Semlor – Lent buns

While Britain gets celebrates Shrove Tuesday with pancakes, Swedes turn to cardamom scented buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Originally they were only eaten on Shrove Tuesday, but they now tend to be sold in bakeries from just after Christmas until the beginning of Lent.

Semlor - Lent buns

With part of the family away for Shrove Tuesday this year we waited until the weekend to have our Semlor, as they are called in Swedish. The buns should be light and fluffy, and there is some baking powder included in this dough to help it rise, but I still struggle to get them as light and fluffy as the ones you can buy in bakeries. I blame the cardamon in this case – I’ve never been able to find ready ground cardamon in the supermarkets in the UK, but instead go for cardamon pods and crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar. Unfortunately the freshness of the cardamon seems to have a negative effect on the doughs ability to rise and the buns end up a bit denser than I would like. The overall result is still delicious though!

Selma cut on half

75 g butter
300 ml milk
0.5 tbsp cardamon pods – seeds finely crushed, or 1 tsp ground cardamon
75 ml sugar
a pinch of salt
7 g fast action yeast (1 sachet)
1 egg (for the dough)
900 ml flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 egg to glaze the buns with

Filling for about 10 buns
150 g almonds, whole blanched
150 g sugar
2-3 tbsp water
2-3 tbsp milk
300 ml whipping or double cream
icing/powdered sugar for dusting


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the crushed/ground cardamon, sugar, salt and milk, and heat until lukewarm.
  2. Combine most of the flour, yeast and baking powder in a large bowl, then pour in the milk mixture and the egg and work into a smooth dough, adding the remaining flour as needed. Leave to rise, covered, for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size .
  3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, divide into smaller pieces and shape into round buns. I made mine quite small, about 50g each which gave me about 20 buns.
  4. Place the buns on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Leave to rise, covered, for about 30 minutes.
  5. Brush the buns with the remaining, lightly whisked, egg, this is optional though – I forgot to this time, then bake in a preheated oven for 225°C for about 8 minutes – or longer if making larger buns, until golden brown. Leave to cool on a rack.
  6. To make the filling, grind the blanched almonds in a food processor, mix in the sugar and add the water a little at the time until the paste is firm and smooth.
  7. Whip the cream.
  8. Cut a lid of the buns, scoop out some of the inside to make a hole inside the bun and mix with almond paste and a little milk until the paste is loose.
    Fill the buns with the almond/bun paste, top with whipped cream, put the lid back on top and dust with icing/powdered sugar.
  9. The buns freeze well if not using all at once.

Empty plate


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