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Soft Saffron Sweet Rolls with a Delicious Almond Filling

These saffron-hued sweet buns are a staple of the Swedish tradition of St. Lucia’s Day, a winter-solstice celebration. Since Italians always celebrate Saints our family adapted the celebration of this Swedish recipe to bring the tradition into our home!

Traditionally the buns have an “S” shape with two rains as “eyes”. We make them as rolled buns to get more delicious filling in every bit (similar to a cinnamon roll)!


Lucia was an Italian Christian girl who was born to rich and noble parents. She was killed for her faith in 304 AD. She was known for secretly bringing food to persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs in Rome. When traveling through the dark tunnels, she would wear a wreath lit with candles on her head, so that she had both hands free to carry food. Fittingly, her name, “Lucy” means “light”.

St. Lucia has been celebrated in Italy since her martyrdom. But now-a-days, her feast day is widely celebrated across Scandinavia, Italy, Croatia and Hungary as well. When Christian missionaries came to Scandinavia, the story of a kind girl who brought light and warmth held much appeal to a people who dealt with long, dark, cold, winters. In Scandinavian countries, St. Lucia’s Feast Day became a festival of light, pointing to the arrival of the Light of Christ on Christmas Day. Her feast day is celebrated on December 13th. Traditionally, the oldest daughter of the house dresses up in long white dress with a red sash and wears a crown or wreath with candles on her head. She carries a tray of a warm drinks, cookies, and saffron buns to her family and friends who are celebrating in the house.

sweet rolls on tray

I hope you can bring this tradition into your home this holiday season.

 Enjoy! (p.s. this is cute  video on the tradition of Swedish Lucia)

Made with Amore,


The process is similar to making cinnamon rolls …

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Roll into rectangle shape (this is a double batch- you will only have ONE big dough ball)
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Cover with prepared filling
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Roll into a log
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Cut into
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Let rise after placing in pan
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Sprinkle with sugar pearls and bake
sweet rolls on plate

We love them so much we make them several times during the holiday season! Bake and Share with LOVE!

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sweet rolls on tray

St. Lucia Buns (sweet saffron rolls filled with almond pudding)

  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 35 min
  • Total Time: 2 hrs 35 min
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Sweet/ Dessert
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian


The rolls are lightly sweet, buttery, and vibrant yellow from the saffron-infused dough. The almond filling is slightly addictive and pairs wonderfully with the saffron buns! Mangia Mangia! (eat) 




  • 1 ½ cups warm milk (105° F)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting


  • 1 stick (7 oz 198 grams) almond paste
  • ½ package French vanilla pudding  (prepared according to package directions)

Optional: Pearl sugar for decorating


  1.  Make the dough: In a bowl of an electric mixer combine warm milk, yeast, sugar, saffron. Stir to dissolve into the yeast.
  2.  Add beaten eggs, salt and 3 cups of flour. Mix on low speed until blended. Switch to a dough hook and then, again on low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining 2 cup of flour. Increase speed to medium, kneading dough until smooth and slightly sticky, incorporate the soften butter small pieces at the time. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large, buttered bowl. Turn dough over in bowl to coat with the butter from the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (or 2 hours if not in an entirely warm place). After the dough has risen, punch down. Turn out onto a lightly floured cutting board.
  3. Make the filling: warm up almond paste in the microwave for 20 seconds until soft. Stir into prepared pudding mixture until well combined (it may be a little chunky). Set aside.
  4.  Roll dough out into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Spread with Almond paste mixture. Starting with the long side, roll dough into a cylinder. Place seam side down on a flat surface and cut crosswise into 15 slices. Place dough slices, flat side down, on top of prepared topping. Crowd them so they touch. Cover with another pan, let the buns to rise, (and refrigerate overnight optional).
  5. If refrigerated remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Optional: Sprinkle buns with sugar pearls before baking. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake buns until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and immediately. Let buns cool slightly and serve warm. They can be warm up in the microwave ~ 20 sec.