Today is a special occasion in the heart of many an Icelander; it’s Bolludagur which translates to ‘Cream Bun Day’. People across the country celebrate this day of indulgence by gorging on ‘Bollur’; sweet pastries filled with jam and freshly whipped cream and coated in chocolate.
Over one million bollur are sold every year, and many choose to bake their own at home. Considering Iceland is a nation of only 350,000, you can get an idea of how wildly popular this festivity is nationwide.
Bolludagur is the first of three consecutive days of celebratory excess before the traditionally restrictive Christian period of Lent. You could compare it to ‘Pancake Day’ in the UK or ‘Fat Thursday’ celebrations in Catholic countries. It always falls on the Monday six weeks before Easter so the date is different from year to year.
The day was originally introduced to Iceland by bakers from Norway and Denmark in the 19th century as part of the Scandinavian tradition ‘fastelavn’ or ‘Carnival’. By the 20th century, Bolludagur had taken on a distinctive Icelandic quality accompanied by its very own unique and somewhat peculiar practices.
Traditionally, children would spend the Sunday before Bolludagur creating brightly coloured paddles made out of paper called “Bolludagsvöndur” or, ‘Cream Bun Wands’. On Monday morning they would then sneak into their parents’ rooms and spank them while shouting “Bolla! Bolla!” (‘Bun! Bun!’).
In exchange for spankings throughout the day, adults are expected to reward children with a cream bun for each successful hit. Much to the delight of parents nationwide, this tradition is not practised as widely anymore, but people still eat the sweet treats in excess.
As mentioned above, the buns are usually filled with jam and cream and topped with chocolate, however, in more recent years, bakeries have gotten more creative with the combination and presentation of different fillings and toppings. In some places, you’ll be able to find liquorice or vegan varieties of bollur.
Join in the festivities and visit a bakery to pick-up and devour your very own bollur, after all, this day only comes round once a year! If you want to get more involved, you can pick up empty pastries from the supermarket and customise them to your liking!
If you’re reading from abroad don’t despair; you can make your very own bollur from scratch following this simple recipe.
Choux pastry bollur (makes 12 buns)
Preheat the oven to 190°C. You will need the following ingredients.
130g all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Firstly, combine the water, butter, and salt in a pan. Heat and bring to the boil until the butter has melted. Remove pan from the heat. Next, gradually stir the flour into the mixture (this works best with a wooden spoon!) until you have a smooth dough.
Add the eggs one by one, making sure each one is thoroughly mixed in before you add the next. Your final dough should be thick but slightly runny.
Next, transfer your dough into a piping bag or you can use a tablespoon to form the buns on a tray lined with baking paper. Each bun should be about 3 inches wide. Be sure to leave enough space between them then cook in a preheated oven for 30-35-minutes before taking them out.
Allow the buns to cool before cutting them in half and filling/topping them with whatever you like! We recommend adding melted chocolate on top, and jam and whipped cream inside.
Have you tried the Icelandic cream bun? Do you have a favourite food from Iceland? Be sure to leave your comments and questions in the Facebook comments box below.