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Swedish Culture

It’s Semlor Season at the American Swedish Institute

Learn the history of one of Sweden’s favorite treats
February 21, 2023 By Darby Johnson

If your weather is like ours in Minnesota, it’s still cold outside, so you probably haven’t been able to escape the winter weather just yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring a little bit of springtime into your life with our famous semlor buns!

These little treats are a tradition in Sweden and have historically marked their claim in Swedish hearts for centuries. They’re made with cardamom sweet dough, filled with almond paste, and topped with powdered sugar-making them a perfect dessert to enjoy during the winter months. You can add other toppings like sprinkles if you want to fancy them up further.

In Sweden, the semla (plural: semlor), is also known as fettisdagsbulle (literally “Fat Tuesday roll”) since it was originally eaten only on Shrove Tuesday. Originally, the semla was a bun soaked in hot milk and only to be eaten on Fat Tuesday. It wasn’t until King Gustav Vasa renounced the former proclamation mandating the sweet buns to one day only that they could be enjoyed through December and February—much to everyone’s delight!

There are rumors that King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden supposedly died in 1711 after indulging too much celebrating Fat Tuesday. If the rumors are true, the King apparently ate 14 semlor, after a hearty meal, in one sitting and suffered from fatal digestive complications shortly after.

Today, semlor are available in Swedish shops and bakeries every day from shortly after Christmas until Easter, which this year is Sunday, April 9, 2023. But don’t hesitate, FIKA’s daily semlor offerings often sell out and they’re only available for a limited amount of time. You can either order your own batch of six ahead of time ($25 on the FIKA Marketplace menu) or make sure you come early when FIKA opens at 10 a.m. Wednesday–Sunday.

To pre-order semlor, and other traditional Swedish pastries, please order through Tock. We ask for 24-hour notice and payment when you place the order. Pick up from the FIKA counter.

For chefs wanting to take up this challenge, ASI hosts an annual virtual class! Watch Kristi Bissell of True North Kitchen to pick up tricks for making a sweet winter treat. Kristi uses multiple batches of dough to demonstrate how to make the Swedish version of these buns, from mixing and kneading the cardamom flavored dough, to preparing the almond paste and whipped cream filling, to baking and assembling the finished buns. Students will leave with the recipe and lots of tips, inspired to bake their own batch of semlor at home!

Want to try and make this treat at home? Kristi Bissel’s semlor recipe can be found here.