’Tis the Season for Fastelavnsboller, the Danish Carnival Bun
Fastelavn is like a Danish Groundhog Day in that signals winter *should* be coming to an end. (In actuality, the two traditions couldn’t be more different. The latter involves a shadow while the former, the flogging of a cat.) It’s not the holiday itself that makes me hopeful for spring, but rather the saccharine buns that are everywhere during this time. These pastries – called fastelavnsboller – are some of my favorite eats, both objectively and due to their limited, four-week run. So, in ode to the season, here’s a sampling of Copenhagen’s best. Get to a bakery (stat!) before they disappear.
What is a fastelavnsbolle?
First, some context – Fastelavn is a Danish carnival tradition that’s often referred to as the Nordic Halloween. Originally, though, this was a period of indulgence (as per Catholic custom) before abstaining for the 40 days of Lent.
A fastelavnsbolle (or ‘Shrovetide bun’) is a Danish pastry baked for Fastelavn. It’s a yeast-leavened bread with loads of butter, sugar, vanilla and sometimes cardamom. They’re soft and round, perfectly hollowed and filled with a layer of custard. They’re also partially glazed. (Quite the indulgence, indeed.) You’ll generally find two types: a classic gammeldags (‘olden days’) and a contemporary viennoiserie that looks like a loaded cream croissant. Regardless of the type, neither should be overly sweet. My personal weakness is for the gammeldags buns.
Bakeries with the Best Fastelavnsboller in Copenhagen
This was the first fastelavnsbolle I ever tried in Denmark and it almost ruined every Shrovetide pastry since. These are perfection. Per-fect-ion. No notes. They’re gorgeous, subtly spiced and have a generous helping of custard crème
The fastelavnsboller of Claus Meyer; the driving force behind the ‘New Nordic Manifesto’ and co-founder of restaurant noma. They’re soft, cardamom-forward and boldly square shaped. The filling is a classic vanilla custard.
Hart’s took me by surprise. His fastelavnsboller are more a reinterpretation of the beloved pre-Lent bun. They’re reminiscent of a panettone and the filling is a sweet butter-almond paste. They’re also dipped in dark chocolate. (Traditionalists, take note.)
Det Rene Brød
Det Rene Brød bakes their fastelavnsboller with lots of aromatic spice. They’re the most bread-like of the lot and have two layers of filling: almond paste and vanilla cream.
Lagekagehuset’s were rated the best fastelavnsboller of 2020 by the Danish newspaper Politiken. Their bakers changed the game by incorporating chocolate chips. (A whole new world.)
The ‘fancy’ Fastelavn bun
These are a complete departure from the ‘olden days’ fastelavnsboller. The dough is laminated, like Danish wienerbrød, cut in half and filled with a flavored cream. Vanilla and chocolate are the most popular, but there are other flavors like strawberry and rhubarb.
When can you buy fastelavnsboller?
In Denmark, you can buy fastelavnsboller starting in late-January through the end of February.