Cardamom Lemon Sticky Buns

December 26, 2013

Each Thursday, Emily Vikre (a.k.a fiveandspice) will be sharing a new way to love breakfast -- because breakfast isn't just the most important meal of the day. It's also the most awesome.

Today: A new holiday tradition, even when there's no room for one.

Sticky buns from Food52

Shop the Story

In both my husband’s and my families, Christmas morning breakfast is as good as set in stone. At my husband’s we eat bagels (brought from New York by his aunt and uncle) with cream cheese and lox. With my family we eat a vegetable frittata accompanied in good Northern European style by an embarrassingly large spread of meats, cheeses, breads, and leftover pork cracklings from Christmas Eve dinner.

I wouldn’t try to change either option. What would be the point? Both are immutable from the perspectives of our families, and both are too good to change anyway. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t spend time each year daydreaming about what I might make for Christmas breakfast if I happened to belong to a different family.

Sticky buns from Food52

This year’s daydream is where these sticky buns come in. They’re sort of a cross between julekake -- a fragrant and buttery Scandinavian cardamom bread -- and that lemon pull-apart bread that took the internet-world by storm a couple years back. The buns take the heady spice of cardamom and the sunny brightness of lemon and swirl them together. Literally! Swirl. And then glaze. With more lemon and just a touch of bourbon -- it’s the holidays after all. These are totally something I would want to eat for Christmas breakfast...if I belonged to a different family.    

Sticky Buns froM Food52

Cardamom Lemon Sticky Buns

Makes about 16 rolls

Sticky bun dough

3/4 cups whole milk, just warm to the touch
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
3 cups all purpose flour (plus more as needed)

Sticky bun filling, assembly, and glaze

2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon zest (from about 3 large lemons)
4 tablespoons very soft butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (replace 1 tablespoon with bourbon if you want a lemon-bourbon glaze -- and don’t you think you do?)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (or enough to make a glaze consistency)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emily Vikre

Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker
View Maker
Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker

Choose your holiday adventure! Our Automagic Menu Maker is here to help.

View Maker

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Allison Dickey
    Allison Dickey
  • Kathy Hodson
    Kathy Hodson
  • Anna
  • JessG
  • bonbonmarie
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.


Allison D. December 31, 2013
These sound devine. Thank you for this recipe. Being of Swedish descent, I love cardamom.
Kathy H. December 29, 2013
I'd like to add cinnamon instead and skip the lemon. What do you think?
fiveandspice December 30, 2013
It'll be a whole different bun, but I think they'll be good. Add cinnamon to the sticky filling.
Anna December 29, 2013
As a fellow Scandinavian, I completely understand where you are coming from with the full spread of food on Christmas Day. We usually fight over the crackle the next day (That and the "leaf bread": laufabrauð). Wouldn't change a thing either, but sometimes I daydream about smaller meals after Christmas :) Will be making this for New Year's Day! Thanks for a groovy recipe!
fiveandspice December 29, 2013
The crackle makes the meal! :) My mom managed an epic crackling this year. It was awesome. These will definitely be good for New Year's Day! And Easter, and Mother's Day, and you name it!
JessG December 29, 2013
Can you freeze the dough or freeze after baking? Thanks
fiveandspice December 29, 2013
Yes. They definitely can be frozen and rewarmed after baking. I imagine that you can also freeze the dough then let it defrost and bake it up, though I haven't tried it with this dough. You can also parbake the buns, freeze them, then finish baking them later.
bonbonmarie December 26, 2013
After two months of what seems like non-stop holiday indulging, I am about done with sweets for now. But this recipe is a keeper! I am going to tuck away to make for Easter brunch; lemon and cardamom should be equally apt for that holiday, and I will be very ready to enjoy. thanks!
fiveandspice December 28, 2013
They'd be perfect for Easter!
AntoniaJames December 26, 2013
Just lovely, fiveandspice. I haven't made sticky buns yet this holiday season (been baking all kinds of other amazing tasty things, of course) but have been planning to do so before my son leaves on Sunday. I look forward to trying this recipe. Thank you, and Merry Christmas! ;o)
fiveandspice December 28, 2013
I can only imagine all the deliciousness that comes out of your kitchen during the holidays! :) Hope you enjoy the buns if you make them, and Merry (belated now) Christmas to you too!!