Nordic Secrets: How to bake perfect cinnamon buns

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 12:53

By Lucy Peters

Recipe provided by the Lontoon Suomalainen Merimieskirkko (the Finnish Church in London).

The cinnamon bun is a classic of Nordic cuisine. Whether munched as part of a fika break (a social institution in Sweden and Finland which involves coffee and snacks) or fresh out of the oven, it conjures up the particular flavour of daily life in the Nordic countries.

The bun’s unique taste, easily distinguished from similar British and American treats, comes from the cardamom in the recipe.

Southbank Centre decided to celebrate the Opening Weekend of our Nordic Matters year (which brings you twelve months of events inspired by the Nordic way of life) with as many cinnamon buns as we could bake.

Preparing to make cinnamon buns at our Great Big Cinnamon Bun Bake. Photo Pete Woodhead

Our hair tucked away under nets, and with instructions from Elli and Mervi from the Finnish Church in London, we set out to twist our dough into over 1000 of the tastiest possible Nordic treats.

Finnish cinnamon buns
Just a few of the buns we made to celebrate the first weekend of Nordic Matters. Photo Anna Lukala

Nordic Matters continues throughout 2017 at Southbank Centre, so if you want to find out more secrets of the authentic Nordic lifestyle, come and take part in talks and activities with our Nordic experts, or see performances from across the region.

For now, though, you can join in our Nordic baking extravaganza with the Finnish Church in London’s traditional cinnamon bun recipe.

Two bakers at work at the Great Big Cinnamon Bun Bake. Photo Pete Woodhead


(Makes 15 – 20 buns)

Milk, 500ml

Dry yeast, 22g

Egg, one (optional)

Salt, 2 tsp

Granulated sugar, 130 – 170g

Ground cardamom, 1 tsp

Strong white wheat flour, 1kg

Butter or margarine, 150 – 200g



1.       Gather all the ingredients a few hours before you start baking to allow them to come to room temperature. If they are cold, it will take a lot longer for the dough to rise.

2.       Heat the milk till it is about +42C – that is the ideal temperature for the dry yeast to work.

3.       Add the egg if you so wish (it isn’t necessary, as you can make perfect buns without it too), sugar, salt and cardamom. Mix the dry yeast with a small amount of flour and add it to milk.

4.       Add some more of the flour so that you have a thick, but still runny mixture. Keep mixing.

5.       Gradually add the rest of the flour (but still leave a few decilitres aside just in case, so that the dough doesn’t get too firm). Add the butter after a while. If you melt it, let it cool off a little before adding it.

6.       Knead the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl. Add the rest of the flour if the dough is still sticky. Once the dough is ready, leave it in the bowl (in a warm place in your kitchen), covered with a tea towel or cling film and let it rise until it has doubled in size.

7.       Using a rolling pin, roll it about 5mm thin (ideally into a rectangular shape). Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

8.       Begin with the long side and roll the dough into a tight roll. Leave the seam facing the table. Cut into triangular pieces and press it with your thumbs into the final shape.

9.       Preheat the oven to 225C. Set the buns on a baking-papered tray, cover them with a tea towel or cling film and let them rise in a warm place until they have almost doubled in size. Brush with egg and sprinkle nib sugar on top of each bun.

10.   Bake the buns for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Join Nordic baking with the Finnish Church in London