SWEDISH FIKA: YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST SWEDISH PASTRIES
Let’s talk about fika! Fika is a Swedish word that seems to be making it’s way around the world through Instagram and Pinterest, and for good reason! Often translated as “a coffee and cake break”, fika is this and so much more.
Fika is an important part of Swedish culture. In fact, many Swedes consider it an essential part of their daily routine. Fika is not a solo activity to be experienced at your desk by yourself, fika means making time for friends and colleagues to chat and catch up while enjoying a cup of coffee and a treat.
An important ritual, schools and even large companies like IKEA and Volvo stop for fika. It’s important to Swedish people to make time to stop and socialise: to take a pause. It refreshes the brain and strengthens relationships. Fika has even been proven to make good business sense: firms have closer team bonds and tend to be more productive when fika is taken!
While it’s not necessary to partake in a bun or sugary treat during every fika, it’s definitely a fun part of the experience and something I recommend when visiting Sweden – I even recommend my favourite fika spots in this post!
Walking into a Swedish bakery can be a bit overwhelming – there are so many amazing decisions, and honesty you can’t go wrong! But if you’re looking to make the most of your Swedish Fika, check out 8 of my favourite pastries that shouldn’t be missed!
1. Cinnamon or cardamom buns (Kanelbulle or Kardemummabulle)
These traditional Swedish buns can come in a variety of shapes, but whether tied into knots or rolled into spirals, they’re a consistent favourite in Sweden. The secret to their taste is a butter and sugar mixture that is used to spread on the dough before shaping them into buns. Cinnamon or ground cardamom is used for adding the lovely aroma that fills every bakery. Best served fresh and warm!
2. Chocolate ball (Chokladboll)
Always a good choice, these golf ball sized unbaked sweets are a simple, but delicious fika option. The minimal ingredient list includes oatmeal, sugar, butter, cocoa and sometimes a small amount of coffee. Chocolate balls are traditionally covered in desiccated coconut or sugar pearls.
3. Semla buns (Semla or Fastlagsbulle)
Semlor (semla plural) are traditional lent buns, but are so popular with Swedes that they start appearing as early as January and finishing around Easter time. To create a semla, the top of a soft cardamom spiced bun is cut off and layered with marzipan paste and whipped cream. The “lid” of the bun is placed back, and the pastry is lightly dusted with powdered sugar.
4. Lucia buns (Lussekatt)
These S-shape Lussekatter or ‘Lucia’s cats’ are another seasonal specialty in Sweden. The buns are traditionally served on December 15 – St.Lucia day, but remain popular throughout the Christmas season. They are simple to bake at home, but you can find them in almost every Swedish bakery in December. Saffron (which I talk more about here!) is the key ingredient that gives the buns their beautiful yellow colour and distinctive taste.
5. Punsch rolls (Punschrulle)
These small logs are filled with cookie crumb, arak, butter and cocoa mix, covered in a layer of green or pink marzipan and both ends dipped in chocolate. Occasionally the filling may contain raspberry jam or oats. They’re affectionally also known as vacuum cleaners (dammsugare), referring not only to their appearance, but also to the supposed practice of the pastry baker collecting crumbs from yesterday’s cookies for filling.
6. Vanilla hearts (Vaniljhjärta)
This adorable pastry is made from shortcrust dough formed into hearts, filled with vanilla cream, with powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Delicate and beautiful, one of my personal favourites!
7. Princess cake (Prinsesstårta)
This traditional Swedish layer cake is a popular choice for birthdays, celebrations, or for when you just feel like treating yourself. Consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, pastry cream, jam, and a thick-domed layer of whipped cream. The finishing touch to any princess cake is a green (sometimes pink) layer of marzipan and a flower on top.
Kladdkaka is a rich chocolate dessert cake, and my personal favourite. This delicious treat has a crisp outside and is soft and gooey inside. This dense, compact chocolate cake is similar to a chocolate brownie or a molten chocolate cake. However, the main difference between kladdkaka and other cakes is the lack of baking powder. Kladdkaka is often eaten with cream and berries to balance the rich chocolaty taste.
With the exception of princess cake (a fan fave, but not for me), I would gladly pair any of these treats with coffee for fika! Do you have a fave fika treat? Let me know!