There are five words that will instantly make a Swede fall in love with you (at least platonically): “Shall we go for Fika?” Forget fancy cafes and being Instagrammable just for a minute, Fika is the national institution that oozes all we Swedes are truly passionate about – coziness. Fika is all about indulging in Swedish desserts with a cup of coffee, and taking time to share the moment with someone close to you.
Sounds like perfection, right? All you need is someone you love, a drink of your choice and of course, sweet treats. We’ve compiled 21 Swedish desserts for you to help make your away-from-Sweden-Fika as authentic as possible. We’ll begin by busting out the buns!
1. Cinnamon buns
A few years ago, a friend and I pledged to find the best cinnamon buns in Stockholm. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think we ate cinnamon buns at over thirty establishments. Before you freak out, it wasn’t all at once! Then we went home and made our own. Guess what? They were the best.
The cinnamon bun is the matriarch of Swedish desserts. Soft gently spiced dough, and they’re best served a little bit warm. You’ll find a batch of cinnamon buns in most Swedes’ freezers just in case someone turns up for an unexpected Fika. Cinnamon bun day is celebrated on 4 October – as if you needed an excuse! Make your own by following this easy recipe.
2. Cardamom buns
Similar to the cinnamon bun, cardamom buns are another Fika staple. Generally speaking, Swedish desserts aren’t as sweet as American or other English-speaking countries’ treats. The slight bitterness of cardamom goes exceptionally well with coffee, too.
Swedes generally fall into one of two categories: cardamom or cinnamon bun lovers. It’s the Swedish equivalent of the toilet roll debate. But much yummier. Naturally, we celebrate these as much as their rivals – 15 May is the official day of the cardamom bun! If you prefer cardamom to cinnamon, by all means bake these instead! Here’s a recipe.
3. Blueberry pie
Pie in Swedish is “paj” and it’s pronounced exactly the same as the English word. That’s about all they have in common with Anglo-origin pies for the most part, though. Most Swedes don’t make blueberry pie with as much sugar as other nations, I guess you could say we kind of like the bitterness.
Blueberries and cloudberries grow wild all over Sweden towards the end of August, and you’ll find locals foraging around in low lying bushes to bring nature into the home in yet another way. It also makes a wonderful purple mess when you mash the blueberries up – lucky IKEA is brimming with novelty dishcloths. Here’s a recipe!
4. Apple pie
Every year, Swedish news outlets cover at least one story of a moose who got so drunk eating fallen apples in someone’s backyard that it inevitably puts its antlers through someone’s kitchen window. That’s just facts. Luckily, before the moose get their fill, many Swedes will collect the fallen produce and bake apple pies!
Again, these differ slightly from American and British counterparts. There is, of course, liberal amounts of cinnamon in the Swedish variant – we’re obsessed with it – and it’s less common that the pie has a ‘crumble’ base. Here’s a recipe!
If I had to crown one Swedish dessert my all-time favorite, it would probably be the kladdkaka. The closest thing I can find to this outside of Sweden is mud cake, but even that doesn’t truly encapsulate kladdkaka.
It’s basically a gooey, half-baked chocolate cake served with fresh whipped cream (get that canned stuff away from it!) and strawberries. It’s as sinful as it is superior and this one always makes me think of summertime. 7 October is when you can gorge on kladdkaka with no remorse, as it’s known as the day of the kladdkaka!
Naturally, this cake is best homemade: here’s how!
The marzipan covered sponge cake, Princesstårta, gained a lot of fame when Mary Berry popularized it on the British TV show Great British Bake Off. It’s every bit the royal cake (tårta in Swedish means cake, and yes, princess is…princess!) Fans of the show will remember its bright green icing and the jelly and cream combined layers.
Swedish bakeries in chain supermarkets often get creative with the Princess cake by making smaller slices shaped like frogs with open mouths. This one is tricky to make but the rewards are just *chef’s kiss*. Here’s a recipe!
7. Budapest cake
I can already hear you now – “but Budapest isn’t in Sweden!” Don’t worry, I haven’t strayed over the Baltic and into Hungary by accident. No one knows why Swedish master baker Ingvar Strid named her cake after Hungary’s capital, but it’s now a classic.
Made of sugar, egg whites, hazelnuts, fruit and whipped cream, Budapestrulle (sometimes called “stubbe”) is a Swedish cake rolled together and served standing upright. Usually, Budapeststubbe is made with peaches, mandarins or apricots. Undeniably sweet and delicious, Budapest cake’s only downside is it leaves you wearing as much whipped cream as you ate. Budapest cake day is held on 1 May, so it’s a great way to ring in (hopefully) better weather!
8. Almond cake
An IKEA classic on the Swedish desserts spectrum, almond cake is a fail-proof crowd-pleaser (as long as no one has nut allergies). A slice of mandelkaka is occasionally made with lemon zest and juice, so it has a slightly tangy flavor. The cake is spongy and textured, which contrasts beautifully with the crunch of the almonds layered on top.
By no means should an almond cake be dry – and it’s served with a customary dollop of whipped cream. Of course.
This one is easy to replicate – here’s a recipe to inspire you!
9. Daim cake
Daim cake is a modern take on the classic Swedish almond cake. It’s particularly prized by millennial Swedes – and it’s lucky we can buy them at IKEA for Swedes abroad to curb homesickness. Aesthetically, Daim cake looks exactly like almond cake with that familiar, slightly damp, consistency. The real joy comes when you bite into the daim pieces scattered on the top, hidden in a layer of chocolate. Perfection.
10. Swedish cheesecake
This is where it can get a bit confusing for English speakers – and Swedes too, for that matter. Swedish cheesecake is called “ostkaka”, and we eat it both as a dessert and occasionally as an entree. The cheesecake itself isn’t very sweet-tasting, it’s what it’s served with that gives it its sugary boost. Anything labelled “cheesecake” in English in Sweden is probably inspired by American or British recipes.
There are two types of ostkaka, Småländsk (from Småland) and Hälsingeostkaka (from Hälsingland). The main difference between the two is the consistency. Cheesecake from Småland is a lot more breadcrumb-y (if such a word exists) whereas the Hälsingeostkaka is more rubbery, kind of like halloumi. And here’s a huge shocker: both are served with jelly and – you guessed it – whipped cream.
11. Apple cake
When I smell Swedish apple cake, I immediately think it must be someone’s birthday. Real Swedish apple cake has a moist sponge combined with breadcrumbs, and a flakey top layer. Sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon, are placed on top of the sponge where they sink in and give the cake its sweetness. My dad uses lemon zest to give it extra flavor and I can heartily recommend you do the same. Oh, and like with all Swedish desserts, you should drown it in cream before you put a forkful to your mouth. Here’s your recipe!
Another personal favorite of mine has to be the humble chokladboll (chocolate ball). These are so fuss-free and easy to make that the smoke alarm won’t have the chance to cheer you on if you’re a terrible baker. Combine sugar, butter, kakao, oats and a pinch of coffee in a bowl, massage the mixture into balls and roll them in desiccated coconut. Put them in the freezer for a short spell, and voila!
I was shocked to find that outside of Sweden, it’s common to make no-bake chocolate balls with rum – though, each to their own. The fact we use coffee instead of rum is no surprise – alcohol is expensive in Sweden and coffee is, well, our main source of sustenance. It’s also easy to make vegan equivalents of these by substituting butter for coconut oil. Enjoy! (P.S, don’t forget that Chocolate Ball day is on 11 May!)
Nicknamed “vacuum cleaners” in Swedish (dammsugare), Punschrullar are the exception to the no-alcohol rule in Swedish baking. The inside of a Punschrulle resembles a sponge cake drenched in Arrack, an alcoholic spirit that tastes like a blend of whiskey and rum. The outside has the ends covered in dark chocolate, and the middle is a customary coating of green marzipan. The Punschrulle is an old-fashioned but classic accompaniment to Swedish desserts, especially if you’re taking Fika with older people.
Unlike other countries, we Swedes love gingerbread all times of the year, not just Christmas. Swedish gingerbread cookies are usually heart-shaped, and will very often be served during a work Fika break. Swedes rarely ice their gingerbread cookies, but the combination of ginger and coffee is a showstopper.
13 December is officially Gingerbread Day (Pepparkaksdagen) in Sweden so it’s a great mini festive celebration! Here’s a fun recipe to check out!
An old Swedish saying is “beloved children have many nicknames” and that is definitely true of the Wienerbröd. English speakers will know these as Danish pastries, but as with all neighbors, Swedes are reluctant to give the Danes too much credit. It helps that they call them Vienna bread too! Wienerbröd are the same flakey pastries seen the world over, often with a custard (vanilla sauce) center. Oh and, naturally, Wienerbröd has its own day too – 22 October, to be exact.
Nothing gives me winter vibes quite like the smell of saffron buns, Lussekatter.
Seasonal Swedish desserts are still very much a thing, and older generations love to grumble about how readily available they are these days. It used to be that Lussekatter (translated: Lucia cats!) were only available for two weeks until the national holiday of St.Lucia, celebrated on 13 December. These days, as soon as October rears its head, bakeries and supermarkets smell strongly of warm saffron.
Lussekatter are swirls of saffron-infused dough, baked with raisins at either end. These are easy to make yourself, and feels like a real wintery treat. Here’s how!
The Semla, in my opinion, is the most iconic Swedish dessert. Semlor (pl) are eaten at the end of the Lenten fast, Easter. Swedes call Mardis Gras or Shrove Tuesday “Fettis dagen” and that’s the day we really cram in the semlor. The Semla is so famous in Sweden that there’s still a myth today that one of our kings died from eating too many (and, let’s be honest, what a way to go). Luckily, that’s all nonsense.
Two harmless buns are placed either side of what can only be described as an ungodly wedge of whipped cream and marzipan paste, and then sugar is scattered over the top. These are notoriously difficult to eat so maybe don’t have one on a first date…or show your true colors early and have a go: here’s how!
18. Midsommar Jordgubstårta
Midsummer’s eve. It’s the time of year when Swedes dance like frogs around maypoles, wear flowers in their hair and of course, eat midsummer cake. This summer addition to Swedish desserts is essentially a plain sponge cake, topped in thick whipped cream and garnished with sweet strawberries. Extra points if you forage for them yourself. Between you and me, it’s an excellent way to line your stomach before your uncle’s friend’s dogsitter’s grandpa gets carried away passing around the aquavit. Ah, the memories.
We can argue about whether these Swedish desserts are actually candy, but it definitely counts in my opinion. Christmas caramels are called Knäck in Swedish. Dentists would run away in horror at the ingredients list on this one: sugar, syrup, and cream. Boiled together, it’s then ladled out into paper holders that stiffen when cooled. “Knäck” is an onomatopoeic description for this super sweet treat: it’s the same sound when the caramel hits your teeth. If you have false teeth or the tooth fairy is pleased with your brushing routine, here’s a recipe!
On the very rare occasion that Swedes get to say “gee, it’s hot out!” we sometimes substitute our usual Fika for ice cream. Piggelin deserves an honorable mention on the list because it’s one of Sweden’s best-loved. The Italians love their gelato, but Swedes will choose a Piggelin above all others. They even had a campaign where you could earn a free one by refilling your car at a gas station a few years ago.
Piggelin is an ice lolly made from tropical fruit juice in a cylindrical shape. Many families, mine included, made their own variants by freezing fruit juice and lemonade themselves. A summer classic!
21. Rhubarb, raspberry & licorice ice cream
You might have realized by now that Swedes are either all in or all out when it comes to sweetness. Swedish ice cream habits are very much the same. Swedes love rhubarb and salty licorice, and while Ben & Jerrys and Haagen Daz have increased in popularity over the years, many still swear by salty and bitter flavored ice cream.
GB is the largest ice cream manufacturer in Sweden, and they’re the ones who normalized these frankly bizarre combinations. Hey, if it works in candy then it works as a dessert, right? The jury’s still out on that one.
Lastly, here a few Fika tips to make it the best it can be!
- Put your phones away! Try to avoid using any technology just for a while – really chat with the person in front of you. It can be so relaxing to escape the virtual world for a while. Yes, you can get a snap of your perfect buns before the Fika officially begins.
- Dress comfortably, this is about human connection, not your wardrobe.
- Involve the seasons. I love taking a Fika after a fall walk, lighting candles and watching their reflections glitter in the windows. Sometimes my friends and I will bring a thermos along.
- Don’t like coffee? Never mind, make tea, hot chocolate or something else you enjoy.
What do you love most about Fika? Let us know in the comments below, and any handy cooking tips are always appreciated.
Also Read: 30 Things Sweden is Known and Famous for