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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Fastelavnsboller + Some Danish Culinary History

I have decided to republish some of my favorite Danish recipes. First, because they reside on my old blog and, second, because the #EattheWorld group will be sharing Danish recipes in April. I was refreshing myself on what kinds of foods I've made from there, so I can select something new-to-us. As a bonus, this one also comes with a history lesson.

Some Danish Culinary History

I don't often make sweet rolls, but when I do, it's usually some version of this. The Lenten season after we visited Denmark, I saw a photo posted on one of my best friend's social media with the caption: "Årets første fastelavnsboller." It means 'First fastelavnsboller of the year' and I immediately sent her a message that I needed to know what those were and a recipe! Here's the Danish culinary history lesson, paraphrased a bit...

Before the reformation, in 1536, Denmark was Catholic. And Fastelavn marks the beginning of 40 days of fasting. So, it surrounds enjoying all of the foods that would be off limits for the duration of Lent. The Fastelavnsboller, dating back to the 1600s, are part of the 'let's eat all the nice foods' tradition since it uses up the expensive white flour, sugar, and eggs.

Rikke mentioned two versions: the old-fashioned which is a simple yeast-based dough filled with vanilla cream; the buttery dough which is baked, opened up, and filled with a mixture of vanilla cream, whipped cream, and sometimes raspberry jam, prunes, or mocha cream.

And a tradition that she shared had me laughing and laughing. "In the 1800s, Fastelavn was a big celebration for dressed up grown ups - with plenty of alcohol etc. - and they would hang a barrel with a live cat inside and beat the barrel with a stick until the cat fell out. The cat symbolising [sic] evil!"

She said the tradition came from Holland. Okay, blame the Dutch! LOL.

She continued, "Today this tradition is adapted for kids - they wear costumes and ‘slår katten af tønden’ (hit the cat out of the barrel). The barrel being filled with candy, apples, oranges etc. - and decorated with cardboard cats."

Did you spot our Danish nisser on the table? My younger son, my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf, came back from our Denmark just a little bit obsessed with them. So, they are all over our house.


I've made several versions of fastelavnsboller since that first time. I added some almond extract to this version since I wanted to garnish with sliced almonds. And you know I'm serious about baking when my kitchen scale comes out.


  • 13 grams dried/active dry yeast

  • 250 milliliters whole milk, warmed to steaming but not boiling

  • 100 grams butter, melted and slightly cooled

  • 40 grams organic granulated sugar

  • 450 grams flour + more for kneading

  • 1 teaspooon baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom (this results in a strong flavor, reduce if you prefer)

  • 1 teaspoon salt (I used a Danish flake salt, but use whatever you have)

  • 1 egg, beaten

Vanilla-Almond Cream

  • 500 milliliters whole milk

  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced lengthwise with seeds scraped

  • 3 eggs

  • 100 grams organic granulated sugar

  • 30 grams corn starch

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Baking and Finishing

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 50 grams dark or semisweet chocolate

  • sliced almonds


Vanilla-Almond Cream

Place the milk and the vanilla bean and scraped seeds in a medium sauce pan and let stand for 20 minutes. Then scald the milk and let the vanilla steep in the milk for 10 minutes. In the meantime, in mixing bowl, blend the sugar and eggs until the mixture becomes fluffy and pale. Add the corn starch and whisk to combine.

Slowly pour the warmed milk into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour. Whisk in the almond extract. Place the saucepan back on the stove and bring to a boil. Whisking vigorously the whole time. Once the mixture has thickened and just started to boil, remove from the heat. Keep whisking to keep it smooth.

Spread the pastry cream into a dish and cover with plastic wrap, touching the top to keep the cream from developing a film. Refrigerate until cool.


Pour warm milk into a large mixing bowl, stir in sugar, and sprinkle yeast over the top. Let bloom for 10 to 15 minutes. It should be foamy and frothy. Add in the butter and egg. Whisk to combine.

Add in the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Knead until a scraggy dough forms. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes. It should be doubled in size.


Dust a workspace with flour and turn out the dough. Knead the dough, dusting to prevent sticking if needed. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a rectangle, approximately 12" x 16". Cut the dough into 8 rectangles.

On each rectangle, add a generous dollop of pastry cream. Gather the corners together on top to form a sort of purse shape. Press the seams together to ensure the vanilla cream stays inside the bun and won’t leak out during baking.

When bun is completely closed, invert it, and place it on parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the buns with beaten egg and let them rest and rise for 20 to 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 395 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheet while you prepare the toppings


Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside.

Once the buns are cool, top them with the chocolate and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

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