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Fastelavn/Danish Carnival

Today is Fastelavn/”Shrovetide” in Denmark! This is Lutheran/Scandinavian carnival.

I was never a big fan of this tradition as a kid. Probably because you had to dress up in the middle of the Winter standing in a line and beat a barrel in the cold winter snow! The barrel is similar to a piñata but shaped as a barrel with a picture of a cat on it. Its called “beat the cat out of the barrel” and in the old days there used to be a real black cat in it as a symbol of getting rid of evil. Now the barrel is filled with candy and oranges. Much better. The child who beats the bottom off the barrel becomes “Cat Queen” and receives a queen crown and the child who beats the last board off the barrel gets the title “Cat King” and a king’s crown.

Little kids also walk around in groups in their neighborhoods and knock on people’s doors all dressed up in their costumes. They sing a little song about how they will make trouble if they don’t get any buns and then receive a piece of candy. Much like Halloween. Just a lot colder… As a child I would also get a “fastelavnsris” which is a bouquet of branches decorated with fun stuff such as paper masks , pretty paper wraps and… candy, of course! I definitely liked that part of Fastelavn – and the yummy pastry buns called “Fastelavnsboller”.

So yesterday I took an old family recipe for fastelavnsboller and they came out so good considering the recipe was pretty simple. We have already eaten half of them and they reminded me of some of the Danishes you can buy in the bakeries. And what’s even more exciting – I now feel up for trying to make real danishes soon!! Actually, I’m very excited about bringing real danish pastry to America! When you can’t buy it – you gotta make it yourself!

As you can see in the pictures I let my four-year old decorate the fastelavnsboller. And they somehow ended up looking like something from a 70’s cookbook… I need to work on my photo editing skills I guess. But it is a children’s festivity after all… And you can really decorate them any way you want. Next year I will put some more effort into shaping them more uniformly – haha! – and decorating with pretty pink and light blue icing and sprinkles.


Fastelavnsbolle recipe


200 gram butter

1 dl whole milk

1/2 dl warm water for proofing the yeast

1 1/2 package of active dry yeast

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt


Half a package of Jello’s vanilla pudding mix stirred with 1 1/2 cup milk


Confectioners sugar, cocoa powder and a little water

M&Ms, sprinkles, anything fun/pretty for decorating


This is how you do it:

Melt the butter in a small pot, add the milk.

Proof the yeast in warm water and add it to the luke warm milk and butter in a mixing bowl.

Stir in vanilla, salt, sugar and the egg. Then blend in the flour. The dough is supposed to be soft and sticky. You might want to add a little more flour if it is overly sticky. Knead a for a little bit

Let it rise for 45-60 minutes under a dish towel

Whisk up the vanilla pudding in a separate bowl and set it aside

Knead the dough a little and roll it into a big square with a rolling pin. It should be about 20 x 20 inches and only 1/4 inch thick. Then you cut it into 20 little squares with a knife.

Place the squares on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper and put a small spoonful of the pudding in the middle of each square

Then you fold the corners of the dough squares towards the middle where you stick them together. Make sure to press the sides firmly together so the little package is closed and no filling spills out (don’t worry, a little came out of some of mine, once in the oven, and it was still ok).

Flip them upside down so you have the foldings underneath the buns

Cover the baking sheets with a dish towel and let the buns rise for another 30 minutes

Then you coat them with a whisked egg

Bake in a 400 degree Fahrenheit warm oven for 18-20 minutes

Once they have cooled off on a baking rack you can decorate!

I made a classic sugar icing with about 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and just enough cocoa powder to turn it nicely chocolate brown. Slowly add a little water at a time, only enough to give it the right thick consistency. Carefully top the icing of each bun using a small spoon

Let some kids decorate – if you dare!

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