spread.
The cardamom buns I enjoyed in Scandinavia use whole black cardamom seeds in the dough and filling, which I’ve found in some specialty food stores and online. The whole seeds add candy-like crunch and big, bold cardamom flavour, but they are harder to track down, so I’ve developed this recipe with ground cardamom. Just make sure your ground cardamom is as fresh as possible for the biggest bang for your buck. This recipe is all about the spice, and as fragrant as it may be raw, it does dissipate during baking — don’t be afraid of the large amount used in this recipe.
Glaze and Sugar Sprinkle
Rise time: 1 hour. The baked cardamom buns are best the day they are made, but can be frozen (once cool and the glaze is set) for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature or in a low oven. 2. Prepare the dough and filling the day before up until rolling (after the first proof; stopping before Assembly in directions). Cover each bowl tightly or transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before rolling, filling and forming.
For the dough, place warmed milk in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle over yeast. Allow yeast to activate for 10 minutes while you prepare the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together flour, brown sugar, cardamom and salt. Fit mixer with the dough hook, turn on low and slowly add milk and yeast. With the mixture running, add pieces of the room-temperature butter until incorporated, and then turn to medium-low speed. Knead on medium-low speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is springy but still soft. Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof in a warm area of your kitchen away from drafts for at least 1 hour, up to 1 hour 30 minutes.
For the filling, cream all filling ingredients in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.
To assemble, line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle a clean surface with additional flour and turn out dough. Flour rolling pin and roll into a rough rectangle approximately 13 inches by 21 inches. Evenly spread over filling using an offset spatula all the way to the edges.
Using a ruler or by eye, cut into 15 to 20, ¾-inch- to 1-inch-wide strips, from long edge to long edge. With the filling facing towards your fingers, wrap each dough strip around two to three fingers, three to four times, creating twists and small layers in the dough as you go for a taller bun, leaving a small strip to fold between your fingers and tuck in the bottom of the bun to secure. Repeat with remaining dough and spread formed buns evenly out on the prepared baking sheet, leaving room to expand. Cover baking sheets with a clean damp kitchen towel, place away from drafts and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
For the glaze, while buns are proofing, combine water, brown sugar and cardamom in a small saucepan over medium heat until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.
To bake the buns, position oven racks to accommodate two baking sheets with good airflow. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through, top to bottom and vice versa, until tops are golden brown and buns are bubbling in the centre. Do not over- or under-bake. Immediately after they come out of the oven, brush with all of the glaze and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes, then enjoy warm or room temperature, storing loosely covered for up to 12 hours (see Notes for make-ahead option).