Serves a Crowd

Cardamom Lemon Sticky Buns

December 18, 2013
Author Notes

Even though we eat the same Christmas breakfast every year, I still daydream up different ideas for new Christmas breakfasts.This year I was thinking about cardamom bread and about lemon sticky buns and then I thought, why not combine the two?! Fragrant, tangy, and utter perfection with a steamy cup of coffee.
The recipe is inspired by a julekake recipe, Luisa Weiss's poppyseed whirligig buns, and the lemon-pull apart bread/coffee cake from Leite's Culinaria. —fiveandspice

  • Makes about 16 rolls
  • Sticky bun dough
  • 3/4 cup 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 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 cups (approximately) all purpose flour (plus more as needed)
  • Sticky bun filling, assembly, and glaze
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest (from about 3 large lemons)
  • 4 tablespoons very soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (replace 1 Tbs. with bourbon if you want a lemon-bourbon glaze - and don't you think you do?)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or enough to make a glaze consistency)
In This Recipe
  1. Sticky bun dough
  2. Combine the warm milk, melted butter, and sugar in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and let it sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. Then, stir in the salt, cardamom, and beaten egg.
  3. Stir in the flour, adding just as much as needed to get a dough that feels sticky to the touch but doesn't actually stick inexorably to your fingers (you want to avoid as much as possible adding too much flour as this will keep the dough from rising as well as it could). Knead the dough in a mixer with a bread hook for about 6 minutes or by hand on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Proceed with making the filling and assembling as instructed below.
  1. Sticky bun filling, assembly, and glaze
  2. While the bun dough is rising, mix together the granulated sugar and lemon zest and set aside. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans (or a 9X13 pan). After the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and on a lightly floured surface roll it into a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Spread the dough rectangle with the soft butter, then sprinkle it evenly with the sugar-zest mixture.
  3. Roll the rectangle up lengthwise into a long jellyroll. Slice it with a sharp serrated knife into 1-inch thick pieces. Arrange the pieces in the prepared baking pans, leaving a little space around them for them to rise and grow. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about another hour. Or, put the rolls in the refrigerator to slowly rise overnight. Take them out in the morning. If they haven't risen much in the fridge, let them come to room temperature and give them some time to rise (this could take up to a couple hours).
  4. When the rolls are almost finished rising, heat your oven to 350F. Bake the rolls in the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Take them out and allow them to cool most of the way before drizzling with the glaze.
  5. To make the glaze, whisk together the lemon juice (and bourbon, if using) with powdered sugar until it reaches glaze consistency. Drizzle over the sticky buns. These buns are by far the best eaten the day they're made, though they rewarm relatively well. If you want to keep them longer, you can take them as soon as they've cooled to room temperature, wrap them well in tinfoil and stick them in the freezer. Let them defrost at room temperature and gently rewarm them in the oven before serving.

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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.