It’s the holidays! And you know what it means… Christmas desserts! There are plenty of desserts to enjoy during the festive season. But we’re not here to talk to you about the typical Canadian Christmas desserts that you probably know by now. If you are interested, take a look at some of our previous blogs about Shortbread Cookies, Butter Tarts, Yule Logs and Gingerbread.
How well do you know about the Christmas traditions around the world? Fear not! We’ll take you on a holiday journey to learn about desserts for Christmas across the globe. Dessert Advisor will give you a glimpse of many Christmas desserts. Buckle up, it’s going to be a delicious ride!
Portugal – Bolo Rei (Portuguese King Cake)
Portugal, our first stop of the trip! What a better way to start our Christmas dessert tour with Portuguese cake. During the holidays, Bolo Rei, or Portuguese King Cake, is a Christmas fruit cake traditionally eaten between Christmas Day (December 25) and the new year’s King Day (January 6).
Legends says that three kings arrived at Jerusalem to greet Jesus, the new born baby. They debated who would be the first to give their offerings to Jesus. While travelling, they met a baker who gave them a cake filled with a single bean. The one who got the slice of cake with the bean would be the first to present their gift to Jesus.
The Bolo Rei is unique. Imagine a crown-sized donut! This Portuguese King cake is topped with a variety of candied fruit and powdered sugar. The fillings are so tempting: dried fruits, raisins and eggs. Don’t walk, run to your nearest bakery to get a hold of this irresistible cake!
United Kingdom – Christmas Pudding
Next on this holiday trip, we visit the United Kingdom. During the Christmas season, the most popular dessert on the table is the Christmas pudding. What exactly is a Christmas pudding?
Originally known as “frumenty”, the Christmas pudding was introduced in the 14th century. Traditionally, they were boiled in a pudding cloth. Now that we’ve reached contemporary times, they are steamed in a bowl. Based on British holiday traditions, Christmas pudding is made during Stir-up Sunday, which is the last Sunday in the Church Year. It is stirred three times by each family member to make a wish.
How are Christmas puddings made? Good question! A Christmas pudding has 13 main ingredients. Each one represents Jesus and his 12 disciples. These ingredients are: brandy, milk, raisins, currants, suet, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, citron, lemon peel, orange peel, flour, eggs and mixed spices. Brandy is poured over the pudding to light up flames to portray the passion of Christ.
If you want to learn more about the different puddings, check out our blog on The Many Faces and Types of Pudding!
Italy – Panettone
Italy is best known for their exquisite cuisine that influenced the food culture across the globe. But did you know they are also the home of the Panettone dessert? Let’s dive in!
Panettone originated in the 15th century in the city of Milan. The bread was called “pane di tono”, translating to “luxury cake”. It was only in the beginning of the 20th century that panettone was mass produced. Baker Angelo Motto thought of letting the dough proof (i.e., final fermentation/rise before baking) for up to 12 hours. This technique formed the dome shape of the panettone, creating a bread that is airy and light.
In the past, panettone was only served during Christmas. The bread was so sacred and worshipped, the Milan Chamber of Commerce protects the original recipe to this day. Due to its mass production, panettone is enjoyed as a savoury dessert by many families. The bread is made with dried fruit, raisins, nuts, chocolate, and currants. During the holiday season, pair panettone with some wine, coffee or tea. This Italian dessert will for sure become a holiday staple in your household!
Greece – Melomakarona (Christmas Holiday Cookies)
Had enough of cakes and bread? You’re in for a great surprise because our next stop is Greece! During the holidays, they are famous for melomakarona, which are Christmas holiday cookies.
Melomakarona (μελομακάρονα) are traditional Greek Christmas cookies. The word “melomakarona” holds a special meaning: “meli” means honey, and “makarona” means blessed. You can think of it as honey blessed cookies!
During the old days, Melomakarona was served during the days leading up to Christmas. It was a treat to enjoy during Christmas Lent: delicious and healthy! Melomakarona are made with olive oil, honey, orange juice and walnuts. They do not contain any milk or eggs, so it’s a perfect dessert to enjoy as a vegan and if you are partaking in Lent. In some regions of Greece, you can find a similar dessert called finikia. Although the recipe is identical, the finikia is deep-fried while melomakarona is baked.
After a delicious Christmas dinner, enjoy a batch of melomakarona with your loved ones and celebrate the night away!
Germany – Stollen
There is no time for rest on this International trip: Germany is up next. And what is Germany known for during the holiday season? Yep, no other than stollen!
Stollen, also known as Christollen, originates from the city of Dresden, Germany in the late 1500s. This German dessert is reminiscent of a hybrid between a fruit cake and bread. It is a thick sweet bread filled with a variety of dried fruits, almond paste, candied citrus and orange peel, and a handful of nuts. To top it off, the outer layer is coated with a bed of sugar. These are the traditional ingredients, but some can be replaced to better suit one’s taste.
Every German can enjoy this dessert throughout the year, but it is especially devoured during the holidays. This cake-like fruit bread is stuffed with substantially more fruits and nuts. Revel in the sweetness and zesty flavours of stollen during this holiday season! It is definitely a dessert to remember.
Philippines – Bibingka (Coconut Cake)
We’re continuing on with our adventure to the land of a thousand islands, Philippines! The Philippines is the home of the famous coconut cake, Bibingka.
Bibingka is a coconut cake made with rice flour mixed with coconut water to create a creamy and delicious batter. By adding milk and eggs, the cake becomes rich and soft. Traditionally, it is cooked wrapped in banana leaves. This method infuses the scent of the banana leaves with the cake. How yummy! Halfway through the baking process, various toppings may be added such as salted duck egg, shredded coconut, sprinkles of sugar and grated cheese.
Bibingka is commonly served during the Christmas season, particularly on “Simbang Gabi” (Midnight Mass) that takes place weeks before Christmas day. Many churches organize a small night market filled with food vendors that serve this flavourful cake after the mass. Not only is bibingka delicious, but it also brings people together.
Australia and New Zealand – Pavlova
We’ve finally reached our last destinations: Australia and New Zealand. What can we expect from Australasia? Pavlova, of course!
Pavlova is a beloved dessert consumed during Christmas Day. Due to the southern hemisphere, Christmas is celebrated during the summer. This meringue cake is perfect for a summer holiday! It is made with whipped eggs and milk. Its light and crispy exterior and topped with a various selection of fruits and whipped cream, pavlova creates a perfect harmony of flavours.
The debate of pavlova’s origins is still on-going between Australia and New Zealand. It’s been found that this dessert is named after the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in 1926. New Zealand believes that a chef of a Wellington hotel created this dessert as a tribute to Anna Pavlova, influenced by the shape of her tutu. However, Australians believe this meringue dessert was actually created at a hotel in Perth. It was named after the ballerina, claiming that the dessert was “light as Pavlova”. Regardless of who invented it first, it’s safe to say that pavlova is unparalleled!
If you want to learn more about pavlova’s origins, check out our Pavlova cake blog with key facts about a century-old dessert debate!
What a trip! These desserts for Christmas are essential at every household across the globe. They’re delicious and heavenly! We hope we inspired you to indulge in these traditional desserts this holiday. Look out for these Christmas desserts near you!
DessertAdvisor.com is an organization dedicated to the research of desserts, baked goods, and snacks. The community maintains one of the largest databases of dessert items and dessert places in Canada.
With a mission to facilitate foodies’ search for their desired products, the site allows finding locations that dessert items are sold at, enhances knowledge on various treats (i.e., variety, flavours, health benefits, history, origins, etc.), and enables people to enjoy the wealth of life.