Whirly Buns

These babies are perfect for a weekend breakfast or afternoon tea, though you can’t make less than 12 so be prepared to stuff yourself. Sweet, rich, very sticky and hugely versatile have some fun getting creative with the fillings.

You’ll need

250ml milk-at least semi-skimmed but as these are going to break any diet you may as well go full fat

Sachet of dried yeast

550g white bread flour

3 free range eggs beaten enough to mix them up

75g butter-none of your margarine here

100g caster or golden caster if you have it

1tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice-optional

Line a tin around 25X35X3cm such as a brownie tin with baking paper

For the typical cinnamon bun filling

A good two handfuls of light brown soft sugar-less or more is up to you

Ditto raisins or sultanas, or dried figs, dried apricots-you get the idea

A generous shake of ground cinnamon-like enough snow to cover a pavement but still see the slabs.


150g icing sugar

A generous dollop of golden syrup-roughly 2 tbsp but you’ll never measure it because it sticks like shit to a blanket. I dunk a tablespoon in the tin, twirl and lift it out. Hold it over the tin and twizzle until you’ve enough time between drips to move it to the bowl.

1tsp vanilla extract or paste

Cream or milk-maybe 3 tbsp

Here’s how it goes

Chuck the milk and butter in a pan – non-stick is always easier to clean if you forget to stir. Pop the pan on a gentle to medium heat-you don’t want to be there all day but you’re only warming it to finger hot. Stick a (clean) finger in it, if it’s cold keep going, if you yelp you’re a numpty.

When it’s right the butter should be melted.

Meanwhile (which is why you might forget to stir the milk) put 475g of the flour in a big bowl and add a teaspoon or so of mixed spice if you’re going for the cinnamon bun option, add the yeast and sugar to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other-yeast isn’t fond of salt and it will beat her up if you don’t introduce them properly. Add the eggs to the middle-you can make a lovely little dip for them to nestle in if you like.

Add the now forgotten milk and butter and use a blunt knife to mix them all together, then add the remaining flour and give it another mix.

Now you have three choices.

1 Put the sticky mess in a mixer with a knead function and let it do its thing for around 5 minutes.

2 Coax it onto a well floured worktop and knead it lovingly as if it were the delectable buttocks of Thomas Shelby (or similar) for around 7 minutes.

3 Throw it onto a well floured worktop, visualise someone you dislike-a pasty politician works well, and beat the crap out of it for around 6 minutes. Call it voodough.

Either way you are going to be sticky and either way you need the dough to be as elastic and stretchy as a cat on a sunny windowsill.

Pop it in a well oiled bowl somewhere warm and leave it to double like my waistline at Christmas.

Now flour your hands-and the worktop and probably a large area of the kitchen by now and persuade the dough back out. Process, caress or beat it again for a couple of minutes-just long enough to knock the air out of it. 

Then you roll it out with a rolling pin to about the same size as your tin which takes a bit of elbow grease and you might have to pull the corners a little to get there.

When it’s the right sized rectangle (ish) position it so the longest sides are nearest and furthest from you, throw on your brown sugar, dried fruit and cinnamon. Wet the furthest long edge a little with water and roll up away from you like a Swiss roll starting with that nearest long edge, tucking under as you roll to keep it quite tight.

Gently shape the sausage and squidge so it’s roughly the same length as your tin and fairly even in girth (no giggling at the back please!).

Using a sharp knife cut into 12 even slices like that Swiss roll again. Place the slices whirly side up in the tin evenly spaced apart and clover with cling film or beeswax wrap if you’re so inclined and leave to rise to the top of the tin or roughly doubled and all snuggled up to each other. Alternatively-and here’s the best bit-you can do this overnight in the fridge and bring them out to put somewhere warm for half an hour or so in the morning to finish the rise.

Bake at 175C or 165C in a fan oven until they are pale golden brown, or darker if you like a tougher bun, then fish the buns out by lifting them with the paper onto a cooling rack. When they are just cool enough to handle quickly strip off the paper and leave to cool while you make the topping.

Pop the icing sugar in a small bowl, add your twizzled golden syrup and whisk in enough cream if you have it, or milk if you don’t, to create a glaze thick enough to drizzle nicely.

Gently prise apart the warm buns (good lord!) and space out a little on the rack, if you are a tidy type you can put the used greaseproof under the rack to catch the icing, if you’re not get a spoon ready to shovel the excess back onto the buns or into your chops. Drizzle the icing stripily over the buns.

Scoff with a coffee in a sunny seat and lick your fingers.

The variations with whirly buns are endless-One of my favourites is to add lemon zest to the dough, spread alternate stripes of raspberry jam and lemon curd onto the dough before rolling up, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the glaze and sprinkle with freeze dried raspberries. We also like it rolled with thick custard and rhubarb jam inside with extra vanilla in the dough and icing. Another goody would be to briefly roast some chopped pecans in maple syrup for the middle and add more syrup to the icing replacing some of the golden syrup, or pistachios, cardamom and desiccated coconut sprinkled in the middle with a drop of rosewater in the dough and icing sprinkled with dried rose petals. See what I mean?