Cinnamon rolls have a special place in my heart, so much so that, when recently attempting to discuss these Swedish baked delights with a German speaker, I could only recall the authentic Swedish name “Kanelbullar”. Here in Germany they are called “Zimtschnecke”, which, adorably, translates to “cinnamon snail”. My partner and I like to celebrate Kanelbullensdag on the 4th of October and we’ve eaten cinnamon buns in many different cities. I can tell you that no two are the same and that preference is deeply personal. I like to eat them warm from the oven and for this, more often than not, I have to make them myself. They are the perfect Fika food, ideal with a strong coffee on a lazy morning.
December is all about spice here at SentientBaker and I couldn’t see out the month without a tribute to my dearest cinnamon buns. I adore chai tea and aimed to up the ‘spice’ ante by creating a chai-spice version of my favourite coffee-break snack. Chai spices have a strong cinnamon focus but also include cardamom, cloves, ginger and black pepper. There are many chai spice recipes and mixes out there so, by all means, use your own if you have a preference for a certain blend.
I was delighted by the subtle aroma’s in this bun ‘cake’, as well as the fluffy, moist crumb. I used a simple yeast dough and then minimal sugar for the filling to avoid a sickly end-product. I love to squish these little spirals of dough into a petite 6” round cake tin and watch them bake into a pretty disc that can be torn voraciously apart. This ‘cake’ method has wow factor and looks particularly beautiful when presented to friends and family with a dusting of vanilla sugar or unctuously drizzled with cream-cheese glaze. You could use a muffin tin or a baking tray to bake the dough into individual buns.
If you make these for an occasion or gathering try and make them on the same day you intend to eat them. Unlike loaf cakes these don’t improve with time; they tend to become dry after a day or so. If not serving them straight from the oven it’s best to heat them through gently just before you place them on the table, then they can be torn into whilst they’re warm, moist and buttery. I took these to a lunch with some new friends and their sweet, spiced fluffiness went down a treat. These are for sharing with good company and a big pot of coffee, or, if indulging alone, pair with a good book and a big mug of chai tea. This is cosy, winter comfort food at its very best.
Chai Spiced ‘Bun’ Cake
(makes approx. 12 small buns or 1 6inch ‘cake’)
For the buns:
220g all-purpose white flour
200ml warm milk (not hot)
3.5g dried yeast (half a standard sachet)
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
For the filling:
60g softened butter
60g caster sugar
2 tsp chai spice mix
(chai spice mix: 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 3 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cloves)
For the glaze:
60g icing sugar
1 tbsp. softened butter
2 tbsp. cream cheese
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the dough:
- Combine the warm milk, sugar, salt and yeast for the bun dough. Make sure the milk isn’t too hot as it may kill the yeast). Leave for 2-3 minutes for the yeast to ‘react’.
- Measure the flour into a large bowl.
- Add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix briefly. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile make the spice mix, setting aside 2 tsp for the bun filling and storing the rest in a jar for next time.
- Make the bun filling by creaming together the softened butter, sugar and spice mix. It should be thoroughly mixed and warm enough to spread easily.
- Line a baking tray or 6” cake tin with baking paper.
Filling and baking:
- Once your dough has risen, roll it out on a well-floured surface. Roll it into a rectangle approximately 40cm x 20cm.
- Spread the bun filling evenly across the rectangle.
- With the long side facing you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. You should be looking at a ‘sausage’ of dough that is approx. 40cm long.
- Cut the dough into 15 pieces if making into a ‘cake’ or 12 pieces if making into buns.
- Place the pieces’ spiral-side-up into the tin, aiming for 11 around the outside and four in the middle. Don’t worry about gaps, the dough should expand to create one mass.
- Cover the tin or tray and leave in a warm place to rise for a further 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F/200°C/175°C Fan
- Bake for 20 mins (buns) or 30 mins (cake).
- Allow to cool in the tin.
- Once cool dust with vanilla sugar and/or cream cheese icing.
For the icing:
- Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.
- Add the softened butter, cream cheese and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
- Drizzle over the ‘cake’ or buns once they are completely cool.