Gramma’s Swedish Tea Ring

by Crystal Rowe

I have never been an early riser, but on Christmas, my body has an internal alarm clock. As a young child, I would wake up at 5:00 AM and creep to the living room to see if Santa had come. Upon discovering a living room full of toys, I would wake my younger sisters and, filled with excitement, we would wake our mother. Mom would roll out of bed and we would all race to the living room together, where she would let us open our stockings before breakfast. After we had emptied our stockings and made a royal mess of the floor, we would gather around the kitchen counter and eat the Swedish Teas Ring my grandmother made earlier in the week.

In 2020, when it seemed like so many traditions had to be put on hold, I was searching for ways to make Christmas extra special and remembered this family tradition that had somehow gotten misplaced. I texted my Mom’s oldest sister, who eagerly sent me the recipe and reminded me that, many years ago, Gramma would make several batches, wrap them in foil, put them in a wagon, and walk up and own her neighborhood delivering them to her friends.

In a year where nothing was normal, making dozens of Swedish Tea Rings and delivering them all to my friends was something that didn’t have to be put on hold. I wouldn’t have Christmas dinner with anyone outside my home, but I could absolutely provide a tasty breakfast treat to everyone I know. Your could say 2020 was the year our Swedish Teas Ring made a comeback; maybe even the best thing to come out of 2020! Our friends and neighbors love receiving it, and it is now a family tradition that won’t be misplaced ever again.

This is a great recipe to make with little ones. My daughters loved brushing the egg wash, sprinkling the cinnamon sugar, adding the raisins, and rolling it into a log.

One batch makes 2 big rings or 4 small rings–perfect for sharing with your friends and neighbors. It’s easily customizable to include your favorite dried fruits and nuts.

Gramma’s Swedish Tea Ring 

Beverage Family Recipe
Makes 2 large rings or 4 small

Ingredients for Bread

4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup shortening 1/2 cup sugar
Nuts, raisins, craisins, cherries as desired (Make sure to check if any of your recipients have allergies. You don’t want to give them a breakfast they can’t eat!)
1 cup milk, scalded
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten well 1 tsp lemon zest
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Ingredients for Filling

3 Tbsp melted butter 1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Ingredients for Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp water


Dissolve yeast in warm water.

Pour scalded milk into large bowl (or the bowl of your Kitchenaid Mixer). Add shortening, sugar and salt to the scalded milk. Cool to lukewarm.

Add yeast, eggs and lemon zest to the cooled mixture. Add flour and beat well. If using a stand mixer, use the beater attachment here.

Switch to dough hook and knead on low for 5 minutes. If by hand, turn onto a floured board to knead until smooth, satiny, and supple.

Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.

Once doubled, punch the dough down and divide into two (or four) pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Brush with butter and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and brown sugar.Add raisins and nuts if desired.

Now roll the dough tightly (as if you’re making a cinnamon roll) and form into rings. Pinch the ends together.

Make cuts 1 inch apart all the way around, and fairly deep. Turn outward to open the cuts. My Grammaalways put pecans and cherries in the cuts – but I left them plain this time around.

Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour or so.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes – until golden brown. Let cool completely. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze.

Once completely cool, wrap in foil. I like to freeze them until I give them away (or until I want to eat it). Take it out of the freezer before you go to bed on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, when you make your coffee, put the foil wrapped ring directly in a 250-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until warm and gooey.

If giving to friends and neighbors, you can tie a ribbon around it and attach this label for easy instructions.

Photo credits: Crystal Rowe

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