Santa Lucia “Lussekatter” saffron buns

Santa Lucia, Oslo December 13th 1985

Every year in Scandinavia December 13th rolls round and marks Santa Lucia day when all kindergarten children up and down the land dress up in white robes and pointy white hats (!), carry candles and have an advent celebration with lussekatter: saffron scented yeast buns shaped into an S and stuffed with currants or raisins.

Being a complete heathen I made these with a pinch of cardamom and soaked some dried sour cherries for extra oomph. After all the name lussekatter is thought to derive from the Devil, Lucifer.

And yes, that’s me in the photo above with a wreath of candles on my head and wearing the Santa Lucia red sash. As you can imagine, my parents’ cups runneth over, as the position of Santa Lucia is a true Norwegian kindergarten honour. Can you imagine health n’ safety rules in this country letting kids run around with live candles??

Anyway, as it’s December 13th I thought I’d share my lussekatter bun recipe with you, it’s basically an adaptation of the recipe for fastelavensboller or cardamom buns I have in my book out next May and a complete doddle to make.

Do you bake Santa Lucia buns? If so, I’d love to know what your recipe is!

Happy Santa Lucia Day, Sig x

Santa Lucia Lussekatt bun

Makes 12 lussekatter:

  • 25g fresh yeast
  • 375ml lukewarm whole milk
  • 50g butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 350g refined spelt (or plain) flour
  • 150g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 0.3g saffron threads
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg, beaten (plus additional beaten egg, to glaze)
  • dried sour cherries

Heat the milk with the saffron strands. Allow to cool on a cold windowsill (not difficult this time of year). Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir through. Sift the flour, cardamom, sugar and salt together in a large bowl and then stir the milk mixture and one beaten egg in with a large spoon until you get a sticky dough.

Turn the dough on to a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough starts to feel smooth and elastic. As it is quite a wet dough you may went to use a dough scraper during the early stages of kneading, but it should be quite pliable. Put the kneaded dough back in the mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and put in a warm place to rise. Leave it for about 1-1½ hours until it has doubled in size.

Tip the risen dough out on a floured work surface and punch once or twice to knock it back. Knead it in to a log and then slice into 12 pieces of roughly equal size. Shape these into balls and then splay your hands to roll the bun into a sausage shape, then fold the ends into an S shape and carefully place them on some parchment paper on a large baking tray:

Shape them into an S


Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove and double in size again. This should take 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC while the buns are proving. Once they have risen, stuff each crevice of the S shaped bun with a dried sour cherry or two. Poke them into the dough so they don’t pop up during proving or baking! Lightly glaze each bun with a little beaten egg and bake on the upper shelf of the oven for 20 minutes or so. They should look golden brown and sound hollow when you tap them.

Serve lukewarm with a glass of cold milk, a hot chocolate or a glass of Scandinavian Gløgg or mulled wine.

Lussekatter in a tin


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12 Responses to Santa Lucia “Lussekatter” saffron buns

  1. Liz says:

    We’re all celebrating Saint Lucy today!

  2. Liz says:

    we’re all celebrating St Lucy today! I’m glad my lussebulle look like yours!

  3. Verity says:

    Wow – they look good!

  4. Su-Lin says:

    You look so cute as Santa Lucia!

  5. Delishhh says:

    Very cute picture! Happy Lucia to you!

  6. shayma says:

    saffron, cardamom? we have so much in common with Norway, i didnt know…. i cant wait for your book to come out, Sig (in part. bec i love anything w cardamom in it). and these buns look simply fantastic. also, i agree with Su Lin- you look so cute as St Lucia. x shayma

  7. Emily says:

    I made these last night for my Norwegian boyfriend – they turned out great! and very yummy. Love the sour cherries , they make a great balance to the richness of the saffron. Thanks!

  8. Meeta says:

    unfortunately i never got around to making these. but will – i am loving your addition of cardamom here. love the combination of saffron & cardamom!

  9. My daughter shouted “they’re shaped like an S” when she saw this post :) I guess this would be a great baking project with kids. I love spelt flour.


  10. ElinH says:

    Interesting twist to your Lussekatter, I´ll try that next time!
    My tip for Lussekatter is to grind the saffron-threads with a teaspoon of sugar in a mortar before you add it to the milk, it helps to bring out so much more color from the saffron!

  11. Joan says:

    Hi Signe,
    How did saffron come to Scandanavia, via trading via the Hanseatic League–salt cod for spices perhaps?

  12. Hugo says:

    I keep finding out about new days people celebrate, and the great thing is with each of them there always seems to be a new food too!

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