Mardi Gras in Sweden with Cream Buns

For an American, Mardi Gras is synonymous with New Orleans.  A non-stop party with plenty of good food, alcohol, and some party beads thrown in for good measure.  Swedes celebrate Mardi Gras too.  They just do it a little differently.

Swedes eat.  Specifically, Swedes eat semlor.  A semla is a delicious baked good smothered in cream.  The pastry itself is a wheat bun, spiced with cardamom.  The top of the bun is cut off (but not thrown away) and hollowed out.  Inserted into the newly hollowed out bun is a dollop of almond paste. Finally, the bun is filled with cream and the cut off (but not thrown away) top acts as a sort of hat to the semla.

Picture courtesy of ratexla. More pictures by ratexla here.

Semlor are traditionally meant to be eaten on Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday in the UK), before the Lent fast begins on Ash Wednesday. However, the Semla starts making an appearance in bakeries and grocery stores throughout the country around the beginning of the year and don’t disappear until Easter.

And it is a good thing, because they are delicious.  Several years ago, Aftonbladet, one of the evening newspapers in Sweden, reported that the average Swedes eats five semlor per year for a grand total of 40 million semlor.

Picture courtesy of Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi. More pictures by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi here.

I had initially planned on ranking my favorite semla places, but it’s just not fair. The beauty of Fat Tuesday is sampling your way through several different semlor.  The cafés in Gamla Stan in Stockholm are a great place to start.  If the weather is nice, continue on to KungsträdgÃ¥rden and grab a seat at one of the outdoor cafés.  Finally, make your way towards Hötorget.  You won’t be disappointed.  You will be full, and if you didn’t pace yourself, borderline sick.  Semlor are rich and heavy and should probably be eaten in moderation.  Of course, it is Fat Tuesday, so enjoy.

If you can’t make your way to Sweden in time to sample a semla, try this recipe here.

More Tips for Things to Do in Sweden

We’ve lots more travel tips for what to do in Sweden.

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About Marcus Cederstrom

I was born in Sweden and moved to the US just before my 6th birthday. I grew up in the United States eventually graduating from the University of Oregon. After graduation and about 17 years in the US I made the decision to move back to Sweden. I have been living in Stockholm since the summer of 2007. Since graduation I have traveled throughout eastern Australia as well as in Sweden and Europe.