St Lucia Buns (Lussekatter) with Cardamom Sugar Filling
St. Lucia Day is this week, which means it’s time to bake some lussekatter, or Swedish saffron buns! Norwegians and Swedes traditionally bake these fluffy Santa Lucia buns for Saint Lucia’s Day on December 13th, but they are delicious year round. St. Lucia saffron buns are called lussekatter, or “Lucia’s cats” because they look like curled cat tails.
Lussekatter have become even more popular in Scandinavia in recent years with many modern twists on traditional St Lucia buns emerging. So today I thought I could share my own updated version of lussekatter: lussekatter with a cardamom sugar filling. These are like a combination of lussekatter and my favorite Scandinavian buns, cardamom buns. The butter and sugar filling makes them extra flavorful.
I’ve shared my recipe for classic St Lucia buns here.
You can find all of my Scandinavian Christmas recipes here.
The filled lucia bun take a bit more work than classic lussekatter, but they are so good. In fact my Norwegian friends who tried these told me they’re the best lussekatter buns they’ve tasted, which is saying a lot considering Norwegians grow up eating these lussekatt buns. I think I might even like them more than Norwegian cinnamon buns.
Speaking of cinnamon buns, if you’re not a fan of cardamom you can use cinnamon instead!
This recipe makes about forty buns. I usually freeze them and then defrost them one at a time, but you can also half the recipe if you don’t want so many buns.
If you don’t have saffron or simply want to make St Lucia buns without saffron, you can use turmeric instead, to give the lussekatter their classic yellow color. Or some people choose to add turmeric on top of the saffron, to make the buns extra yellow. Saffron is also expensive, so you can save some money by using less saffron and adding a bit of turmeric as a substitute for saffron.
You can use ground cardamom for this recipe, but if you have a mortar and pestal I highly recommend grinding cardamom seeds instead, as freshly ground seeds are much more flavorful. I wouldn’t bother unless it really made a difference, but I swear it does! To quote my Norwegian mother, “pre ground cardamom is so forgettable.”
Try to spread the cardamom butter as evenly as possible across the entire square of dough.
While lussekatter come in many different shapes, I only use the simple S shape for this filled version, as the dough strips are thicker and a bit harder to work with. To make these easier to shape you’ll want to roll the dough quite thin before adding the filling and folding it in thirds. But don’t worry too much if they look a bit messy – they’ll still taste delicious!
Be sure also to cut the folded dough into very thin strips.
St Lucia Buns (Lussekatter) with Cardamom Filling
- Rolling Pin
- 3/4 cup butter or margarine
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tsp instant yeast (or 50 g fresh yeast)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp saffron
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 egg
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 1 egg (for egg wash)
Cardamom sugar filling
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 2/3 cup butter (softened)
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 dl raisins (optional)
- Melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove. Add the milk. Heat until lukewarm.
- Pour milk and butter mixture into a large mixing bowl and add yeast.
- Add salt, sugar, saffron, cardamom, and optional 1 egg and raisins, mixing thoroughly. Adding the egg makes the dough easier to work with.
- Slowly add flour while mixing continuously (you can do this with an electric mixer or by hand). The dough may be sticky, but you don't need to knead it, just mix it well.
- Mix until dough pulls from the sides of the bowl. Cover and let the dough rise in a draft free place for about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle flour on counter and knead dough for 5 minutes. You may need to add extra flour if the dough is too sticky to knead. Roll the dough into a large square.
- For the filling, mix together the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and cardamom. Spread the mixture across the square of dough, and fold one third of the square over, and then fold the other side of the dough over the folded part (like folding a letter – see video). Then roll the dough out a bit more so you get a taller (not longer) rectangle.
- Cut the dough into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide strips (cut along the shorter edge of the rectangle so you get short strips, not long ones).
- Shape the strips into lussekatter (the S shape is easiest – see video). Decorate with raisins as desired. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- Set the formed lussekatter on a greased baking pan, or on baking paper. Cover and let rise until they are doubled in size – about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 435°F (225°C).
- Bake buns for 7 – 10 minutes, until golden brown on top.
- After baking, brush with melted butter and dip in sugar.