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Swedish Lenten Buns

Classic Swedish Semlor (Lenten Buns)

Traditionally eaten before Lent, Swedish semlor are a most delicious baked good. The semla (singular of "semlor"), consists of a cardamom bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. You can make your own almond paste by combining 50% almonds and 50% sugar in a food processor and grinding to a paste. However, I find it easier to use a storebought version.
Recipe adapted from recipes in "Fika" by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall and the Swedish cook book "Vår Kok Bok."
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Dough rising time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Dessert, Fika
Cuisine Swedish
Servings 16 buns



  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons active or instant dry yeast refer to yeast packet instructions for best way to incorporate it into the recipe
  • 2 large eggs, separated (one will be used to brush the tops of the buns before baking)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour (plus more as needed)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 7 ounces almond paste
  • ½ cup milk (plus more as needed)


  • powdered sugar, for dusting


Part 1 - Baking the Buns

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the milk. Heat until "finger warm", about 110° F (or the temperature called for on your yeast packet).
  • Add a few tablespoons of the milk and butter mixture to a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes or until bubbles start to form.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together one egg and the sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, the rest of the milk and butter mixture, the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to combine the mixture and then transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead with hands until smooth, about 3 minutes. The dough should be a little "wet", but if too sticky, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  • Place the kneaded dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • When the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide into 15-16 pieces. (Note: You could also make 10 larger ones or 20 smaller ones.) Form each into a ball and place it onto the baking sheet. Cover with the tea town and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400° F.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the second egg. When the buns have finished rising, brush the top of each with the egg mixture and then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden colored. Remove and let cool on a wire rack covered with a tea towel.
  • Once cooled you are ready for part 2, adding the filling and finishing touches! Important: If you don't plan to eat all the semlor right away, only make as many as you will eat. The rest you can put in an airtight bag freeze until you are ready to assemble and enjoy more semlor!

Part 2 - Making the FIlling & Assembling the Semla

  • Whip the heavy whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks. (If not making all the semlor, adjust and whip as much cream as you think you will need).
  • Cut off a small "lid" from the top of each bun. Put it down next to its bun. Then scoop out about a tablespoon worth of filling in each bun and place the filling in a large bowl. Use your fingers or a fork to crumble the scooped out bun parts into smaller pieces.
  • Use a grater to mix the almond paste (use the whole 7-ounce container if making all the buns, and adjust as needed if making less) into the bowl with the scooped out filling. Add ¼ cup of milk (adjust if not making all the semlor) and mix until it forms a batter-like consistency; add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed until desired consistency is reached.
  • Fill each scooped out semla bun with filling. Then top with whipped cream. (You can get fancy and pipe out the whipped cream, but I usually just spoon it out!) Finally, place the lids on top of whipped cream and sift powdered sugar onto the top of each semla. Enjoy!
Keyword Lenten bun, semla, semlor