The Finns know their way around baked goods, and memories of  Voisilmäpulla (Finnish butter-eye buns) have haunted me ever since I got back from Helsinki in 2016. Since, like everyone,  I can’t travel in person, I’ve decided to travel in my kitchen. 

Spiced with cardamom and sprinkled with Nordic pearled sugar, Voisilmäpulla would make a perfect Sunday brunch treat. Just make sure you take a walk afterwards! Link to a recipe, and a video (my first with a real camera and tripod) showing you how it’s done.

Baked good are good in Helsinki

When I reminisce of my time of Helsinki, rarely do I fail to recall their shockingly good baked treats. Why I was so surprised, I don’t know. My grandmother was Finnish, and my mom bakes a variation of Nisu for Christmas (she calls her braided bread a “bread bomb,” because it rises so high). That Christmas bread makes the holiday. Perhaps because she doesn’t call it Nisu, I never thought of it as being Finnish.

Cinnamon bun at Cafe Regatta in Helsinki, Finland

No ordinary cinnamon bun

I’ll be honest, my first impression of Finnish baked goods was less than great. I looked down at my cinnamon bun at Café Regatta and thought, “There was a line of Finnish people out the door for this?” It looked like something you’d have in a church basement, bought day-old by some well-meaning parishioner. Maybe people liked the kitschy location?

No, they were there for the cinnamon buns. That little bun tasted like the pearly gates had opened and angels had flown out to present me with their favorite treat. What looked like a stale bit of sadness instead had a perfectly crisp crust, yielding to an impossibly soft interior. I gasped, audibly, in the café, which embarrassed me. I made sure to not actually say anything, mind you. I was in Finland. Oh my goodness, was that thing delicious.

Voisilmäpulla at Café Succes, Helsinki, Finland

My first Voisilmäpulla at Café Sucess

However amazing that cinnamon bun had tasted, I assumed that other baked goods in Helsinki were not nearly that delectable. I was wrong. A day or two after my first divine experience, I wandered around the corner from where I was staying to Café Succes, and ordered a Voisilmäpulla (pulla means bread in Finnish). Again, I got something that looked a little disappointing. A big bun, with a bit of pearled sugar on top of it.

Oh well. I was hungry. I took a bite. And that’s when I realized that the Finns knew their baked goods. Given Café Succes’s proximity, I went back there frequently during my stay. I also sampled treats at various other locales.

Café Succes, Helsinki Finland
Café Succes on a sunny day. Helsinki, Finland
Café Succes, Helsinki, Finland
Café Succes. Helsinki, Finland

Haunted by Voisilmäpulla

Voisilmäpulla, spiced with cardamom, which Nordic peoples love, and softened with butter added just before baking, has haunted me. I have never had anything like it here in the States. Every now and again, I’d look at a recipe for them and then demure. I didn’t have the pearled sugar. It wouldn’t taste as good. Good lord, that’s a lot of butter. And then I’d forget.

But recently I’ve found myself remembering. Since I can’t actually go anywhere, I thought that I’d try and recreate some of my favorite culinary experiences from my travels. Voisilmäpulla was near the top of the list. So I ordered some pearled sugar, and, on Saturday, I got to baking.

Voisilmäpulla (Finnish Butter-Eye Buns)

Ingredients for Voisilmäpulla (Finnish Butter-Eye Buns)
Ingredients for Voisilmäpulla (Finnish Butter-Eye Buns). Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Voisilmäpulla (Finnish butter-eye buns) success!

They are as good as I remembered. Impossibly soft and spiced. This isn’t my recipe, so I will not write it out. I did, however, make a little video. I used my real camera and a tripod, something I’ve never done before, so please forgive my amateur auteur production (I really need to learn how to edit, but I learned enough skills for one day).

I used this recipe from Tara’s Multicultural Table, but note that I had to add quite a bit of additional flour to make the dough come together. I also looked at this one from a Finnish food blog, and I will make the cardamom butter next time, because I think a little extra spice would be wonderful.

Voisilmäpulla (Finnish butter-eye buns)
Voisilmäpulla success! Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
Voisilmäpulla (Finnish butter-eye buns)
Oh yummy. Kiitos, Helsinki! Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Given how rich these are, I only made a half recipe and then froze half the dough. These are best eaten warm (you can gently reheat them in a low oven) and with a good cup of coffee. Fun fact: Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other nation on Earth. I think it’s because they have such delicious baked goods.

Kiitos (thank you), Helsinki! Until we meet again, I’ll see you in my kitchen.