Technically, this recipe is one week late.

The big problem with my tardiness, of course, is that you’re all into your Lent fasting period now … so obviously have no interest in beautiful, easy to make, milk enriched white buns which are laced with cardamom and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Such a shame.

I’ll go through the motions, though, just in case a few of you are still allowing yourselves an occasional treat. The basics are:

  • Semlor are Swedish and traditionally eaten on Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday).
  • But there’s nothing really stopping you eating semlor all year round.
  • The singular noun is semla, but why would you only ask for one?
  • A soft, white, enriched bun … which is much easier to make than you might think.
  • The dough is flavoured by cardamom powder. I highly recommend Spice Mountain in Borough Market.
  • Make your own almond paste — it’s dead easy.
  • Whip the cream just till ribbon stage then put it in the fridge to firm up. I hate over whipped cream in baked goods.
  • Mix a pinch of cardamom into a teaspoon or two of icing sugar, then dust the buns just before you eat them.

There’s a recipe below the picture, should you fancy a bake off. Alternatively, I quite like the Swedish bakery Fabrique in Hoxton and Covent Garden – largely because they do awesome cardamom buns, but also because their semlor are goooood.


Makes 14-16 buns

  • 500g strong white (bread) flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 6g ground cardamom
  • 9g salt
  • 60g butter, fridge cold and cubed
  • 100g water (at body temp)
  • 13g dry yeast
  • 150g milk (at body temp)
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g whole blanched almonds
  • 45g honey
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 25g milk
  • 350g double cream
  • 20g icing sugar
  • Icing sugar and ground cardamom for dusting

The instructions below assume you’re using a mixer with a dough hook, but you can make the dough easily enough by hand. I find the Richard Bertinet kneading method best for wet mixes like this.

Add the dry yeast to the tepid water and leave for 10-15 minutes – until the surface is coverd with froth.

Sieve the flour into the bowl of the mixer. Work the butter into the flour with your fingers and thumbs until this resembles bread crumbs (as if making shortcrust pastry).

Add the salt, the sugar and the ground cardamom. Mix the powders up with a spoon.

Pour in the yeast and warm milk and give the contents of the bowl a quick turn with a plastic bread scraper. Break in the two eggs, then use the dough hook on your mixer to knead at medium speed for ten minutes. Occasionally stop the mixer and scrape the bowl to ensure all the dough is being kneaded.

When the dough is smooth and elastic, scrape it out on to a clean, non-floured surface. Shape it into a round and place it, with the seam underneath, in a large bowl to rest and double in size (should take about an hour). Cover the bowl with a slightly damp tea towel.

Once rested, remove the dough from the bowl, this time on to a well floured surface. Push the dough out into a rectangular shape. Fold the top side (along the long length) into the middle and press down to seal with your thumb. Do the same with the bottom side. Then fold the long edges together and create a seam. You are left with a length of dough.

Divide this into 16 pieces with the dough scaper (each piece should weigh 60-65g) and shape each amount into a ball: fold the corners of the dough piece into the middle of the shape, pressing in with your thumb. This is the base of your semla roll. Place that on a flat surface and shape into a ball. I find a bread scraper really useful at this point.

Put all the balls of dough two baking trays – with plenty of space between them. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough balls and cover each tray with a tea towl. Leave to prove for 45 minutes. Turn the oven on to 230C. Put a roasting tray full of water in the bottom.

After 45 minutes, place the trays in the hot oven. Cook at full temperature for ten minutes, turn the trays round and turn the oven down to 200C. Cook for five minutes more until the rolls have fully risen and are lovely and golden brown. Check the bread is cooked by tapping the base – it should sound hollow. Leave to completely cool.

Make the almond paste by blitzing the almonds, honey caster sugar and milk together in a food processer for two minutes. Whisk the double cream and icing sugar to just past ribbon stage. Place in the fridge to firm up.

When the buns are cold, slice the top off about two thirds up the bun. Spread the base with a full teaspoon of almond paste, and spoon in a healthy 25g of cream per person.

Dust with icing sugar and a pinch of cardamom.

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