Cinnamon buns are the coolest pastry in town – here’s where to buy the best

Cinnamon Buns
'Cinnamon buns can work for anytime of the day' - Fjona Black

Cinnamon buns are so ingrained in Swedish culture that they even have their own national day. On every October 4, an estimated seven million kanelbullar are sold, and countless batches are made in Swedish homes. And kanelbullar are the go-to buns for fika, the daily coffee break that’s taken seriously – screen-free – in Sweden.

In Britain, the bake has nestled itself comfortably into the bestselling rankings, as our enduring love for all things Scandi merges with a search for nostalgia-laden comfort (thank you, pandemic and cost of living crisis).

“We’ve always had cinnamon buns here, but not at the level we see today,” says Amy North, editor of trade magazine British Baker. She credits Nordic bakeries such as Fabrique (which launched in Stockholm but has six outlets and a bakery in London) and Ole & Steen (26 branches in the UK) - as well as British pandemic start-up Buns From Home (soon to have 16 stores) - for turning customers on to them.

“Cinnamon buns work for breakfast, morning coffee, afternoon tea,” North says. “They’re not like a croissant, which is perceived as a breakfast item, and they don’t feel as indulgent as some baked goods.”

The Scandi notion of lagom, or “everything in moderation”, comes to mind: traditional cinnamon buns are not overly sweet, or overly decorated, or even overly spiced, and one, eaten during a 20-minute fika, is just enough.

They’re no slave to fashion or season, either. Even at Easter, when hot cross buns fill springtime column inches and bakery windows, cinnamon buns hold strong. They shrug off TikTok-fuelled trends - such as for “cartoon-style” cakes, or for ones revealing a message in a “burnaway” - like icing off a bun’s back.

Icing is not the Swedish tradition, though there are plenty of cream-cheese-frosted iterations out there for customers with a really sweet tooth. Charlotta Zetterström, who founded Fabrique with her husband David in 2008, prefers to keep it simple, because icing a cinnamon bun is “like messing around with pasta for an Italian,” she argues.

Cinnamon buns, whether swirled, rolled or knotted, are made with a cardamom-flecked yeasted dough shaped round a sweet cinnamon-butter paste. At their most traditional – knotted – they are unadorned beyond a brush of sugar syrup and studs of crunchy sugar pearls. And whatever their shape, they fill bakeries nationwide.

“There’s something almost culty about cinnamon,” says baker Kitty Tait, whose recipe for knotted fika buns is among the recipes in her book, Breadsong (Bloomsbury, £20). “As a flavour, it has its own fanbase.” People queue at her Orange Bakery in Watlington, Oxfordshire, where some 200 apricot-glazed knots a week pass, oven-warm, into customers’ hands. She could sell more, “but that’s as many as I can physically make,” Tait admits.

Kitty Tait's knotted fika buns
Kitty Tait's knotted fika buns - Mark Lord

Join the queue at Gwyn’s Bakery in Horsham, West Sussex, meanwhile, and you’ll find cinnamon buns outsell sourdough, accounting for a quarter of the bakery’s retail sales. In London, they’re a clear bestseller at Fabrique; so, too, at tiny Bageriet, a Swedish bakery on a Covent Garden side street. There, customers line up for Gothenburg-born Daniel Karlsson’s knotted buns, the lucky ones grabbing a sheepskin-covered seat to fika. There’s often no time to arrange buns in the window displays, so quickly do they sell, warm from the downstairs bakery. “I make 150 a day, 300 on Saturdays,” Karlsson says.

This national appetite is bound up with nostalgia, felt most acutely when times are tough, says North. “Nostalgia has been a trend in the baking industry in recent years. That’s where cinnamon buns fit. We’re comfortable with dough, sugar, cinnamon as flavours. And when money is tight, our treats need to deliver.”

At £2 a bun, the ones Stina Envall bakes at the café at the Swedish Church in London tick both boxes. Envall pours strong coffee from flasks and keeps the glass cake-stand piled high. People drop in to read Swedish books and magazines, to fika, to speak their native language. Anyone is welcome; the vibe is homely and warm.

“Those buns are the best in London for exactly that reason,” says Brontë Aurell, which is high praise indeed from the author of Brontë at Home: Baking from the ScandiKitchen (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99).

“Is there anything more comforting than the smell of cinnamon in the kitchen? The best buns are always the ones mum makes, or dad, or grandma,” agrees Zetterström. “Swedish people grow up with cinnamon buns. They’re not trendy, they’re just part of life.”

Hampton Manor
Your knotting skills will be put to the test at Hampton Manor's Saturday workshop - Fjona Black

Fancy making your own buns? Rebecca Bishop, the co-founder of Two Magpies Bakery, which has several cafes across East Anglia, runs The Next Loaf baking school in Wenhaston, Suffolk, and will have you knotting like a pro in small-group sessions. Or head to The Bakery at Hampton Manor near Solihull for a two-hour Saturday workshop.

“Cinnamon buns are our bestseller,” says baker Jax Mock, who leads the sessions. “It’s approachable, fun. We get lots of locals. Some people even come, make buns, then go back to work.” The light-filled space overlooks the walled kitchen garden and, after two hours of mixing, rolling, resting and shaping – and plenty of chat – one heads home with a sense of achievement and nine swirls ready to bake for the next fika moment.

Fika fix: Where to find superior cinnamon buns

Fabrique, London

There are six cafés throughout London, with bakes made at a central Shoreditch bakery. Cardamom is distinct through the dough and the filling is generous.

Bageriet, London

A tiny space packed with Swedish bakes and other temptations made by Gothenburg-born baker Daniel Karlsson.

Ulrika Eleonora Swedish Church, London

Drop in for homely vibes and knotted buns baked on site.

Toklas Bakery, London

Head baker Janine Edwards incorporates cinnamon into the dough itself rather than the butter filling, and adds tangzhong, a flour-water paste that results in a softer crumb.

St John Bakery, London

The place for cinnamon sugar-drenched buns. “Everyone needs that mmmm moment when there’s a day ahead,” says co-founder Trevor Gulliver. “And a tip if you’re at home – gently warmed, they enter another taste dimension!”

Ole & Steen, London and home counties

Their plaited “cinnamon socials” to share, filled with vanilla custard and drizzled with icing, are a staple.

Buns From Home, London

The fast-growing London chain started in a home kitchen during lockdown. A pit-stop for laminated dough buns and a variety of flavours.

The Bakery at Hampton Manor, near Solihull

Baked daily for hotel guests’ breakfasts and sold in the estate’s bakery, the buns are pillowy, sugary and moreish and the bakery is a lovely place to fika.

The Orange Bakery, Watlington, Oxfordshire

Kitty Tait’s fika buns sell out quickly, not surprisingly – so don’t dally.

Gwyn’s Bakery, Horsham, West Sussex

Join the queue for cinnamon sugar-coated buns, all made on site from scratch at this high street spot run by owner and head baker Ben Lines.

Buns by post: The perfect gift, these buns in boxes can be delivered nationwide


Order a beautiful box of cinnamon swirls from Fitzbillies in Cambridge to bake at home. There’s a pot of icing to add or not as you wish (£20 for six). 

Oliphant and Pomeroy

Oliphant’s buns are beautifully wrapped in packs of five, 10, 15 or 20, with cinnamon sugar for post-bake sprinkles. They won a Great Taste award in 2023 (£18.95 for five).

Da Bara

Cornwall-based Da Bara Bakery will send its generously sugar-coated buns, ready to warm up and eat (£14.25 for five).

Cinnamon Square

Cinnamon Square in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, delivers big, squidgy, cream-cheese-frosted buns right to your door (£18 for four).