Updated: Oct 7, 2018
October 4th has been Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden and Finland since 1999. The relevance of this pastry is only highlighted during this day where one can smell the sweet cinnamon scent and see mountains of cinnamon buns all over the place. However, the rest of the year, this traditional pastry is always present and a very worthy staple of the Swedish identity.
As a new arrival to Sweden, I can still remember what I used to think of Sweden before I even had an idea that I would live here. Cinnamon buns, meatballs and IKEA were immediately associated with this Scandinavian country. Sadly, my idea of cinnamon buns had always been different to the real thing. While in México, my contact with them was through the Roles de Canela Bimbo which has two styles, the ones covered in icing sugar glaze and my favourite, the ones with raisins (I know, I'm a monster). Always living next to the US, I was also familiar with their style of cinnamon rolls thanks to Cinnabon and their bigger and sweeter than life rolls. Even when I'm sure these days there are more authentic cinnamon rolls in México and the US, when I lived and visited there I wasn't aware of the real thing and never looked for them. It wasn't until I lived in London, where one can find many more options, that I started to notice buns closer to what they really are, a very tasty and complex confection of bread, cinnamon and sweetness. They didn't needed to be huge, overly sweet or covered with massive amounts of icing. The real cinnamon bun is elegant and delicate in its looks and its flavour.
The cinnamon bun has been made in Sweden since the 20's but became really popular from the 50's. During World War I, getting hold of the ingredients was extremely difficult because of rationing. After the war, when ingredients were available again, the modern cinnamon bun was born. It was only natural that after living here for two years and being a true lover of fika and cinnamon buns that I had to take matters more seriously and do a real taste test. Out and about very early on October 4th, my journey through cinnamontown lead me to the following study. For science, of course.
Before I start, I have a couple of things to say for context. Gothenburg, where I live, is covered with coffee houses and bakeries where people get together and indulge in the many delicious Swedish pastries. The places I chose were the ones I'm familiar with but I'm fully aware that there must be many, many more to try in the future once the sugar rush in my system has gone down to human levels again. Also, is worth to note that supermarkets, big and small, also sell their own cinnamon buns and I would love to test them another time. Since I didn't want to be biased, I plated every bun and hid the name of the place where it was made so I didn't know where it was from when I was tasting.
Latteria 28 SEK / € 2.68
This is one of my favourite places in the city. Hidden in plain sight and inside a beautiful neo-renaissance style building, Latteria not only has amazing coffee and cakes , It has non surprisingly, the very best cinnamon bun for me.
This beautiful pastry was a delight. The look of this bun was in an artisan style. Beautiful inside and out. While the outer crust was firm, it wasn't dry, keeping the soft and almost moist inside protected. The flavour was delicate but not overly so, the cinnamon and sweetness was present without being overly sweet or spiced. A chewy, moist and beautiful piece. My favourite of them all.
Da Matteo 33 SEK / € 3.16
This was one of the places that I wanted to visit even before moving to Sweden. Every time I researched about Gothenburg, Da Matteo was always at the top of the results and I'm happy to report, that it was for a good reason! I've had fantastic coffee and lunches there but I had never tried their cinnamon buns. That will change from now on. They are delicious!
The look of this bun is like a little piece of art. The beautiful layers and swirls are so precise, twisting up and down until the end result looks more like a bow than a roll. The outer crust was soft and the inside even softer. The layers of moist dough are full of flavour. Even when the taste is more delicate than the Latteria bun, it was more spiced but in a very warming and lovely way. There is a buttery flavour and consistency that it makes it feel almost homemade. Delicious and one of my favourites too. Even when the rating is the same as the previous one, these two buns are perfect individually but different from each other.
Ahlströms 20 SEK / € 1.91
Another favourite place in the city. A gorgeous konditori with a classic style and a lovely outside seating area. I love to go there just for coffee and of course, to get the best semla I have ever tried in my life. Since I had never tried their cinnamon buns before, It was only natural to get one from them. Non surprisingly, they are amazing too.
Beautiful to look at but different from the previous two. The outside was firm with a nice and soft inside. Perfect mix of spice and sweetness, full of beautiful layers and slightly moist. A joy!
Brogyllen 23 SEK / € 2.20
One of our favourite spots to have breakfast in the city. It not only offers lovely cakes but also delicious cinnamon buns. Their buns had the perfect mix of a firm outside and a very moist and soft inside. Beautiful to look at, nice twists full of flavour along all the layers. They were to my taste a little bit too sweet but this could be because of all of the cinnamon buns I tried, these were the ones with a big quantity of cinnamon glaze which I love but ended being a little bit too much. One of my absolute favourites too.
Steinbrenner & Nyberg 22 SEK / € 2.10
This is a place I have tried to love many times but I keep finding myself underwhelmed with their pastries. Having breakfast or a cup of coffee is really nice on their premises. However, I find their cakes and pastries beautiful to look at but overall a bit on the commercial side and overly sweet.
This was also the case of their cinnamon bun. Theirs hold the classic swirl shape one expect from most cinnamon rolls. Even when it looked dry on the outside, the truth is that it wasn't, it was actually quite soft and even softer on the inside which is always welcome. I couldn't find a clear cinnamon taste but it did had a very buttery texture and flavour and a little bit too much sweetness for my taste. The texture of the bun is quite nice, I love to see all the nice layers keeping their shape even on the inside. It is not a bad cinnamon bun at all but I always expect more from this place.
Eva's Paley 29 SEK / € 2.77
I've had many good times at Eva's. Having breakfast by the window looking at the Avenyn is always nice on an early Saturday morning.
Sadly, their cinnamon bun was extremely underwhelming. From the moment I looked at it, I could tell it was going to be a sad bun. It looked and was actually dry on the outside and inside. I am positive to say that was toasted on the outside more than baked. The pastry itself tasted more like a normal bread than the classic cinnamon bun flavour. There was sweetness to it but no real cinnamon flavour.
Johan & Nyström / Avenyn 34 SEK / € 3.25
I've had really good coffee here. They sell a Christmas coffee blend that has hints of cinnamon (notice a trend here?) that reminds me so much of café de la olla which I absolutely love. Being a chain, it does what is supposed to do: To offer a sleek set up for people to do some work or meet up with friends while having a good cuppa. This is my first time trying their pastries and I think it will be the last.
Their bun holds a classic swirly shape slightly taller (think of it as a muffin style) and that's about as classic as it gets. From the looks of it to the texture and flavour is purely commercial. The outside crust was even burnt on one side for being left a little too long in the oven and the dryness went straight to the core of this bun. It could have been just pure bad luck. At the end of the day I bough my cinnamon bun on Cinnamon Bun Day so chances are that it was more about quantity over quality. However, I think is during days like these where one expects the best of the best put out for sale.
As with most things, the price doesn't always reflect quality. Also, as with most things, only by trying can one find what's really great out there. I am sure many locals know of other places to find the best cinnamon roll. There could be also people that doesn't agree with my reviews but this was my experience on a particularly busy day to be a cinnamon bun. I'm excited to keep exploring and finding different options and if the information is good enough, then I will be happy to share my findings. For science, of course!
Cinnamon has a substance called coumarin that in large quantities can be harmful to the liver. For this reason, the EU has implemented a limit on the amount of cinnamon used in pastries. The maximum levels of coumarin can't be higher than 50 mg per kilo.
Our Swedish friends tells us that there is a particular way to eat a cinnamon bun by placing it in a bowl of warm milk. The bun can then be eaten with the hands or with a spoon. Also apparently, this is not a popular way to eat it and it is done only by a few brave ones who indulge in their buns however suits them best. Personally, the thought of it sounds enticing and heavenly delicious. I just want to do it now.
Swedes are known to have a sweet tooth. Even when they are the healthiest and most active people I've ever encountered, it is obvious that they love sweets. Here's an interesting chart I found via Sweden.se