Boston Cake – A surfeit of Cinnamon Buns

Can you have a surfeit of cinnamon buns? Probably not.

A few weeks ago I went into Town to do a spot of shopping, and wandered back through Soho on my way to the station. It was nice for several reasons. One – with a toddler usually in tow I’d forgotten the joy of wandering back to the station down the back streets, and that a “wander” can easily take 45 minutes. Two – I found the Nordic Bakery.

I was desperate for a coffee, so popped in, because it looked so calm and inviting, and popped out again with not only a coffee but a copy of their cookbook. I did mention that my obsession with all things Nord has been in full swing for a while… And this is how I came to be making Boston Cake yesterday, when arguably I ought to have been taking advantage of the dry day and painting the doorstep.

A Boston cake is simply 8 or 9 cinnamon buns cooked in a cake tin. When you take them out of the tin you can then pull them apart for handy servings. Everyone gets their own bun, but it looks like a cake. Wouldn’t that be brilliant for a picnic?

The recipe in this book uses half a quantity of dough from another recipe, so ought to have half an egg in it (a common complaint from reviewers on Amazon). I ended up using the whole egg, and though I don’t think it suffered too much, it did look more like a batter at the start of the proving process. I ploughed on regardless – by this point there’s not much you can do, is there?

I’ve found another recipe online from The Scandilicious Baking Book, which might work better for home bakers, which I reproduce here, in case the archive at Woman’s Hour decides to move:
Boston Cake
Cinnamon Buns baked in a tin to resemble a cake. What more could you ask?
  • 225ml whole milk
  • 75g butter
  • 300g refined spelt (or plain) flour
  • 125g wholemeal spelt (or wheat) flour
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 20g fresh yeast or 10g fast action dried yeast
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla salt
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • demerara or natural sugar crystals
  1. Scald the milk by heating it in a small pan with the butter until it is almost boiling and then allow it to cool while you assemble the other ingredients. Scalding the milk makes the finished buns softer
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together in to a large bowl, sprinkle the dried yeast in and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and once it is liquid (after about 30 seconds), add to the dry ingredients
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, add the beaten egg and then the milk-butter mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, as otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl and looks – for want of a better word – doughy (it’ll be a soft and slightly wet dough). Place the dough in a lightly oiled plastic bag or cover the bowl with lightly oiled clingfilm, and leave it to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes
  4. Make the filling by creaming the butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Butter a 23cm diameter round cake tin with sides at least 5cm high
  5. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it forms a rectangle of about 35cm x 25cm. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, starting from the middle and working outwards. If the buttery mix is a little cold, you can use your hands to spread it, as the heat helps to smooth the butter out (and it’s immensely satisfying getting your hands all sticky). Then roll the dough in to a wide cylinder, rolling from one of the longer edges of the rectangle, so it looks like an uncooked swiss roll
  6. Using a sharp non-serrated knife, cut the cylinder in to seven slices, with one slice slightly smaller than the rest. Place the smallest slice in the middle of the cake tin and then evenly space the remaining six around the middle one. Cover the buns and leave to rise again in a warm place for 20-30 minutes until they have doubled in size. You can test to see if they’ve proved enough by gently poking one bun with your little finger – the indentation should stay put
  7. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Glaze the risen buns with beaten egg and sprinkle demerara or natural sugar crystals over the top. Splash a little water in the bottom of the oven to create steam to help the bun-cake to rise. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base and looks golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool on a wire rack. This will last for a couple of days and freezes well. Serves 7
This recipe calls for spelt but this is a preference rather than a requirement. I used plain flour and it was delicious. You can also leave out the vanilla salt without mishap.

Signe Johansen also has a website, and a previous Scandi cookbook, and I’m now jonesing for both. I must have been living under a rock when her first book came out or it would have been on my Christmas list.

But back to the Boston Cake. The proof is in the eating, isn’t it, so how did they taste?

Bloody brilliant.


  1. says

    Oh I do love a sugary cinnamon bun – that looks delicious. Perfect picnic fare indeed! How are you, anyway? It’s been ages! Hope all’s good with you and your boys. x

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