Cottage Country Chelsea Buns

Cottage Country Style Chelsea Buns

There are two kinds of chelsea buns. There’s the traditional British style, which are sweet rolls with a sticky glaze and studded with currants. I’m sure they’re very good, but these aren’t those kind of chelsea buns.

A Muskoka style chelsea bun recipe, made in the style found in cottage country bakeries.

These are the kind of chelsea buns that you’ll find in small bakeries and Farmer’s Markets all over cottage country in the central Ontario regions of Muskoka, Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes (and probably beyond, but I can only speak with confidence about this area).

For some reason, they’re almost always made loaf shaped. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it may be for practical reasons as bakeries have a lot of loaf pans and loaf-sized plastic bags. You could make them round. Don’s Bakery in Bala does it that way. The only thing you really need is a pan with high sides. Your regular square or round cake pan just isn’t high enough to handle these. Cottage country style chelsea buns need to be high.

chelsea buns

This recipe comes from a friend of my Mom. It’s makes one 9×5-inch loaf pan of 8 buns. The filling of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter is rolled inside the sweet dough, together with the raisins. On top is the same filling, mixed with a bit of water to make a sauce, and is sprinkled with maraschino cherries and pecans.

The best part of chelsea buns for me, is to eat them by unrolling them!


Cottage Country Chelsea Buns

Cottage Country Style Chelsea Buns
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
These are the chelsea buns that are a staple in cottage areas of central Ontario. You can use as much or as little cherry/pecan topping as you like. Like all breads, these freeze well.
Author:
Recipe type: Sweet Yeast Breads
Serves: 8 buns

Yummly
Ingredients
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp. quick rise yeast (*see note below about using instant or active dry yeast)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • Few pecan halves (6-8)
  • Maraschino cherries halves (about 6 whole cherries, halved)
Instructions
  1. Combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour, the white sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. In a small saucepan, heat the water, milk and 2 Tbsp. of the butter until too hot to touch. Stir into dry ingredients, then add egg. Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make it soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and remaining butter. (I just cut the butter into the sugar with a pastry blender. You could also mix it together in a food processor). Place 1/3 cup of brown sugar mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan. Add 2 Tbsp. water and stir together to make a sauce (may be a bit lumpy, but not to worry. The lumps are butter and that will melt). Place the halved cherries and pecans (good side down) on top of the sauce.
  3. Roll the dough into a 9 x 14-inch rectangle. Spread the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly on the dough, then sprinkle raisins on top. From the long side, roll up jelly roll style, trying not to pull or stretch the dough too much as you roll (aim for a gentle push This prevents the dough spirals from exploding upwards when they cook). Pinch the seam together and place on a cutting board, seam side down. Cut into 8 even slices (*I like to cut 1/2-inch off each end and then measure the remaining, divide by 8 and then pre-mark the dough lightly with the edge of the knife. You could wing it, but that never works out well for me well when I do that). Place the slices cut side up in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes (for quick rise yeast) or 60-70 minutes (for instant or active dry yeast) or until the dough has doubled.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes. Check at the 30 minute mark and cover loosely with foil if it is getting too brown on top. Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack with a piece of parchment on top, to cool. To avoid a gummy dough, allow to cool almost completely before pulling off that first piece (I know it's hard to resist, but remember you can always warm it back up a bit with a few seconds in the microwave later).
  6. Number of servings (yield): 8 rolls/1 9x5-inch pan
  7. Note about yeast: I actually made these buns with instant yeast, so I know it works. Quick rise yeast is best suited for this recipe, as this is a single rise recipe. Both instant and active dry yeast work best with a double rise. That said, I only had instant yeast on hand, so that's what I used, without problem. The only thing I had to change is the second rise time. It is slower, so the dough will need to rise about 60-70 minutes, instead of the 40 minutes.

44 Comments

  • Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I have been looking for something like this for a while and I was getting frustrated that my only results were the British style chelsea buns. I’m excited to try my hand at this recipe. Thanks again!

    • I’m so glad you found it then, Robin. They are a much different bun than the British style, for sure. This was a great recipe. So great that they were all eaten in about 6 hours!

  • We were just sitting here at the cottage reminiscing about the chelsea buns we had at our grandparents’ cottage in Bobcaygeon circa 1975. I figured someone else might be sentimental about them too… glad to have a computer and wifi at the cottage for once. We’ll be trying this this afternoon, thanks!

    • Hope you enjoy them! These are still found today all over Muskoka. I just can’t bring myself to pay for them when I know I can bake them myself at home :)

  • Hi Jennifer-

    I live in Costa Rica, but my mom was from Guelph, Ontario. So she always had Chelsea Buns, and years later I have wanted this recipe!

    Thanks so much as it brings back good memories.

  • My grandma used to make these all the time and we loved them. I tried this recipe morning and they are great. This will be my go to recipe.

    • So glad you enjoyed them. I have eaten a lot and when I first made these, I knew they were the real deal. This recipe is quite old as well.

  • These definitely are the real deal! I made them today and boy, the taste takes me back 30 plus years to a summer day at he cottage on the Bruce Peninsula. These taste like they came directly from our local bakery, Luxton’s, which is now long gone. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks Carolyn. I have a lot of nostalgic memories around chelsea buns, as well and sadly, our local bakery is long gone, too. It’s great that we can still bake them ourselves though :)

  • I tried these this past weekend and all I can say is WOW. I took some to my neighbours and they thought I was a brilliant baker. My only recommendation is if you are using a spring form pan it’s better to put a tray underneath. The brown sugar mixture seeped out of the bottom of the pan and my oven was a mess. Smoke alarm went off – at least I know the alarm works! But I would make these again in a heartbeat. Thanks Jennifer for this yummy recipe. Can’t wait to try another recipe from your website.

    • Glad you enjoyed these, Janice. One of my favourite sweet treats. Thanks for the heads-up on the spring form. I always make mine in a loaf pan, so haven’t had that issue. I have set off the smoke detector when I cook several times though ;)

  • My husband has mentioned that his grandmother used to make these Chelsey buns in his youth, being that I took this as a hint. The ironic part is he is from Halliburton and will be happy to finally get them. Will post to let you know how we reacts. Thank you.

    • Hi Kim, I think I’d double it and do it in two loaf pans. My concern is that in a 9×13, by the time the center cooked, the outside would be over-cooked.

  • I remember going to Fenelon Falls to visit my aunt with my family, she used to work at the bakery many many years ago and she used to bring home the Chelsea buns what a treat it was, fresh ,warm sweet and buttery…how I miss those days..and my aunt Audrey. B. too….

  • Jennifer, this recipe is fantastic! Finding it made my day. I have sent you a private email explaining why I am so happy to have found it. Absolutely delicious and turns out perfect every time.Every time I bite into one it takes me home.

    Thank you,
    Donna

    • Thanks so much Donna and I am so pleased that you are enjoying them. Food has the ability to transport us, for sure. Happy New Year!

    • Hello from Muskoka (where there is still 2 feet of snow on the ground!). So glad you enjoyed them. I don’t think I’ve known anyone from Etwell ;)

  • Jennifer, these were absolutely delicious. They taste even better than they look. I haven’t lived in Ontario for 17 years now, but these “took me home”.

  • Jennifer, seems like I am not the only one who has fond family memories (stopping in Bobcaygeon on the way to Green’s Lake, & Grandma & Grandpa’s cottage) of this style of bun. I have literally been searching the net for years for “this” recipe; today when I searched “chelsea bun” yours was the first and I knew by the description this was “the” recipe. I bookmarked it even before making them!! On my second one, and no, I couldn’t wait :p! Thanks.

  • Jennifer, have you ever made these over 2 days (e.g. refrigerating the dough after step 3? and then cooking them the next day?) If so, did they work out okay? Thank you!

    • Hi Kira, I haven’t. It should work in theory, but I’d probably use traditional (active dry) or instant yeast (not rapid rise) if you want to try it.

  • Hi Jennifer! I am SO glad that you posted this recipe and that I finally found it.
    When I was a kid (a REALLY long time ago; ) my mom was in the Bethesda-Reach Women’s Institute – between Uxbridge & Port Perry – and, somewhere around Centennial year, they did a unit on yeast bread…
    Needless to say, her course book (printed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture/Home Economist) is long gone and I’ve been searching for years for the recipe for these kind of Chelsea Buns!
    One thing though, I’m pretty sure that her recipe used 8″ square cake pans (once I get the dough together I’ll know better) but I’ll be sure to let you know how they turned out; )
    Thanks again! Deb

    • Hi Deb and glad you found it! They are delicious :) I’m sure some people baked these in an 8-inch square pan. I tend to like them squashed together and tall in a loaf pan. Just personal preference. They are good baked in any pan. Enjoy!

  • I came across your lovely recipe today and I am just getting ready to start making it. I am in Newfoundland- so almost your neighbour! Hope you are enjoying some nice winter weather now and making some awesome buns and goodies now like I am!

    • Hi Carol! We have had an unseasonably warm winter so far in Central Ontario. Very little snow even yet. Not that I mind :) I visited Newfoundland a few years ago and loved every minute of it. Hoping to get back some day. Enjoy the buns :)

  • Thank you so much! You’ve brought back some wonderful memories of picking up a few loaves of these from the Lakefield bakery in the Kawarthas. I’ve been searching for a long time for this recipe!

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