Every year on October 4th, the Swedes celebrate Cinnamon Bun Day. Cafes, restaurants, and convenience stores across the country sell the spiced Swedish buns.
The holiday was invented in 1999 by the Home Baking Council (Hembakningsrådet), a club of baking ingredient producers now run by Danish sugar company Dansukker. The company wanted to create a baking tradition in honour of its 40th anniversary.
“We wanted to celebrate home-baking,” Birgit Nilsson Bergström, project manager at the Home Baking Council, told The Local. “So we talked with various bakers, teachers, and just all sorts of ordinary people, and we asked what bread they thought of when they thought of home-baking. And that was it.”
The cinnamon bun itself has been a beloved pastry in Sweden since the 1920s. Money was tight during World War I, and it wasn’t until after the war that many Swedish households could afford to splurge on the ingredients.
The Swedish cinnamon bun is much less sticky and sweet than the typical American cinnamon roll. Another essential difference in Swedish cinnamon buns is the cardamom spice in the dough, which adds another dimension of flavour.
The buns are baked for just a few minutes in a very hot oven, making them light and fluffy with a golden brown surface. They are then topped with grains of “pearl sugar” as opposed to frosting or glaze.
Nowadays cinnamon rolls can be found around the world, but in Sweden they’ve got that extra something – a touch of Scandinavian simplicity.
“We’re experts at fika,” Bergström said with a laugh. “Our Swedish cinnamon rolls are simpler, more every-day, and yet tastier. They have less fat, less sugar… They’re more plain, but still festive for us, and very Swedish.”
For Bergström, the bun-baking bonanza begins the night before the big day.
“I’m going to put the first batch of dough in the fridge tonight,” she told The Local on Thursday afternoon.
“I’ll bake it early in the morning, and invite over all of my neighbours in the apartment. If they’re not home I’ll leave a bag of buns outside the door.”
During the evening Bergström will be meeting for a celebration at a local cafe in Gothenburg. Participants will talk about buns and Sweden’s fika culture, and of course feast on the cinnamon concoctions. The Home Baking Council will also announce the winners of its contest to redesign the form of the cinnamon bun.
“The taste is perfect,” said Bergström. “There’s no need to change that. But it’d be fun to have a new design now and then. The pictures of the winning designs will be released next week.”
Cinnamon buns are not the only food so impeccably Swedish that they are celebrated in Sweden with their very own day. Fat Tuesday is irrevocably associated with semlor, and Waffle Day is always March 25th.
But here at The Local we wondered – how many of these Swedish “traditional” foods actually have their origins in Sweden? We did some sleuthing and found out. Even two of the key ingredients in the beloved cinnamon buns have travelled a long way to get here… Check out the gallery where we reveal the true origins of seven popular Swedish foods.
The Local/Solveig Rundquist