Semmeltarta A modern-day ‘cake’ version of the Swedish Semla – Cream Bun, flavoured with cardamom filled with almond paste and whipped cream.
The oldest version of the semla was a plain bread bun, eaten in a bowl of warm milk.
Today, the Swedish-Finnish semla consists of a cardamom-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off, and is then filled with a mix of milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar. Today it is often eaten on its own, with coffee or tea. Some people still eat it in a bowl of hot milk.
The name semla (plural, semlor) is a loan word from German Semmel, originally deriving from the Latin semilia, which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina.
I was intrigued after reading Abida’s blog post on Cardamom & Pistachio Rolls where she mentions cardamom being used in Nordic baking. It didn’t take me long to find this modern-day ‘cake’ version of the traditional Swedish cream bun via pinterest. I attempted that recipe however, had my suspicions all was not going to end well when the second prove was for a mere 30 minutes and then the oven temperature seemed ridiculously high. Instead of going with my baking knowledge and changing things I followed the recipe, BIG MISTAKE. Burnt, split – under-proved, undercooked = bin.
My second attempt which I present today turned out better. Now I will show you how to and in some cases how not to make:-
Semmeltarta – Swedish Cream Bun Cake.
Recipe I adapted from The Boy Who Bakes
Freshly ground cardamom is a must (for me) here, it takes a little extra time but completely worth it.
Whilst the dough is having its first prove / rise.
Make Home-made Almond Paste – it’s different to marzipan, in that it’s softer, has the same amount of ground almonds as icing sugar and only uses egg white instead of whole egg. Ideally you would use a food processor to make your almond paste but mine has broke so I used my nutri-bullet.
Also whilst the dough is proving, line the bottom of a 24cm round loose-base cake pan and butter-well the side.
After the dough has finished its first prove.
Remove the dough from the bowl and gently flatten with your hands into a disc, about the same size as your pan. Place the dough into pan then cut into 8-10 pieces, make sure to cut all way through the dough i.e. not scoring.
Cover and allow to rise for 45 mins-1 hour, brush the top with egg wash – try to avoid dripping it down the sides or this will preventing it from rising well in the oven and it will stick to the side of the pan. Bake for 25-30 mins.
Once baked, cool in tin for 15 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Re-Cut into 8-10 pieces. Now here is where I started to mess things up. Instead of cutting just the tops off which is how it’s done with the traditional semlor, I thought I was doing something good when I went more central, wrong.
Even though I’ve never eaten a traditional semla bun, I now know the beauty that should be in eating one. First you should hit unsweetened velvety cream followed by soft, sweet, aromatic bun filled with sweet almond paste mixture.
Mine as pleasant as they still are, the ratios when eating were all wrong plus I made my continuing rookie mistake – over whipping the cream, easily done with a stand mixer. So learn from my lesson and cut only the lids off the buns and either take better care when whipping the cream by machine or do the 600ml by hand, with a whisk. That’ll be a work out for you or someone you love dearly. Ha!
Now, scoop out a hollow in the lower part of each bun. Crumble the pieces into a bowl, grate in your almond paste and mix in a few tablespoons of milk to form a loose paste.
Fill the hollow in each bun with the almond paste mixture. Whip the cream ideally until soft peaks then smother over the buns, replace lids and dust with icing sugar.
Semmeltarta is so indulgent, but I could still eat one everyday! I especially enjoyed the almond paste filling and would happily eat that alone with one big spoon.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp freshly ground cardamon
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 50g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 300ml milk, lukewarm
- 7g dried instant yeast
- 1 large egg (plus 1 extra for glazing)
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g icing sugar
- 19g egg white
- drop of almond extract *optional
- Almond paste (see above)
- 2-3 tablespoon milk
- 600ml double cream
- To make the dough place the flour in a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer add cardamom and salt on one side of the bowl, sugar and yeast on the other. Make a well in the flour mixture add butter and egg and pour in the milk. Mix to form a shaggy dough then knead for about 5 minutes (10 minutes by hand) or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round, place into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Set aside at room temperature for about an hour or until doubled in size. (in UK Winter mine took 1 hour and 30 minutes).
- Whilst the dough is having it's first prove / rise make almond paste. Ideally using a food processor, mix together ground almonds, icing sugar and egg white until it forms a smooth ball similar to marzipan. Also whilst the dough is proving, line the bottom of a 24cm round loose-base cake pan and well butter the side..
- After the dough has finished it's first prove - shape.Gently flatten dough with your hands into a disc, about the same size as your loose base tin. Place in tin then Cut into 8-10 pieces, make sure to cut all way through the dough i.e. not scoring. Cover and allow to prove for 45 mins-1 hour. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 200c/400f / Gas Mark 6. Brush the top of the bun 'cake' with egg wash - try to avoid dripping it down the sides or this will preventing it from rising well in the oven and it will stick to the side of the pan. Bake on the shelf just below the middle for 25-30 mins.
- Once baked remove from oven and allow to cool in tin for 15 minutes then remove and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
- Re-Cut into 8-10 pieces then cut just the tops off the buns. Scoop out a hollow in the lower part of each bun.
- Crumble the bun pieces into a bowl, grate in your almond paste and mix in a few tablespoons of milk to form a loose paste. Fill the hollow in each bun with the almond paste mixture. Whip the cream ideally until soft peaks then smoother over the buns, replace lids and dust with icing sugar.
For softer semlor use half strong bread flour and half plain / all-purpose flour. Can't eat raw egg? use 200g ready made shop-bought almond paste or marzipan. Storage - Keep refrigerated once filled and topped with whipped cream and consume within 3 days.