Finnish Cardamom Sweet Bread

This recipe was passed down from my Finnish immigrant ancestors who arrived at Ellis Island and made their way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Finns became the majority among the “Yoopers!” I grew up making this with my mom and grandma, and still cannot go a holiday without making it.

Mary McInnis   |  UX Researcher

Mary McInnis

UX Researcher


6–7 cups all-purpose flour (720-840g)
2 (0.25 oz packages) yeast (14g)
2 cups water, warmed to 100°F (75°C)
2 teaspoons cardamom seed, ground
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1/3 cup sugar (70g) + 2 teaspoons sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (115g)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil



  1. Whisk together 1 egg and milk into small bowl. Set aside. Also set aside 2 tsp sugar in separate bowl. These will be for basting and sugaring the loaves before baking.
  2. Sift flour into medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over 2 cups warm water. Let stand 5 minutes or until yeast is mostly saturated and bubbly.
  4. Whisk the other egg in a small bowl, then stir into the yeast mixture with wooden spoon. Add cardamom, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and butter. Stir. Add 3 cups of the sifted flour. Stir until smooth (when dough sheets off spoon).
  5. Stir in more sifted flour a little at a time (approximately 3 cups more) until it comes away from sides of bowl and makes a soft dough.
  6. Sprinkle counter with flour. Place dough on counter and knead. Add extra flour until dough doesn’t feel sticky. Continue kneading until dough starts to blister, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  7. Wash and oil the large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and flip dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and place a towel on top. Let rise about 1 hour, in a warm place free of draft, raised off floor. (Placing near a heating vent works well.) Dough should come close to doubling in size.
  8. Punch down dough, and knead until bubbles are mostly gone. Form dough into 6 balls. Form each ball into a 15” rope by rubbing between hands. Braid into 2 loaves: pinch 3 rope ends together, braid, and tuck braid ends under. Repeat.
  9. Oil 2 bread pans or 1 baking sheet, depending on the shape of loaves you want. Place dough braids into bread pans or lay on baking sheet. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and towels over the wrap, and let rise about 30 minutes more – again in a warm place.
  10. Preheat oven to 350⁰ (start while bread is rising).
  11. Brush each loaf with egg and milk mixture, and sprinkle each with 1 tsp sugar.
  12. Bake 20 – 35 minutes. Loaves will be lightly brown on top when done.
  13. Let cool 5 minutes, then flip out of bread pans (loosen edges with butter knife if needed) onto cooling rack, or remove from baking sheet to cooling rack.
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