The Story of the Swedish Cinnamon Bun

The beginnings

While the French obsess about their croissants, the Swedes take pride in their Cinnamon Bun. The making of a Croissant is of course far more complex and requires some skill and expertise. But deceptively, Cinnamon buns can be easily whipped and made in almost every household of Sweden.   As soon as I landed in Stockholm, I was in the land of Cinnamon buns, bakeries teeming with them everwhere! Cinnamon and Cardamom were the most popular. Cinnamon and cardamom!?Hmmm, interesting as they are spices that travelled from Asia, so how did the Swedes claim it as their national bun? Of course, the Pastry chef in me was consumed with questions. Knock! Knock! Knock…who is it? Curiosity, I need to know the journey of  cinnamon buns, how did they make their way into Sweden?!

After speaking to some locals and doing my own research, I discovered that with the financial crisis after the 1st World War, many Swedes could not afford to splurge in items of luxury. Wheat and sugar were a luxury. In the 1920’s, with the arrival of spices from Sri Lanka and India was born the cinnamon bun. It was considered a luxury item to buy from local bakeries. However, in the 1950’s baking it at home became common as the economy improved. In 1999, the Home baking council, Hembakningsradet created the Cinnamon Bun day, October 4th to honor this Swedish Pastry as a traditional accompaniment to Fika.

My findings and verdict

In its true element, a cinnamon bun is an enriched dough flavoured with cardamom and filled with cinnamon and sugar. The secret to making a great bun is to proof it long to achieve a fluffy and light pastry. It’s best enjoyed in a perfect winter setting with a cup of coffee.

To be honest, a first bite and I was blown away as my excitement over the concept of Fika, the best coffee I had ever tasted paired with these classic buns made them more glamorous. But a second visit to the buns didn’t seem that exciting for my palate. After all it really is sweet dough flavored with cinnamon or as one might please. I had over romanticized with the idea! Don’t get me wrong, they were certainly worth the trip to any bakery, but I had to know what all the fuss was all about. I do love my croissants; almond ones are my haven of joy! Perhaps being trained in classical French pastry, my expectations have become high.


On the Cinnamon Day, the reality

Finally October 4th arrived; excited I woke up early in the morning to rummage the bakeries. Expecting to find the locals religiously eating these buns, I was surprised to find otherwise. While the bakeries had high offerings than usual, cinnamon buns, warm and fresh from the oven, not everyone was going for them .Huh! No celebration or carnival for them either. Disappointed, I spoke to a few people in the café, while stopping random strangers on the street to help me find my answers. Weird, I know! I am no journalist, but that’s just me!

After some research I was surprised to find out that Cinnamon Bun day is actually a modern day phenomena, a commercial gimmick by the bakeries to promote their products and to celebrate home baking. Oh Mon Dieu! However, it was nice to know that at some point most Swedes have baked cinnamon buns in their home. And that’s how it came to be a national treat. I guess having a day dedicated to the buns is to highlight their cultural values with a focus on home baking and to remind the younger ones one their cultural heritage, perhaps an excuse to bake with their grandmother’s. While most Swedes have the buns so deeply integrated in their culture, that on October 4th, they don’t feel the need to give special attention to them. They carry on with their lives, enjoying their Fika time as intended.

But that’s just how the Swedes are, blessed with simplicity and modesty. Like their culture, their cinnamon buns represent simplicity as a reminder that things don’t need to be complex and fancy in order to enjoy them.