Serves a Crowd

Cardamom Lemon Sticky Buns

July  6, 2021
3 Ratings
  • Makes about 16 rolls
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

What You'll Need
  • 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)
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anna Smith
    Anna Smith
  • Megan Fox
    Megan Fox
  • Kate Monson
    Kate Monson
  • KellyCSelf
  • AntoniaJames

38 Reviews

Withoutstrings July 6, 2021
This was delish! I read the reviews abt dough not rising so I left my yeast with my milk for 10min, made sure it became foamy before mixing in the butter and sugar!
The amount of sugar was insane for the zest + sugar mix so reduced it! The bun was yummy even without the glaze! I added an extra TBS of bourbon.. just becos ! Hahaha my husband said the bourbon was STRONG! But I liked it!
Good reviews from friends and family! Will make again :)
Anna S. April 19, 2020
These are so yummy! Just recently discovered cardamom and wanted to experiment with cardamom and citrus. This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for. Not to mention how heavenly your kitchen smells while baking.
Also, I see a lot of comments of people having issues with the dough rising!
I made these a little differently than the instructions said because yeast can be so tricky!
You want the milk to be between 110-115 degrees. I did a teaspoon of light brown sugar dissolved in the milk then added the yeast and let it proof. Then added the sugar, salt, cardamom, egg and melted butter. Also make sure your butter is within the same 110-115 degrees. If it’s too hot it’ll kill your yeast.
Hope this helps!
Michelle December 25, 2017
Made these as written - used about 2.5 cups of flour. I'd like to see if I could figure out how to increase the volume of the dough - what I made was gorgeous and tasty -- but the rolls weren't as large as I would have liked. I did the second rise in the fridge, and the first rise took about 3 hours, but the dough did rise once I warmed the oven a bit and set the bowl in there with the door open. I will make these again.
Megan F. June 30, 2017
Any way to make these without dairy or almond/but milk? Anyone had luck with another milk?
Kate M. April 30, 2017
I've made these twice now and both times the dough didn't rise. I don't think it is the yeast as my starter was nice and bubbly both times. Strange. I make cinnamon rolls every Christmas without once having trouble with the dough rising. I'm thinking that next time I'll try the flavors with the Cinnamon roll recipe, maybe it's something about the sequence of ingredients that makes it so tricky? Despite them not rising they are very delicious lemon/cardamom biscuits and quite happily eaten especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
fiveandspice April 30, 2017
Hmmm. That's interesting. I've never had trouble using this sequence of ingredients, but if it's not working for you, one thought I would have would be to leave out the butter until after the yeast is activated and foaming in the milk-sugar mixture and then stir in the butter followed by working in the flour, etc.
terrisyk January 23, 2021
Hi these sound delicious. I made these exactly like the recipe and I am on the 4th hour of waiting for them to rise. I am glad I found your website to look at the reviews. It sounds like following the exact recipe makes for a difficult raising of the dough. I will now try what you suggested with not adding the butter until after.
Deb P. March 8, 2015
Can I freeze these before the second rising? i don't have enough people to eat them and it would be so lovely to take them out of the freezer and have them fresh.
Thanks. deb
KellyCSelf March 1, 2015
These are delicious. We decided to make them at the last minute to bring to brunch, we only had an orange (no lemons) so we substituted. Great recipe, thanks for sharing. We'll be making these again and will try the original recipe with the lemons.
AntoniaJames December 16, 2014
Emily, how much do your three cups of flour weigh? I'd really prefer to use my scale. Thanks so much. ;o)
fiveandspice December 19, 2014
I usually use the 125g per cup conversion. So, that would be 375g, yes? I am bad about precise measurements in yeast bread baking. I go more by the texture of my dough than by an exact volume or weight :-/ (Also, sorry for my delayed response, btw! The family has arrived from Norway for the holidays and we are swamped. Good swamped, but swamped nonetheless.)
arcane54 January 22, 2014
These were outstanding! The recipe is generous and while the few buns that didn't get gobbled up right way lasted a couple of days (reheating well!) they make excellent bread pudding, too! I was short one lemon and used orange peel/juice in its place.
Lauren F. January 20, 2014
These are absolutely amazing! I made them yesterday but might have to have another go, as the dough didn't rise all that well. I used bread flour as we don't really have all-purpose in the UK, so that might be it! Amazing flavour and sticky consistency though.
fiveandspice January 20, 2014
I'm so glad you enjoyed the flavor! Sorry they didn't rise quite enough. As I tried to explain to Anita below, yeast bread baking is kind of more art than science, so as closely as a person follows a recipe, results can still vary since yeast is alive and kind of just does its own thing! You might try a longer rising time, adding less flour to the dough (though this can be tricky, but the stickier/wetter the dough, the better the rise, usually), or adding an extra pinch of yeast, if you're having trouble.
Lauren F. January 21, 2014
Thanks so much Emily! I might try a combination of all of those as I'll definitely be making these again.
Shermin January 19, 2014
Baked it - cardamom and lemon ist really a delicious combination. Thanks for this yummy recipe.
fiveandspice January 20, 2014
Glad to hear it!
Anita January 16, 2014
These are so good, that I had to try again! My rolls don't rise enough after slicing and placing into the baking pan. I do love the recipe, but just not sure if it's my bread-making skills or my oven. But I shall keep on experimenting!
fiveandspice January 20, 2014
Glad you liked them! Yeast bread can be so tricky, since yeast is a living organism, you always have to kind of go by feel, not just the recipe. How active yeast is can vary, as can ambient temperature and humidity, and the amount of flour used for kneading, all of which influences how much the rolls rise! If they didn't rise quite enough, you may just need to let them sit a little longer, or you may need to use a pinch more yeast.
pamelalee January 14, 2014
What a delicious twist on cinnamon rolls! We loved the zing of the lemon as well as the texture of the buns. They were wonderful even after being frozen and reheated.
fiveandspice January 15, 2014
Glad you liked them!
ktgrice January 10, 2014
Do you think it's possible to veganize this recipie? Maybe with plain almond milk and earth balance?
missbellpepper January 13, 2014
ktgrice, I was thinking the exact same thing! I veganized fiveandspice's Orange and Olive Oil Sticky Buns for Christmas morning and they were fantastic. I would use the same dough with slightly more sugar and of course the cardamom. I'm sure Earth Balance would work fine for the filling but I would use coconut oil, (simply a personal preference) the result may be a little softer. I hope that this helps!
fiveandspice January 13, 2014
I do think the dough for the olive oil and orange sticky buns could be used for this with the changes to flavoring. But, I also think it could work with almond milk or potentially coconut milk, which would give the buns the richness you want from them.
missbellpepper February 11, 2014
Ooo that's a wonderful idea. Califa Farms makes a really thick almond milk that would be perfect here. Thank you fiveandspice!
Anita December 31, 2013
Delicious! Only my buns didn't rise after removing from the fridge, so we had lemon cardamom biscuits. Still tasty.
fiveandspice December 31, 2013
Sorry they didn't rise after you took them out! Depending on ambient temperature and humidity, it can take a while for the dough to relax enough to start expanding again - even a couple hours.
Jessica December 29, 2013
These are incredible! It doesn't where/when to add cardamom, so I added after flour - is that right? Regardless, they were some of the best sticky buns I've ever made! Thank you!
fiveandspice December 30, 2013
That works! So glad you liked them!
Kiyo December 29, 2013
The cardamom is not listed in the directions, only under ingredients!
fiveandspice December 30, 2013
I forgot the step of adding the cardamom, but I've fixed it now.
moseceltic December 29, 2013
Love the sound of these but I'm one of those odd folks who can't tolerate cardamom. Any suggestions for a replacement spice, or would that be heresy?
fiveandspice December 29, 2013
Well, it would be heresy, but I guess you can if you must. ;) You could try making them all lemon buns, putting lemon zest in the dough. Nutmeg might be good in the dough, but you'd want to use a lot less, maybe 1/4 tsp. Or vanilla bean would be yummy.
fiveandspice December 29, 2013
You could also try using a little fresh rosemary.
Dubbskii December 26, 2013
I can't wait to make these. I love cardamom, but I've never paired it with lemon. Thank you for sharing the recipe!
fiveandspice December 29, 2013
Gibson2011 December 18, 2013
Do you think the technique described in this article would work for making the buns ahead of time?
fiveandspice December 18, 2013
Yes, I do.