Swedish Cardamom Buns Are the Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift

Swedish cardamom bun
Photo Credit: Colin Clark / The New York Times

December 18, 2020

By Ariel Knutson

For most of my life I’ve done the exact same thing for Christmas. But Covid has changed everything: There will be no IRL gift exchange, or cooking a big roast for 20 people. It’s just me and my tiny household. Things feel sad and scary right now, but instead of focusing on the negatives, I’m trying to redirect my fears into an opportunity. And that involves gifting the most wildly delicious recipe I made in 2020: Swedish cardamom buns.

Swedish Cardamom Buns Are the Best Thing I Made in 2020

Like others, I cooked a lot this year; probably more than I ever have in my life. I got really into making grain salads, and salmon bowls, savory cottage cheese breakfasts, and one-pot pastas. But the best thing I made, hands-down, were these Swedish Cardamom Buns, or kardemummabulle, from The New York Times. 

The recipe is inspired by Fabrique, a Stockholm-based bakery that opened a location in New York a few years ago. It is not a recipe that you can whip up in an hour; it takes time and patience and it can be a little bit finicky. But the results are other-worldly. These buns are pillowy-soft and intensely perfumed with cardamom. Think of it as the elevated version of your favorite cinnamon roll recipe. 

The recipe makes 18 buns, which is far too many for me (or any one person) to consume, especially because they’re best eaten in the first few days after baking. So I decided to surprise a few friends and drop a couple off at their doorstep. While the buns are incredible, I enjoyed sharing them with my friends even more than eating them. In fact, it turned out to be one of the few highlights of 2020. I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen anyone outside of Zoom, and being able to connect over something we used to — a home cooked meal or treat — felt like a small return to normalcy. A delicious, buttery version of normalcy. 

cardamom buns
Photo Credit: Ariel Knutson

Why Cardamom Buns Are the Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift 

As we round out this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year, I’ve decided to return to the thing that brought me so much joy this summer. And luckily, cardamom buns really are the perfect holiday treat! Cookies are classic, but breakfast is where I think Christmas sweets really shine. I love all the cinnamon wreaths, eggnog French toast, and cranberry-studded scones that people make around this time of year. Cardamom buns fit into that mold — but they’re a little more special and unusual. 

This year when we’re all feeling more disconnected from the people we care about, I also think gifting something homemade feels extra special. I might not be able to see my friends and family right now, but I can find some comfort in dropping off a plate of warm buns on their doorstep. There probably won’t be a ton of Christmas traditions I’ll want to keep from this year, but this might be the exception.

2 Things to Keep in Mind When Making These Buns

These cardamom buns really are the sum of their parts, so this is the time to bust out the good butter and splurge on high-quality cardamom. I particularly love this baraka cardamom from Diaspora, and this cloud forest cardamom from Burlap & Barrel. You’ll notice both are whole pods versus ground cardamom, which the recipe specifically says it chose to use because it takes too long to grind the pods. But! I think it might be worth the extra effort and time. 

It’s also a good idea to watch a video on shaping: The recipe on The New York Times doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to shape the buns, so I recommend watching this video. It’s a lot easier than it looks!

Get the Recipe: Swedish Cardamom Buns from The New York Times