Ear Slap - Finland's national bun


There are lots of versions of the cinnamon bun in different countries. There is a heavy Nordic tradition, Danes have their cinnamon rolls and Swedes have their own version which obviously like their ice-hockey team is nowhere near as good as the Finnish one (although we do lose most encounters, but only because they either cheat or get lucky and the referee is always shit). 

Finnish cinnamon bun - Korvapuusti

The Swedes boringly call theirs cinnamon bun. Our Korvapuusti translates much more interestingly to “Ear slap” or “Slap on the ear”. No one seems to know exactly why this warm-hearted (butter, sugar and cinnamon!) little whirl of loveliness would have such a violent name. I’d like to think it’s homage to our country’s colourful history as the oft-trodden battlefield between our neighbours Sweden and Russia in times when ear slaps were still considered a formidable close-combat weapon. But disappointingly it is much more likely the name is based on the look of the bun with the sides like ears.

Finnish cinnamon bun - Korvapuusti dough rising

I doubt there is a Finn who doesn’t share an emotional bond with the Korvapuusti. It is part of our childhood, fresh from the oven, still warm, mum serving it with a glass of cold milk, making you feel so much better coming home from school upset that you were again the last to be picked for the pesapallo (almost like baseball but much better) team, your sad unathletic little feet not quite reaching the floor under the kitchen table. The scent of freshly baked Korvapuusti still takes me straight back to my childhood when I was standing on a chair next to mum by the kitchen counter in my thin blond pig tails “helping” her. I can still see the orange Marimekko poppy blinds we had in the kitchen.

I also remember always loving the raw dough. When the dough was rising and mum was out of the kitchen, I’d sneak a little taste from the bowl and then try to smooth the surface. I always felt the dough was with me in my little conspiracy and with the rising helped to hide my tracks. 

Finnish cinnamon bun - Korvapuusti dough rising

I actually once almost choked on the dough, which would have been quite sad. A nice old couple were babysitting us. I’m not sure where mum and dad were, I hope it was something important. You wouldn’t like to imagine parents leaving their offspring in mortal danger for something trivial. I think actually mum might have been in the hospital giving birth to my brother and sister. At least if I had died she would have had two new ones to replace me.

The old lady who was looking after us was making Korvapuusti. Like any raw cake or biscuit mix the dough is quite addictive, but unlike cake mix it is slimy and sticky and stretchy. So not a good thing to shove down your throat by the fistful if you’re 5 years old.

So, as we say in Finland with our natural unwavering pessimism: A greedy person will have a shitty end. Although like so many other Finnish sayings this is without much grounding in reality. It mainly highlights the adorable Finnish belief in honesty and life’s fairness.  I’m not sure if the Finns have yet realised that the meek in fact shan’t inherit the earth, but will most likely die in poverty while the greedy do all the inheriting, sunning themselves in their golden hammocks with cigars in both hands.

And as a living specimen to prove the saying wrong, I didn’t have a shitty end (at least I haven’t yet). I was saved by the old lady’s husband who calmly got up from his chair from where he had been watching a black and white television, and with one efficient move removed the lump of dough plastering shut my upper airway and sat back without further ado. No doubt to watch the ice-hockey, cross-country skiing or ski-jump from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I for my part have happily continued with my dough eating habit ever since, just with slightly adjusted doses.

Finnish cinnamon bun - Korvapuusti dough rolled out and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar

Korvapuusti-dough (this is actually half a batch, and will make about 15 buns)

1 cup of milk
25 g fresh yeast (or 7-10g dry east)
1 egg
1/3 cups of sugar
Pinch of salt
½ - 1 tbsp ground cardamom
3 cups of all-purpose flour

Room temperature butter


I hope I made the conversions correctly – this is my mother’s recipe, I’m sure it’s pretty much the same in all the sources. Some recipes include butter, but I don’t think it’s necessary as you slab butter on it before rolling.

Mum would always make a double batch. These freeze well, so just freeze them when they have cooled down. And when you want them, just let them defrost on their own and they are as good as new. Or you can apply a little heat in the oven or microwave and they will be just as freshly baked.

Mum’s instructions were a bit vague: Leave the dough to rise, shape into buns, leave the buns to rice, 200 C.

Having made these with her so many times as a kid, I was OK with the instructions because I knew the process. But here’s a bit more detail:

Heat the milk until luke warm, mix the yeast to the milk. If using dry yeast add now a pinch of the sugar and leave until it starts to bubble so you know the yeast is live. With fresh yeast just mix it to the water until it has melted completely. Then add the rest of the ingredients, flour last in a few batches to make it easier to mix. You might not need all the flour, so just keep mixing until it feels right.

Knead for a few minutes until it forms a smooth dough and it’s no longer super sticky, you can leave it slightly moist and sticky. Place a tea towel over the bowl and leave to rise for 45 min to an hour or until it has doubled in size.

Spread flour onto a clean surface, tip the dough onto the flour, and knead the air out of it adding some flour until the dough is a consistency that can be rolled. Roll it to a thin square – abt. third of an inch thick.

Spread butter on top, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and roll. Cut to triangular pieces and then press down the short end of the triangle to form the Korvapuusti shape. Here is a good video to show you what I’m talking about.

Brush with eggwash, sprinkle coarse pearl sugar on top (optional, seems to be hard to find here) and bake in a 200C oven until they have a nice light brown colour - about 15 min.

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