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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Kardemummabullar | Swedish Cardamom Buns

“I want bulle.” 

Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, viewed from the side on a plate


Those words have come out of my 7-year-old’s mouth no less than 1,000 times over the last week. Bulle is our family’s word for Swedish cardamom bread, whether in bun or braided loaf form. Bulle technically means “bun” in Swedish, so the cardamom version is actually called kardemummabullar (bullar is sort of like the plural version of the word for bulle…my dad explained it to me and it was weird Swedish grammar stuff that I cannot re-explain, so we’ll just leave it at that). I’ve had the recipe for vetebröd (braided Swedish sweet bread, in our case flavored with cardamom) on my site for years. I even shared a bun version of that recipe, the way my grandmother always made it. When Nate and I went to Sweden with my family this summer we had kardemummabullar like we’ve never made it here at home. Obviously the first thing we did when we were all together post-trip was try to replicate that Swedish goodness. My sister-in-law Cora and I took a first crack, then she and my mom have since perfected the recipe and technique. Cora graciously wrote a post and recipe for us, which I am sharing below. These cardamom buns are magic.

One beautiful Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom bun, on a plate


By Cora Wallin

You’re welcome.

Sorry, wait. That’s supposed to come at the end, isn’t it? But seriously… you’re going to be so grateful to me. I accept flowers, love notes or life-sized Chris Hemsworth cardboard cutouts. Jane has my details.

Let me start off by saying I am not Swedish.


I have the height and love of all things butter and cardamon but not the stoicism or obsession with rotten seafood. I leave those to my father-in-law, Hansy-Poo. (He’s really going to hate that I called him that. But he won’t show it because, well… stoicism, remember?)

Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, just out of the oven and on the pan

When Christian (Jane’s brother) and I first started dating, I knew my husband’s family was Swedish but mostly only on the holidays. Christian told me fabled tales of Christmastime and, in particular, the Christmas Eve feast: breaded Swedish ham, savory meatballs, pickled herring and sugary bullar. Turns out he was mostly right about the deliciousness, just exclude the fish.

His mother is basically Mrs. Claus. Her home becomes utterly transformed at Christmas. Her presents are decorated so beautifully she uses them for decorations on high shelves and in her windows. The candles, the non-creepy Santa collection, the music and the tree with 15 strands of lights make it all feel like Christmas might actually be hugging you. Then she starts to cook.

Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, cooling on a rack(All photos in this post are by Jane, except this one from, which is from Cora and Christian)

Lawd, the food. I eat, roll over for a nap, eat some more and only then do I leave the table. It’s goooood, people. After everyone’s rib cages are finally able to expand again, she gives one final gift. She makes bullar. And this is now my gift to you fine folk.

We went to Sweden last summer and ate bullar at every stop, from gas station to coffee shop. I kid you not. Then Jane and I came home and started tweaking the old family recipe. We did a damn fine job, if I do say so myself. Of all the authentic sampled kardemummabullar, I can think of only one small shop in the-middle-of-nowhere-Sweden whose bullar outdoes what we made. So it may seem like a lot of steps but stay with me. It’s worth it.

Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, viewed from above on a plate

Please do try to wait until they’ve cooled some before eating three (or more) right off the cookie sheet. Taste buds grow back but it does take time.

Side view of Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom bread, plated

Presenting…Phyllis, Jane, Cora and Some Old Swedish Broad’s Cardamom Buns!

Swedish Cardamom Buns | Kardemummabullar
Note: Fresh, home-ground cardamom is worth the effort. I’ll attach the link for where we got ours.
  • 2½ cups scalded milk
  • 2 packages or 4½ teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 7½ - 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted then cooled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ teaspoons coarsely ground fresh cardamom (or 3 teaspoons store-bough ground cardamom)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • FILLING (There is debate about the amount of filling. Cora and Phyllis do the amounts listed below, Jane uses half amounts listed below. Cora says it's because Jane is more American but she crazy (luckily for Jane she got final editing rights to this))
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh cardamom (here is where you really do want to use freshly-ground cardamom, it makes a difference!)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh cardamom (again, fresh is best!)
  • 1½ tablespoon coarse sugar
  1. Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast to mixing bowl then soak with ½ cup of the luke-warm milk and gently stir. Let yeast dissolve and bloom, 5-10 minutes. Add remaining milk and ¼ cup sugar. Beat in 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulik 45 minutes - 1 hour. (We use a KitchenAid stand mixer to make this bread.)
  2. Add remaining ¾ cup sugar, cooled butter and salt. Add cardamom as listed under the bread ingredients as well as 4½ more cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in ½ cup more flour. Knead until elastic and smooth. (We use the dough hook in our stand mixer to do the kneading. Jane usually adds that final ½ cup flour at this point; Cora and Phyllis just let the mixer knead without adding the ½ cup flour.) Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until double, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Jane usually just leaves the dough right there in the mixer bowl and covers it, works just fine. One less bowl to wash.)
  3. Turn dough unto to lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle. Spread evenly with filling and fold dough in half. Cut 1-1½ inch strips of dough with pizza cutter.
  4. FORMING THE KNOTTED BUNS: Now it's time to form the beautiful, awesome-looking buns. This part is tricky. There are lots of ways to do this. Jane does it differently than Phyllis and I remain as neutral as Sweden conforming to whatever method takes my fancy. There are links below this recipe so you can watch videos of people shaping the rolls. Definitely go watch those videos! You will essentially twist the strips and tie a knot. They’re supposed to be rustic, so don’t stress if they don’t all look the same. They will all still be beautiful.
  5. One strip at a time, gently hold one end of dough with one hand while the other twists the dough until it stops, making a spiral. Be careful not to break the dough. Now wrap dough around two fingers once or twice depending on the length of the strip and tuck ends into the center of dough. Phyllis tucks one end in the top and one end in the bottom. Jane holds the bottom end while wrapping around her fingers and uses the other end to go over the center of the top before tucking into the center of the bottom. See, confusing! Watch the videos they’ll help.
  6. Place rolls on un-greased, parchment-lined or Silpat-lined cookie sheets. Let rise until double, 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400º F.
  7. While buns rise a final time, make simple syrup. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and allow to cool.
  8. When buns are double in size, gently brush with the egg wash. Bake in oven 14–16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
  9. When buns are done the tops and bottoms should be a dark brown. The bottoms are your key to doneness, so be sure to lift one before you take them out and make sure it's dark brown. Immediately brush hot buns with simple syrup and sprinkle with sugar cardamom topping or pearl sugar.


This is the way Jane forms the kardemummabullar knot:

This is the way Phyllis forms the kardemummabullar knot:




  1. 1

    These look incredible!! I can’t wait to try my hand at making these beauties. Life-sized Hemsworth brothers cut out is in the mail.

  2. 2

    Nice work Cora, Jane and Phyllis! These look beautiful and delicious. One of these days I need to time it right so I’m there with one of you when you’re pulling these out of the oven. I love your writing Cora!

  3. 3
    Nikki CB

    What a cool recipe and post! Wow! These are gorgeous. And look amazingly tasty. Love this!

  4. 4
    Kayla Anderson

    Fun idea and helped me for the most part – the video was great. A couple issues came up as I baked. There are no measurements for how big to roll these out to, how long the strips should be…. I had to cross reference another recipe for the assembly. Also this recipe makes A LOT. I got 35 rolls! Will definitely half this next time! Thanks for a great setup toward these cardamom buns. 🙂

    • so true, it DOES make a lot! you could half next time or maybe throw a bunch in the freezer so you have them on hand (DANGEROUS!) 🙂

      I did say how wide to make the strips, but you’re right, I didn’t give a measurement for the rectangle. We are making these in a couple weeks, I’ll get out the ruler and update the recipe then! thank you!

  5. 5
    deb preston

    I made these last winter and am making a batch again; will tuck a few each into Christmas gifts for non-baking pals. They turned out well, although not visually perfect. No matter, gobbled up! Cora, you’re right, thank you thank you. Also thanks to Jane and Phyllis.

    Question: do you all ever freeze the dough to take it out and continue rising? For when you’re short on time but you gotta have ’em . . .

    • there’s no such thing as these buns being visually imperfect, I bet yours were still gorgeous even if not symmetrical! 🙂 And to answer your question about freezing, yes, last year my mom made buns for us at Thanksgiving while she was here and we froze them before the last rise. I baked them for Christmas – they did come out and were delicious, although they didn’t rise QUITE as much, but were still great! Worth it!

  6. 6
    Marianne McKay

    Brilliant! Thank you. Easter Sunday, and hankering for bullar.
    Thanks for making the recipe pdf and printable. 🙂

  7. 7

    Very excited to try this! I am slightly confused by one thing. The recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar for the bread. In the first mixing you put in 1/4 cup, then after the first rise in the second mixing you say “remaining 1/2.” Did you mean the remaking 3/4? Or was first mixing with a full 1/2 cup sugar instead of 1/4? Thanks!

    • oh my goodness, good catch! and I have used this recipe so many times from right here on the blog!

      I will fix it now…but you can do 1/4 cup first, then remaining 3/4 cup.

      thank you for commenting!!

  8. 8

    I love cardamom buns. Here is a tip that a variation on this is to steep the cardamom in warmed, melted butter and quickly cool it in the freezer before adding it to the dough. The compounds in cardamom are more fat-soluble than water-soluble so mixing it with something fat content brings out the flavor.

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