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Swedish pastry chef, author and tv-personality Roy Fares, staniding in his café Mr. Cake.

Photo: Mr. Cake

Categories: Cafés

Roy Fares: My top 5 places to eat semla

Publish date: 8 January 2024

Celebrated Swedish pastry chef and TV host Roy Fares is preparing for this year's semla season. Here are his best tips for where to taste this traditional Swedish dessert in Stockholm!

After having won the Årets Konditor award (Pastry Chef of the Year) in 2010, Roy Fares has become one of Sweden's most prominent pastry chefs and dessert masters. He's published five books, and has appeared in TV shows like Go’ Kväll, Dessertmästarna och Mitt Kök. In 2017 he opened a bakery and café on Rådmansgatan in Stockholm, MR. Cake, and his since branched out with a second location at Stenpiren in Gothenburg.

Like many other Swedish bakers, Fares is currently getting prepared for this year's semla season that starts in early January. We had a quick chat about his best semla-related tips.

"Well, generally speaking, the semla is an odd pastry; A wheat bun shouldn't be stored in a fridge – it should be soft and fresh, with lots of cardamom flavor. The whipped cream has to be just right; not too runny but not too thick, either. Most importantly, cream will go bad if you leave it out of the fridge. So, I would go for a smaller café that makes them to order, and not one that makes them all in the morning and then lets them sit on a counter all day long."

Sorry, but what is a semla?

Semlor, rosendals café
Visit Stockholm

A semla is a traditional Swedish pastry. The classic semla is a cardamom spiced-wheat bun, with a filling of almond pulp and whipped cream. There are similar pastries all over Northern Europe like the Danish fastelavnsbolle, the Estonian vastlakukkel, and the Finnish laskiaispulla.

Historically, semlas have been served only on Shrove Tuesday*. But in modern times they can be found in most cafés and bakeries from early January to mid/late February.

Read more about the semla in our guide about the best semlas in Stockholm!

*also known as Mardi Gras in some regions

Fares has also noticed that the trend of innovative, deconstructed semlas has petered out. The current trend is to have larger pieces of almond in the otherwise smooth almond pulp filling.

"There were semla-wraps, hot-dog semlas. We even made a nacho-plate semla at MR. Cake. But most cafés have returned to the classic semla. Instead, there´s been an inflation of semlas featuring large chunks of roasted almond in the pulp. I quite like the contrast myself, with a little bit of crisp and saltiness mixed in with the sweetness. But covering the entire semla in almonds is going too far, I think."

Lillebrors Bageri

"On Rörstrandsgatan in Vasastan. Lillebrors is probably best known for its delicious semlas. Their almond pulp has a little more saltiness to it, if you prefer that combination."

Socker sucker

"Founded by Frida Bäcke och Bedros Kabranian, both having won several accolades and awards. Is at the intersection of Rådmansgatan and Drottninggatan. Their semlas are awesome!"

Bullar och bröd

"A cozy little bakery and café on Vallhallavägen. Makes great bread, buns, and, of course, semlas."

Stora Bageriet

"Lies in the same building as The Swedish Museum of Performing Arts. Has been hyped for their great semlas, and even been crowned best in town in several tests."

MR. Cake

"I have to take the opportunity to make a shout-out for our semlas! We caramelize the almond pulp for some added sweetness. A classic semla, with a small twist."