What would Christmas be without all the sweets and delicious desserts? Whether it’s a cake, a cookie or a candy, every country has its own traditional treat for the holiday season. We’re sure you consider your country’s Christmas sweets the best in the world, but the wide selection of appealing desserts in the list below might change your mind.
The first stop in our sweet journey around the world is Latin America and, more specifically, Argentina. At a traditional Argentinean Christmas dinner you’ll most probably find turrón at dessert. Turrón, also known as nougat, is typically made of sugar, honey and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts. It comes in different shapes, such as a rectangular tablet or a round cake.
Also traditional in Argentina and other Latin American countries is the pionono – a small pastry that can be eaten in one or two bites. Pionono is made of two different parts: a thin layer of pastry rolled like a cylinder, fermented with different kinds of syrup and a toasted cream part on the top.
It might be hot in Australia at Christmas time, but Australians still have a White Christmas. This is the name of their traditional Christmas dessert. It’s basically a mixture of raisins, cherries, dried coconut, icing sugar, milk powder and rice bubbles, with hydrogenated coconut oil as the ingredient that puts all the rest together. White Christmas is usually served cut into squares and because it’s very easy to make even children give it a try in the holiday season.
Belgians bake cougnou or bread of Jesus during Christmas time. This sweet bread is formed like a baby Jesus and is decorated with different elements such as flowers, circles etc. The composition includes flour, eggs, milk, yeast, raisins, sugar and is usually enjoyed with a cup of hot chocolate.
One of the most popular Brazilian desserts is pudim de leite condensado or condensed milk pudding, containing condensed milk (obviously), regular milk, eggs and caramelized sugar on top. Whether it’s Christmas or other festive occasions, Brazilians take every opportunity to serve this custard dessert.
The Yule log, a dessert shaped to resemble a miniature log or a chopped off tree branch, is a form of sweet roulade made of sponge cake. It is traditionally prepared for Christmas in other countries as well; for example, in France it’s known as bûche de Noël. The original Yule log recipe dates back in the 19th century and has developed many variations along the way. The most common combination is basic yellow sponge cake and chocolate butter cream.
In France, it is customary to serve 13 desserts at the Christmas table. Les treize desserts de Noël (French for thirteen desserts of Christmas) represent Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles and they include walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, apples, pears, green melon, black and white raisins, figs oranges and mandarins. The desserts are traditionally set out on Christmas Eve and remain on the table three days, until December 27.
The Hungarian bejgli consists of a roll of sweet yeast bread with a rich filling of poppy seeds (mákos bejgli) or walnuts (diós bejgli). It is customary to serve both types of rolls at the Christmas meal’s dessert, accompanied with fruit wines like blackcurrant wine. The dough of the bejgli may be flavored with lemon/orange zest or rum according to one’s preferences.
Never missing from Hungarian houses at Christmas time is the szaloncukor, a sweet made of fondant, covered by chocolate and individually wrapped in shiny colored foil. They are also usually hung on the Christmas tree as decoration.
Iceland’s Laufabrauð (leaf bread) consists of a round, very thin flat cake with a diameter of about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches), decorated with leaf-like, geometric patterns and fried briefly in hot fat or oil. Baking this leaf bread is an important part of the Christmas preparations in every home in Iceland.
A popular Christmas cake served by the Christian population of Hindustan in India is the allahabadi, a rum fruit cake originating and lending its name from the Northern Indian city of Allahabad. It’s made with maida flour, eggs, clarified butter, sugar, petha (a translucent soft candy from North India), marmalade, nuts, ginger and fennel as its main ingredients.
The cupola-shaped sweet bread called panettone is originally from Milan and it became an omnipresent dessert on Italians’ Christmas Eve dinner. The process of properly preparing the panettone in order to obtain its distinctive fluffy characteristics takes several days. It contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as dried raisins. It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine. In some regions of Italy, it is served with crema di mascarpone or crema di zabaione.
Even though Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan (with only about 1% of Japan’s population being Christian), the Japanese do have a Christmas cake. The dessert is a type of sponge cake, covered with snow-white whipped cream and topped with red strawberries. The red and white in this cake reminds of the Japanese flag colors and this is probably why the cake became so popular in Japan that it even has its own emoji. The Japanese Christmas cake is a perfect example of Western traditions being adopted by the Japanese culture and given a different and fresh meaning.
The traditional Christmas Eve dinner in any Lithuanian home is most likely to feature kūčiukai, a dessert consisting of small slightly sweet pastries made from leavened dough and poppy seeds. There are variations in sweetness and they are usually served soaked in poppy seed milk.
Hot beverages are almost as popular as baked desserts at Christmas time. In Mexico, the drink that accompanies the festive meal is atole, whici includes masa (corn hominy flour), water, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), cinnamon, vanilla and optional chocolate or fruit. Atole varies in texture, ranging from a porridge to a very thin liquid consistency. Instead of masa as a main ingredient, rice, flour, or oatmeal can be used.
The most commonly eaten Christmas cookie in all of Norway is pepperkake (translated as pepper cake). It’s a ginger bread cookie spiced with black pepper and formed into a heart or other shape. Pepperkake is complemented with coffee, tea or especially gløgg, a spiced drink served warm, with or without alcohol.
People from Panama celebrate Christmas with a special dessert called roscón de reyes or rosca de reyes, meaning king’s ring. As you would expect from its name, this pastry is shaped like a ring, and a trincket (most often a Christ child figurine) is placed in the center. Figs, quinces, cherries or other dried and candied fruits are used for decoration.
Filipinos have a soft and spongy large flat cake for Christmas called bibingka. It is traditionally cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves and it’s served topped with grated coconut.
Romania’s traditional Christmas dessert is the cozonac, a brioche-like sweet leavened bread made from flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar and salt. Depending on the region, some other ingredients are added, such as cocoa powder, raisins, rahat (Turkish delight), walnuts and hazelnuts, vanilla or rum flavor, orange or lemon zest.
On Christmas Eve, Serbians serve česnica (also called božićna pogača), a soda bread or brioche made from a dough of flour and water. The name is a derivate of the noun cest, meaning to share. Traditionally, a silver coin is put inside this dessert and whoever gets it will have a lucky and blessed following year.
The Sweden risgrynsgröt (translated as rice grain’s porridge) was first served in 1328 at the funeral wake for the father of St. Bridget of Sweden and after that it became a fashionable dessert to be served at all the finest parties. The most interesting part of this rice pudding is that it has a hidden almond inside the composition and whoever gets it has to perform a task, like composing thanks in rhyme for the meal. In the old days, if a single young man or woman found the almond, it was a sign that the coming year would bring true love. A dish of risgrynsgröt is even put outside the front door for the Christmas elf.
Dulce de lechosa verde (or green papaya sweet) is an important part of Venezuelan Christmas traditions and it definitely stands out in comparison to most holiday season desserts both in looks and taste. Dulce de lechosa is made of sliced green papaya slowly cooked and reduced in sugar syrup. It is served cold.