Last updated on March 1st, 2024.

In the heart of Swedish culinary tradition lies a delicacy that captures the essence of simplicity and indulgence in every bite – Semla. This delightful pastry, often enjoyed during the Lenten season leading up to Easter, has a rich history and a taste that evokes comfort and satisfaction.

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Semla buns.

What is Semla?

Semla, pronounced “semm-la,” (Semlor for plural) is a classic Swedish pastry that dates back to the 16th century. Originally associated with Shrove Tuesday (fat Tuesday), the day before Lent, when indulging in rich, fatty foods was customary before the fasting period, Semla has evolved into a beloved treat enjoyed throughout the Lenten season and beyond.

You might wonder why this Jewish gal is talking about Lent fasting. Two words: Almond Paste. Ok, five words: Almond paste and whipped cream.

At its core, Swedish Semla is a cardamom-spiced wheat bun filled with a sweet almond paste filling and topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Its simple yet satisfying combination of flavors and textures makes it a staple in Swedish bakeries and homes during the winter months.

Also, lent leads to Easter and, in my world, Passover—the holiday when no flour products or bread is eaten. So, I have my fasting preparation. (Note to self: King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden died of severe food poisoning after eating one too many classic Semla; I guess that’s Death by Semla?…)

For more traditional bread recipes, check out these Maritozzo Italian Cream buns, these Brioche Buns, and this Bakery Style Challah.

Semla In A Warm Bowl Of Hot Milk

A traditional and cozy way to enjoy this soft cardamom bun is by soaking it in warm milk, allowing the flavors to meld together and creating a comforting dessert or snack. This method adds an extra layer of indulgence to an already decadent treat. Makes sense. These little buns of joy were eaten in the 16th century, pre-microwave. So soaking the few days-old bread in fresh, warm milk sounds like a genius move!

Swedish fat Tuesday bun in a bowl with warm milk.


To embark on your Semla-making journey, you’ll need the following ingredients
For the dough

  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Instant Yeast. For day and fresh yeast alternatives, see notes on the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
  • Cardamom
  • Salt
  • Orange zest. It’s optional and not very rational; I love the combination of orange, cardamom, and almonds.
  • Lukewarm Milk. Make sure the milk is not too hot, or else it will kill the yeast. Dip your finger if it is too hot, and allow it to cool.
  • Large eggs at room temperature.
  • Butter. Soft and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Beaten egg. For egg wash.

For the filling and topping

  • Almond paste. If you are nervous about using almond filling made with raw eggs, I have an egg-free almond paste option. Marzipan filling is also an option, but it is sweeter than almond paste and has a less distinguished almond flavor. Also, traditional Semla buns do not use Marzipan.  
  • Heavy whipping cream.
  • Icing sugar (powdered sugar)
Ingredients to make Swedish cream buns

How To Make Semla

Make The Dough

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, cardamom, and orange zest in a large bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the warm milk and eggs.
  2. Use the paddle attachment to mix on medium-low until you have a soft, rough dough.
  3. Replace with the dough hook and add the butter, one piece at a time, with the mixer on medium speed. Wait for each piece to incorporate before adding the next.
  4. Mix until soft and elastic dough dough forms that stretch easily, about 3-4 minutes after you add the last piece of butter.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until double in size.
steps on How to make cardamom buns dough. Mixing the ingredients, adding butter, and resting the dough.

Shape And Bake

  1. Punch down the dough, place it over a clean work surface, and divide it into equal parts.
  2. Shape each portion into round buns and place them on a baking sheet.
  3. Gently press each round with the palm of your hand. 
  4. Brush with the beaten eggs. Allow the buns to rise again before baking in a preheated oven until golden brown.
How to shape Swedish cardamom buns. dividing the sough, shaping to a ball, pressing the top and brushing with an egg.


  1. Once the buns have cooled, use a shape pointy knife to cut a cone-shaped piece from the top of each bun. Insert the knife about 1/2 inch into the bun at a 45-degree angle, then go around cutting the bun. 
  2. Fill it with almond paste.
  3. Pipe the whipped cream over the top of the buns.
  4. Top with the piece of bread, and dust with powdered sugar.
Assembling a cardamom bun; slicing the top, filling with almond paste, and topping with heavy cream.


  • Measuring the ingredients accurately is crucial for the success of the recipe; the best way to ensure this is by using a kitchen scale.
  • The dough might seem sticky but do not be tempted to add more flour. During resting time, the flour will soak the liquid and won’t be too sticky to work with.
  • Place the buns over a wire rack to prevent them from getting a soggy bottom.
  • Mix the almond paste with 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream for a smooth paste.
  • Add a hint of freshly ground cardamom to the whipped cream for an extra flavor.
  • Don’t overfill the buns with almond paste to avoid becoming too dense.
  • Experiment with different shapes and sizes to personalize your Semla experience.

Storing And Make Ahead

​Filled buns should be stored in the refrigerator and are suitable for up to two days. Pay attention to the whipped cream’s freshens.  

Unfilled buns should be stored at room temperature and are best on the same day. To maintain its freshness, wrap the buns in a plastic wrap, place them in a freeze bag, and freeze them for up to eight weeks. When ready to use, remove from the freezer, unwrap, and allow to defrost at room temperature.

The dough can be made the night before and refrigerated overnight. 


Can I skip the almond filling?

Yes, if you follow a medically restrictive diet, fill the buns with what is best for you. 

Can I make Semla ahead of time?

You can prepare the dough and filling in advance and assemble the Semla just before serving to maintain freshness.

When is Semla eaten?

Traditionally, it is eaten on Fat Tuesday and good Frida, but this recipe is a fabulous year-long.

Can I use store-bought almond paste?

Store-bought almond paste can be used as a time-saving alternative. But homemade almond paste calls for simple ingredients like ground almonds or almond flour and is preferred for its flavor and texture.

What else can I fill the Semla with?

The sky is the limit, and other options can include Creme Legere, Pastry Cream, Ganache, and more.

Semla topped with cream and powdered sugar.

More Traditional Recipes You Might Enjoy

Sufganiyot Israeli Jelly Donuts, Karpatka Polish Cream Puff Cake, Italian Tiramisu

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a five-star review below the recipe. Don’t forget to tag @OneSarcasticBaker on Instagram whenever you bake this recipe. I would love to see your creations!


Swedish Cardamom buns filled with alond paste and topped with cream.

Course Dessert
Cuisine European
Keyword Semla
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 14 Buns
Author Dikla


For The Dough

  • 4 Cups All purpose flour, unbleached (500g)
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar (70g)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
  • Zest of half orange, optional
  • 1 Cup Lukewarm milk (240ml)
  • 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 Tablespoons Unsalted butter, soft and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (85g)

For The Filling and Toppings

  • 1 recipe Almond paste, eggs free
  • 2 Cups Heavy whipping cream (480ml)
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered sugar (30g)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered sugar for dusting the buns (30g)


Make The Dough

  1. Use a fork to mix the flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom, salt, and orange zest in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the lukewarm milk and eggs and use the paddle attachment to mix until you have a shaggy mass.

  2. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and mix for about 3 minutes on medium speed.

  3. With the mixer on medium speed, add the butter, one piece at a time, waiting for each piece to blend with the dough before adding the next.

  4. Once you add the last piece of butter, mix on medium speed until the dough is separated from the sides of the bowl and you have a smooth, slightly sticky, and elastic dough.

  5. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rest until double in size, about 90-120 minutes.

  6. Punch the dough to deflate the air, place a clean working surface, and divide it into 14 equal pieces (each about 65g).

  7. Use the palm of your hand to create a cage and roll each piece of dough until you have a smooth ball of dough.

  8. Place the rolled dough over a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then gently press each ball with the palm of your hands.

  9. Brush with an egg wash and set aside to rest for about 90-120 minutes.

  10. Bake for 15-17 minutes until the top of the buns is golden brown and the inner temperature is 180-200F. If you don't have a thermometer, cut one bun to make sure it is not raw at the center.

  11. Remove from the oven and cool over a wire rack before filling and topping.

Make the Filling and topping

  1. Use a fork to mash the almond paste. If it is too hard, mix it with about 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream.

  2. Whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until stable. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large rose tip.


  1. Use a sharp knife to cut the top of the buns and remove the top.

  2. Fill the center of the buns with the almond paste, then pipe the whipped cream on top.

  3. Top with the piece of bun you cut, sprinkle powdered sugar, and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • To replace the yeast with fresh yeast of active dry yeast: use 1 1/2 tablespoon. Mix the warm milk, yeast and one teaspoon of the sugar in a large bowl and set a side for 15 minutes. 
  • Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature, and use a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients accurately.
  • Ensure the milk is not too hot, or it will kill the yeast. Dip your finger to check; it should be warm but not too hot. If it’s too hot, allow it to cool. 
  • The dough might seem too sticky, but the flour will absorb the water during the rest time the time and be easy to work with.
  • Mix the almond paste with some heavy cream if it is too thick.
  • The buns should be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. Unfilled buns can be frozen for up to six weeks.

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