Swedish Fika 101
Lola A. Åkerström teaches you the basics of all you need to know about Swedish Fika.
Crispy buttery crusts filled with gooey, decadent pastes. Sugary marzipan tarts topped with heavy whipped cream. All consumed while sipping black coffee. You’d think we were partaking in Paris’ revered café culture.
Known more for consuming salmon, herring, and other variety of fish by the boatload, it may come as a surprise that sweet goods reign supreme in Stockholm – particularly any form of baked dough infused with sugar and cream.
One of the highest ranking coffee consuming cities per capita, travelers to Stockholm will quickly catch on to the deep rooted coffee culture that envelopes the city. More surprising is the daily frequency at which people drop everything to “drink coffee”.
The actual act of drinking coffee isn’t the core of this tradition, but rather the act of religiously sharing with friends, colleagues, and family in a social situation known as observing fika.
Pronounced “fee-ka”, though the word literally means “to drink coffee,” it is widely translated into taking a break (fikarast) from work to socialize over cups of coffee, and Stockholm is peppered with small coffeeshops (konditori) that sell pastries to quickly cater to the hourly fika crowds.
Similar to observing afternoon tea in the United Kingdom with an assortment of scones, biscuits, and mini sandwiches, observing fika is accompanied with a slew of fresh, baked goods collectively known as fikabröd.
The most popular buns served are kanelbullar – cinnamon rolls. Unlike the glazed, jumbo-sized Cinnabon rolls popular in other countries, these classic rolls are smaller, lighter, and usually infused with a lot more cinnamon and cardamom.
If you find yourself in Stockholm in February right before the Lenten season, bakery displays will be filled with oval shaped buns stuffed with almond paste and full whipped cream known as semlor – designed to fatten patrons up before observing lent.
A variety of cakes and tortes regularly make appearances during fika. For chocolate lovers, Kladdkaka is similar to a chocolate brownie, but a lot richer and stickier in terms of consistency, and is usually served with a dollop of whipped cream.
If you prefer nutty flavors like almonds and hazelnut, Mazarintårta are sugary tarts with crusts made from shortbread crusts and filled with rich almond paste.
Other popular cakes include Appelkaka, a light apple pie served with vaniljsås (vanilla sauce), and Sweden’s take on the classic cheesecake, a simple curd cake known as Ostkaka which is usually served with cloudberry jam and some whipped cream.
But the mother of all tortes in town is the Prinsesstårta. Easily identified by its otherworldly green coating and pink rose made from marzipan, the Princesstårta is a multi-layer sponge cake filled with whipped cream, custard, and berry jam.
Once you’re ready to fika like a true local, swing by the widely popular Café 60– a hip (and busy) corner street café located on Sveavägen usually frequented by a younger crowd.
Looking for something fancier? The award-winning Vetekatten on Kungsgatan is your ultimate stop for the some of the freshest pastries in Stockholm.