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The lowdown on Sweden's best buns

12 Feb 2013, 08:01

Published: 12 Feb 2013 08:01 GMT+01:00

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In an effort to shed light on this mouth-watering mystery, The Local offers up ten things you've always wanted to know about semlor but were afraid to ask.

1. What is a semla?

It's a cream bun native to Sweden and Finland.

2. Why is everyone banging on about them today?

Because they are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday.

3. You mean Pancake Tuesday or Mardi Gras?

Yes, whatever you want to call it, it's the day before the start of the Christian season of Lent. In Sweden it's most commonly known as Fat Tuesday (Fettisdag) or Semla Day (Semmeldagen).

4. So what's in these semla things?

A modern semla is a wheat bun, spiced with cardamom. The top is knocked off and the bun is hollowed out a bit to make room for almond paste and whipped cream.

SEE ALSO: Sweden's top ten tasty buns

5. So the top is just thrown away?

No, it's popped back on and sprinkled with icing sugar.

6. And then you just pick it up and eat it.

You can. But a lot of people prefer to put it in a bowl of hot milk and eat it with a spoon.

SEE ALSO: Semlor: cream buns and cultural icons

7. Sounds like a Lenten fast would be well-advised after eating one of these monstrosities.

Definitely. King Adolf Frederick famously died in 1771 after eating 14 of them for dessert.

8. Do people only eat them on Shrove Tuesday?

No. The semla season has been lengthening ever since Luther lost his grip on the country. You're likely to spot them in many bakeries for the entire first half of the year. Swedes eat 40 million of them per season.

SEE ALSO: Top ten Swedish foods to remember

9. Where does the name semla come from anyway?

From the Latin semilia, meaning top notch wheat flour. But southern Swedes refer to them as shrovetide buns.

10. All this talk is making me hungry. Where can I get one?

Every bakery in Sweden will have them on Tuesday, as will many grocery stores and convenience stores like Pressbyrån or 7-Eleven.

But here are some recommendations for the three main cities. Enjoy!


Vete-katten, Kungsgatan 55

Tössebageriet, Karlavägen 77

Gunnarssons, Götgatan 92

Story continues below…


Cederleüfs konditori, Göteborgsvägen 74

Svenheimers Konditori, Brahegatan 11

Nöjds Konditori, Långedragssvägen 22


Lomma Hembageri, Strandvägen 96

Vendels Organic Bakery, Föreningsgatan 30

Martins Konditori & Kafé, Södra Förstadsgatan 88

The Local

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Your comments about this article

15:18 March 8, 2011 by stillwatersrd
These are not Sweden's best buns.
21:22 March 8, 2011 by Swedesmith
My wife has some pretty nice buns.
23:31 March 8, 2011 by Tanskalainen
How about a photo of Robyn's buns?
00:06 March 9, 2011 by Swedesmith
Robin Williams?????
07:30 March 9, 2011 by mikewhite
No, he was in Take That
17:35 March 9, 2011 by J Jack
he was in Fake that
23:38 March 9, 2011 by Dr. Dillner
I need one, but I am in Maryland, USA. Anyone have a recipe?
04:07 March 11, 2011 by calajb
Google semla and you will get a bunch of recipes.

Here's one..

16:24 March 11, 2011 by CanisTrigger
King Adolf Frederick... What a wimp!
22:49 March 12, 2011 by Madstadlad
Semlor... the reason I moved to Sweden!
12:16 March 13, 2011 by Isabel Carneiro
Hummm!!! Delicious. In my country it's called sonho.
10:11 February 12, 2013 by StockholmSam
As far as a national sweet, the semla is pretty boring. I find it difficult to find one worth eating twice. Chic Konditori on Mariatorget used to have the best in town - their "Karlsbader semla" - but we noticed this week that they changed the recipe and now they taste just like all the rest.
11:01 February 12, 2013 by Åskar
"It's a cream bun native to Sweden and Finland. "

I have seen some for sale in Tallinn as well.
12:40 February 12, 2013 by soultraveler3
Semlor are nasty, just flavorless, dusty buns with more flavorless paste and a ton of flavorless cream stuffed inside.

Tbh though, this description would fit most Swedish pastries / cakes. Dry, flavorless, tons of cream, some almond paste thrown and maybe a bit of fruit thrown in somewhere.

Even though I love some of them, Swedes like everything in life to be bland, colorless and boring though so that combo works well here. :)
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