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Make sure your trip to Sweden is served with a generous amount of Scandinavian sweetness by giving plenty of these Swedish desserts a try during your visit.
Whether your tastebuds delight at the breathtaking freshness of forest fruits or crave the richness and indulgence of chocolate cake, there’s a dessert for everyone in Sweden to enjoy.
Get ready to discover a much sweeter side to Sweden, as a local writer guides us through 19 of the country’s must-try dishes.
Sveska efterrätter – Swedish Desserts
1 – Princesstårta – Princess Cake
If there’s one cake that goes for every occasion, it’s the Princess Cake. This beloved dessert has been served at festive occasions and celebrations since the end of the 19th century, and it is particularly popular at birthday parties.
It can be made both as a big layer cake, or as smaller pastries, but the ingredients and structure are the same; sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream in layers, coated in characteristic green marzipan, and of course, a finished with a marzipan rose.
2 – Jordgubbstårta – Strawberry Cake
Swedish Strawberry Cake, naturally, brings strawberries to the center of attention. Due to strawberries being a seasonal fruit, you’ll only be able to try this dessert in Sweden during the summer months, when fresh berries are available.
Similarly to the Princess Cake, this is a layered dessert of sponge cake sandwiched with jam and custard, but it is instead covered in a thick layer of whipped cream and decorated with fresh strawberries.
This is a sweet, fruit, and indulgent Swedish dish to enjoy the summer sun with!
3 – Nyponsoppa – Rosehip Soup
For many Swedes, the mere sight of Rosehip Soup brings the childhood memories flooding back. Sadly not as popular today, there are generations of us that grew up on this Swedish classic.
Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant and are the sweet, aromatic star ingredient of this simple and wholesome dessert soup.
Traditionally, as rosehips are in season from late spring to early autumn, you could only prepare this dish during those months.
However, the dish grew in popularity with the industrialization of the food industry, when powder substitute was introduced and simplified the cooking process.
However prepared, Rosehip Soup can be served warm or cold, and it is traditionally served with almond biscuits and a glass of ice-cold milk or ice cream.
4 – Färska Bär – Fresh Berries
Berries of all types can be found throughout Sweden. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cloudberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and currants can be found in gardens, forests, and grown commercially.
During the summer and early fall, when the berries are ripe, we Swedes will pick them for a range of dishes. Berry picking is a beloved pastime, and a great way to spend time with friends and family.
Once picked, the best way to enjoy berries is fresh with milk or ice cream. As the winters are long and cold in Sweden, summer berry picking is an important tradition, and we long for this activity during the winter months in order to spend quality time outdoors.
5 – Våfflor – Waffles
In contrast to the Belgian or American waffle, the Swedish waffle is thinner and is traditionally served fresh from the cooling rack, while its texture is still crisp.
A Swedish waffle is traditionally served with jam and whipped cream or sugar, although other servings such as chocolate, ice cream, or fruit are popular as well.
Vafflor has been served since the 17th century, and nowadays is still a favorite at cafés, at home, or to eat during outdoor activities.
While the rest of the world celebrates International Pancake Day on March 25th, Swedes instead celebrate the National Waffle Day.
6 – Pepparkakor – Ginger Bread
Spend a Christmas in Sweden, and the chances are you’ll be making Gingerbread! Swedes love this annual festive tradition, which dates back to the Middle Ages.
Making Gingerbread is a beloved social event that brings friends and families together to get creative and prepare for Christmas.
Gingerbread is made from a dough flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and clove. The dough is rolled thin and then formed into figures.
In Sweden, there is even a myth that the more gingerbread you eat, the kinder you will become!
7 – Spettekaka – Spettekaka
Spettekaka is a local delicacy, produced and served in Skåne, in the south of Sweden. Texturally similar to meringue, Spettekaka is made from a batter of eggs, sugar, and potato flour, slowly cooked on a rotating skewer over an open fire.
The process of making Spettekaka takes many hours, and there are just a handful of bakeries left that bake this unique treat.
Once prepared, this tall, cone-shaped pastry is coated with glaze. It’s traditionally served at weddings, birthdays, and celebrations in southern Sweden.
8 – Kanelbulle – Cinnamon Bun
Cinnamon buns are a simple yet delicious treat, served in thousands of cafées and food stores every day. The dessert has garnered considerable popularity from the 1950s onwards and is celebrated on National Cinnamon Bun Day on the 4th of October.
The bun should preferably be enjoyed warm, fresh from the oven with a glass of cold milk. Cinnamon buns, while easily found throughout Sweden, can also be made at home as well. The buns are made with wheat dough rolled out and spread with butter, sugar, and cinnamon – the more the better! The dough is then rolled into a loaf and cut into single pieces before being baked in the oven.
9 – Marängsviss – Marängsviss
Marängsviss is a delightful dessert of meringues, ice cream, whipped cream, and bananas, mixed in a bowl, and covered with chocolate sauce. As you can imagine, this dish is particularly popular at birthday parties amongst children.
The ingredients can vary, and fresh berries and other sweet things may be added if desired. More sophisticated alternatives today are served at restaurants, but the typical Marängsviss is more commonly made at home and has been so since the late 1800s.
10 – Chokladboll – Chocolate Ball
Chocolate balls have been simple, go-to desserts for Swedes since the 1900s. This popular dish is so simple to make, in fact, it doesn’t even require an oven.
Chokladboll are made from a mixture of butter, sugar, coffee, oats, and cacao, which is simply shaped into round balls and covered in shredded coconut.
Recently renamed after its original name was considered outdated and not politically correct, chocolate balls are a prime example of where Swedish cuisine can be so simple, yet so delicious.
11 – Grillad Banan – Grilled Banana
As soon as the days start to get longer, lighter, and warmer, we bring out our grills for the summer season. Swedes will grill pretty much anything, and desserts are no exception!
One favorite is grilled banana. It is simply made by slicing an opening in the banana peel, stuffing it with chocolate, wrapping it in foil, and grilling the banana until the chocolate melts.
Served hot with vanilla ice cream, if you make it out to Sweden during the summer, you’re in for a real treat!
12 – Ris à la Malta – Ris à la Malta
Cream and sugar historically were served only to society’s wealthiest, and Ris à la Malta is a classic example of a dessert previously served only to the highest classes.
Ris à la Malta is a luxurious take on the traditional rice porridge, where whipped cream and sugar are added, often with vanilla, orange, or almond, to greatly enhance the taste and texture of a traditionally working-class dish.
Today, Ris à la Malta is commonly served at Christmas, with a side of fruit sauce or jam. It is tradition to hide an almond in the porridge, and whoever is lucky enough to find the almond in their dish will receive an extra Christmas present!
13 – Saffranspannkaka – Saffron Pancake
The Saffron Pancake originates from the island Gotland, dating back to the Middle Ages. Gotland has a history of rich trade and was for many centuries an important marketplace in the Baltic Ocean.
Therefore the inhabitants had both access and money to buy saffron for cooking, and later in the 19th century, the modern saffron pancake was established.
Renowned for their delicious grainy texture, saffron pancakes are made from an indulgent mixture of pudding rice, almonds, cream, milk sugar, and egg. Traditionally, the pancakes are served warm, with whipped cream and preferably dewberry jam.
Commonly made at Christmas from leftover porridge, saffron pancakes are also a beloved choice during holiday celebrations, and on the menus of local cafés.
14 – Småkakor – Biscuits
The history of this simple sweet treat is a unique one. Smakakor has a deep-rooted connection to ‘fika’ culture since the late 1800s.
The term ‘fika’ is both a verb and a noun. Fika is a coffee break that is an integral part of Swedish culture but also has a deeper meaning, with ‘fika’ referring to the concept of taking a break in the day to be in the moment, appreciate the good things in life, and take a step back from work and the day-to-day hustle.
Traditionally, “Sju sorters kakor”, meaning seven types of biscuits, were served during this coffee break, along with other cakes and coffee bread. This was to show hosts and hostesses were neither too stingy nor too haughty, offering variety for everyone attending.
The biscuits were traditionally made of shortcrust pastry and came with an endless choice of shapes and flavors, including almonds, nuts, vanilla, jam, chocolate, and oats.
Today, this concept is more of cultural heritage, but the biscuits themselves remain popular to this day. You’ll easily find them in supermarkets and bakeries to enjoy with coffee.
15 – Kräm – Kräm
Kram is another dessert made from fruit and berries such as apples, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and apricots, among others.
The fruit or berries are mixed with water, sugar, and starch in a pot and heated until the texture of the mixture becomes sticky, almost like a fruit compote.
The dish is served either warm or cold with milk or cream and is a wonderful and simple way to enjoy the fruits picked from the gardens and forests. Kräm made from rhubarb is especially popular during summer.
16 – Smulpaj – Crumble Pie
Crumble pie, or smulpaj, is enjoyed during summer and early fall. The pie is based on the fruit and berries in season, forming the filling combined with a sweet crumble dough made with butter, sugar, wheat flour and oatmeal.
The sweet crumble pairs perfectly with so many different fruits, from the sweetness of rhubarb to the acidity of apple. Served with custard, this is a true Swedish favorite.
17 – Semla – Semla
Selma is a deliciously simple dish consisting of a wheat bun, cut at the top, filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Traditionally, it is a food served during “Fettisdagen”, or Shrove Tuesday, every year to begin the fasting before Easter.
The dish can be back to the Middle Ages, where it was a food that symbolized wealth, due to its high content of wheat flour. Through the ages, the dish was developed to become the modern semla, which has become an iconic dish of the last 150 years or so in the region.
While traditionally a dish served at Easter, nowadays bakeries will serve it from Christmas through to March. It can be found with a wide range of fillings, including chocolate, nuts, and jam.
18 – Ostkaka – Cheesecake
Despite the name, Swedish cheesecake is very different from its American cousin. Our cheesecake has a mild taste and is served with whipped cream and jam.
There are two popular versions of the Swedish Cheesecake, hailing from Småland in the south and Hälsingland in the north. Both are made from milk, wheat flour, and rennet, but in Småland almonds, egg, cream and sugar are also added to the cake, resulting in a different texture.
Tradition encourages people to start eating from the center of the cake, and there’s actually a historical reason for that. The cheesecake used to be baked in copper pots, which left traces of copper in the cake. Therefore guests started from the middle, leaving the edges with copper traces for servants and children.
19 – Kladdkaka – Mud Cake
Mud cake is a rich and wholesome chocolate cake, that has grown massively in popularity in just a few decades, largely due to its indulgent, creamy texture.
When preparing mud cake, the goal is to preserve the creaminess of the batter inside by not adding any baking soda, unlike conventional sponge cakes.
Mud cake is a dessert for Swedes from all walks of life. You can find luxurious versions served at Michelin star restaurants, homemade versions at bakeries to enjoy with your afternoon coffee, and even on-the-go, inexpensive versions you can pick up from local supermarkets.
Mud cake is best served with a generous dollop of whipped cream and is Swedish food at its most indulgent!
Swedish Desserts Summary
No visit to Sweden can be complete with trying as many of these classic desserts as you can. From humble bakeries to high-end restaurants, these sweet delights can be found in all shapes and sizes for any occasion.
Swedish desserts often bring people together. While their textures and flavors are abundant and joyous, it is the way these dishes bring friends and family together that Swedes really appreciate about the sweeter side of their cuisine.
Through food, you can see Sweden in a completely different light. We love these desserts with all our hearts, and I’m sure you, once you’ve tried a few, can find a special place in your heart from them too.
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Contributor: Carolina Fridh is a creative writer and communications consultant from Goteborg. She writes on a number of Swedish topics, including culture and cuisine.
Images licensed via Shutterstock