As cities across the country begin to reopen, a lot of us are probably ready to never hear the words “sourdough starter” again for a good long while. Then again, it’s not like we’re actually out of the woods yet. And besides, some of you may still be on a domestic god/goddess baking high that can only be fueled by less familiar, more ambitious projects. You might be ready to try your hand at various baked desserts around the world.
Leave your banana bread on read. Tell your chocolate chip cookies that you love them, but you’ll see them later. You’ve probably heard of some of the desserts on this list, but these fall just beyond the comfort zone of what the average American will attempt to make on their own, barring any cultural or familial ties to the lands where these sweets originate.
We’ve included two recipes you can follow for each dessert — one in English and one in the language of origin. You don’t have to be a language student to experiment in the kitchen. But if you are, don’t forget that cooking is one of the most enjoyable ways to study!
Baked Desserts Around The World
Pastéis De Nata — Portugal
If you’re a fan of crème brûlée, these Portuguese custard tarts will knock your socks off. What’s not to love about caramelized custard nestled into a buttery puff pastry crust? If you’re not into tedious baking projects, you might decide to buy your puff pastry premade, but the English-language recipe below includes instructions for how to make it yourself (hint: it involves layering the butter in).
Matcha Roll Cake — Japan
Japanese desserts often have an incredible, airy texture and a delicate flavor profile. This roll cake has the best of both — plus it’s matcha-flavored. The assembly, to be fair, is a tad bit complicated (you’ll have to bake the sponge cake and then pre-roll it while it’s still warm before adding the filling). The video above should hopefully help demystify the process.
Rum Cake — Jamaica
Also known as black cake, this is a Christmas specialty that fills kitchens across the Caribbean with a fragrant spice during the holidays. And if you want to make this the right way, you would have to start soaking the dried fruit in rum and brandy months prior to making the actual cake. The recipe below requires considerably less preparation time, and it will help you arrive at a close second-best.
Cardamom Bread — Sweden
In Sweden, fika (a coffee break that often involves pastries) is a whole way of life. A typical pastry might is kanelbulle (cinnamon bun), but that may be a tad overdone for a lot of people. Why not try some cardamom bread instead? It still involves yeast, but you’re probably a pro at that by now.
Babka — Poland
In Poland, babka is a sweet yeast bread that’s usually brought out around Easter. But you don’t have to wait for a special holiday to make one. Add rum-soaked raisins and a little lemon zest, top it off with a sugary frosting glaze, and you’re pretty much good to go.
Alfajores — Argentina
If you’re sweet on dulce de leche and you’ve never tasted an alfajor — what are you even doing? Alfajores are beloved in various Latin American cultures, particularly in Argentina. They’re basically shortbread sandwich cookies with a creamy caramel center, but that description doesn’t do them justice. As far as baked desserts around the world go, this is one of the more scrumptious!
Apfelstrudel — Austria
Why bake another apple pie when you can attempt an apple strudel instead? It’s the same basic flavor profile, but you get to stretch out the dough like it’s a pizza crust! This is obviously not the easiest thing to do, but didn’t you say you were bored and looking for a challenge?
Pavlova — Australia/New Zealand
Whether you believe the pavlova originated in Australia or New Zealand (or possibly elsewhere), this dessert is relatively easy to make — especially compared to the other recipes on this list. It’s basically meringue topped with cream and fresh fruit, and it’s both delicious and incredibly photogenic.