Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns

Just a simple, super-tender sweet bread dough, swirled with Christmas-scented cinnamon and baked into a perfectly airy and rich cinnamon bun. No sticky goo. No coffee/maple/Nutella/chocolate chips. Just a damn good, no-nonsense, never-need-another-recipe cinnamon bun. Click here to go straight to the recipe!


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit


Cinnamon buns are second only to donuts in the Sarah Coates hierarchy of sugary carbs. They sing a siren song to me, that I find impossible to resist. Anytime there is a cinnamon bun within cooee of me, you’ll find me reaching out a hand and calling over my shoulder for ‘a cup of black coffee, stat!’.  Cinnamon, buttery bread and coffee is a combination of things that I cannot imagine living without. I can’t imagine anyone with a pulse not loving the mix! But I know there are those who can’t stand cinnamon, don’t like coffee, and stay away from bread like it’s the devil.


Here’s the thing though. I love a plain and simple cinnamon bun WAY better than I like a sticky bun. That’s not to say I don’t like a sticky bun. Buttery caramel-soaked coils of dough studded with nuts are just fine by me. But sticky buns are seriously a sometimes treat. The sugar-buzz from one of those guys is enough to keep me up for about four days, and you know me – I can handle sugar. Cinnamon buns on the other hand, are a more puritanical, more austere bake. Coming from Scandinavia they show classic the classic Nordic restraint, and they come from a time when the cinnamon in the mix would have been pretty damn extravagant.


My unashamed love of da buns does mean that I’m constantly getting suckered into buying those $1 IKEA cinnamon buns. And you know what? They’re not the worst. I’ve definitely had worse cinnamon buns, and sometimes from legit bakeries. Shame on those bakeries, for their dry, mealy cinnamon rolls. The thing with the IKEA bad boys is that they wisely serve them slightly warm, which does detract from the odd chewiness and tastelessness of the dough. This recipe, then, is what IKEA cinnamon buns  ought to be.


When I say the dough for these is buttery, I mean it. It’s a rich dough, with eggs and butter, similar to a brioche. But instead of using a solid half-pound of butter, these get their tenderness from the Tang Zhong method – a quickly cooked mixture of flour and water, which gets stirred into the dough – which makes these buns incredibly tender, and it’s so easy. The method has revolutionized my sweet bread baking. The filling is a simple sweet mix, of cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, and two optional extra ingredients; a hint of cardamom (love it or leave it) and a pinch of cocoa, which I love for the colour, and for the elusive, haunting depth of richness that it brings.


Either way, you will find me with these, and a pot of coffee, sitting in the corner of my yard that gets the most sun, for the rest of the winter. Tell me, what is your favourite cold weather bake? And are you an IKEA fan, or do you think it’s the 9th circle of hell? 


xx Sarah.


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit


Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns! // The Sugar Hit

Better than IKEA Cinnamon Buns
Serves: 16 buns
For the tang zhong:
  • 90ml (6tbsp) water
  • 20g (2 tbsp) plain flour
For the dough:
  • 2½ cups (375g) plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp dried yeast
  • ½ cup (125ml) milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ stick (55g) butter, softened (or grated)
For the filling:
  • ½ stick (55g) butter, softened
  • ½ cup (110g) brown sugar
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp cocoa powder (darker the better)
  1. First, make the tang zhong. Place the water and flour into a small saucepan or frying pan and whisk together. Place over a medium heat, and cool just until the mixture thickens to a gel. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. For the dough, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook.
  3. Whisk the milk into the tang zhong, and add that to the dry ingredients, along with the eggs, and then turn on the mixer and work until the dough comes together - it will seem a little dry.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the butter a little at a time, and knead until it's completely incorporated - about 5-10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic, and set aside to rise until doubled in size OR place in the fridge overnight. I reccomend the overnight method, as chilled dough is easier to work with.
  5. Meanwhile, beat together all the ingredients for the filling into a soft paste.
  6. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 9 inches (23cm) wide, and 15 inches (40cm) long. Spread the filling evenly over the dough (it's a thin layer), and then roll the dough up, starting from the short edge, like a swiss roll.
  7. Cut the dough into 16 rolls and place onto a lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set aside to proof for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C. When the buns have proved, bake them for 12-15 minutes, or until light golden brown, and springing back when touched. Cool on the trays for few minutes and then eat! Be careful, they're super hot.


  • Well, we’re ALMOST in a fight because sticky buns >>> cinnamon buns, but how could I stay mad at you? With your cute stick-on tattoos and that amazing yellow chair and our shared love of Ikea cinnamon buns? Love everything about this, lady!

  • Haha, I HATE going to Ikea (So many people, screaming kids, I always get lost…) but I love their products. Nearly all my furniture is Ikea! These cinnamon buns sound yummm, even though I can’t compare them to Ikeas as I’ve never had any.

    • They do have beautiful things! Their homewares section is an unexpected treasure trove of props! But it does totally suck to go there – which kind of explains why I always get suckered into buying a cinnamon bun on the way out…they wear me down, man! xx

  • Agreed. No sticky buns for me either. I don’t like foods that appear to be attacking me/making it harder for me to eat them. No, thank you.

    Gorgeous styling, as always :)

  • Cinnamon buns are my number 1!! Donuts are my #2 (and I feel like such a weirdo saying that)….anyway, I am definitely trying this delicious sweet dough as soon as I can!

  • Oooh these sound so good (and pretty simple to make!). I’m definitely a fan of the Ikea cinnamon bun, and that lingonberry juice! Whatever the heck a lingonberry is…

    • I’ve heard that in Scandinavia they grow wild! So you can just go picking lingonberries…of course, I have no idea what they look like. But I also love the taste. xx

  • I am definitely going to try this method. It sounds easy. My cinnamon buns are never quite right. Thanks for this post.

  • Oh my goodness. I’m SO with you; I adore plain sweet bread and I wish (good) cinnamon buns were easier to find here. I’m going to make these on the weekend and try to push past the fact that I’m terrified of yeasted bread recipes (apart from flatbreads) Maybe you’ll cure me of my phobia…

  • Ah, the cinnamon bun. And the bun hierarchy debate. I think sticky buns (especially those with fruit and some sort of drizzle) are at the top of my own personal pyramid, but in the middle there is a large, Scandinavian designed wonky sided level of cinnamon buns holding the whole thing up. These look amazing Sarah, and any way I can avoid having to go to IKEA is definitely a plus!

  • I’m a sucker for those IKEA cinnamon buns ..though eaten cold you can totally taste the lack of real flavour ( think they use shortening or margarine ? ) but something about them still draws me in . It’s the walk I tell you. And the walk with kids no less ? . Anyhow definitely trying these , just had a question about freezing them cause i think I ll be needing a fresh cinnamon bun everyday today ( just one of those weeks ) can we we cut them up after rolling and freeze ?

    • Hi Ninu! You’re so right, the walk is a damn killer. I can’t even imagine it with kids. Now, I haven’t tried freezing these, but I think it would work just fine. Roll em, cut em, and freeze em straight away (like you said) and then when you want to bake, let them defrost and come to room temperature for a few hours, and once they’re thawed and puffy, bake as usual. xx Sarah

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