Swedish Semla

A traditional sweet bread served during the holidays, add this warm and comforting dessert to your repertoire.



Swedish Semla city Style and Living Magazine
/K&S Media.


A traditional sweet bread served during the holidays, add this warm and comforting dessert to your repertoire.

Makes 16 buns.  Serve warm

2        eggs
2/3    cup (158 ml) melted butter
1 ½   cups (375 ml) warm milk
1 ½   teaspoon (7 ml) active dry yeast
5        cups (1250 ml) all-purpose flour plus 1 cup
½      cup (125 ml) granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons
½      teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1        teaspoon (5 ml) ground cardamom
1        teaspoon (5 ml) ground clove
4        teaspoons (20 ml) baking powder
½     cup milk (125 ml), or as needed
½     cup (125 ml) marzipan
2       cups (500 ml) whipping cream
1       teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
icing sugar for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, butter and milk. Sprinkle with yeast and allow to activate for 5 minutes. In another bowl, sift together flour with ½ cup sugar, salt, ground clove and ground cardamom. Once yeast has bloomed, stir flour mixture into milk mixture forming a soft dough. Cover bowl with a damp towel, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

3. Mix together remaining flour and baking powder. Stir into risen dough, and knead until smooth. Form into 16 dough balls and place onto greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise again until doubled in size, approximately 30-40 minutes.

4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and the center is cooked. Cool buns on a wire rack.

5. Once cooled, cut a slice about ½ inch (1.5 cm) thick off of the top of the bun and set aside. Scoop  out the center of the buns. Tear the center of the buns into small pieces and place in a bowl. Moisten the bread with milk, then mix in marzipan until smooth. Add additional milk if needed, until the marzipan filling has the consistency of thick cream.

6. Meanwhile, whip cream with remaining sugar to stiff peaks. Fill each bun with a spoonful of marzipan filling. Pipe whipped cream on top of the filling. Replace the tops onto the buns, and dust with icing sugar before serving. Serve traditionally with cardamom infused warm milk.


Tips and Ideas

No cutting corners here!  Use full fat whipping cream (35% milk fat) and whip to soft peaks, avoid using frozen whipped topping or pre-whipped cream.

The rich sweet almond flavour adds to the taste of this dessert. Although we used pre-made you can make marzipan from scratch.  For a twist, try varying the nut.

Related to the ginger family, and the world’s third most expensive spice, the earthy, comforting flavour permeates dishes – so use sparingly.

The bun: Don’t bake buns too much in advance – a warm bun adds to the sumptuous combination.

The filling: Pre-made marzipan can be hard. To soften slightly add a little warm milk to blend to optimal texture.

Serving: Traditionally, semla are served in a shallow bowl or plate into which cardamom infused milk is slowly poured.

 This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014/15 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.