Life in Sweden, Stories from the West

Spices in the Buns

This post is a part of the writing project called Stories from the West that I started with Christa. We’re both currently living on the west coasts (Christa in the US, me in Sweden), hence the name of the project. We want to share our experiences living as immigrants, and every month we’ll write a post each with the same topic. The topic for this month is ‘food‘. Don’t forget to read Christa’s post, More Than ‘Just’ a Burger.

Of all things that Sweden is known for, food is definitely not it (except maybe the meatballs, thanks to IKEA). I’ve been living here for 10 months now and I still haven’t found a cuisine that makes me obsessed the way nasi padang and baked pasties do. Sure, I have a list of Swedish dishes that I particularly enjoy (especially those at julbord), but there’s another (longer) list of foods that I’m not sure about.

One thing that I’ve been trying hard to like (but often fail) is baked goods containing spices, which are often popular and well-loved here. While cinnamon and ginger are commonly used in baking, I draw the line when cardamom or saffron is thrown into the mix. Here’s a quick introduction to some of Sweden’s most popular baked goods.

Let’s dig in!


Spot the heart-shaped pepparkakor!

Or pepparkakor (plural), is something that I actually love. This is not a bun, obviously, but I include it here as it also uses some spices.

Similar in taste to gingerbread and lebkuchen, this cookie is popular around Christmas time. The traditional recipe uses ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, but I’ve heard the experiments people did with the pepparkakor. My Swedish teacher said she liked making hers with white pepper and paprika powder to make it hotter, but I’m not sure about deviating from the original recipe…


Rows and rows of humongous kannelbullar

Kannelbulle is basically a cinnamon bun, so there’s nothing surprising here. I enjoy it in a small amount (provided they’re not too sweet). From the big supermarkets like Willys or Hemköp, to the convenience stores like 7-Eleven or Pressbyrån, you can always find kannelbullar, all year round. But even when they can be found all year round, there’s a specific day dedicated just to celebrate these buns, called ‘kannelbullens dag’. Every October 4th, you can be sure there will be kannelbullar during the fika session(s).

Lussekat (or lussebulle)

Kannelbullar and lussekatter

Also known as the saffron buns, lussekatter/lussebullar are among the favorite buns here, especially around Christmas time. It’s a tradition to have this on St. Lucy’s Day (called ‘luciadagen‘ here), as you’ve probably guessed from the name. These pretty yellow buns, sadly, don’t taste quite as good as they look. Again, I’m only speaking for myself here. While I think the saffron makes the bun taste a bit like medicine, others would say that I speak nonsense.


Semla sounds delicious on paper: a bun with the top cut off, filled with almond paste and whipped cream, with a hint of cardamom and a sprinkle of caster sugar as the finishing touch. It sounds moreish and looks delicious, but I put this on my no list after the second bite (because, you know, I wanted to give it a chance). The cardamom tasted… wrong, and the cream was way too sweet. Not for me, but it’s loved by many Swedes.

You won’t find semlor so easily when it’s not the season, which usually starts from after Christmas until before Easter. Just like some other delicacies, semlor also has its special day (called ‘semmeldagen’ aka ‘the semla day’), which usually falls sometime in February.

I should end this post by saying that I might be the weird one here. Most people LOVE these baked goods, so maybe you’ll like it too if you get a chance to taste them. Each to their own, or as the Swedish saying goes, ‘smaken är som baken, delad’ (literal translation: ‘The taste is like the butt, divided’).

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  • Reply kutubuku

    Semla is eaten before fettisdagen or the 40-day fasting before easter period start, I think. In Denmark we don’t have semla but we have fastelavnsboller which basically has same meaning (you used up all your butter before the fasting month) only that in Denmark fastelavn is celebrated by kids dressing up like It was Halloween

    February 3, 2019 at 7:59 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      That’s an interesting trivia! I think it would be interesting to go to Denmark during that time 😀

      February 10, 2019 at 1:06 pm
  • Reply aggy87

    Wow putting white pepper and paprika powder! I am not a fan of spices in my baked goods, I think cinnamon and nutmeg are as adventurous as I can get. It all looks delicious though and just by looking at the pictures I would probably pick it up thinking it would be sweet haha. Really interesting info here Dixie!

    February 4, 2019 at 7:50 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Thanks Gy! They do look delicious and that’s how I was tricked to try them the first time. I also don’t like sweet stuff, and cinnamon buns and semlor can be REALLY sweet, but the rest is okay actually (sweetness-wise).

      February 10, 2019 at 1:08 pm
  • Reply Christa

    Woww spices in buns? I don’t think we have something like that here, except for cinnamon rolls… but then again it’s topped with cream cheese so it kills the cinnamon taste :))))))) Agree with Aggy, it is indeed really interesting info! 🙂

    February 8, 2019 at 6:19 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      I definitely think it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you might like it maybe when you get a chance to try it? 😉

      February 10, 2019 at 1:10 pm

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