– It has to taste so good that a non-vegan finds it absolutely amazing. Quality is super important to me, Agnes Uluarda explains.
For just over three years, she and her husband Raol Skogsberg and their sons Theo and Oliver have been selling buns, cakes and sandwiches in the airy café on Teatergatan. Everything is baked from scratch in their own bakery a block away, and close to everything is vegan.
– When we had just opened the café, a recently graduated pastry chef called and wanted to start working here. She said, "I'm a vegan, and I'd like to bake vegan stuff at your place".
Agnes liked the idea, but on one condition – the pastry had to taste just as good as if it were made with traditional ingredients. No problems, said the pastry chef Lisa Forsberg, who runs her own company Doux Pastry, and who since then creates incredible cakes and pastry for the café.
– She has taught me everything I know about baking vegan, Agnes continues. Because it is harder, and costs a bit more, but the taste needs to be just as good – or better.
The vegan semla has been there since the opening three years ago, and the recipe has developed ever since. The buns are made of the same dough used for the café's cinnamon buns, using oat cream instead of milk and eggs. Then they add some additional sugar, and oat cream, as well as cardamom, to make the semla buns. Agnes makes the almond paste herself, and it's important that it's not too sweet.
"A vegan Bräutigams, you know the iconic Gothenburg bakery? That would be cool."
– Getting the cream right is the hardest part, Agnes laughs. We mix oat and soy cream and add some lemon, but just a little bit, you should not be able to taste it. That way it gets the right amount of fluffy and firm. And then Lisa had a special class teaching us to pipe cream, to make them look nice and neat.
But if you're thinking that vegan means less calories you'll be disappointed, at least at St Agnes. Their semla is not healthier than a traditional one, the two owners explain, they think there are enough "healthy cafés" as it is.
– But of course, it's healthier for the environment, Agnes states.
For her, the semla tradition goes all the way back to her childhood in the region of Småland. Her parents had a shop in the small town Värnamo and during the semla season, Agnes was sent to buy the special buns from two different bakeries every day.
– My mum wanted hers from one bakery and my dad from another.
Agnes and Raol are happy that the vegan trend is growing, and spreading to "ordinary people", but they also believe that we've only seen the beginning of it. During the past few months the café's turnover has doubled, and they have plenty of ideas about how to develop the business.
– The dream is to create a classic bakery that is entirely vegan. Like a vegan Bräutigams, you know the iconic Gothenburg bakery? That would be cool.
Read the vegan semla test in the magazine Syre (in Swedish).
More places where you can eat a vegan semla:
St Agnes Kafé, Teatergatan 30–32
Blackbird, Stigbergsliden 3
Café Repris, Södra Allégatan 1B
Sunes fik, Munkebäcksgatan 20
The Kitchen by Nenna, Skanstorget 1
Kafé Frilagret, Heurlins plats 1A
Snövit konditori, Ångaren Ernas gata 12
Condeco, Fredsgatan 14
Crippas café, Kusttorget 1
Deli Marché, Pedagogen, Västra Hamngatan 25
Löfqvist & vi, Arkaden, Fredsgatan 1