A semla (pl. semlor), or fastlagsbulle, is a traditional sweet roll made in various forms in Scandinavia and the Baltic. The oldest version of semla was a plain bread bun served in a bowl of warm milk. In Swedish this is known as hetvägg. Today, the Swedish-Finnish semla consists of a cardamom-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off and insides scooped out, and is then filled with a mix of the scooped-out bread crumbs, milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar. Today it is often eaten on its own, with coffee or tea. Some people still eat it in a bowl of hot milk. In Finland, the bun is sometimes filled with raspberry jam instead of almond paste, and bakeries in Finland usually offer both versions. (Many bakeries distinguish between the two by decorating the traditional bun with almonds on top, whereas the jam-filled version has powdered sugar on top). In Finland-Swedish, semla means a plain wheat bun, used for bread and butter, and not a sweet bun.

Semla Recipe courtesy of

5 Tbs butter 7oz. almond paste
1 cup milk1/3 cup milk
3 pkgs dried activated yeastwhipping cream
3 Tbs sugarPowdered sugar
1 egg, beatenMilk for serving, optional
1/4 tsp salt
3 cup flour
Glaze: 1 egg white, beaten

Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the milk and let cool until 97 degrees Fahrenheit.  The mixture should be feel warm but not hot. If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Pour the butter and milk mixture into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, along with about a teaspoon of sugar. Let stand for 5 mins. in a warm spot.

When yeast has formed little bubbles in the liquid, add the rest of the sugar, one egg, salt, and  flour. Mix well with a fork. Knead dough on a floured surface for a few minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Divide dough into two parts. Divide each part into about 5 smaller pieces and roll into balls that are a little smaller than a tennis ball. Place these balls of dough on a greased baking sheet, cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm for about 20 minutes.  Brush top of each bun with the beaten egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 375 until buns are a light golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a rack.


When cool, cut a small slice off the top of each bun and set aside. Using a fork, scrape out the center of each bun and put in a bowl. Add the almond paste the milk, a  tablespoon or two at a time, stirring until smooth. Spoon paste back into the buns. Whip cream until stiff.  Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the filling. Place lids back on each bun and sprinkle the top of the bun with powdered sugar. Semlor can be served at room temperature on a plate or, more traditionally, in a bowl with hot milk.


Semla — 4 Comments

  1. I know some people question why I occasionally post these sorts of things but I really do believe that what we do today needs to reflect the cultures and customs of today as well as the past. In this case, it’s a tasty little treat that doesn’t go back into antiquity, but it is commonly consumed in Scandinavia and is part of our cultural heritage. We are not just who we were 1000 years ago and for many of us, connecting with our modern cultural heritage is just as important as reviving our ancient customs. I find that my troth is strengthened by incorporating these modern cultural elements into my life because I connect with living elements, not just moldy old books.

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