Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Swedish Semla or Lent Buns


In Sweden we eat Semlor on Fat Tuesday which usually falls in February but this year it is on March 8th.  You ask what is Fat Tuesday?

Fat Tuesday is the last day before Lent, also called Shrove Tuesday.  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday and it is all related to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lent season, which starts on Ash Wednesday.

I am sure folks have tons of traditions for this time of the year and I would love to hear about them.

The way I grew up is that we had to have Semlor.  Most of the Swedes i know do not care about fasting before Lent. Semlor are being made and sold from Christmas through Easter, and each Swede consumes an average of five bakery-produced Semlor a year. Add to that all those that are homemade!



The name semla is a loan word from German Semmel, originally deriving from the Latin semilia, which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina.

A Semla is basically a sweet bun, spiced with cardamom, top is cut off, scraped out the insides of the bottom of the bun and stuffed with almond paste lost of whipped cream, and then the top is put back on and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Some folks put the semls in a bowl and pour walk milk over it.  I prefer the semla by itself. Also I am not a huge fan of almond paste I used to remove it as a kid and either eat it plain or stuff it with jam or you can even use coconut instead of almonds as you make your paste.

In some place you can find almond past in the store but if you cannot I have also attached a recipe at the bottom of how to do it at home.


Print Recipe


Yield: 16-20 buns

Total Time: 2 hours


6 tbsp butter

1 cup milk

1 packet dry yeast or 50g of fresh yeast

1 pinch salt

3 tbsp sugar

3 cups wheat flour

1 tsp cardamom

2 eggs, beaten (one for brushing)


10 oz. almond paste (recipe below)

1/2 cup milk (only if you are using almond paste that is store brought)

1 1/2 cup whipping cream

confection sugar

Almond paste:

4 oz or 3/4 cups almonds or 3/4 cups almond meal (you can get this at Trade Joes)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 sugar


Melt the butter in a saucepan, pour in the milk and warm until lukewarm (99° F). Pour the yeast in a bowl (Crumble the yeast if using fresh yeast) and stir in a little of the warm butter-milk mixture until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add the rest of the butter/milk mixture, 1 egg, salt, sugar, cardamom and most of the flour (save some for kneading). Work the dough. It should loosen from the edges of the bowl.

Allow the dough to rise under a towel/cloth for 40 minutes. Sprinkle flour on the counter and place the dough there and kneed a few minutes, especially any air pockets. Roll the dough into one big roll. Divide into 16-20 pieces. Make each piece into a round ball and put them on a baking sheet with parchment paper and let them rise for additional 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 440° F.

Brush the buns with the beaten egg and bake them for about 10 minutes in the middle of the oven or until golden brown. Let them cool on an oven rack under a towel/cloth.

Once cooled cut off the very top of each bun. Take out part of the insides and put it in a bowl.

If you have not store bought the almost paste this is a good time to make it. Warm the milk and then pour the milk, the almonds/almond meal, sugar, and the insides of the roll into a food processor until a nice smooth paste. The warm milk will melt the sugar.

If you have store bought the almost paste then crumble it into a food processor, mix it with the insides of the rolls, and add the milk to a rather smooth paste.

Put this filling back into the buns. Whip the cream and put a large dollop in every bun. Put the tops back on and sift some confectioners’ sugar over the buns.

Eat as is or server them in a bowl with warm milk.


Other Similar Recipes:

Swedish Easter Traditions Leg of Lamb and Gravy
Swedish Cinnamon Buns “Bullar”
Steamed chocolate Pudding
Swedish Pancakes “Pannkakor”

One Year Ago: Quiche


  Pin It

25 Responses to “The Swedish Semla or Lent Buns”

  1. 1

    Suzanne — March 6, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    looks delish wish I had one right now!

  2. 2

    Jenny (VintageSugarcube) — March 6, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

    Those look as pretty as they do tasty!! I bet they are divine with a strong cup of coffee. MMM MMM MMM…

  3. 3

    Kristen — March 7, 2011 @ 3:22 am

    Those are beautiful. I adore filled yeast buns.

  4. 4

    Barbara Bakes — March 7, 2011 @ 6:09 am

    Great post. How did I not know that Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday before now. What a delicious way to celebrate!

  5. 5

    sonia — March 7, 2011 @ 6:46 am

    Simply great lent buns, its looking so delicious. Pardon me, I cant resist to take a bite frm ur blog. Too good !

  6. 6

    Lisa — March 7, 2011 @ 7:36 am

    WHOA! I am seriously salivating over these. Well done!!

  7. 7

    Maddie — March 7, 2011 @ 7:37 am

    I’m so happy to see this post! My boyfriend and I visited the Swedish Bakery in Chicago this weekend, and marveled over these EXACT treats. But I didn’t know anything about them, so thanks for enlightening me, Ewa!

  8. 8

    carolinaheartstrings — March 7, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    This recipe looks simply wonderful. Great pictures.

  9. 9

    Kankana — March 7, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    looks delicious and soo creamy!

  10. 10

    Juliana — March 7, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

    Wow, these buns look delicious, so light and fluffy. I specially like the almond filling…looks SO SO yummie! Great pictures as always 🙂

  11. 11

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — March 7, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

    Oh my goodness this sounds divine, I’ll take any good excuse to eat bread with warm milk!

  12. 12

    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — March 8, 2011 @ 5:55 am

    Oh, my! Those semlor sound delicious. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try.

  13. 13

    Elle — March 8, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    I have a cup of coffee next to me that is just screaming for one (or two) of these! So pretty!

  14. 14

    Karen — March 8, 2011 @ 9:48 am

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe! These sound heavenly – I love the combination of the cardamom in the buns and the almond paste in the filling. In Austria, people eat Krapfen during the carnival season (deep fried doughnuts traditionally filled with apricot jam and dusted with powdered sugar – seriously good stuff!). And, we have small white breads in Austria that are called Semmeln. They look similar to American Kaiser rolls, but they taste much better and are slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Happy Mardi Gras!

  15. 15

    Megan — March 8, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    I just want to pluck that right off the screen. It looks heavenly!

  16. 16

    deeba — March 8, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    Happy Fat Tuesday Ewa. These are delicious looking. Thank you for sharing culinary traditions. Love them!!

  17. 17

    ropcorn — March 9, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    I LOVE your blog!!! I’m so glad I found it. :p And I love semlor! Even though yesterday was the official Fettisdagen, I had one today as well. Heheh. 🙂

  18. 18

    megan @ whatmegansmaking — March 9, 2011 @ 8:10 am

    I’ve never heard of these before, but they look wonderful!

  19. 19

    LiveLikeYou — March 9, 2011 @ 9:03 am

    DROOL!!! hej kul att traffas. Another Swede in the blog world. Will be visiting her often! Now I’m homesick!

  20. 20

    Lisa — March 9, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    This looks delicious! A good cup of coffee and I’d be good to go 🙂 I’m so glad I found your site on “Your recipe, My Kitchen”.

  21. 21

    Alexandra - kärlek på tallrik — March 17, 2011 @ 2:24 am

    åh vilken härlig blogg du har! Jag älskar semlor och tycker det är jättekul att du sprider lite sverige i USA =) Fortsätt med det!

    Oh, what an awesome blog you have! I LOVE semlor AND the fact that you’re sharing Sweden with the US =) Keep up the good work!

  22. 22

    Jersey Girl Cooks — February 21, 2012 @ 8:54 am

    These look so good. Anything with whipped cream is right up my alley.

  23. 23

    When In Sweden, have Fika! | Crafted Exploration — February 11, 2014 @ 3:54 am

    […] Been itching to make these since Claire told me about them; so whilst on a trip to visit her we made them together. Traditionally in Sweden, Semlor are made on Shrove Tuesday, just as we have pancakes, however a lot of swedes eat them right up to Easter. They are yeasted buns, made in a slightly different way to normal bread, with butter and milk being melted at the beginning and yeast stirred into this, along with flour, sugar and spiced with cardamon. We used the recipe here. […]

  24. 24

    Semla « Swedely — February 14, 2014 @ 7:25 am

    […] Semlor (recipe from Ewa at […]

  25. 25

    Semlor – Crafted Exploration — March 14, 2016 @ 3:21 am

    […] and yeast stirred into this, along with flour, sugar and spiced with cardamon. I used the recipe here, which worked […]

Leave a Comment