Recipe: Make our Apricot and orange semlor buns

Charlotte's apricot and orange semla buns

Charlotte's apricot and orange semla buns - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

I have a real affection for Scandinavian baking. Just the idea of it makes me feel warm and snuggly inside. All those bouncy, soft, enriched doughs laced with aromatics...cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon. Delish.

In the depths of winter, when the light fades too fast, a plate of sweet Scandi buns, eaten hurriedly from the oven while curled under a blanket, is heavenly.

But now, as the daffodils unfurl from the the ground, and the promise of spring lurks just around the corner, I crave something brighter. Something to put a spring in my step. And these cute semlor (or semla) buns do just the trick. Traditionally made in the lead up to Lent in Sweden, the simple bakes see balls of dough slightly hollowed out and filled with marzipan and a whipped custard or cream, before their 'hat' is popped back on, dusted with a coating of icing sugar.

They will almost always be scented with cardamom (a spice I hated growing up but have grown very fond of). Mine are specked with orange, a brilliant partner in crime for the crushed seeds, and I've tucked some jewel-like apricot preserve inside too, for a touch of sunshine. Apricot jam always strikes me as being a 'bit posh'  - I love it.

You could stick with tradition and replace the jam with a nugget of marzipan, or get creative and play about with flavours. I've even made a chocolate semla before, replacing 50g of the flour with cocoa, adding chocolate chips to the mix, and filling with a dollop of Nutella and chocolate whipped cream. Now those were dangerous!

Apricot and orange semla buns 

(makes 12) 

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80g unsalted butter, melted 

250ml milk, warmed 

15g dried yeast 

3tbsps (heaped) caster sugar 

1 egg, beaten 

400g strong white bread flour 

Large pinch salt 

1tsp baking powder 

2tsps ground cardamom (I like to grind it fresh for the best flavour) 

Zest of one orange 

1tsp vanilla extract 

To fill 

Apricot preserve (I used Dalfour, which has no added sugar) 

250ml whipping or double cream 

2tbsps icing sugar (plus more to dust) 

Food colouring (optional) 


Mix together the butter, milk, yeast, sugar and half the egg (reserve the rest). Allow to sit for 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cardamom, orange zest and vanilla. 

Add the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Leave to rest for 10 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed. 

Turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled worksurface and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. It starts out very sticky, but use a scraper or blunt knife to keep drawing the dough back to the centre, where you’re kneading, and it will come together into a soft, yielding mass. 

Pop the dough into a large greased bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm to rise for about one hour. 

Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface and cut into 12 even pieces. Shape into balls and pop onto two lined baking sheets. Cover with clingfilm and leave somewhere warm for 30 minutes. 

Heat the oven to 200C. 

Bake the balls for 10 to 12 minutes until well risen and golden. Allow to cool on a rack. 

Whip the cream and icing sugar, adding colouring if you like. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. 

Cut the top off the buns and scoop out a little of the insides, replacing with a teaspoon of apricot preserve in the hollow. Pipe a couple of swirls of cream on top of each, and replace the top of the bun. Dust with icing sugar. And eat.