Cinnamon Bun Day: Just another manic bun day

Forget about Swedish springtime's notoriously sweet semla, the delicious wheat bun spiced with cardamom, filled with almond paste and topped with lashings of cream.

Cinnamon Bun Day: Just another manic bun day

Because today is October 4th, which can only mean one thing – it’s National Cinnamon Bun Day.

In springtime, everyone talks about the semla, a delicious wheat bun spiced with cardamom, filled with almond paste and topped with lashings of cream. 

Walk into any bakery or convenience store in Sweden and you will find baskets teeming with cinnamon swirls, or ‘kanelbullar’ as they are called in these parts.

While popular every day of the year, on October 4th the bountiful buns sell like, well, hot cakes.

Somewhat surprisingly, the tradition of National Cinnamon Bun Day isn’t all that old.

In 1999, staff at Sweden’s Hembakningsrådet (‘Home Baking Council’) scratched their collective heads and tried to think of ways to celebrate the organisation’s fortieth anniversary. Perfectly gauging the tastes of a nation, the Council announced the introduction of an annual feast day.

“We found that the cinnamon bun was the best symbol for Swedish home baking. I don’t think there are any Swedes who don’t like them,” project manager Birgit Nilsson Bergström told The Local back in 2007.

The sense of security associated with the buns may also go some way towards explaining their enduring popularity.

“I think we remember them from the time when we were children. Cinnamon buns have been baked at home for the last four or five generations,” she said.

READ ALSO: Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Swedish bakers first began putting their cinnamon buns in the oven at the beginning of the 1920s. But it was not until the 1950s that the popular pastry really made its way into the home.

The bun really knew it had arrived when a recipe was published in early editions of Vår Kokbok (‘Our Cookbook’), a tome considered required reading in the decade of the ideal housewife.

Topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nib sugar, the bun initially appeared in many shapes and sizes.

But according to cinnamon bun expert Gunvor Fröberg, formerly of Gothenburg University, most bun-baking women cut out the fancy stuff in the 1960s as they began spending more time in the workplace.

As the years rolled on and time became an ever more precious commodity, the no-nonsense swirl established itself as the cinnamon bun of choice for the masses.

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Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Do you know your biskvi from your bakelse? Your chokladboll from your kanelbulle? Here's a guide guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden


The most famous of all Swedish cakes outside Sweden, the classic kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) is the symbol of Sweden abroad, no doubt helped by the fact that Swedish furniture giants IKEA stock frozen buns in their food stores for customers to bake off at home.

Forget American tear-apart cinnamon rolls baked in a pan and slathered with cream cheese frosting: a classic Swedish cinnamon bun is baked individually using a yeasted dough spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. The dough is then rolled up, sliced into strips which are then stretched out and knotted into buns, baked, glazed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Home-made varieties skip the stretching and knotting step, rolling the cinnamon-sprinkled dough into a spiral instead which, although less traditional, tastes just as good.

Kanelbullar in Sweden often include a small amount of Sweden’s favourite spice: cardamom. If you’re a fan of cardamom, try ordering the kanelbulle‘s even more Swedish cousin, the kardemummabulle or cardamom bun, which skips the cinnamon entirely and goes all-out on cardamom instead.

Sweden celebrates cinnamon bun day (kanelbullens dag) on October 4th.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/


A great option if you want a smaller cake for your fika, the chokladboll or ‘chocolate ball’ is a perfect accompaniment to coffee – some recipes even call for mixing cold coffee into the batter.

They aren’t baked and are relatively easy to make, meaning they are a popular choice for parents (or grandparents) wanting to involve children in the cake-making process.

Chokladbollar are a simple mix of sugar, oats, melted butter and cocoa powder, with the optional addition of vanilla or coffee, or occasionally rum extract. They are rolled into balls which are then rolled in desiccated coconut (or occasionally pearl sugar), and placed in the fridge to become more solid.

Some bakeries or cafés also offer dadelbollar or rawbollar/råbollar (date or raw balls), a vegan alternative made from dried dates and nuts blended together with cocoa powder.

Chocolate ball day (chokladbollens dag) falls on May 11th.

Photo: Magnus Carlsson/


The lime-green prinsesstårta or ‘princess cake’ may look like a modern invention with it’s brightly-coloured marzipan covering, but it has been around since the beginning of the 1900s, and is named after three Swedish princesses, Margareta, Märta and Astrid, who were supposedly especially fond of the cake.

The cake consists of a sponge bottom spread with jam, crème pâtissière and a dome of whipped cream, covered in green marzipan and some sort of decoration, often a marzipan rose.

Prinsesstårtor can also be served in individual portions, small slices of a log which are then referred to as a prinsessbakelse.

Although the cakes are popular all year round, in the Swedish region of Småland, prinsesstårta is eaten on the first Thursday in March, due to this being the unofficial national day of the Småland region (as the phrase första torsdagen i mars is pronounced fössta tossdan i mass in the Småland dialect).

Since 2004, the Association of Swedish Bakers and Confectioners has designated the last week of September as prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake day).

Photo: Sinikka Halme, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.


Belonging to the more traditional cakes, a Budapestbakelse or “Budapest slice” is a type of rulltårta or “roll cake” similar to a Swiss roll, consisting of a light and crispy cake made from whipped egg whites, sugar and hazelnut, filled with whipped cream and fruit, often chopped conserved peaches, nectarines or mandarines, and rolled into a log.

The log is then sliced into individual portions and drizzled with chocolate, then often topped with whipped cream and a slice of fruit. 

Despite its name, the Budapest slice has nothing to do with the city of Budapest – it was supposedly invented by baker Ingvar Strid in 1926 and received the name due to Strid’s love for the Hungarian capital.

Of course, the Budapestbakelse also has its own day – May 1st.

Kanelbullar (left), chokladbollar (centre) and biskvier (right). Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/


Another smaller cake, a biskvi (pronounced like the French biscuit), consists of an almond biscuit base, covered in buttercream (usually chocolate flavoured), and dark chocolate.

Different variants of biskvier exist, such as a Sarah Bernhardt, named after the French actress of the same name, which has chocolate truffle instead of buttercream.

You might also spot biskvier with white chocolate, often with a hallon (raspberry) or citron (lemon) filling, or even saffransbiskvier around Christmastime.

Chokladbiskviens dag is celebrated on November 11th.