Why You Need to Try Semla, Sweden’s Mardi Gras Bun

For more Fat Tuesday treats, check out our post last week.  

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Semlor Galore

Scandinavian countries seem to excel at pastries and buns, chocking them full of delicious jams, whipped cream, cardamom and cinnamon. Though my waistline complains from time to time, my taste buds certainly don’t!

Right now, here in Sweden we’re in prime sweets month. Ever since I moved to Stockholm last summer, I’ve been waiting for Semla Season. A sweet period from January to Easter, when the bakeries and cafes turn out their succulent Semla, or cream buns.

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Sem-what?

A Semla (plural Semlor) is a wheat bun, spiced with cardamom, that is full of almond paste and whipped cream. Back in the old days, one was served in a bowl of warm milk. Yum! Swedes adore their semla bun, and come the season, local newspapers publish “Best Semlor” lists in Stockholm. There’s even a Tumblr blog dedicated to “that Semla Guy,” who goes out and tastes one semla bun at a different bakery or cafe each day. Passionate doesn’t begin to sum up the emotional bond between a Swede and semla —45 million semlor are sold in Sweden each year.

Semlor used to be served just on Fat Tuesday, but after some time, Swedes decided to extend semla-season by a few weeks. Why not? Asked the sweet-toothed Swedes. Some traditionally minded folks complain that the season starts earlier every year—but as long as you eat one after Christmas, you’re probably safe from neighborhood gossip.

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I’ve tried a few around town, but my favorite can be found at my little neighborhood cafe. They make so-called “Viennese Semlor,” which use these amazing croissant buns instead of the typical wheaty rolls. 

Notoriously, King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden met his untimely (yet satiated?) end after consuming a whopping 14 servings of semlor!

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Semla with a Twist

Occasionally, bakeries try to mix it up with fusion trends. There’s been semmelwrap (cannoli-like semla), ginger biscuit semla, semla-flavored milkshakes, and lussesemla (a saffron Lucia bun / semla hybrid).

And then there is the wild PrinsessSemla, a mouth-watering amalgamation of a dessert. Swedish baker Markus Ekelund of Thimons bakery has dared to combine the best Swedish treats, the delicious princess cake and the creamy semla. I haven’t tried this sugar-monster yet, but I’m dying to know what it tastes like. 

The best part: you can make them yourself! Try this recipe at home for a Scandinavian treat! 

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Willamette Intl Travel agents have booked countless clients on their dream vacations in Europe. Head to Scandinavia this summer! Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com and we’ll get right on it!

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