Helen Goh's semlor buns

Swedish-style cream buns with almond and cardamom.
Swedish-style cream buns with almond and cardamom. Photo: William Meppem

These buns are delicious for anyone, but especially those who are observing Lent. In Sweden, where they originate, the buns are eaten from January right through to Easter. Flavoured with cardamom and filled with a rich almond paste, they're topped with softly whipped vanilla cream and are, quite simply, irresistible!


For the bun dough

270g strong white bread flour

130ml full-fat milk, lukewarm

30g caster sugar

1 tsp dried instant yeast

½ tsp freshly ground cardamom (from seeds of about 15 cardamom pods)

½ tsp salt

1 egg (brought to room temperature)

30g unsalted butter, softened

For the egg wash

1 egg yolk; reserve the white for the filling

1 tsp water

For the almond filling

1 egg white, reserved

60g almond meal

100g icing sugar, sifted

few drops of almond extract

To assemble

200ml pure cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

icing sugar, sieved


1. In a very small saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon of the flour with 30ml milk and 30ml water. Place over medium heat and stir until thick (1-2 minutes). Scrape the mix into a small bowl and set aside to cool.

2. Combine the remaining flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute, then add the remaining 100ml milk, egg, butter and the cooled flour paste. Continue to mix on medium-low speed until a rough dough forms (about 2 minutes), then increase the speed to medium-high and "knead" for another 5 minutes. It will be very soft and very sticky to begin with, but will firm up with handling. Scrape the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work bench and knead by hand for a couple more minutes. If it is still soft or sticky, sprinkle the bench with a little more flour and continue to knead until smooth and elastic.

3. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a plate and set aside to prove in a warm place until it has approximately doubled in size (about 1-2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room and the ingredients).

4. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and set aside.

5. When the dough has risen, press it down and transfer to a clean work bench. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (60-65g each), then shape into balls by rolling in circles with your cupped hand. Place the buns, spaced well apart, on the baking tray and set aside, covered, in a warm place to prove until almost doubled in size (about 1 hour).

6. Preheat the oven to 175C (185C conventional).

7. Whisk the egg yolk and water in a small bowl to combine, then use a small pastry brush to lightly egg wash the buns. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the buns to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. While the buns are in the oven, prepare the almond filling and cream for assembly. Whisk the egg white in a clean, medium-sized bowl until soft peaks form. Add the almond meal, icing sugar and almond extract, then stir to form a thick paste.

9. To assemble, place the cream and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until soft waves form. Scrape into a piping bag fitted with a large, star-tipped nozzle and place in the fridge for the time being.

10. When the buns have cooled, use a sharp knife to cut a small (2cm wide) V-shape segment out of the top of the bun and reserve. Fill the cavity with a tablespoon of the almond paste, then pipe a large swirl of the cream to cover the paste. Place the reserved tops jauntily back on top of the cream, then dust lightly with icing sugar.

Correction: The original version of this recipe missed adding the flour paste in step two. This has since been updated.