50/50 cardamom buns

I loosely followed this recipe from Felicity Cloake, but either I didn’t have enough of some of the ingredients or didn’t want to sacrifice an egg for painting. So I did a few replacements and alterations, detailed below.

The results are surprisingly good, given it’s the first time I made these. The flavour is spot on, exactly what I want from a cardamom bun. They are moist and buttery enough, and the slightly coarser texture from the wholemeal flour wasn’t really in the way, with all that is going on, as there are already the big cardamom seeds interrupting any pretence of smoothness in the dough.

Also, since they have whole grains rather than being 100% refined flour, they are totally healthy 😆 (just ignore the sugar, and maybe the butter, eh??) 🥦🥬🥒

Cardamom buns cooling down on a rack
Cardamom buns cooling down on a rack


For the dough:

  • 1 tbsp cardamom seeds (from about 35 husked pods)
  • 250ml milk
  • 75g butter, cubed
  • 250g strong white bread flour (I used strong WHOLEMEAL flour)
  • 200g plain flour
  • ½-1 tsp salt
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 9g fast-action yeast (I used about 5g dry yeast from Allison’s)
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

  • 100g butter, softened (I didn’t have enough unsalted so topped up with salted)
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (from about 12 husked pods)
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 50g caster or granulated sugar
  • A good pinch of salt – I didn’t add this, as the butter had salt

For finishing:

I find it quite wasteful to use part of an egg just to get some colour on the buns, so instead of making an eggwash I just made a sugar wash: I dissolved a spoonful of sugar in water and painted the top of the buns with this liquid, then sprinkled a bit more sugar on top.

Also, yes, I was running out of eggs and didn’t want to pop out to the shops to get eggs for decoration 😆


There’s not a lot of difficulty here, it’s more about a lot of steps. I found it helpful to break it down in steps e.g. preparing the cardamom and measuring the rest of things and then doing something else, rather than having a baking marathon!

  • Husk and crack/grind the cardamom:
    • Seeds from 35 pods, roughly cracked – these are for the dough.
    • Seeds from 12 pods, finely ground (I used a hand mill) – for the filling.

To make the dough

  • Heat milk to < 100C (don’t make it boil!)
  • Add ground cardamom and butter, leave to cool down to < 37C.
  • Mix flours, sugar, yeast, salt in a big bowl.
  • When the milk mix cools down, add to the big bowl, then mix, then add the egg and mix into the dough. The dough should be sticky but handable.
  • Here I used Dan Lepard‘s “lazy kneading” method: rather than kneading vigorously “until it’s smooth”, I give the dough a light kneading and leave it to rest for about 10 minutes, and repeat that until I’m happy with the results. There’s really no need to go overboard with kneading here, we’re not making a big aerated bread loaf.
  • Cover dough and keep for 1 hour at room temperature. Then put dough in fridge for 4-12 hours (although I cooled it down for an hour only—I wanted to bake sooner rather than later!)
Cardamom buns dough, ready to rest and proof
Cardamom buns dough, ready to rest and proof

To make the filling, while the dough rests

  • If you’re like me and your hands are very cold, you won’t be melting the butter as you handle it! So I recommend you do wait until the butter has softened a bit (or maybe give it a microwave blast if you feel adventurous).
  • Mix the ingredients in another bowl: butter, flour, ground cardamom, sugar.
  • You probably should cover this and go have a tea or coffee while the dough keeps resting.

To assemble, roll and shape

  • When the dough is cool again (or “enough”), lightly flour a surface, and roll to about 30×50 cm.
  • Spread the filling on top (I used a spatula to help spread). It helps when the filling is at room temperature so it’s softer.
  • Do a third fold and then another “as if folding a letter” (see the original recipe for details if unsure), the idea is the filling gets enclosed and we get some layering. Or look at the picture underneath for an idea of how it looks like.
  • Rotate dough 90 degrees and roll it out again, but make sure you don’t squeeze so much that the filling escapes the dough. If/when you reach that point, it’s time to stop!
Cardamom buns dough, after folding to 1/3 twice
Cardamom buns dough, after folding to 1/3 twice

A trick I use to help me roll things more uniformly is to place the dough between baking paper or silicone mats. They distribute the pressure and also help avoid the dough sticking to the work area! It tends to be easier to peel the dough off the mats/paper than the kitchen counter.

I watched a few videos such as this one to get a general idea:

Then I used my loyal dough scraper to make cuts in the dough before folding the piece.

Cutting a strip of cardamom bun dough for shaping
Cutting a strip of cardamom bun dough for shaping

But since I wasn’t using a fully white flour, the buns weren’t as elastic as demoed in the video, and they were a little prone to tear when stretching to make the full knot. So I ended up with more like free-style knots.

Detail of a cardamom bun before baking
Detail of a cardamom bun before baking
Detail of a cardamom bun before baking
Detail of a cardamom bun before baking
Detail of a cardamom bun before baking, it looks more like a raisin roll
Detail of a cardamom bun before baking, it looks more like a raisin roll


  • Place the buns on silicone mats or on lightly floured trays or on baking paper, well separated in case they rise a lot and get too close together.
  • Leave to rest for about an hour.
  • In the meantime, turn the oven to heat to 220C / 200C fan.
  • Before putting in the oven, finish the buns with the wash and a sprinkle of sugar.
  • Bake for 13 minutes or until golden, but do turn them halfway if your oven is not very good at evenly distributing heat (most domestic ovens aren’t; if you have baked enough with it you will know if it is. I’d assume it isn’t).
  • When you take them out of the oven, leave them to cool down a bit on the tray, then put them on a grill or wire rack so they cool down without condensing water at the bottom (cue mandatory “no one likes a soggy bottom” joke).

Best enjoyed with black coffee! FIKA TIME!

Inside a cardamom bun, showing the layers and regular air bubbles
Inside a cardamom bun, showing the layers and regular air bubbles

On being particular and exacting with the shaping…

I realised it didn’t really matter: because the dough was sufficiently dry, the cuts were sharp enough to retain their general shape and also show the (few) layers that the folding had created. And once you hide the ugly ending underneath the bun itself, all you see is a beautifully dynamic bun. So, overall, they looked more sophisticated than they actually were.

Cardamom buns before baking
Cardamom buns before baking

I also took the opportunity to braid a couple of buns to see how they would look like. I love braiding breads!

I felt that my creations looked nicer than Felicity’s, as her dough seemed wetter and puffier, which leads to more fuzzy edges, whereas I prefer this sharper look with more defined surfaces, but to each their own.

I guess “my ideal buns are more like croissants” is what I’m saying! Although it helps if you use 100% white flour in that case.

Cardamom buns cooling down on a rack
Cardamom buns cooling down on a rack

Cracking the recipe (I’m full of terrible puns today)

A lot of cardamom pods ready to be husked
A lot of cardamom pods ready to be husked

That was a lot of cardamom pods to crack open, but you just need to get on cracking…

Also, I thought the recipe could have done with more, but it depends on how old the pods are. New ones are supposed to be more potent.

At the end of the day I was convinced there was no cardamom smell at all, but when Devvers came back the first sentence that was exclaimed from downstairs was something along the lines of “IT SMELLS LIKE SOMETHING HAS BEEN BAKED”. Thus disproving my belief: it was just my cardamom detection abilities had been blasted by overexposure.

We also put the buns in a cake box, once they cooled down. And each time we opened it, we got this STRONG WHIFF of cardamom. So maybe there was enough cardamom in the recipe after all.

The only twist I’d definitely implement (and which I’ve already incorporated in the recipe above) is slightly cracking the seeds that go into the dough rather than leave them whole, as sometimes you’d bite an entire seed and it can be A LOT of cardamom flavour bursting all at once in your mouth.

Are these easy to make? Are they easiER than other things?

Devvers asked me if this was easier than making croissants.

And the answer is yes, because you make less folds, and that’s the most labour and time intensive part of the croissants. Although I do enjoy doing the folds, but you need to allocate space in the fridge for the dough to rest flat, and you also need the time for the dough to rest and cool down before the next fold.

In comparison, these buns were super easy!

But, you still have to spend time preparing things like the cardamom seeds, and letting the dough rest a bit.

Oh no

If you follow the recipe as stated, you end up with about 16 buns, which is like 8x the amount of buns you’d normally expect to eat at once.

Being sensible, because we shouldn’t be eating so many buns, and being irresponsible, without first checking on the internets if that was a good idea, I froze half of them.

Happily, we found out you can then defrost a couple of buns simply by placing them on a rack at room temperature for a couple of hours, and then it was hard to tell “this has been frozen”. They were perhaps just slightly dry, but totally pleasant to eat.

The final, painful realisation is intimately connected with the fact that they both taste nice and moist even after a day or two of having been baked and also defrost well.

Which brings me back to the initial reason I made these buns.

We were walking in the street on a Sunday afternoon and passed a Swedish bakery we used to frequent, until they started selling us mediocre bread that would not pass a minimum baking standard (it was dry, and exhibited features such as the seam underneath not being properly “fused”, etc) and inflated their prices to an absurd level at the same time the customer service was going in the opposite direction. I do not pay money to get inferior stuff!

And we casually agreed:

Oh, the bread we make at home is much better than these ones nowadays!

We also noticed that although the bakery was closed on that day, there were items on the shelves, although covered with a sort of sheet. Were they going to be sold the next day at a full price, we wondered?

But we continued discussing the other goods for sale at the bakery:

Although the buns… they were good! Expensive, but good! Also… how hard can it be to make them?

Of course, that was my challenge: HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

So when I decided to make the buns, I just set out to make the buns, without any qualitative comparisons in mind. My goal was two-fold:

  1. Can I make these things?
  2. Can I make them on time to surprise Devvers with them? (hence the rush to bake after just one hour of fridge rest, rather than waiting overnight for the dough to develop a superior and deeper yeasted flavour).

Yet once we got to try the buns I had made in obviously inferior conditions (read: missing ingredients and downgrading the eggwash to just a sugar wash), and once we realised that a couple days-old bun still tasted very acceptably, we started to genuinely wonder if we had been sold days old or defrosted buns. Maybe even the bread loaves were old too, as hinted by the items covered in the shelves while the bakery was shut.

In the past, I could notice that the quality of the buns was variable: they never were equally nice. Sometimes they were truly excellent, some other times they were nice, but not quite reaching that final chord of moisture, sweetness and tenderness we crave… suspicious! 🤨

Coming from Spain, where honest bakeries will sell you unsold items at a cheaper price right before the bakery closes to avoid food waste and to encourage selling everything on the day, selling older items at full price seems outrageous to me!!!

In any case, first we ruined tiramisù, and could only enjoy ours as the canonical perfect version. And now I’ve ruined cardamom buns too…

Oh no, indeed!

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