An Easter tradition that you can easily make the whole year-round, Semlor or Swedish Lent Buns are delicious, sweet buns with almond paste filling, and excellent with coffee or tea. Enjoy a semla for your next break!
Although we have a variety of sweet buns in Sweden, I can think of three that stand out:
- Kanelbullar – also known as Swedish cinnamon buns, are available and eaten all year-round.
- Lussekatter – also known as saffron or St. Lucia buns, are ubiquitous during Christmas.
- Semlor – also known as lent buns because, you guessed it, they’re available during Easter.
First, let’s highlight the difference to avoid any confusion.
Semla refers to one lent bun (singular), while semlor refers to buns (yep, plural form). 🙂
So, what is semla? (Or what are semlor?)
Semla is a sweet bun subtly flavored with cardamom, filled with almond paste, and topped with whipped cream.
Note that it’s almond paste inside the buns — not marzipan.
Some think they’re the same thing, but they’re not. The most obvious difference is the level of sweetness.
Almond paste is noticeably less sweet, giving you that perfect balance even with the sprinkle of powdered sugar when serving these semlor buns.
Semlor are traditionally only available during the Easter season, but nowadays, some bakeries and coffee shops offer them right after the end of the year.
Now you can also enjoy these semlor buns like the locals — serve them for fika or dessert!
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These are the ingredients you need for the semla dough:
- Flour – all-purpose flour is excellent for making semlor buns.
- Yeast – as always, I use active dry yeast.
- Butter– unsalted and softened.
- Sugar – regular granulated white sugar is great for this semlor recipe.
- Eggs – medium-sized (63 to 73 grams) and at room temperature.
- Milk – full cream milk, and you need it warm to combine with the yeast, and more for brushing every semla before baking.
- Salt – just use your favorite brand.
- Cardamom – as you can see from the image above, I use cardamom seeds.
Same when making cardamom cake, I ground the seeds myself to get a more intense flavor and aroma.
For the almond paste filling and the whipped topping:
- Almonds – blanched almonds, ready for grounding.
- Sugar – caster (or any fine-textured) sugar for the filling and powdered sugar for serving.
- Milk – like the dough, full cream milk will be great.
- Cream – double cream (also known as heavy cream) for whipping and piping on top of each semla.
Start making semlor buns by preparing the dough: combine warm milk with yeast.
Set aside until it’s foamy and ready.
Using a mixing bowl (or stand mixer bowl), add the flour, salt, sugar, and ground cardamom.
Mix to combine.
Add the eggs, butter, and yeast mixture.
Mix and knead until you get a smooth dough.
Form the semlor dough into a ball and place it in the bowl.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until it doubles in size — it typically takes sixty to ninety minutes.
Deflate the semlor dough and transfer it on your counter.
Divide it into sixteen portions and form a ball for each part (i.e., semla).
Place each semla bun on top of a tray lined with parchment paper and keep a distance between each one.
Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside until it puffs up — about thirty to forty-five minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (375°F).
Use a pastry brush to glaze each semla with milk.
Place the tray of semlor buns in the lower part of the oven for about fifteen minutes or until they turn golden.
Remove them from the oven and set them aside for a few minutes to cool.
Start preparing the almond paste filling by grounding the blanched almonds in a food processor — leave some small bits for a nicer texture.
Add the milk and sugar.
Pulse and mix until you get an evenly combined paste.
Assemble each semla by cutting a small piece from the top.
Use a small teaspoon to remove some bread from inside the bun.
Place about a teaspoon of the paste inside.
There is no need to push the filling, just enough to reach the top of each semla.
Repeat until all the buns have been filled.
Beat the cream to stiff peaks, then transfer enough in a piping bag.
Pipe some of the whipped cream on every semla.
Finish assembling each semla by placing the cut portion of the bun back.
Sprinkle your semlor buns with powdered sugar and serve!
- You can prepare the almond paste filling (hours or days) earlier. Just place it in the refrigerator and take it out early when using it.
It ensures it’s at room temperature when assembling every semla.
- Make sure you always cover the buns while working on them — it’s a crucial step to avoid drying them.
- For a more precise size of the buns, use a weighing scale to measure each semla dough.
- If you do not have fine-textured sugar, pulse your regular granulated sugar in the food processor before combining it with the ground-blanched almonds.
- Remember to use a serrated knife when slicing the top of your semlor buns.
- Almond paste with bread. Unlike what I’ve done in this recipe, some of the bread that’s been removed is mixed with the almond paste and then added back in the center of the semla.
- Light cream. Instead of double cream, use light cream (sometimes called half-and-half) to whip and pipe on every semla.
- Cardamom powder. If you only have cardamom powder on hand, using it as a substitute for cardamom seeds is okay.
Looks absolutely tempting, right? And it’s not that difficult to make either — so give these Swedish semlor buns a try this weekend!
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Semlor Recipe (Semla or Swedish Lent Bun)
For Semlor buns:
- 1 cup milk, warm
- 2 & 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 450 to 500 grams flour (3 to 3 & 1/2 cups)
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 85 grams butter (1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons), unsalted and softened
- 1 medium egg
For filling and topping:
- 250 grams almonds (about 1 cup), blanched
- 200 grams caster sugar (3/4 cup)
- 100 ml milk (6 tablespoons)
- 1 & 1/2 to 2 cups cream, chilled
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preparing Swedish semlor buns:
- Combine warm milk with yeast and set aside until it's foamy.
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or stand mixer bowl).
- Add the eggs, butter, and yeast mixture.
- Mix and knead until you get a smooth dough, then form it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside until it doubles — it generally takes 60 to 90 minutes.
- Deflate the semlor dough and transfer it on a flat surface.
- Divide it into 16 portions and form a ball for each piece (i.e., semla).
- Place each semla bun on a tray lined with parchment paper. (NOTE: Keep a distance between each one.)
- Cover with a towel and set aside until it puffs up — about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (375°F).
- Use a pastry brush to glaze each semla with milk.
- Place the tray of semlor buns in the lower part of the oven for about 15 minutes or until they turn golden.
- Remove them from the oven and set them aside for a few minutes to cool.
Preparing the filling:
- Ground the blanched almonds in a food processor.(NOTE: Leave some small bits for a nicer texture.)
- Add the milk and sugar.
- Pulse and mix until you get an evenly combined paste.
Assembling your semlor buns:
- Cut a small piece from the top of every semla.
- Use a small teaspoon to remove some bread from inside the bun.
- Place about a teaspoon of the paste inside. There is no need to push the filling, just enough to reach the top of each semla.
- Repeat until all the semlor have been filled.
- Beat the cream to stiff peaks, then transfer enough in a piping bag.
- Pipe some of the whipped cream.
- Finish assembling each semla by placing the cut portion of the bun back.
- Sprinkle your semlor buns with powdered sugar and serve!
- Cook’s Tip #1: Remember to cover the semlor buns while working on them — it’s an important step to avoid drying them.
- Cook’s Tip #2: For a more exact size of the buns, use a weighing scale to measure each semla.
- Cook’s Tip #3: Make sure you use a serrated knife when slicing the top of your semlor buns.