‘Tis the season to be jolly and a guaranteed way to be jolly is to eat delicious holiday treats. Most of us have our own special holiday recipes we only bake at this time of year. Sometimes they are family recipes and other times they are tied to our culture or country. One of the things I love the most about travelling during the holiday season and visiting Christmas markets in Europe is seeing what festive treats are available this time of year. Trust me when I say I have several favourites. However, since most of us can’t travel to Christmas markets this year, I thought I should bring some of these treats to you. (Well, sort of. You need to bake them but I found you some great recipes!). So, for any other sweet lovers out there looking for some holiday baking inspiration, here are some of the most delicious holiday and Christmas desserts around the world to try out in your kitchen.
Nanaimo Bars- Canada
I’m starting off this list of Christmas desserts from around the world with my favourite, nanaimo bars. Named after after a city of the same name in British Columbia, Nanaimo bars are a chocolate Canadian dessert that are especially popular during the holiday season. The bottom layer is a graham cracker, chocolate, and coconut crust. Then you have a silky vanilla cream layer, and it’s topped with a thin layer of chocolate. They are sweet, but they are delicious. You can find my family recipe for nanaimo bars here.
Stollen is one of my favourite things to buy and bring home from German Christmas markets. Especially the ones filled with Marzipan! Stollen recipes have been around for several hundred years and are a classic sign of Christmas in Germany. It’s a sweet cake studded with nuts, dried fruits and the best ones (in my opinion) also have marzipan inside. The cakes are then dusted with a generous amount of icing sugar. It’s especially delicious when served with gluhwein. Find a recipe for stollen here.
Lebkuchen- Nuremberg, Germany
Another Christmas market favourite of mine is Lebkuchen. These are a type of gingerbread cookie that originated in Nuremberg (which, by the way, is also home to my all-time favourite Christmas market). Lebkuchen was created by monks back in the 14th century and are now famous in the Nuremberg region. Traditionally, they are made with spices, nuts, and dried fruit but as you browse the Christmas market stalls you will find different flavours and some with chocolate as well. Want to try them at home? Check out this recipe.
On top of being really fun to say, Snickerdoodles are a popular Christmas dessert throughout the USA. These classic cookies have been around since the 1800s and are believed to be of German origin. They are a type of sugar cookie but the difference being a touch of cinnamon and how they look. Classic sugar cookies are smooth with white sugar. Snickerdoodles are crinkly and rolled in a mixture of white sugar and cinnamon. Find the snickerdoodle recipe here.
While I can’t get behind the idea of a hot Christmas on the beach (I’m all about white Christmases in Canada) I do love the sound of one of Australia’s favourite Christmas desserts: Lamingtons. Lamingtons are vanilla sponge cake square dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. Sometimes they also have fillings such as jam or whipped cream. You can find a Lamington recipe from my pastry chef friend who lived in Australia here.
Jaffa Slice- New Zealand
Continuing our journey of Christmas desserts from around the world, from New Zealand comes Jaffa Slice. It’s a decadent, fudgy chocolate orange cake that can then be sliced into bars. Jaffas are orange flavoured chocolate balls from New Zealand which are frequently included in the recipe but can be omitted and replaced with some extra orange (zest or juice). Oh, and did I mention that this dessert is non-bake? Check out this recipe for Jaffa Slice if you want to give it a try.
Scottish Tablet- Scotland
If you love fudge, then you will love Scottish Tablet! This medium-hard sugary treat is a popular Scottish dessert that comes out in full force during the holiday season. It is very similar to fudge except that it is made with condensed milk rather than cream. You can flavour it with vanilla or your favourite whisky and add nuts if you like. Check out this recipe to make it at home.
Medenjaci are honey flavoured cookies that originated from Croatia and are a popular Christmas dessert around the Balkan region. They can be spiced with a variety of flavours depending on what you like. Typical spices used include cinnamon, cloves, and ginger in addition to the honey. Find the recipe here.
Mince Pies- UK
A classic choice when it comes to Christmas desserts from around the world are mince pies. Mince pies were something my grandmother loved during Christmas and it took ages for me to realize that the ‘mince’ was actually a sweet fruit and spice mix, not minced beef. Awkward. Mince Pies can be found in many commonwealth bakeries around the world during the holiday season but are most popular in the UK. If you love pies, then give these a try for this year’s holiday baking. Find a recipe here.
Vinarterta Cake– Iceland
This Icelandic treat is typically made for Christmas and weddings. It’s a cake with several cookie type layers and a dried plum (prune) jam in-between the layers although you can also use apricot and rhubarb. While this recipe originated in Iceland, it was brought to North America by Icelandic settlers and is now more commonly made in the Icelandic communities of the USA and Canada. Want to give it a try? Find the recipe here.
Israel also has a collection of delicious holiday treats that they make during this time of year for Hanukah. One of the most popular is Sufganiyot which are Israeli donuts. Sufganiyot are typically filled with jelly or jam although if that’s not to your taste you could also make them with custard, nutella, dulce de leche… the options are endless. Or, if you prefer, you can make them without a filling. While the idea of making donuts at home seems a little scary,this Sufganiyot recipe promises to make it easy.
Ghriba Cookie- Morocco
A holiday favourite from Morocco is the Ghriba cookie which is incredibly popular around Ramadan. They are described as having an almost sandy texture which may be an acquired taste for some. Typically, they are served with coffee or tea as they are a dry cookie and ideal for dunking. Find a recipe here.
Can you think of any other special holiday or Christmas desserts from around the world that should be on this list?