From top: Leila’s Rocky Road; Peppermint and Chocolate Pastilles; Chocolate Cookie Crumb Rolls Flavoured with Punsch; Chocolate Oatmeal Balls. As featured in Magnus Nilsson's The Nordic Baking Book.

The sweet (and sour) side of Swedish candy

Magnus Nilsson’s new book boasts some great confectionary recipes and reveals a forgotten candy scandal

Looking forward to the confectionary overload that comes with Halloween trick or treating? Northern Europeans are. “In many parts of the Nordics, but perhaps most notably in Scandinavia, with an epicentre in Sweden, we have a very sweet tooth,” writes Magnus Nilsson in his new title, The Nordic Baking Book.

“I vividly remember how special Saturdays felt when I was a kid growing up in Sweden, he writes, “The excitement of going to bed on Friday night, knowing that tomorrow, after breakfast, riding shotgun in the Volvo 245 station wagon, we were going to the shop to get that week’s ration of sweets.”

Why just Saturdays? Well, a rather scandalous social experiment, carried out in Swedish mental health institutions from 1945 until 55, pushed many away from a higher intake of candy.

“To study the actions of tooth decay a group of at least 1000 people was needed, preferably in a controlled environment for an extended period of time,” explains Nilsson. “These requirements were met by mental institutions of the time, where patients were often locked up for life.


Chef and author Magnus Nilsson. Photo by Erik Olsson
Chef and author Magnus Nilsson. Photo by Erik Olsson

“The ill were fed large amounts of particularly sticky toffee over extended periods of time to encourage the formation of cavities and to study the long-term effects of carbohydrates on dental hygiene,” he goes on. “Of course at the price of terrible pain and loss of quality of life for those participating without consent. It was soon concluded that carbs [which include sugar] weren’t good for your teeth and that if you concentrated the intake of, for example, sweets to once a week, it would probably be better for you.”

The darker side of this study only came to light in the 1990s, long after the study’s findings had been used to curb the sugar consumption of young Swedes such as Magnus.

“The information was rolled out to the eager citizens of my home country,” the chef writes, “who listened to the injunctions of their beloved government and started eating sweets mostly on Saturdays.”


The Nordic Baking Book
The Nordic Baking Book

Keen to try a few sweet Nordic favourites (in moderation, of course)? Then get The Nordic Baking Book. Nilsson’s new publication features a great deal of homemade candy recipes, including toffees, peppermint sticks and Finnish potato chocolate balls. Order your copy here.