British Chelsea Buns
Before the Swedish Cinnamon Roll (the one that everyone knows and loves today) there was the British Chelsea Bun. A wonderfully sticky, buttery and shiny square-round bun/roll, similar to the cinnamon roll, but these have dried fruit inside and just the right amount of warming spices. Just like mum (or granny) used to make.
Although the British version came before the Swedish version, it was the Swedish version that won the contest and is more popular across the U.S.
You’re probably thinking these look just like American cinnamon rolls. You’re absolutely right, but these Traditional Chelsea Buns have dried fruit inside, in this case currants. There is also a mix of spices and have a shiny glaze where the cinnamon buns have a white, sugary glaze and have no dried fruit.
Think of these as a cross between Traditional Hot Cross Buns and Cinnamon Rolls that you can eat as a snack or a sweet and tasty breakfast. They feature soft, yeast dough inside with lightly browned edges, which are nice and crispy.
Just to confuse things, Belgium decided to get in the act too by making their own version of Belgian buns that are filled with lemon curd, coated in a thick white glaze and topped with a cherry. These are decadently sweet.
Chelsea Buns History
The Chelsea Bun actually came first before anything. They were created around 1700, in the 18th century, at the Chelsea Bun House in London, which was a favorite of the royal family at the time. I sure wish it was still open, but it closed its doors in 1839!
Best pan for Chelsea Buns
I use two 9 x 9-inch (23 x 23 cm) baking pans, this way they expand and bake very close together and help achieve their signature, sightly square shape. You can use a bigger pan, they will just be a little more round.
Chelsea Buns filling
The classic recipe called for just butter, dried fruit and brown sugar. You can elevate this by adding candied orange peel, orange zest or lemon. The dried fruits can be currants, raisins, sultanas. Almost any dried fruit, really.
Freezing Chelsea Buns
Yes, you can make them ahead and freeze them after baking. Wrap each one individually and reheat in the oven when ready to enjoy. To reheat from frozen, defrost, then wrap if foil and reheat at 300°F/150°C for 10 minutes or so until warmed through.
Big Batch Chelsea Buns
This is a big batch of Chelsea Buns, this recipe yields 18. If you don’t want to bake 18 at once, you can bake 9 and freeze the rest of the buns. In my house, all 18 always go very quickly!
For the Perfect Chelsea Buns
They should be a little crispy on the outside and oh so soft on the inside. They should not be overly spiced and here are a few tips:
- Spread softened (not melted) butter on the inside which helps the currants stick
- Roll a nice, tight roll to keep the currants inside when they bake and expand, you want the roll to stay together.
- Cut the rolls all the same thickness for uniformity
To me, my favorite part of the buns are the ones on the outside edges because their sides rest against the baking pan and they get so crispy.