This recipe is for a northern German relative of the cinnamon bun, called the Franz bun. This sweet temptation is equally delicious, made of yeast dough and filled with a sugar-cinnamon mix that makes it impossible to resist.
The characteristic feature of these buns is their exceptional look, which is caused by pressing the middle of every piece of dough. During the baking process, the filling caramelizes at the surface and gives the bun its characteristic crispy, sweet and sticky taste and texture.
You might ask yourself where this odd name comes from. There is a theory that it derives from the period of Napoleonic occupation in Hamburg during the beginning of the 19th century.
As the French already had their croissants and baguettes, Germans in the northern part of the country seemed to be inspired by those foods, and developed their own way of preparing a similar pastry – but not without paying tribute to its origin.
The prefix “Franz” could therefore be a reference to the German word for the French (“Franzosen”), which gives a hint at the original source of inspiration.
In Hamburg where this pastry originated, people enjoy it for breakfast and as a substitute for cake at the coffee table.
Even today, it is difficult to get this treat at most bakeries, because it is still a specialty that’s unique to northern Germany. For that reason, it’s best to bake a homemade version.
You can even freeze the unbaked pieces and then put them in the oven to enjoy freshly baked treats whenever you like. I recommend indulging in the buns while they are still warm, so the fresh smell of cinnamon can rise to your nose when you take your first bite – simply gorgeous!
This recipe calls for room temperature butter. The easiest way to achieve this is to leave some out on the counter all the time. Find out more on how to go about that safely here.
If you’re a baking expert, try melding this recipe with our homemade pretzel recipe here for a sweet and cinnamony treat. For the classic American recipe, check out our guide to making brioche cinnamon rolls.
For a less sweet treat, explore our brown butter brioche rolls recipe.
Equipment required includes:
- long spoon (wooden, nylon, or silicone)
- baking sheet
- rolling pin
- dough cutter
- mixing bowls
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cube fresh yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar divided
- 3 egg yolks divided
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup butter softened
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp butter chilled
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Put the flour into a bowl and make a small well in the middle. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the milk, and set aside for 15 minutes, until the mixture is foaming.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the well, along with 1/3 cup sugar and two egg yolks. Add a pinch of salt and 1/3 cup softened butter. Stir to combine, or use your hands to mix, adding the flour gradually to the liquid mixture in the center.
- Knead together on a lightly floured surface until a smooth dough is formed, about 10 minutes. Cover and let rise for around 45 minutes in a warm place.
- Knead the dough again, then roll out on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin to form a rectangle approximately 12x27.5 inches (30x70 cm) in size.
- In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon with the remaining sugar. Cut the cold butter into small pieces or grate with a cheese grater. Spread the butter pieces and the sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly on the dough.
- Roll up the dough from the long side and gently press together to seal the end. Cut the roll into 2-inch-thick slices (5 cm).
- Take the end of a spoon and press into the middle of each slice so that the layers become visible, comparable to a squeezed snail shell.
- Put the buns onto baking trays lined with parchment paper, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F (convection oven 160°C/320°F).
- Whisk the remaining egg yolk together with some milk to make a wash, and brush it onto the pastry.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.
48 thoughts on “Franz Buns: The German Answer to Cinnamon Buns”
These look so good. I know I could eat a whole batch of them by myself. Recipe is easy enough that to me is a win, win. If it is really complicated I wouldn’t bother to try, and make them
I’ve had those a few times. If anyone’s thinking about trying the recipe out, I suggest to do so as soon as possible. The buns are delicious and in this case fairly easy to make too.
Every country seems to have their take on the cinnamon roll. The tip at the beginning of the post is a good one to use for enhanced flavor. Their egg wash seems to be a twist as well. It would be nice to have a sample of everyone’s roll on a table and just taste each one. Heavenly!
Wow, German-style French Buns, huh? They look positively tasty. They look like fancy cinnamon rolls to me and maybe that’s just what they are–although it doesn’t change the fact that they are delicious.
Well, the Germans did it again. In all honesty, I don’t see myself making anything for dessert that isn’t German for a while. These buns look so good. They’ll be a tastey and quick breakfast for my kids and husband, too. This is on its way to my cookbook right now! Thank you for the recipe!
Yes you’re right, you have quite some options to choose from, I hope you have fun trying them! Especially these buns belong to my favorites, enjoy your bun-breakfast 🙂
how many oz. in a cube of yeast?
A traditional European cube of fresh yeast is just a touch under 1.5 oz.
It looks so… good. I’d bake it with cream and brown sugar 🙂 I do this with croissant dough, goes amazing with ice cream — and this looks like it’d fit the bill perfectly, too.
These look great and it’s good to know that the uncooked dough could be frozen. It would be really handy to have in the freezer for a quick, yet delicious weekend breakfast.
Amazing stuff! I’ve once had these when I had my trip to Germany, went to an local restaurant and had these cinnamon buns. They tasted absolutely delicious. I’m glad I’ve found the article, I’ll try making these for dinner tomorrow, wish me luck!
I hope everything worked out if you had time to prepare the buns and you could enjoy a nice dinner. And I hope this version can keep up with the one you had in the restaurant 🙂
Where were you in Germany?! I spent some time in Berlin and I don’t remember seeing these anywhere 🙁
You know, it is still quite difficult to get these outside of Hamburg and surroundings in Northern Germany, it’s somehow a mystery why they haven’t spread over the whole country like some other pastry. Although I would have thought that at least Berlin should be a place where to find them.
Oh, these look way too tempting! Yum! I won’t be making these any time soon, because I would surely eat them. I’m not doing sweets right now. I will definitely hang onto this recipe though. These would be wonderful for a brunch, holiday, or other special occasion.
Cinnamon is something I really enjoy, and these look like they are just oozing cinnamon goodness. Okay, time to get off this page, before I change my mind about making some!
They look absolutely gorgeous and really tasty. I can’t believe how simple they are to make. I can already see some rearrangement of next week’s food happening to include a session of making these buns. I can also see a variety of other flavours that can easily included to vary them, such as vanilla sugar or apple & cinnamon sauce in the middle.
Have fun at the bun-session 🙂 Apple sauce is really a great idea, I haven’t thought about it but it goes really well with the cinnamon, it is almost like an apple turnover then. Thanks for that inspiration, that’ll be my next batch.
Oh my, I can almost smell the cinnamon in the air. I love their unique shape, and they sure do look delicious. I’ll have to see how yeast cubes compare to the packets I have on hand. I might have to go in search of the cubes, but I have no doubt the trip would be worth it to taste these buns.
I am not sure about the situation in the US, in Germany you’re able to buy these small fresh yeast cubes in supermarkets right next to the cooled food section. It also works with dried yeast, but if you can get it fresh I would recommend it.
Back here, the content of one packet dried yeast is for 1 lb flour and one cube can be used for up to 2 lbs. But that can vary concerning to the brand.
I remember using fresh yeast in pastry school so I’m sure you can get it here in the US. I wouldn’t seek it out, because that smell is something you never forget. We also have jars of the dried yeast that can be used many times, I’ve never been fond of the packets myself.
Thanks for that info. I’ve never seen jars of dried yeast here, but that seems really handy, because you don’t have to buy a new package every time you’d like to prepare yeast dough. I should try to find a similar product here.
The packets of fresh yeast are really sensitive, yes. They don’t last long and especially when they are overdue, their smell is harsh.
This is right up my alley. It seems to have a slap dash way of rolling that I can get behind. I’m not the person people go to for recipes that require careful & accurate folding/design. This should go over quite well at my house. I hate those cans of buns & this is a nice twist.
Wow, these buns look delicious! I love cinnamon buns, but the ones traditionally found in the US are too sweet for me. I’ve tried other German desserts like the Stollen cake, which is not overloaded with sugar. Fortunately, if I ever try making these Franz buns, I can cut down on the sugar a little and emphasize the cinnamon a bit more. I really like how the buns are pressed in the center so that the layers are revealed. It doesn’t look like it would take too long, and my kids do love cinnamon as much as I do, so this would be a perfect breakfast food for them. I can already taste the crispy caramelized filling at the top and the sweet soft pastry in the center. I can’t wait to make this bun this weekend! I’m just wondering, would a savory variation be possible? Like filling the buns with minced meat instead of cinnamon, and replacing the sugar with some sort of salty flavoring? This can then be a dinner or lunch item. In any case, thanks for the recipe.
Thank you, I am glad the buns get such positive reviews. They won’t take too long to prepare, it’s just the amount of rising time for the dough but one can perfectly do some other things in between, so have fun this weekend! 🙂
I haven’t tried yet, but I can definitely imagine a savory version. You might also replace some of the milk with water maybe and for the filling you can be creative. Like you suggest, either minced meat or spinach with feta, some mixed herbs or dried tomatoes maybe.. I think that would be delicious!
Oh my gosh, the spinach with feta filling sounds like it would be lovely. Or the herbs and dried tomatoes. Honestly, I could see myself eating one of those for lunch and the regular sugar-cinnamon version for dessert, haha. Also seems like the savory versions would be great to make ahead of time for those with busy schedules. Super handy!
What is a cube of yeast? Ours in the U.S. comes in packets. Not sure how to measure
A European cube of fresh yeast is generally just a bit under 1.5 oz. Fresh yeast is already active, so you will need to “wake it up” first if you want to use dry instant or active dry yeast instead. Please see our article on different types of yeast for baking conversions, and instructions on how to convert fresh yeast to dry.
Oh, now, isn’t that a good idea, a savory variation? I will have to think on this and imagine the possibilities. I like the ideas the two of you have come up with as well.
Now, this makes an even better party food, since you can go sweet or savory or both! They look so pretty, and with a bit of color they would really be festive. I always enjoy party food that you can tell is homemade, and I presume others do as well. I think the serving plate for these would be empty quickly.
Honestly, I’ve never found this simple of a recipe online; You just mix the ingredients and you get these magical Franz Buns. Don’t be afraid to try them out, their the easiest thing ever to make. Would recommend to anyone!
Oh good god I love cinnamon rolls and this recipe has me craving for something sweet!! My brother-in-law’s sister makes cinnamon rolls from scratch and for some reason I cannot do it as well as she can. I’m hoping I can give this recipe a try and maybe do a blind-taste-test contest to see which one is the winner 😛
And by the way, love how you can just pop it out of the freezer. Saves time AND money since you won’t have to go out and buy the overpriced pre-made cinnamon rolls!
Woah those looks absolutely delectable, and by the looks of the recipe, they’re cheaper than the store-bought stuff as well. One thing that surprisingly goes super well with these buns is peanut butter, as it gives it some texture and eases the sugary sweetness from the buns. Try it next time you make these!
This recipe looks yummy. I will definitely have to attempt this-maybe over the weekend. I have been looking for a recipe ever since I had a, no wait, ever since I had several! Cinnabons on a trip to the US about 5 years ago. I like the way these don’t look too doughy, and with a cinnamon cream cheese glaze poured over I don’t think any dough would make it to the freezer in my house!
Did you already have the chance to try them? If you have any questions concerning ingredients or else, don’t hesitate to ask 🙂 Otherwise, I hope it worked out!
I would definitely encourage you to try them. They are indeed not too doughy and I can see myself craving for one right now when I think about the glaze you’re talking about! Yummy!
The nice thing about these buns is that they originate from a different culture to my own. I love learning about foods from different cultures because it is truly amazing what others can come up with and that you have never thought of. i know I am always surprised, especially how simple most things are!
That’s great, isn’t it? I also love to find out about other country’s foods, spices, eating habits.. Reading about unknown combinations and recipes makes me creative to work on that and try it out. Or I think about how to include cooking techniques or special flavors into my favorites dishes. This is what makes cooking really interesting 🙂
So I hope you will enjoy the Franz buns!
I was just telling my nephew that I need to find a cinnamon roll recipe for us to make. He’s almost 3 years old and he loves making bread with me. Last time he came over, we made tortillas together, I really want to make something that is sweet with him and this seems simple enough for us to try.
That’s wonderful! How cute that he loves baking together with you 🙂 That’s a good start into having fun in the kitchen. I hope you two enjoy making these pastries and, of course, eating them!
These look absolutely delicious. I’m not sure I could have them in my house though. Nobody else would get any and my blood sugar would be through the rough. They might see some crumbs and me drooling and passed out on the floor.
You know the same thing could happen to me? 😉 I can’t hold back when I make something like this at home (I love sweet goodies), and often I catch myself trying before anyone else had the chance. Still, I hope you can practice some patience and maybe keep at least one for the others to share, haha 😀
I absolutely love Franz buns! I live in Germany and always buy them from the bakery. It is great for anytime of the day. The recipe is indeed very simple and I think making them according to this recipe when I have friends coming over.
Well that’s awesome to hear! Let me know where you are in Germany and I can pick you up for some Franz buns baking session 😀
I have to say, bakeries around here also sell them, and mostly they have a really good quality, too. But whenever you’re in mood for doing some homemade treats, I can recommend these. Have fun and enjoy them!
The more I look at these, the more I want some. I think it is the texture that I find so appealing. They seem flaky and light, as opposed to being super dense. I think that’s why they look even better than typical recipes for this item.
My family would love these. They are on my list for the next time everyone comes over (soon). I’ll just have to be on my best behavior and stop at one. I can almost smell them now.
I saw that it said to use a third of the butter in one place, I am assuming that is talking about the room temp butter? If so, when does the other part of the softened butter get added?
Thanks for your question, Shawn! This recipe was originally written in German and in metric, and it looks like some errors were added in along the way as well. Thank you so much for catching this for us!
We’ve just posted a corrected version. The full quantity of softened butter listed should be added to the dough, and the chilled butter is used for the filling.
I would like to know the equivalent to a cube of yeast in imperial or metric measurement.
Great question, Carol. Fresh yeast (aka block, cake, or compressed) can be hard to come by outside of Europe, but it’s sometimes found in the refrigerated dairy/baking section of grocery stores. Cubes are typically about 42 g, though this may vary depending on the brand. If you’d prefer to use a different type of yeast instead, About 10 g of fresh yeast is equivalent to 5 g active dry or 4 g instant. Hope this helps! We’ve reached out to the author of this recipe to try to find a more accurate measurement for you as well.
Hi. I have 2 questions.
First, after you let the dough rise the first time and are about to roll it out, do you punch it down and let it sit again for a few minutes before you roll it out?
Second, when you’ve frozen the uncooked dough for later baking, do you let it thaw and raise any or do you stick it straight in oven to be baked?
Hi Mimi. Thanks for your questions.
Letting the dough rest again before you shape it after kneading the second time shouldn’t be necessary.
Allow the shaped and portioned frozen dough to thaw on the counter to room temperature for 4-5 hours before baking. If you put the frozen dough right in the oven this will affect the bake time, and they likely won’t bake through.