Bulla Sweet Bread

This is my most requested food item. I wrote this recipe a long time ago, but never got to take a photo of any ready made bullas. They disappear too fast! Needless to say my family loves bulla!

Bulla is a traditional Finnish sweet bread. The dough can be baked to become a myriad of different baked goods. It is the same for Finns as donuts are for Americans. 

In Maine, Finnish heritage clubs even organize Bulla competitions! I wonder if they do that in Minnesota too?

“Bulla” (pronounced boo-luh) is the Finland-Swedish word for it. It’s called “Pulla” in Finnish, or the old word “Nisu” that is still used by many Finnish-Americans. In Sweden this bread is called a “bulle” or “vetelängd”.

The origin for the word is from the Latin word “bulla” that means bubble.


Bulla (Finnish Sweet Bread)

The recipe uses metric measures. A glass measuring cup often also has the metric measures, but of some reason they are marked with ml (milliliter). Scandinavian recipes use the unit dl (deciliter). Just remember this: 1 l (liter) = 10 dl and 1 dl = 100 ml. 

Bulla recipes vary a little bit. This is the one I use, and it’s so common it’s printed on flour bags in Finland.

5 dl milk (500 ml or 2 cups + 2 tbsp)

50 g fresh yeast or 2 packages of dry yeast

1 egg

2 dl sugar (200 ml or 1 cup minus 1 tbsp)

2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cardamom

About 15 dl (1500 ml or 6 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour

200 g butter/margarine (7 oz or 2 sticks minus 2 tbsp), soft or melted

Warm milk to lukewarm or warmer depending on the yeast you use. Pour the milk in a big bowl and dissolve the yeast in it. Add egg, sugar, salt, cardamom. Mix thoroughly. Add flour a little at a time and work into a loose dough. Add melted butter and some more flour.


Work into a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands anymore. Cover with a towel and let rise to double size in a warm, draft free place.

Pour dough onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough for a while, adding more flour as needed, so as not to stick onto your hands or table.

Shape the bullas. Add flavors or fillings. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Let rise another 30 minutes.

Make an egg wash from one egg and about 1 tbsp sugar whisked together. Baste the risen bullas and bake at 225 C (450 F) 8-10 min.

Big breads are baked in 200 C (400 F) about 20 min. Do not mix small and big breads on the same baking pan. Also, if your oven only heats from the bottom, use an air-bake cookie sheet to prevent the bullas from getting too dark underneath.

Here’s a good video I found on YouTube. Their recipe is a bit different, but the method is pretty much the same as I use. The girl in the video mentions Swedish sugar crystals. That’s the same as pearl sugar. Mine is made in Denmark.

Round Bullas

Divide dough into four pieces. Roll out each piece into a log, then cut each log into eight pieces. Total of 32 pieces. Roll into balls between your hands. Place on baking pan. Let rise 30 min. Baste. (Sprinkle with pearl sugar and/or almond slices.) Bake.

Star Bullas

Make Round Bullas. Let rise. Baste. Add on top an unbaked sugar cookie star. Bake.

Butter Eye

Make Round Bullas. Baste. Cut cold butter into small pieces, about one teaspoon, and push the piece into the middle of the bulla. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar on top of the butter. Bake.

Fancy Butter Eye

Make Round Bullas. Let rise. Baste. Mix about 75 g (5 tbsp) butter, 1/2 dl (about 1/4 cup) sugar, and the same amount of flour. Make a hole in the bulla with your finger, and fill with the mix. Add some chopped almonds on top.

Or, add vanilla too!


Cinnamon Knots

Roll out half of the dough into a rectangle. Spread soft butter on half of the dough. Add a good cover of cinnamon and sugar. Lift the uncovered part over the filling, and tap lightly together. Cut into strips, about 2cm or 1″ wide. Take one strip with both hands and twist, then tie it into a “knot”, and place on baking sheet.

Let rise. Baste. Sprinkle with pearl sugar, or bake and dust the cooled bullas with confectioner’s sugar, or sprinkle with icing. Or enjoy plain.


Cinnamon Rolls

Make as the knots, but cover the entire surface of the dough with the filling. Then roll it up like a jelly roll. Cut into 2 cm (1″) thick slices and place, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Rise. Baste. Bake. Add icing, if you will.


Bulla Cake

In Finland this is called a Bostonkakku (Boston cake).


Make cinnamon rolls, but cut the slices thicker. Place them, cut side down, in a (round) buttered baking pan. Let rise. Baste. Bake as a big bulla.


Vanilla Rolls

As Cinnamon Rolls, just substitute the cinnamon with vanilla sugar.

Bulla Braids

Use half of the dough. Divide it in three or four pieces. Roll out each piece to a skinny rope. Braid it.

Let rise. Baste. Optional: sprinkle with thin almond slices and/or pearl sugar. Or decorate with icing after it is baked and has cooled down. Bake for about 20 min in 200 C (400 F)



Bulla Coffee Cakes

A coffee cake is a bulla loaf with good filling that is cut, woven, or braided. Or, it’s just a plain Bulla Braid. It can be straight or round, or any shape you want!

Here’s one way of forming the bulla.

Here’s another.

Filling ideas:

– Butter, cinnamon, sugar

– Butter, cardamom or vanilla, sugar.

– Butter, sugar, chopped nuts, maybe chopped dried fruit/raisins

– Applesauce and cinnamon, and/or raisins.

– Apple. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a pan, add slices from two apples, 2 tbsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Sauté while stirring, about 3 min. Let cool. You can also add shredded marzipan/almondpaste to the cool sauté.

– Mix about 100 g (1 stick) soft butter, 1 dl sugar, 1 dl almond flour, and 2 tsp ground cardamom.

– Jam.

You can add vanilla pudding on top of the braid. As in a Danish.

Homemade Vanilla Pudding:

2 egg yolks

3 dl milk

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp potato starch or corn starch

1 vanilla bean (or just vanilla extract)

Halve the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds into a pot. Add remaining ingredients. Mix with a whisk. Place on burner and bring to a simmer while whisking, until it thickens. Take off burner and let cool. If you use extract, then add it to the cool pudding.

Make a groove in the risen bulla by gently pressing it down. Fill with the pudding.

Here’s how to use a vanilla bean.

Here’s more images/ideas for bulla coffee breads.


Mix 2 dl confectioner’s sugar and 2 tsp water (or orange/lemon juice).

Lent Bulla (Fastlagsbulla/Gräddsemla)

This is a bulla traditionally eaten on, or around, Lent Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. But it’s so good you want to have it any time!

Divide dough into 24 bullas. Roll into balls. Let rise, then baste. Sprinkle almond flakes on top if you want. Bake.

 Whip 1 cup cream and 1 tbsp sugar. Cut the tops off the bullas. Spread some jam on each, or a spoonful of softened almond paste (soften with a fork, add a little bit of milk). Cover with a good helping of whipped cream  and then the bulla top. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy. Very nice with a cup of hot cocoa.


Tip: The next day, slightly warm the bullas in the microwave or oven to make them newly baked again!


~ Marina