St Lucia Saffron Buns
St Lucia Saffron Buns

The Swedish Christmas favourite, S-shaped sweet buns with saffron, for St. Lucia Day.

December 13, St. Lucia Day, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a holiday in Sweden in the spirit of Advent and Christmas. Young girls are dressed in white robes with a red sash, with one girl chosen as “Lucia” wearing a crown of lit candles (or battery powered), the others wearing a single candle. Processions with singing and feasting abound.

All of this was explained to me the other day by a young Swede named Lisa Persson in college here in Sacramento, a long way from home. She spoke of those saffron buns with such nostalgia that I just had to make some.

The buns are slightly sweet, buttery, and bright yellow from the saffron-infused batter. The raisins in the “eyes” of the rolls give them a little extra sweetness when you bite into them.

Through my research I have seen many complaints that Lussekats can be dry or dense. The rolls that I present to you here are neither; I limit the amount of sugar and fat in the recipe, excessive use of which can help make yeast breads dense.

Of course, the rolls taste best freshly baked. I would recommend making the dough the night before, refrigerating overnight, and then baking the buns in the morning. Otherwise, the buns can be warmed up very well in just a few seconds in the microwave. Enjoy! (ps this is a lovely video about Swedish Lucia tradition)

St. Lucia Saffron Bun

preparation time
2 hrs 30 mins

cooking time
12 minutes

total time
2 hrs 42 mins

up to 14 servings

This recipe makes 12 to 14 large buns. You can easily double the recipe. Note that the cardamom is optional. I’ve made these buns with and without some cardamom and prefer them with. I suspect it’s more traditional without.


  • 3/4 cup milk (175ml)

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup (50G) white granulated sugar

  • 1 (1/4 ounce) packet dry yeast (Check the expiration date on the packaging to make sure it’s still good!)

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups (490G to 570G) all purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • the seeds out 3 cardamom Podsground, optional

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 56G) unsalted buttersoftened

  • 1/4 Cup sour cream (or cottage cheese if available)

  • 2 big eggs

  • raisins


  • 1 eggbeaten


  1. Heat milk, saffron, sugar:

    In a small saucepan, heat milk, saffron, and 1 teaspoon sugar together until milk steams. Remove from heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool to about 115°F, or warm to the touch but not hot.

  2. Flower the yeast:

    Sprinkle the yeast over the warm saffron-infused milk and let sit until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

  3. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, cardamom:

    In the bowl of a stand mixer*, whisk together 3 1/2 cups (490 g) flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and ground cardamom (if using).

    *You can make this recipe without a mixer, for me it’s just a little bit easier with one.

  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the yeast-milk-saffron mixture, eggs, butter and sour cream:

    Mix the ingredients until well incorporated.

  5. Knead the dough:

    Switch to your mixer’s dough hook (if using, otherwise knead by hand). At low speed, start kneading the dough. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough still feels a little sticky but isn’t completely sticking to your hands when you handle it.

  6. Let dough rise:

    Form the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. (Note at this point that you can prep it overnight and refrigerate it if you wish.)

    Let rest in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours until dough has doubled in size. (One way to tell when the dough is ready is to poke your finger in and it will take some time for the indentation left by your finger to go away.)

  7. Shape dough into S-shape:

    When the dough has doubled in size, press down lightly and knead a few times. Break off a piece and shape into a ball about 2 inches wide (60 to 70 grams if you weigh). Roll the ball out into a snake about 35 cm long.

    Then roll the ends in opposite directions, forming an “S” with spirals at each end. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat with the rest of the dough.

  8. Leave for the second climb:

    Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until dough doubles in size, 30 minutes to an hour.

  9. Brush with egg yolk, place raisins on rolls:

    Preheat the oven to 205°C. Using a pastry brush, brush some beaten egg on the top and sides of the uncooked buns. Place raisins in the middle of the “S” spirals.

  10. Bake:

    Place in the oven and bake at 400°F (205°C) for about 10 to 11 minutes (turn halfway through cooking to ensure even browning) until the buns are golden brown.

    Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.


Swedish Lucia for Dummies – a tongue-in-cheek video about the Swedish traditions of St. Lucia Day

Swedish tar ring or coffee bread – here on Simply Recipes

Lussekatter or St. Lucia Rolls – a detailed explanation of the history of St. Lucia on My Diverse Kitchen

Light in the dark of winter – by Foodie Underground

Whole Wheat St. Lucia Saffron Buns – by Texan

nutritional information (per serving)
232 calories
6g Fat
38g carbohydrates
6g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!