Made with a soft dough that is swirled with juicy cinnamon sultanas, these homemade Chelsea buns are then brushed with a sticky glaze and drizzled with icing. Enjoy this classic British recipe warm from the oven for a delicious morning or afternoon tea.
What are Chelsea Buns?
Chelsea buns, created in the 18th Century in a bun house in Chelsea, London, are a currant bun that could be described as the British version of a cinnamon bun. A soft yeast dough enriched with milk and egg is rolled out and topped with a filling of dried fruit, brown sugar and butter before being rolled up, cut into slices and baked until golden. The fruit bun is then brushed with a sugar glaze whilst warm. Some versions are topped with a simple icing made with icing sugar / confectioners sugar and water (this recipe is for an iced Chelsea bun), other versions just have the glaze and no icing.
Why we love this recipe
- This recipe uses basic cupboard ingredients. Buns and scrolls are always popular with young and old, and although they can take a bit of time to make, look impressive, and they are so delicious!
- The soft and fluffy dough can be made in a bread maker, stand mixer, or by hand.
- As Chelsea buns are at their most delicious eaten warm from the oven, they are very suited to making at home, and homemade sticky buns are much cheaper than store bought.
- Sticky fruit buns can be enjoyed for morning tea or afternoon tea, and any leftover buns are delicious lightly toasted for breakfast.
- Sprinkling the sultanas on top of the butter and cinnamon flavoured sugar ensures that they are juicy and plump, and packed with cinnamon flavour.
- This basic recipe can be adapted to make an Easter version like these Easter scrolls or for an Australian classic, these Coffee scrolls.
Ingredients Notes and Substitutions
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for ingredient quantities.
- Milk – is added to the dough to make it soft and rich.
- Butter – butter is used in two places in this recipe: to enrich the bread dough, and to brush on to the rolled out dough before sprinkling with dried fruit and sugar.
- Plain flour – or all purpose flour. If you have bread dough, then use this for a light bread dough, but I honestly make this recipe with plain flour a lot of the time, and they still turn out soft and fluffy.
- Mixed spice – this British spice mix includes ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. If you can’t find it you can use pumpkin pie spice, or mix ⅔ teaspoon ground cinnamon with ¼ teaspoon nutmeg.
- Dried yeast – fast-action yeast. Most sachets of dried yeast are 7g, but it’s worth checking.
- Granulated sugar – white sugar. Used in the bun dough and sugar glaze.
- Egg – like the milk, an egg is added to the dough for texture and richness.
- Sultanas – Chelsea buns are traditionally made with currants, however not only are they expensive, my family prefer cheaper sultanas. You can also use raisins.
- Ground cinnamon – for the cinnamon swirl. You can use a little more mixed spice or mix cinnamon with ground ginger and a pinch of nutmeg or cardamom if you wanted something a little different or didn’t have enough cinnamon.
- Soft brown sugar – for the filling. You can use white sugar / granulated sugar if you don’t have brown sugar.
- Icing sugar – confectioners sugar.
How to make Chelsea buns
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full recipe.
- Make the dough:
- Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat gently over a low heat until the butter has just melted. TIP: You don’t want the milk to be too hot otherwise it will kill off the yeast.
- In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, yeast, white sugar, mixed spice and salt together before adding the tepid milk. Knead for 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size.
- Making the bun dough in a bread maker: add the dry ingredients, tepid milk and egg to the bread pan then set to the dough setting (or knead and rise setting). Once the bread maker has finished, roll out and continue the recipe as per instructions.
- Making the dough in a kitchen aid / stand mixer: add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the Kitchen aid with the milk and egg. Using the dough attachment knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size. Roll out and make the buns as per the recipe.
- Tip the dough out onto a board lightly dusted with flour. Roll out with a floured rolling pin to a rectangle 20cm x 30cm (7.5″ x 12″) in size.
- Spread the softened butter all over the dough, then sprinkle over the sultanas in an even layer. Mix the brown sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle this over the sultanas.
- Press down the long edge nearest to you on to the board then taking the other long edge, roll towards you.
- Cut into 9 even sized slices, approx. 4-5 cm (1.75″) thick.
- Place the rolls cut side up into a lined square baking tin, leaving a small gap between them all.
- Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until the buns are touching (see image below). Place in a preheated oven and bake until golden brown, covering with foil if the fruit begins to catch. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes while you make the glaze.
Glazing and Icing Chelsea Buns:
- To make the Chelsea Bun glaze:
- Heat the granulated sugar and water together in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Brush the warm glaze over the warm buns. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
- Optional step. To make the icing: Sift the icing sugar / confectioners sugar into a small bowl, mix in the water a little at a time until thick but you are able to drizzle it. Using a fork or a spoon, drizzle the icing over the buns. Leave to set for a few minutes before eating.
Yes, you can. Wrap either as a batch or individually in a double layer of clingfilm. Defrost before heating through in a hot oven.
Chelsea buns contain dried fruit, most commonly currants, raisins or sultanas. Cinnamon rolls don’t contain any dried fruit. Chelsea buns are also made with mixed spice as well as cinnamon, whereas cinnamon buns are made with just cinnamon.
Thus buns may be overcooked. Also, placing the raw buns in the tin so that they almost touch each other can help keep them soft, as well as helping them to rise.
Yes you can. Add all the bread dough ingredients to the pan of the bread maker and set the bread maker to the ‘dough’ setting. Once the bread maker has finished, roll out the dough, sprinkle over the dried fruit, cinnamon and sugar, cut and leave to rise then bake in the oven.
My recipe tips
- If the milk is too hot when you add the yeast to it, it can kill off the yeast and prevent the dough from rising. If the milk starts to boil take it off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
- Butter – room temperature butter will mix in to the dough easier, and also be easier to spread on the dough.
- Spread the butter, sugar and fruit right to the short edges of the dough. This ensures all the buns are packed with delicious soft fruit and cinnamon sugar.
- Roll the dough up tightly to ensure the filling doesn’t leak out.
- If the fruit starts to catch on the buns when cooking, place a place of foil over the tin.
Room Temperature: Chelsea buns are best eaten the day they are made. However they will keep 2-3 days if stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If the cold buns seem a little hard, you can warm them in a cool oven (140˚C fan / 284˚F convection) for 5-10 minutes and serve them straight away. You can also toast them lightly under the grill.
Freezer: You can freeze Chelsea Buns too! Cool completely and then place the buns on a baking sheet / tray lined with baking paper / parchment, making sure they don’t touch. Place in the freezer for a few hours then once hard, place them all in a sealable bag or container. Freeze for 2-3 months.
- Fruit: You can use currants or raisins, or a mixture of both, in place of the sultanas. Or if you want to make a Chelsea bun without raisins, swap in dried apricots or cranberries.
- Other flavourings – you can flavour the dough with a little lemon zest. Or add a little orange zest in with the brown sugar and butter before rolling the dough up.
Why not try…
- 200 ml milk ($0.31 / £0.12)
- 50 g butter ($0.65 / £0.35)
- 450 g plain flour ($0.54 / £0.23)
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice ($0.14 / £0.05)
- pinch salt ($0.01 / £0.01)
- 7 g dried yeast ($0.11 / £0.09)
- 35 g granulated sugar ($0.04 / £0.03)
- 1 egg, beaten ($0.35 / £0.18)
- 25 g butter, softened ($0.33 / £0.18)
- 150 g sultanas ($0.75 / £0.30)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon ($0.22 / £0.08)
- 30 g soft brown sugar ($0.11 / £0.05)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar ($0.02 / £0.01)
- 1 tablespoon water ($0 / £0)
- 50 g icing sugar ($0.18 / £0.09)
- 4-5 teaspoon water ($0 / £0)
- Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until the butter just melted (you don’t want the milk to be too hot – if you let it boil, leave to cool for a few minutes before adding to the dry ingredients).
- In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, yeast, white sugar, mixed spice and salt together. Stir in the beaten egg and then the tepid-warm milk.
- Bring together to make a soft dough then knead for 5-7 until smooth and elastic (or see notes below for using a bread maker or stand mixer)
- Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 – 1 ½ hours, until doubled in size.
- Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured board and roll into a rectangle 20cm x 30cm / 8" x 12" in size.
- Spread over the softened butter, then sprinkle the sultanas evenly over the surface. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together and then sprinkle this mixture all over the dough in an even layer.
- Press down the long side closest to you to the board. Take the opposite long edge roll tightly towards you.
- Cut the roll into 9 even pieces, around 4-5cm / 1½" – 2" thick.
- Line the bottom only of a 20 x 20 cm / 8" x 8" square tin with baking paper and place the swirls, cut side facing up, into it, leaving an even gap in between them all.
- Lay a tea towel over the top and leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until the buns have grown in size and are now touching.
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan / 200˚C / 360 ˚F convection / 392˚F.
- Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes and if starting to brown and the sultanas starting to catch, cover with foil.
- Leave to cool in the tray for 5 minutes.
Make the Glaze
- Whilst the buns are cooling, make the glaze: In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water over a medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
- Brush the glaze over the top of the warm buns.
- Leave for 5 minutes and then turn the buns out to a wire rack.
- Either leave as is or make the icing.
Make the Icing
- Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, mix in the water until it's thick but drips off the spoon easily.
- Using a fork or spoon, drizzle the icing over the buns. Leave to set for a few minutes before eating.
- Store for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze.