Semlor – the Swedish Shrove Tuesday bun

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My Swedish Instagram friends have been sharing pictures of semlor for weeks already. These Swedish pastries look really delicious. You actually eat a semla on Shrove Tuesday. Semlor are also called Fettisdagsbullar.

Semlor are so popular (Every year around 40 million semlor are sold. That’s more than 4 per Swede!) that you can find them in the Swedish bakeries earlier each year. But be aware: once it has been Easter, you can’t find them anymore and have to wait until next year.

The traditional way of eating semlor is by putting the semla in a bowl and pour hot milk around it. The Swedes call this ‘hetvägg’.

Did you know that the word semla comes from the Latin word semila which means ‘flour from very good quality’.

Semla with a modern twist

The last years, you can find modern versions of the semlor in some bakeries in Sweden. A few years ago the semla wrap or semmelwrap was on sale at Tössebagariet.

In 2017 the combination of the princess cake and the semla was the big trend. I really would have loved to try it because I’m a fan of those princesses tarts and of semlor so the combination seems like heaven on a plate to me. In 2018 the nacho semla from Mr. Cake were the thing. I wonder what it will be this year!


Fettisdagen is the Swedish version of our Shrove Tuesday. The tradition wants us to have one last binge before we fast for 40 days. The Swedes don’t eat pancakes like we do in Belgium but they have Fettisdagsbullar or semlor. And because of these cakes, they call this day Semmeldagen as well.

Fettisdagen: when?

  • 2020: 25 February
  • 2021: 16 February
  • 2022: 1 March
  • 2023: 21 February
  • 2024: 13 February
  • 2025: 4 March

Because it still might take a while before I am in Sweden again, I tried baking some semlor myself this week.

Classic recipe for semla


For the bullar

  • 75 grams of butter
  • 300 ml milk
  • 10 g of yeast
  • half a teaspoon of salt
  • 55 g of sugar
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 500 grams of flour
  • 1 egg (or a bit of milk – to give the bullar some colour)

For the filling

  • 200 grams almond paste
  • 120 ml milk
  • cream
  • icing


  1. Do the milk and butter in a pan and let the butter melt. Put the yeast in here.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the contents of the pan with the mixture in the bowl and knead for five minutes until you have a nice dough that no longer sticks to your fingers.
  4. Let this rise (covered) for half an hour.
  5. Knead into balls. Keep in mind that the dough will continue to rise so don’t put the buns too close to each other. Then cover it and let rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Coat the buns with some egg or milk.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Depending on the size of the buns, the buns should be in the oven between 10 and 25 minutes. Get them out and let them cool off.
  8. While the buns are cooling, you can start with the filling. Because I did not find almond paste, I chose marzipan.
  9. Grate the marzipan.
  10. When the buns have cooled down cut off the top. Use a fork to remove the middle.
  11. Mix the marzipan, the breadcrumbs and milk into a solid mass. Make sure that this mass is no longer running like fluid. Fill the buns up with this filling.
  12. Finish with a good layer of cream and put the hat on it. Finally add a finishing of powdered sugar.
  13. Enjoy! Want to enjoy the semla in a really traditional way? Put the semla in a deep plate and pour hot milk around it.

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Swedish recipe - semla
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