Traditional desserts around the world

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Published 2 weeks ago

One of the best (and most delicious) ways to discover a culture is to go on a food exploration adventure. Most countries around the world have a cuisine unique to them, usually encompassing main dishes, snacks, and desserts. Below is a list of 20 traditional and popular sweet treats around the world.

Alfajores, Argentina

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Alfajores are made up of dulce de leche (caramelised milk and sugar) sandwiched between two soft cookies and covered in coconut shreds or powdered sugar. There are many variations of this dessert, however, across the country and even across South America. A very tasty treat, alfajores are popular as snacks or after-meal desserts.

Apple strudel, Austria

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A traditional Viennese pastry, the apple strudel is usually cut in slices and served warm, accompanied by ice cream or whipped cream. This flaky pastry is filled with sliced apples, sugar, and cinnamon powder, and then baked. Other varieties include adding raisins and breadcrumbs to the filling.

Baklava, Turkey

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During the Ottoman empire (now Turkey), the baklava was a sugary treat consumed mostly by the wealthy. Made of thin layers of phyllo dough, a baklava is a pastry filled with fruits or nuts, and then covered in syrup, and usually served with Turkish coffee. It can be made of different flavours, the most common one being pistachio. Spices used include cinnamon and nutmeg.

Basbousa, Egypt

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A traditional Middle-Eastern dessert originating from Egypt, basbousa is a cake made of semolina (wheat), sugar, almonds, yoghurt, and sometimes coconut, and then covered with syrup after it's out of the oven. Usually served with tea, basbousa tends to be a sweet and moist cake.

Belgian waffles, Belgium

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There are two types of waffles. One is the Brussels waffle which is light and usually served with whipped cream, powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, and pieces of fruits. The Liége waffle on the other hand, is thick and chewy with a denser texture, and the dough usually contains sugar.

Brigadeiro, Brazil

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Brazil's favourite treat was created in the 1940s, and is an important aspect of the culture. Cooked in a pot and made up of condensed milk, butter, and chocolate, it is then rolled up in a ball, covered with chocolate sprinkles, and placed in a cupcake holder.

Flan, Spain

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Made of eggs, milk, and sugar, a flan is a dessert with custard-like consistency, topped with camarel sauce. Often confused with crème brulée, a flan is also referred to as caramel custard or pudding (or crème caramel in French).

Halo-halo, Philippines

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The perfect treat during a hot summer day, halo-halo (meaning "mixed") is made up of shaved iced and a mixture of other ingredients, including agar-agar (jelly), fruits, sweetened beans, and sometimes a scoop of ice cream or evaporated milk. The fruits and other ingredients can be added or removed based on one's personal preference.

Kek lapis, Indonesia

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Kek lapis is a multi-layer cake usually made with egg yolks, butter, sugar, and an array of spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, and cloves, and is incredibly rich and time-consuming to bake. The multitude of thin layers are baked individually and the process requires a lot of patience.

Lamington, Australia

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A favourite in the land down under, lamingtons are small squares of sponge cake covered in chocolate and then sprinkled or dipped in dessicated coconut. Sometimes there are two layers of sponge cake, and there is usually some kind of jam or cream between the layers of cake.

Malva pudding, South Africa

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Found on almost all dessert menus in restaurants across South Africa, Malva pudding is a favourite even among the locals. Of Cape Malay origin, Malva pudding is a soft cake-like pudding with a spongy texture made of apricot jam, sugar, butter, and milk. It is usually served warm with custard or a scoop of ice cream.

Mango sticky rice, Thailand

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A typical Thai dessert that was once only served during the Thai New Year celebrations, this dessert is a combination of sticky rice accompanied by slices of ripe mango and coconut sauce, and sprinkled with mung beans or sesame seeds. It is a sweet and refreshing dessert found in most restaurants and street food markets, and is enjoyed by locals and foreigners alike.

Mochi, Japan

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Mochi is a small, round-shaped "cake" made up glutinous rice (mochiko) and is usually pastel-coloured. It is used in a variety of desserts, including mochi ice cream, or filled with sweet fillings. It is best to cut mochi in small slices before eating, as the chewiness and density of the cake can lead to choking.

Pastel de nata, Portugal

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Pastel de nata is a puff pastry filled with a rich custard-like consistency made up of egg yolk, sugar, and milk, and sprinkled with cinnamon or powdered sugar. The custard is usually burned at the top to create a caramelized top. The soft filling with the crispy flaky pastry makes the perfect combination.

Pavlova, New Zealand

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Named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, the dessert is made up of beaten egg whites, sugar, and an acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar. The end result is a meringue cake with a crispy exterior but a moist, soft, and chewy interior, and the cake is usually topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.

Pumpkin pie, USA

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A traditional American dessert, the pumpkin pie is a favourite autumn treat, most notably served on Thanksgiving day. The rich sweet pie consists of a shortcrust pastry for the shell, and a filling made of pumpkin and a multitude of spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. A slice of pumpkin pie is usually served with a side of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Rugelach, Israel

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The rugelach is a bite-sized sweet pastry in the shape of a crescent, usually filled with chocolate, nuts, a fruit filling, or a variety of other ingredients. The top is usually glazed with egg-whites, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar after baking. The rugelach is very popular in Israel as well as in the Jewish diaspora.

Sacher Torte, Austria

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A popular dessert in Vienna, the sacher torte is a two layer chocolate sponge cake held together with apricot jam, and covered with dark chocolate for a bittersweet taste, often accompanied by whipped cream. It was created in the 1800s by Franz Sacher for the Austrian prince.

Sticky toffee pudding, England

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A sponge cake smothered in sweet toffee sauce, the sticky toffee pudding is made of chopped dates, butter, sugar, and eggs. It is a rich gooey dessert usually served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or custard.

Tiramisu, Italy

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Popular around the world with its origins set in Italy, the tiramisu is a rich multi-layer cake, consisting primarily of layers of ladyfingers biscuits dipped in coffee, and tiramisu cream (mascarpone cheese, egg, sugar), with the end product sprinkled with cocoa powder.