Swedish word of the day: dammsugare

Swedish word of the day: dammsugare
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's a Swedish word that has two meanings, one useful and one delicious.

Dammsugare means 'dust-sucker', and it's the very literal Swedish name for a vacuum cleaner.

But more excitingly, it's also the name of a small Swedish pastry.

You've probably seen them if you've been to a traditional cafe in Sweden: the green marzipan cylinders with their ends dipped in chocolate.

The official name is punschrulle (punch roll) thanks to the liqueur that flavours the filling, but they're known as dammsugare or 'vacuum cleaners' for two reasons.

Firstly, they look similar to a model of vacuum cleaner that used to be popular in Sweden around the early 20th century. Perhaps that's one reason they're so beloved here; a kind of nostalgia.

Secondly, these treats are typically made using leftover biscuit crumbs for the filling — picture the baker hoovering up these crumbs to repackage them in a brightly coloured dammsugare.

Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

One story is that they were invented or at least became mainstream in the postwar period when ingredients for cakes were in short supply. Using crushed-up leftovers from unsellable biscuits meant the bakers and buyers didn't have to use extra rations for them, while the liqueur and chocolate added a hit of extra flavour to the day-old crumbs. It's likely the extravagant marzipan topping was added later.

You'll find very similar cakes across northern Europe, known as 'tree trunks' in Denmark (where they don't usually contain liqueur) and 'little marrow bones' in the Netherlands. Three distinctly unappetising names for a popular snack.

Like many cakes and pastries in Sweden, the dammsugare has an 'official' day of celebration: March 7th. But they'll appear on the fika spread all year round, and now you know their story.

And if you want to make them? Here's the recipe.


Oj, jag har ätit för många dammsugare!

Oh no, I've eaten too many dammsugare cakes! 

Jag behöver en dammsugare

I need a vacuum cleaner/dammsugare cake

Our Swedish Word of the Day series aims to help you learn a bit more about how the Swedish language works — especially the bits you wouldn't learn in a classroom. Do you have any feedback, or a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.


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