View Full Version : The Lowdown on Sweden's Best Buns

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 05:32 PM
Published: 20 Feb 07 11:31 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/6470/20070220/

Ten things you've always wanted to know about semlas 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, but the day before the start of the Christian season of Lent is called Fat Tuesday in Sweden.

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.

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.

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.

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


Vete-katten, Kungsgatan 55
Tössebageriet, Karlavägen 77
Gunnarssons, Götgatan 92


Cederleüfs konditori, Göteborgsvägen 74
Svenheimers Konditori, Brahegatan 11
Nöjds Konditori, Långedragssvägen 22


Lomma Hembageri, Strandvägen 96

The Local (news@thelocal.se/08 656 6518)

More about Semla: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semla


Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 05:47 PM
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.
We used to have Simnel Cakes from the same word;

The fourth Sunday in Lent is in most Lancashire towns called Simnel Sunday, and Simnel cakes--ornamental and rich cakes like those made at 'Xmas time--are eaten. A writer in The Gentleman's Magazine (1867) informs us that "from time beyond memory thousands of persons come from all parts to that town (Bury) to eat Simnels. Formerly, nearly every shop was open, with all the public-houses, quite in defiance of the law respecting the closing during 'service'; but of late years, through the improved state of public opinion, the disorderly scenes to which the custom gave rise have been partially amended. Efforts have been made to put a stop to the practice altogether, but in vain." This was forty years ago, and the trade in Bury "Simnels," owing to quick and cheap transit, has practically put an end to the local celebrations. The origin of the word Simnel is in doubt. In Wright's Vocabularies it appears thus: "Hic arlaecopus=symnelle." This form was in use during the fifteenth century. In the Dictionarius of John de Garlande, completed in Paris in the thirteenth century, it appears thus:--"Simeneus=placentae=simnels." Such cakes were stamped with the figure of Christ or of the Virgin. We can only conclude that as cakes--witness the shewbread of the Hebrews--have always occupied an important place in early forms of worship, there was a successful effort in the north to localise a Christianised form of celebration; for the mixture of joviality and religious austerity which characterised Simnel Sunday in past centuries is in keeping with the same display on other occasions in countries further south.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 06:46 PM
I was fortunate enough to eat three of them today :P.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 08:07 PM
I was fortunate enough to eat three of them today :P.

I ate one today and I have eaten one already in last Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 08:54 PM
Thank you for reminding me!
I just managed to get to the local bakery in time to buy the last two.
The lady behind the counter informed me that though semlor had been for sale in their bakery for about a month they hadn't sold very many until today. This seemed to please her.


Wow! 100

Papa Koos
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 10:01 PM
Dare I confess this?!

I hurried to this thread, alas, to find it not about Swedish {female} buns!

Thursday, February 26th, 2009, 02:49 PM
I made a batch and really enjoyed them. I used this recipe (http://www.christonium.com/culinaryreview/ItemID=12017355921059). They did not raise well so we ate them like open sandwiches. I used strawberry preserves and whipped cream because I am out of almonds.