Lussekatter — Swedish Saffron Buns

Lussekatter Video Demo (Scroll down for recipe)

Part nine in my Christmas Around the World series! Christmas in Sweden, focus on: LUSSEKATTER! Thank you to Helen for explaining the origin of these buns. And thank you to Sophie for emailing with me about Swedish Christmas traditions!

Lussekatter, or St. Lucy’s Cats, are a sweet saffron bread from Sweden. Saffransbullar they are called, when not formed into the tight figure 8, reminiscent of a kittycat tail, I suppose. The legend is a little distorted; originally they were called “Devil’s Cats” because it was told that the Devil would arrive in the form of a cat to punish bad children, while a “Christ-like child” would show up with treats for the good kids. St. Lucy (or Lucia in Italy) came to represent the good and the light (as opposed to the dark and the evil of Satan) and saffron was used to keep the Devil at bay because of its brilliant yellow color that is bright like the sun — and the Devil hates sunlight, right? Over hundreds of years, Lussekatter came to replace the name Dövelskatter (Devil’s cats) though in some parts of Sweden the old name is still used for these buns.

Helen actually explained it better, thusly, “One legend says that the Devil in the shape of a cat used to beat naughty children up, while Jesus Christ in the shape of a child handed out buns or bread flavoured with saffron to kind and well brought up children. This was done to keep the fishy Devil away. To make the bread lighter in colour and more “sun-like” the yellow spice of saffron was added.”

Thanks, Helen!

swedish saffron buns recipe

Lussekatter Recipe

5.0 from 3 reviews
Lussekatter – Swedish Saffron Buns
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Author: Hilah Johnson
Serves: 12
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon brandy or cognac
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 eggs (not to be used at the same time)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 20 additional raisins
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Crumble saffron into brandy and let sit (up to 24 hours in advance).
  2. Scald milk and mix with butter, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Let cool to lukewarm.
  3. Add yeast and sit 10 minutes.
  4. Add saffron and brandy and stir.
  5. Mix in half the flour and one egg until well combined.
  6. Add in the rest of the flour and ¼ cup raisins until a soft dough forms.
  7. cover and allow to sit in a warm place until puffy, but not quite doubled in size (60-90 minutes)
  8. Divide dough into 12 portions, each about the size of an egg (2.5 ounces weight).
  9. Roll each bit into a snake about 4 inches long. Cover and rest 10 minutes.
  10. Roll each to twice as long and form into a tight “S” or figure-8. Tuck a raisin into the curve of each end.
  11. Transfer to a greased baking sheet, about 2″ apart. Cover again and let rise in a warm place 60-90 minutes.
  12. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush over buns.
  13. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Bake 10 minutes.

Check out these other Swedish recipes!

Gravlax Recipe

This cured salmon will knock your socks off, in a good way.

Swedish Meatballs

Easy and delicious, especially when served over mashed potatoes!

swedish saffron buns recipe


  1. The Other Randy on December 20, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I’d never known of the connection between lussekatter and Saint Lucia. I’ve had a long, long interest in Lucia Joyce who was named for St. Lucia by her father, James, probably because she was also the patron saint of eyesight. I’ll be making this recipe, hopefully really soon, for my Millennium Trilogy movie marathon, but also when I celebrate Lucia Joyce’s birthday on July 26.

    • Hilah on December 20, 2013 at 9:17 am

      Hey Randy!
      I had to look up Lucia Joyce. What a sad story, according to Wiki anyway. What do you find most interesting about her life?

      • The Other Randy on December 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

        Unfortunately, that Wikipedia article has several factual errors in it and only hints at the real tragedy (and talent) of Lucia Joyce. Her nephew, Stephen, seems to be hellbent on destroying any documentation of her life, so we will never be absolutely certain of what exactly happened. But there is one thing that is certain: she was a great modern dancer: in an international modern dance competition held in Paris, she was one of the final six. Jean Renoir hired her to dance in one of his first films. The mermaid costume she’s wearing in the Wikipedia picture is one she designed and made herself. She also may have been a great novelist (it’s certain she wrote at least one, but it’s been destroyed). She had so much talent as a graphic artist that her father pushed her to give up dance and take up book illustration. That she had mental problems, there’s no doubt, but that diagnosis of being schizophrenic is just one from over two dozen doctors (Carl Jung was one) that James Joyce hired to analyze Lucia. There was absolutely nothing coming close to being a consensus as to what her mental issues might be. Judging from the testimony of her real friends, she was not insane, schizophrenic or any of the other depictions of her as being mad. She probably suffered from emotional trauma (perhaps caused by having an intense desire to have a creative life when women still weren’t supposed to aspire to anything more than marriage and motherhood) and an Electra complex, but she also, most certainly, should not have been incarcerated. Unfortunately, her enemies (chiefly her mother and her brother) wanted her out of the way because her emotional issues were distracting James Joyce and keeping him from finishing Finnegan’s Wake.

        • Hilah on December 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm

          Oh man! What a great story! I’m sure there’s been a biography, do you know the title?

  2. Rosie on December 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Bookmarked and ready for Christmas Eve!

    • Hilah on December 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Wonderful! Merry Christmas, Rosie!

      • Rosie on December 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

        I baked and served these today and they were so well received! Everyone loved them – thanks so much for the recipe and merry Christmas!

  3. Donna Linas on December 20, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Where are the Aebelskivers ?

    • Hilah on December 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Not here! I don’t have a pan. I’d love to try them someday, though.

  4. Shawn on December 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

    Could you use dried cherries in this in place of raisins?

    • Hilah on December 23, 2013 at 11:51 am

      That would be good, Shawn!

  5. James Goacher on February 2, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Hi Hilah;
    This place is just to find somewhere to mail you from. First item in the menu system.

    Is the iTunes link broken?
    The last Podcast I have from you is “Homemade Apple Pie” at the beginning of December and I was getting withdrawal systoms so came to this Web-Site for news. (I hate the web and avoid it whenever possible).
    I see you have lots of recipes on your web site since early December and could not see an iTunes icon so I am wondering if you have stopped that – there is no error message in iTunes btw.

    So – in American parlance – wht’s up dude? 🙂


    • Hilah on February 2, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Hey James,
      iTunes is up to date. I’ve taken some time off of videos, but will be back mid-February. Stay tuned!

  6. Fredrik Sundqvist on May 9, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Hi! I was suprised and became very happy when I saw the Lussekatt recipe. Fun to see something from Sweden!

    • Hilah on May 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Hi Fredrik! I hope they meet your expectations! 🙂

  7. Peter on January 31, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Hi Hilah,

    thanks for this great recipe.

    What is that extra egg yolk for?



    • Hilah on January 31, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Hey Peter!
      It’s used to brush over the buns before cooking to give them a shiny, golden finish.

  8. Mahnaz on November 27, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Hoi,young lady,

    Actually zaferon comes from Persia(Iran) which has the best kind of zaferon in the whole world and the city that has the best kind of Zaferon,is called Mashhad,and Moroko they don,t use zaferon ,they use color which they think is zaferon and is very cheap,and you know zaferon is more expensieve than gold,and dear one more thing you have to grind zaferon ,then you have more color and aroma.

    your faithfully


  9. Lilyh on December 24, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Where is the recipe?

    • Hilah on December 24, 2017 at 7:25 am

      It’s there now, Lilyh. Sorry! A few posts got messed up when I updated the site

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