I clomped down, knocking slush and snow off my boots, and gazed at the display case. What should I choose? Pistachio almond turnover? Croissant? Cookies, pie, cake, brittle? A puffy scone-thing called “dreams”? Perhaps something I’ve never had here before. Blackberry pie—that’s the ticket! And a chokladboll for later. And one of those giant cinnamon buns to take home to Tor. The snow falls ever faster outside, coming down in fat, puffy flakes. The perfect environment for a cozy breakfast. And there’s a corner table available.
Café Husaren, in Haga, the historical district of Gothenburg, Sweden, provides a cozy refuge for winter tourists and locals alike. In the summer, the outside is lined with tables, but at this time of year, people hurry in to get warm with a cup of coffee or tea (of which they have one of the city’s largest variety). In addition to a myriad of sweets, they also have quiches, sandwiches, and salads in the afternoon and evening. If small, dainty desserts don’t strike your fancy, they boast världens största kanelbullar, or “the world’s largest cinnamon buns.” Now, a few seconds on Google will show that their Hagabullen, as they call them, aren’t actually the biggest in the world, but at a whopping ten inches, they’re pretty big.
For my own version of this gigantic treat, I referenced the official site of Sweden to make sure I was close to the traditional Swedish recipe. I added extra butter and flour, which created a more cakey texture; hence, cinnamon bun cake! Full disclosure: I left the sugar out by accident. However, I’ve put it in the ingredient list as optional, because I rather liked it less sweet! So I made a cream cheese icing to satisfy Tor’s sweet tooth, and had some myself sans icing. Also, if you still have some left after a couple days, it makes fantastic french toast!
170g (3/4 cup) butter
300ml (1 1/2 cups) whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
815g (5 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cardamom
100g (1/2 cup) white sugar (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
120g (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
50g (1/4 cup) white sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons water
Swedish pearl sugar
Swedish Pearl Sugar is also known as nib or hail sugar.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the milk; heat until slightly warm to the touch. Stir in a teaspoon of sugar, remove from heat, and add the yeast. Let the yeast sit while you whisk together the flour, salt, cardamom, and sugar (if using) in a large mixing bowl. When the yeast starts to bubble, stir in the egg, then add the whole mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir with a rubber spatula until you can’t anymore, then turn out the dough and any remaining flour onto a clean surface. Knead the dough with your hands until all the flour is incorporated and you have a smooth ball. Lightly butter the mixing bowl, and put the ball of dough back in. Cover with a clean, damp cloth, and let it rise for about 45 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and punch down. Roll out into a rectangle roughly 70cm (27.5in) x 50cm (19.5in). Cut in half down the middle lengthwise (a pizza cutter is great for this). Spread each rectangle with the room temperature butter, then sprinkle over sugar and cinnamon. Starting with the long side, roll each rectangle up tightly into a log. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice each log in half. Staggering the ends, begin braiding the four pieces together. Form into a ring by tucking the loose ends in and under (don’t worry about a seamless ring; after it rises and bakes it will look good!).
Place the dough ring into a 25cm (10in) circular dish or pie pan. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180C/355F. Whisk together egg and water, then brush over the whole cake, making sure to get in the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle with pearl sugar.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and the center is no longer doughy.