Semla – a wheat bun spiced with cardamom, almond paste and whipped cream. Few years back I was introduced to ‘Semla’ eating during a Swedish language class. I think the teacher just mentioned it and then we tried our first Semla from ‘Gateau’. Since that day I have never looked back, as in, never hesitated to have at least one (okay, I am lying at least two or three) during the Semla period. Yes, if you are living in Sweden, you must be aware of this period around Fettisdagen. Fettisdagen or Fat tuesday falls usually in month of February, latest early March, and is celebrated by eating Semlas in Sweden. Tradition of eating Semla was associated to eating something high in carbs as a part of celebration before the period of fasting begins, also it was eaten by soaking in hot milk.
So I can see back in January 2017, I had already started eating Semla and started off in Vete-Katten. Have you visited this amazing cafe in Stockholm? It should be on your list of cafes to visit. Vetekatten is famous because it is one of the very early patisserries in Stockholm started somewhere in 1920s. It was founded by a woman and she only employed women for 40 years that she lived after starting it. Back in 1920s when women in Sweden had just started voting in electionns. In these times running an all women’s cafe owned by a lady in Central Stockholm City must have been a very strong statement and a big deal even for Sweden of those times.
What an iconic place to start and may be one of the reasons why I got stuck to this notion of having good Semla each year. I had thoroughly enjoyed my Semla here in Vete-Katten and would highly recommend it to try visiting this historic iconic cafe atleast for Semla. Though they are also famous for lot of other Swedish fika delicacies along with Coffee.
Sometimes you just don’t have time to visit a cafe, I understand. Then I recommend visiting pop-up style Gateau cafes in shopping mall. Eating Semla was equally good, even while sitting in Gateau of Galleria mall in Central Stockholm near Sergelstorg and T Central Station. It was/is literally few seats in the main corridor of this shopping mall. Don’t forget to try the mini semlas from any Gateau cafe, they are quick bite and perfect.
Gamlastan in Stockholm is an amazing place to explore cafes. I love old dungeon cafes of Gamlastan. It has eeiry history to it yet something weirdly cozy about these places. It is fun to visit them both in summer and winters. I have been to Cafe Sten Sture many times but I distinctly remember the decorated Semla they served, simply delicious. This cafe is literally a dungeon used to hold prisoners turned into cafe. You can see the relics and even the decor suits the general vibe of the place.
It will be a crime to write a blog about cafes in Stockholm and not mention a few on Södermalm side of Stockholm. The two most recent ones which I particularly visited were Gunnarsons Konditori and Älskade Traditioner. It was next day of Valentine’s day when we visited these cafes hence it was all about hearts, but we enjoyed the experience.
Gunnarsons specialkonditori is a two floor cafe serving all kinds of Swedish breads, fika items, sandwiches, coffee and basically everything that constitutes a Swedish fika. I had a classic Semla and was delighted. My Semla loving heart felt at peace. This cafe like all famous places in Stockholm is crowded and be careful of your belongings. Just remember you are doing it for a well deserved Semla.
One would imagine even Swedish people getting bored of eating the same Semla each year, hence every few years cafes come up with a brand new hybrid Semla which is completely unheard of and causes a stir in Swedish community. A few years back there was a rage of a mixture between Princess tårta and Semla, basically buns made of Princess cake and then a filling as usual with whipped cream. Then you can find Nutella Semla, chocolate Semla, beetroot semla, vegan semlas and many more. This usually follows by a heated debate that if Classic Semla should be toyed around and purists vouch on sticking to traditions, nevertheless once in a while it’s good to experiment I think.
So, this year even I decided to try atleast one outlier Semla. I visited Älskade Traditioner cafe in Södermalm. Even though the cafe is famous for its waffles and milkshakes, I went in and had Kanelbullar Semla. Älskade Traditioner translates to loving traditions but clearly even they couldn’t resist themselves from trying new kind of Semla.
I tried Kanelbullar Semla and was blown away with the sweetness. It was a kanelbullar split in half, decked with whipped cream and almond paste. You can feel as if you are eating a Kanelbullar but the cream and paste also felt like Semla. It was a lot for my taste buds. On the other hand the classic Semla in this cafe had strawberries hidden in the bun. Nevertheless I enjoyed my share of this experience. I wouldn’t suggest eating two semlas in one day where one of them is experimental.
You may wonder if I am slightly obsessed with all this Semla eating, but I assure you that there are many people like me. Infact a company called That’s up Stockholm runs a yearly competition of finding out the best Semla in Stockholm. This year a huge panel of judges had 34 semlas to test for taste, appearance. Winner of best semla in Stockholm this year was same as last year (which has never happened before). It was a semla from cafe Bullar och Bröd. I guess I have to try their semlas next.
Do let me know which cafes have you tried out in Stockholm and any particular traditional Semla which fascinated you? Till then.. Happy Fettisdagen tomorrow. Atleast buy a semla from a supermarket (they sell it too) because its a must to have one each year🤩😁