We’re on a never-ending quest to eat the best desserts in the world. This guide has our picks for the 102 desserts that make life sweeter and more fun.
Life is short. Eat dessert first.
Yes, we know that this quote has become a bit of a cliché. However, it was said by Jacques Torres, a French pastry chef who clearly knew a thing or two about dessert.
Ironically, international desserts haven’t always been the global phenomena that they are today. Prior to the 17th century when sugar started to become available and affordable, most sweet treats involved fruits and nuts. Later, desserts were served during the meal as an entremet between courses.
We learned about entremets while watching The Great British Bake Off on Netflix. Watching this show is an absolute must for dessert fans.
What a difference a few centuries have made. The French took the lead with desserts, even coining the word dessert based on the verb desservir which means ‘to clear the table’. But they’re not the only ones at the dessert party.
Our History with Desserts
Our love for desserts is nothing new.
As non-discriminating food travelers, we don’t consider dessert an afterthought. Sometimes, it’s the main event when we’re traveling within dessert-obsessed countries like France and Italy. Other times, like in India, great desserts are a sweet surprise.
We spent more time selecting the right wedding cake than we spent choosing our wedding attire. The effort was worth it. This love is part of the reason that we adore Paris and its plethora of pastries.
Sure, we can follow dessert recipes at home and sometimes we do. But, at the end of the day (or should we say meal?), there’s nothing better than eating sweets of the world in their homeland.
Food travel is fun! Discover exciting food cities around the world.
The Best Desserts in the World
More than just cake, the world of desserts includes cookies, ice cream, pastries, pies and puddings. We decided to create a short desserts list with our favorites after eating thousands of sweets from South Africa to Northern Thailand.
Somehow, our succinct dessert list morphed to 102 delicious desserts. Instead of getting stressed by the project, we focused on the fact that ‘desserts” is literally ‘stressed’ spelled backward. That’s when we started having fun as exploring any and all types of desserts to narrow down the best from the rest.
Read on to discover our picks for the best desserts in the world:
1. Cupcakes (USA)
Our love for desserts started when we were kids. Back then, little cakes topped with icing were a special treat that we enjoyed at birthday parties and other special occasions. Now we pair them with flat whites.
Amelia Simmons gets credit for publishing the first cupcake recipe at the end of the 18th century. She literally baked her cakes in mugs or cups. Today, most people use special cupcake or muffin pan instead.
Order a cupcake tin from Amazon if you don’t have one at home.
2. Macarons (France)
Macarons are no flash in the pan. The French have been eating these sophisticated sandwich cookies for centuries before the modern version grew into a worldwide sensation.
Top macaron bakers Ladurée and Pierre Hermé have locations all over Paris and beyond. We’ve enjoyed their fruity flavors in diverse cities including Dublin, London and Tokyo.
Discover more amazing French pastries.
3. Pastel de Nata (Portugal)
The legendary Pastel de Nata origin story involves crafty Portuguese monks who made egg custard tarts with leftover egg yolks and a whole lot of sugar. (Nuns used the whites to starch habits back in the 18th century.) While bakers at Pastéis de Belém still use the monks’ original recipe, these petite pastries taste great at bakeries all over the Iberian coastal nation.
We fell in love with Pastéis de Nata during our honeymoon and now we eat the famous desserts all the time. We’re not saying that they’re the reason that we moved to Lisbon but we’re also not saying otherwise.
Discover the best Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon.
4. Fiocco di Neve (Italy)
Naples is world-famous for its pizza and other savory foods, but it’s a little known fact among food travelers that Neapolitan desserts are equally auspicious. While Sfogliatellas (see below) and Ministerials are classic favorites, the Fiocco di Neve may be our very favorite Neapolitan pastry.
Filled with cream and dusted with powdered sugar, Pasticceria Popella’s Fiocco di Neve is a little snowflake of yumminess. We’re not being cute when we call it a snowflake. Fiocco di Neve literally translates to snowflake.
Discover more great things to eat in Naples.
5. Gelato (Italy)
Gelato is proof that desserts don’t need flour or eggs to taste divine. Italy’s version of ice cream accomplishes this feat with milk, cream, sugar and a range of fresh fruits and nuts.
6. Donuts (USA)
Americans weren’t the first to fry dough into little sweet balls. The French, Greeks and Italians beat them to the punch with Beignets, Bomboloni and Loukoumoades. And then there are Berliners in Germany. (See all four below).
While we love all of these fried orbs, there’s something special about donuts and we’re not just saying this because we’re American. The variety of donuts runs the gamut from small and simple to big, beautiful and topped with bacon. Plus, they’re available all over the USA in big cities like Portland (home of Voodoo Doughnut) as well as in small towns in the midwest.
Discover the best donuts in America plus a few international surprises.
7. Cronut (USA)
Cronuts became an instant sensation when Dominque Ansel debuted the donut-croissant hybrid at his self-named Dominque Ansel Bakery in 2013. The French-trained chef hit a nerve with dessert fans who continue to queue for this inspired pastry every day of the week.
We’ve eaten copycat versions in cities like Barcelona, Cape Town and Nashville. However, none was quite the same as the one that Daryl queued for at Ansel’s lower Manhattan cafe.
Discover more New York food favorites.
8. Paris Brest (France)
With a history that traces to a 1910 bike race between the French cities of Paris and Brest, the Paris Brest has passed the race of time. This ring-shaped choux pastry is a marvel with nutty praline cream in the center and powdered sugar dusting on top.
Since these round beauties aren’t as prevalent around the world as Macarons (see above) and Eclairs (see below), we typically eat a Paris Brest whenever we see one. That usually happens in Paris but sometimes life offers sweet surprises.
Discover more Paris food favorites.
9. Millefeuille (France)
Don’t be disappointed when you eat a Millefeuille. Despite a name that literally translates to thousand sheets, this French pastry typically has three pastry layers plus two more with cream. Despite the false advertising, a proper Millefeuille is both a gem and a treat.
While modern Millefeuille pastries often have a glazed black and white icing topper, the most traditional pastries have a sprinkling of powdered sugar instead. We liken the ones with icing to pastries sold as Napoleons at American diners.
Order a 6-pack of Millefeuilles pastries from Amazon.
10. Souffle (France)
Be careful! One wrong move could transform a beautiful Soufflé into a beautiful mess. This culinary challenge just makes the French dessert a sweeter treat for those willing to take the chance. But what is it?
Dating back to the 18th century, the Soufflé got its name from the verb souffler which aptly means to inflate or to fluff. Meringue made with stiffly beaten eggs provides this dessert’s famous lift. While some Soufflé recipes feature savory ingredients, dessert Soufflés often have sauces made with chocolate, vanilla and even Grand Marnier liqueur.
Discover the best restaurants in Paris including Bistrot Paul Bert.
11. Chocolate Chip Cookie (USA)
If you think of a Chocolate Chip Cookie as a childhood treat often made with Nestle’s famous Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe, you are correct. However, if you think of this same cookie as a trendy coffee shop sweet in European cities like Dublin, Lisbon and Paris, you are also correct.
Invented in Massachusetts soon after the Great Depression, the drop style cookie was radical due to the addition of chocolates chips to a dough made with plenty of brown sugar and butter. It’s now a classic cookie enjoyed by kids of all ages.
Buy Martha Stewart’s Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection baking book from Amazon if you want to bake cookies at home.
12. Creme Brulee (France)
When we used a small blow torch to burn the sugary tops of Crème Brûlées in our Philadelphia home, little did we know that we’d eventually eat Crème Brûlée in Lyon. We also didn’t know that we’d eventually savor Crema Catalanas in Girona and Leite Cremes in Lisbon.
While both France and Spain claim credit for inventing the custard dessert, the credit may actually go to the UK. The British have been eating Burnt Cream custards for centuries.
Buy a miniature blow torch from Amazon if you want to make Crème Brûlée at home.
13. Babka (Poland)
Babka has become a trendy dessert in cities like Paris and Tel Aviv but this sweet braided bread is far from a novelty. Eastern European Jews baked Babka in countries like Poland before baking it for the diaspora.
While our Eastern European ancestors likely ate Babka more than a century ago, eating Babka today makes us smile. Not only does it remind us of one of the funniest Seinfeld episodes, it also tastes good.
Order a traditional Babka from Amazon if you can’t find one at a local bakery.
14. Churros (Spain)
Churros are proof that not all fried desserts are round. They’re also one of the best Spanish desserts. Or are they?
While Spain takes credit for inventing Churros hundreds of years ago, some food historians trace the history to Portuguese explorers who may have brought the fried dough concept to Europe from China.
Regardless of who invented Churros, there’s no debate that cylindrical fried choux pastry dipped in sugar and served with chocolate dipping sauce is divine. This is the case whether you eat Churros in Spain, Portugal, Mexico or America.
Buy a Churro Maker from Amazon if you want to make Churros at home.
15. Chocolate Mousse (France)
Called Mousse au Chocolate in France, Chocolate Mousse validates the concept of less is more when it comes to dessert. The only required ingredients in this French dessert are butter, eggs, salt, sugar and, of course, chocolate.
While the recipe is simple, the resultant foamy dessert is the opposite. Some chefs ramp up their Chocolate Mousse recipes with liqueurs and other ingredients. We’re okay with that.
Chocolate is a new world product that arrived in Europe during the 17th century.
16. Ice Cream (Everywhere)
While nobody knows exactly when and where Ice Cream was invented, we can agree that its history is long and wide. Macedonia’s Alexander the Great and Rome’s Julius Caesar ate versions of Ice Cream as did American founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Today, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a corner of the world where Ice Cream isn’t popular. Ironically, Ice Cream per capita consumption isn’t highest in Italy as you might guess. The top three countries are New Zealand, the US and Australia.
Buy an ice cream maker from Amazon if you want to make ice cream at home.
17. Berliner (Germany)
To a casual observer, a Berliner may look like a Donut. After all, both are round mounds of fried dough. A second glance reveals that the Berliner doesn’t have a hole and that it’s likely filled with jelly.
Despite the name, Berliners aren’t just available in Berlin. The sweet treat has a foothold in countries including Finland, Israel and Portugal. While we were initially surprised to find a Bola de Berlim in Porto, we now see them practically everywhere in Portugal. However, the Portuguese version is usually filled with sweet, eggy cream instead of jelly.
Discover more Berlin food favorites.
18. Sfogliatella (Italy)
While the Fiocco di Neve is a relatively recent creation in Naples, the city’s Sfogligatella has been a popular dessert since the 17th century. But not just one Sfogliatella, this flaky, cream-filled pastry has a few different varieties.
In Naples, the two most typical Sfogliatelle are riccia (curly) and frolla (smooth). Based on the original recipe, one of our favorites, the Santa Rosa Sfogliatella, combines flaky pastry, sweet cream and amarena cherries.
Learn about coffee in Naples. It’s the best thing to drink with a Sfogliatella.
19. Rice Pudding (Everywhere)
Rice Pudding is one of those common desserts that spans the world, though it has different names in different countries. While we grew up in America just calling it Rice Pudding, we now call it Arroz Doce in Portugal. Other names include Arroz con Leche in Spain, Kheer in India and Rizogalo in Greece.
While the names are different, each of these puddings includes rice as the star ingredient. Other typical ingredients include cinnamon, milk, raisin and vanilla.
Considering that rice grows on every continent except Antarctica, it’s no wonder that Rice Pudding is popular all over the world.
20. Bread Pudding (UK)
Originally a dish born out of scarcity, Bread Pudding counts pantry items like stale bread, milk, cream and eggs as its main ingredients. But it doesn’t stop there. Additional ingredients like fruit, nuts, cinnamon and vanilla give the dish a richness that belies it humble roots.
While we’ve eaten Bread + Butter Pudding in England as well as Bread Pudding in destinations like Tallinn and Scotland, our favorite version remains the one served in a paper boat and smothered in sweet rum sauce. We eat that version every time we visit New Orleans and it never disappoints.
Discover the best desserts in New Orleans.
21. Pouding Chomeur (Canada)
While Quebecois bakers don’t add stale bread to Pouding Chômeur, it’s also a dessert born out of scarcity. In this case, the scarcity was during the Great Depression when much of the population was unemployed. Hence, the translation of Pouding Chômeur to Unemployed Man’s Pudding.
The Pouding Chômeur recipe includes pantry ingredients like butter, cream, eggs, flour and sugar. However, since this dessert is from Quebec, maple syrup is most prominent.
Discover more Montreal food favorites.
22. Milkshake (USA)
A Milkshake is a dessert that’s more than the sum of its parts. When Milkshake makers (not to be confused with soda jerks) blend wholesome ingredients like ice cream, milk, fruit and chocolate, the end result is thick, rich and downright delicious.
Over the years, the mighty Milkshake has appeared in movies like Manhattan and Pulp Fiction and has inspired singers like Kelis. We order Milkshakes whenever we eat at Shake Shack though we typically skip the ridiculously over-adorned Freakshakes (think Black Tap in New York) when we see them on a menu. Milkshakes on steroids scare us.
Add alcohol to your Milkshake to create an adult beverage at home.
23. Hot Chocolate (Mexico)
A good cup of Hot Chocolate is as warm and wonderful as liquid gold. We’re not talking about cups made with Swiss Miss packets or Hershey’s syrup. We’re talking about real deal Hot Chocolate that was invented by the Mayans more than two millennia ago.
Europeans didn’t eat or drink chocolate until Spanish explorers discovered chocolate beans in the 16th century. Global popularity took a while due to limited supply and high costs, but chocolate in all forms eventually took off and spread around the world. Today, it’s one of the most popular food items bar none.
Buy an Automatic Frother and Hot Chocolate Maker from Amazon if you want to ramp up your Hot Chocolate game at home.
24. Sachertorte (Austria)
Named after its 16-year old (at the time) chef inventor Franz Sacher, the Sachertorte has proven the test of time since it was invented in 1832. Sacher’s ingenious creation that layers chocolate sponge cake with apricot and chocolate icing is as popular now as it was when Austrian royalty first tasted the chocolate dessert.
While Hotel Sacher in Vienna is the ultimate place to eat Sachertorte, pastry chefs throughout Europe and beyond bake similar versions. Though we’ve eaten Sachertortes in cities like Zagreb and Trento, there’s nothing like eating one at the source.
You can satisfy your Sachertorte craving by ordering an Original Sachertorte online for delivery to your home.
25. Cheesecake (Various)
Cheesecake is a dessert with more than one homeland. While New York’s Cheesecake is the most famous in the world, the Japanese version draws crowds in cities like Osaka and Fukuoka. Then there’s Greece with a documented Cheesecake recipe that dates back to ancient times.
However, we want a big slab of the New York version when we’re afflicted with a Cheesecake craving. Made with ingredients like Philadelphia brand cream cheese, sugar, eggs and sour cream, it’s rich and dense with just the right level of tanginess. Adding a fruit topping only makes it better.
Despite its name, Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese was invented in Upstate New York during the 19th century.
26. Pecan Pie (USA)
Unlike Cheesecake, there’s no debate that Pecan Pie was invented in America. The only debate involves how to pronounce it. Some people say it so that ‘pecan’ rhymes with ‘man’ while others rhyme it with ‘don’. But we digress.
What really matters is that Pecan Pie is a sweet dessert favorite in the American South where bakers from Tennessee to Texas add a healthy amount of Karo syrup to a mixture that includes butter, eggs, sugar and lots of pecans. We always eat a slice when we’re in southern cities like Memphis.
Discover more great food in Memphis.
27. Victoria Sponge Cake (UK)
Popularized by and named after England’s Queen Victoria, Victoria Sponge Cake has layers of sponge cake, jam and cream. It pairs perfectly with tea and is a great afternoon pick-me-up.
We didn’t fully understand the popularity of Victoria Sponge Cake until we started binge watching The Great British Baking Show. We had previously eaten the iconic British dessert in Fife, Scotland solely because it looked tasty. Lucky us.
Discover more great food in Fife.
28. Eclair (France)
Paris has a cadre of trendy pastries. The Éclair isn’t one of them. Or is it? While its history dates back to the 19th century, chefs like Christophe Adam have brought new life to the old pastry standard.
The word éclair literally translates to flash of lightning. Ironically, that’s exactly how long it takes us to eat one of the oblong pastries made with pâte à choux (choux pastry), filled with crème patisserie (cream) and topped with glaçage fondant (fondant icing).
Consider ordering a modern Éclair flavor unless you’re set on a classic Éclair with vanilla cream and chocolate icing.
29. Apfelstrudel (Austria)
Apfelstrudel is an Austrian dessert that feels like it could be a German dessert. We’re apparently not alone with this feeling since Apfelstrudel is popular all over Germany, especially in Bavaria.
But make no mistake – Austria remains the best country to eat strudel layered with sweet apple filling. The iconic dessert was invented in Austria in the late 17th century before conquering Central Europe and the rest of the world.
Pour vanilla sauce over your Apfelstrudel to make this tasty dessert even tastier.
30. Appeltaart (Netherlands)
Apple Pie is an American dessert classic but it’s not the original pie made with apples. That honor goes Appeltaart, a popular Dutch dessert that dates back to before America became a country.
Don’t be confused by the name. Although the word appeltaart looks like it translates to apple tart, it actually translates to apple pie and that’s exactly what this dessert is. The comforting pie is popular in cities like Amsterdam where it’s made with apple chunks and plenty of cinnamon. A dollop of whipped cream completes the pie/taart experience.
Discover more Amsterdam food favorites.
31. Brownies (USA)
If you’re wondering if a Brownie is a cake or a cookie, the answer isn’t so easy since a proper Brownie has elements of both in its fudgy, cake-like texture. However, the answer is much easier if you’re wondering if a brownie tastes good. We don’t have to answer this rhetorical question.
The original Brownie was invented in Chicago and served at the Palmer House Hotel with walnuts and an apricot glaze. The date is no mystery since its invention coincided with the 1893 World Fair. Since then, it’s appeared in movies like Knotting Hill and too many lunchboxes to count.
Discover more iconic Chicago desserts.
32. Beignets (USA)
Although the Beignet wasn’t invented in New Orleans, it’s become an integral part of the city’s food culture since the 18th century when Acadian settlers started frying French fritters in Louisiana. It’s even the state’s official donut. So, apologies to France and ancient Rome who can also claim credit for this donut varietal.
Open since 1862, Cafe du Monde is the most famous spot to eat Beignets in New Orleans and therefore the world. However, intrepid food travelers can find equally good versions throughout Louisiana in cities like Baton Rouge.
Buy Cafe du Monde’s Beignet Mix from Amazon if you want to make Beignets at home.
33. Lake Bled Cream Cake (Slovenia)
Slovenia isn’t the only Central European country with a signature cream cake. Hungary, Bosnia and Poland have their own versions, just to name a few. But Slovenia’s Kremna Rezina stands above the rest for one special reason. It’s a cake that’s served with a spectacular view.
Descriptively called the Lake Bled Cream Cake, the Kremnia Rezina is best eaten at the lakeside Park Hotel where Ištvan Lukačević invented the iconic cake in 1953. Deceptively simple with layers of puff pastry, custard and whipped cream, it’s a sweet treat that millions have enjoyed over the decades.
Discover the best food in nearby Ljubljana.
34. Black Forest Cake (Germany)
While some people venture to Germany’s Black Forest to live out a Grimm fairytale fantasy or buy a cuckoo clock, dessert lovers hike into the hills for cake. And not just any cake. This forest inspired the creation of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte more commonly known as Black Forest Cake.
True Story – We hiked into Black Forest as an excursion during a Rhine River Cruise and ended up eating Black Forest Pudding. At least we tried. The forest was gorgeous so there’s that.
No fairy tale villain, this cake channels good over evil with its intensely chocolate cake, fresh cherries, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The addition of kirsch (cherry liqueur) is the literal cherry on top of this iconic German dessert.
Discover more great German deserts, some of which are also German food favorites.
35. Dobos Torte (Hungary)
A dessert born out of ingenuity rather than scarcity, the Dobos Torte was unique at the time of its 1885 Budapest debut. Not only did József C. Dobos design this dessert with a specific construction (six sponge cake layers and five chocolate butter cream layers), but he also added a hard caramel topper to ensure a longer shelf life.
Although refrigeration is no longer an issue in Budapest, the Dobos Torte is still super popular at cafes like Ruszwurm Cukraszda and Café Gerbaud. It’s an ideal treat to eat with hot coffee on a cold day.
Discover more great food in Budapest.
36. Cinnamon Bun (USA)
Let’s cut to the chase. Cinnamon Buns weren’t invented in the USA. Scandinavians were adding cinnamon to bread before the Pennsylvania Dutch started baking Cinnamon Buns in Pennsylvania during the 17th century.
Since we’re from Philadelphia, we’re partial to American Cinnamon Buns made with ingredients like brown sugar and raisins in addition to cinnamon. Then there are those monstrous morsels sold at malls across the country…
Discover more great food in Philadelphia.
37. Kanelbulle (Sweden)
October 4th is a happy day in Sweden since this is when Swedes celebrates Skanelbullens Dag or Cinnamon Bun Day each year. Then again, every day is happy day in the Scandinavian country that adds cardamom to its Cinnamon Buns and calls them Kanelbullen.
And why not? According to Sweden’s official website, the average Swede eats more than 300 Kaneblbullen each year. Even better, they often eat these buns while they Fika, a traditional Swedish coffee break that’s both a noun and a verb.
Learn about Fika in Stockholm.
38. Kohrvapuusti (Finland)
We’re not pulling your ear when we say that we love Finland’s buttery, soft Korvapuusti. We’re also not poking your ear despite the fact that korvapuusti literally translates to ear poke.
Although the Korvapuusti has a reputation for being larger than other Cinnamon Buns, the ones we’ve eaten in Helsinki have been just the right size. Loaded with cardamom, these sweet Finnish buns smell as great as they taste.
Discover more great food in Helsinki.
39. Kanelbolle (Norway)
It would be understandable to confuse Norway’s Kanebolle with Sweden’s Kanelbulle based on the names alone. But don’t do it. Not only are Norway’s buns their own thing but they also go by two additional names – Kanelsnurr and Skillingsboller.
While classic Kanelboller get their flavor from cinnamon, some bakers add spices like cardamon as well as chocolate and raisins. Either way, in addition to dessert, these soft rolls provide a sweet start to any Norwegian morning.
Discover more Norway food favorites.
40. Kanelsnegle (Denmark)
The country known for its eponymous pastries, Denmark doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to Kanelsnegle, its version of the Cinnamon Bun. Though named after a snail (kanelsnegle literally translates to cinnamon snail), these treats are ideal for both dessert lovers and vegetarians.
Danes add butter, cinnamon and sugar to their Kanelsnegles as well as additional toppings like powdered sugar, sugar glaze and even chocolate. All versions taste divine especially when paired with coffee.
Denmark has the fourth highest per capita consumption of coffee in the world, surpassed by only Finland, Norway and Iceland.
41. Mont Blanc (France)
We first noticed the spaghetti-like Mont Blanc in Japanese dessert hotspots in Las Vegas and then in Tokyo. We later shared a classic version of the chestnut puree over patisserie cream concoction at Angelina, a top Paris patisserie that’s been serving strandy ‘mountains’ since 1903.
But the origin of the Mont Blanc may reach back further to the mid 1800s, with some versions traced to Alsace combining chestnut and cream. Whatever the origin story may be, the pastry’s name refers to the French Mountain’s permanence – something that makes this dessert a timeless classic.
One Mont Blanc goes a long way. We ate half of our Angelina Mont Blanc outside the pastry shop and saved the other half for a midnight snack.
42. Rugelach (Eastern Europe)
After baking twisty Rugelach pastries in Eastern Europe countries like Hungary and Poland, Ashkenazic Jews spread the crescent-shaped treat throughout the world. Despite dating back more than a century, these petite pastries are as popular as ever with the Jewish diaspora.
Ironically, we ate our favorite Rugelach in Paris instead of Eastern Europe, New York or Israel as you might expect. Then again maybe it it’s not ironic since Paris is the pastry capital of the world.
Order traditional Rugelach from Amazon if you can’t find any at a local bakery.
43. Ice Cream Sundae (USA)
Since America was the first country to whip ice cream into Milkshakes, it only makes sense that this same country created the Ice Cream Sundae. However, unlike the Ice Cream Soda which was definitively invented in Philadelphia, the Sundae’s exact origin isn’t certain. Top contenders include ice cream shops in Evanston (Illinois), Ithaca (New York) and Two Rivers (Wisconsin).
Be aware that all Ice Cream Sundaes are not created equally. Expect a standard Sundae to come topped with flavored sauce and whipped cream. Beyond that, options, including Banana Splits and Brownie Sundaes, are as vast as the imagination allows.
Learn about Luxardo cherries, our favorite Ice Cream Sundae topping.
44. Key Lime Pie (USA)
If you make Key Lime Pie without key limes, is it really Key Lime Pie? Since these small yellow limes with tart juice aren’t readily available around the world, we say yes but with a caveat… It’s really Key Lime Pie but it’s not the best Key Lime Pie.
Like many desserts, Key Lime Pie is best eaten in its homeland, which in this case is Key West (Florida). Locals have been eating the tart custard pie made with graham cracker crust, key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk since the late 19th century. It’s fair to assume that they’ve perfected the sweet recipe by now.
See what we ate at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans besides Key Lime Pie.
45. Jalebi (India)
Despite its Persian roots, the Jalebi has become a popular Indian sweet. Over the past six centuries, Indians have adapted the Jalebi’s crisp, sticky, delicious recipe to fit India’s street food culture.
Visitors to Delhi will find no better Jalebi than the one that the Jalebi Wala stand has been frying since 1884. Saturated with a sugary syrup and prepared with ghee over a coal fire, this Jalebi is famous beyond its humble Delhi location.
Discover more great things to eat in Old Delhi.
46. Palmier (France)
If you’ve eaten an elephant ear or a palm heart or a pig’s ear, then you’ve probably eaten a Palmier. Different versions of this sugar-coated puff pastry exist in countries like China, Greece, Spain and Mexico but the original was baked in Paris.
We knew these pastries as elephant’s ears while growing up in America. We now eat Palmiers in Lisbon topped with a sweet glaze and filled with sweet, eggy cream. Yes, they’re called Palmiers in Portugal too.
Palmiers are named after the palm leaves that they resemble.
47. Tiramisu (Italy)
We’ve enjoyed so many versions of Tiramisu, Italy’s layered, creamy, coffee-soaked and powdered Italian classic made with ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. Featured on menus all over the boot, this dessert has a dubious past that some culinary historians allegedly trace to the pleasure houses of Treviso where it was eaten as a pick-me-up by philandering men who wanted to appear alert to their wives.
As with most edibles in Italy, Tiramisu’s origin isn’t clear. What is clear is that we’ve enjoyed excellent versions of Tiramisu all over Northern Italy from Verona and Venice in the Veneto to Parma in Emilia-Romagna. Some versions were moist and coffee-filled while others were ultra-creamy and rich. They were all good.
Discover more great food in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
48. Afternoon Tea (UK)
What’s not to like about Afternoon Tea? Dating back to the 19th century, the indulgent experience involves eating tiered layers of dainty finger sandwiches and decadent sandwiches while sipping hot tea served from silver pots and the occasional glass of Champagne.
England isn’t the only country to serve scones with clotted cream and lemon curd in the afternoon. During our travels, we’ve indulged in the experience in cities like London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York and Paris. In fact, we enjoyed our first Afternoon Tea in Paris so much that we did a second that same week.
Read about our Afternoon Tea experience at England’s Blenheim Palace.
49. Baklava – Turkey
Baklava may very well be the ultimate regional dessert. Though Ottoman in origin, the multilayered filo and honey dessert is served in countries from Greece to Iran.
During our travels, we’ve seen baklava covered in chocolate, versions in twists and even some shaped like cones. However, our favorite so far was at Athinaika Galatompoureko Triantafillou in Athens. Those big, beautiful, multilayered, sticky, nutty wedges became a daily event during our month in the historic Hellenic capital.
Disclosure – We haven’t yet tried Baklava in Turkey where it was invented. We’ll be sure to share our favorites once we do. You can order Turkish baklava from Amazon if you want to sample some now.
Discover more great food in Athens.
50. Alfajor (Argentina)
The original Alfajores that were created and eaten in Spain back in the 8th century were surely wonderful. However, we’re partial to the ones that have been popular in Argentina since the 16th century.
After the Spanish brought the Alfajor concept to the New World, each country modified the recipe and made it their own. Argentine bakers prepare Alfajores by filling two cookies with a lucious layer of dulce de leche and dusting them with powdered sugar. Some are even coated with chocolate or coconut.
If there’s a better cookie sandwich in the world, we are yet to find it.
Order a 12-pack of Alfajores to enjoy at home.
51. Cannoli (Italy)
To make Cannoli, Sicilian bakers stuff fried dough with ricotta cream and occasionally sprinkle chocolate, nuts or candied fruit on the edges. The resulting pastry is simultaneously crunchy, sweet and utterly addictive.
Generations of bakers have stuffed Cannoli in Sicily going back to the days of Arab rule more than a millennium ago. Some brought the pastry across the ocean when they emigrated to America which explains why Cannoli are readily available at Italian bakeries in cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
Order Cannoli tubes from Amazon if you want to try making Cannoli at home.
52. Cannoncino (Italy)
It would be easy to confuse a Cannoncino with a Cannoli. After all, the two cream-filled Italian pastries have similar names. However, each is its own tasty thing.
Unlike Sicily’s Cannoli, Piedmont’s Cannoncino is shaped like a horn and stuffed with a variety of creams ranging from simple pastry cream to creams flavored with chocolate, pistachio and sweet wine.
Honestly, we were skeptical about the difference until we ate a Cannoncino in Parma. We proceeded to eat one every day during our week-long visit just to be sure.
Discover more great food in Parma.
53. Flan (Various)
Flan is a dessert which has traveled far both in terms of time and miles. While history reveals that ancient Romans ate early versions of both sweet and savory Flan, Spain famously transformed the dish to the version that most people eat today.
Flan became ultra-popular in Mexico once the Spanish conquerers bought the creamy, syrupy, caramel-topped dessert to the New World. It’s now a staple all over Latin America and a favorite dessert at most Spanish and Latin American restaurants.
Buy a Flan Mold from Amazon if you want to make Flan at Home.
54. Pavlova (Australia & New Zealand)
The origin of the Pavlova is debatable. Aussies claim the meringue dessert as their invention while Kiwis do the same. While they agree to disagree on its origin, they both attribute the dessert’s inspiration to a visiting Russian ballet dancer named Anna Pavlova.
Whoever baked the first Pavlova channeled the ballerina’s Eastern European heritage in the meringue but brought it home with toppings like fresh kiwis and passionfruit. It’s popular all year long but especially in December when the meringue dessert doubles as a Christmas dessert.
Discover more New Zealand food favorites.
55. Italian Ice (USA)
In America, Italian Ice (also called Water Ice) is a popular dessert that we’ve been eating since we were kids. Mindi remembers eating Water Ice at her great uncle’s stand during trips to Philadelphia when she was young. Daryl’s father enjoyed eating cherry Water Ice with a soft pretzel on many a drive. The icy treat may have Italian roots but it’s become an American treasure over the years.
America’s Italian Ice can generally be traced back to Sicily’s Granita. In Sicily, you can find lemon granitas, coffee granitas and chocolate granitas with various degrees of icy ‘coarseness’. But Granita isn’t just a Sicilian treat. We’ve eaten pistachio Granita in Bologna that was creamy without the addition of any milk.
Discover Philadelphia food favorites beyond Water Ice.
56. Mango Shaved Ice (Taiwan)
Eating in Taiwan is fun. Locals eat steamer baskets of Xiaolongbao (dumplings filled with soup) and drink big plastic cups of Bubble Tea with gelatinous tapioca balls. When they’re hungry for dessert, they order a bowl of Mango Shaved Ice.
Inspired by Japan’s Shaved Ice, Taiwan’s Mango Shaved Ice is a bowl of thinly shaved ice topped with fresh mango and condensed milk. Additional options include fruity Sorbet and creamy Panna Cotta.
As proudly displayed on the wall at Taipei’s Smoothie House, CNN declared Mango Shaved Ice to be one of the “Taiwanese foods we can’t live without.” We don’t disagree.
Discover five tasty Taipei food experiences.
57. Sticky Rice with Mango (Thailand)
Called Khao Niao Mamuang, Sticky Rice with Mango is one of the most popular desserts in Thailand. Thai people eat this dish both at street food stands and upscale restaurants.
This Thai dessert starts with two of Thailand’s bountiful products, rice and mango. Ingredients like sweet coconut milk, flavorful palm sugar and fried mung beans are added for a resulting dish that’s both tasty and refreshing.
Discover more Thai food favorites.
58. Panna Cotta (Italy)
Though its history isn’t certain, Panna Cotta was most likely created in the Piedmont region as recently as the 1960s but it may have appeared as far back as the 19th century. We’re not sure. Popular all over the Italian peninsula, it’s a fairly unique dessert that manages to be creamy without being runny.
Regardless of when it was invented, there’s something utterly modern about a great Panna Cotta. The dessert derives its ‘spoonability’ from the addition of gelatin and it’s typically served in a flat dome shape (though we’ve also eaten Panna Cotta in a pudding glass).
Flavoring Panna Cotta is an open book but, generally, fruit is used as a sweetener with berries, or sometimes, citrus flavoring the creamy mixture. We’ve eaten the dessert at locations around the world – Bologna, Philadelphia and Rhodes just to name a few.
Discover more great food in Rhodes where we ate the Panna Cotta pictured above.
59. Honey Toast (Japan)
Daryl first encountered Honey Toast at a Las Vegas izakaya. The dessert, a literal small loaf of bread, heated and stuffed with ice cream, was such a novelty that every table seemed to be ordering it. We both took notice during our first trip to Japan where a ‘maid cafe’ on every corner in Tokyo’s Akihabara district seemed to be serving the dessert.
Some people call the dessert Shibuya Honey Toast, named after the Tokyo district where the dessert gained its popularity at Karaoke bars during the country’s boom in the early 1990s. Others call it Brick Toast or Hanito. Whatever you call it, plan to eat this Japanese novelty dessert with vanilla ice cream or with candy, fruit and cookies in an exercise of more is more.
Discover more Japanese food favorites.
60. Che (Vietnam)
Che is an eponymous word that includes a variety of sweet Vietnamese desserts including drinks, soups and even pudding. Che can be either hot or cold with a wide range of ingredients like mung beans, red beans, lotus seeds, taro and tapioca beads.
We took a brief break from slurping Pho to sample Che at Che Ba Thin, a local favorite in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Our favorite Che was a hot sugar cane brew with a porridge-like texture and a strong ginger taste.
Discover more great food in Hanoi.
61. Millesfoglie (Italy)
In simple terms, Millesfoglie is the Italian version of Millefuille. (See above).
That being said, the version we enjoyed of the layered puff pastry and cream masterpiece in Verona at Dolce Locanda was less dainty and more honest than the delicate layered Millefeuilles we enjoyed in Paris. In fact, we consider it to be one of the very best sweets in the world.
Discover more great food in Verona.
62. Waffle (Belgium)
Belgium is a food traveler’s happy place thanks to some of the world’s best chocolate, fried potatoes and beer. However, waffles may be the small country’s biggest culinary contribution to global cuisine.
While much of the world discovered waffles during the 20th century, Belgians have eaten waffles at street food stands since the Middle Ages. After eating them around the world and in Belgium, our favorite version is Belgium’s Liege Waffle embedded with tiny, pleasingly grainy chunks of sugar.
Buy a Belgian Waffle Maker from Amazon if you want to make Waffles at home.
63. Ice Cream Cake (Everywhere)
As its name suggests, an Ice Cream Cake is a cake with ice cream. It sounds like a simple combination. However, the end result takes standard cake to a new level and is one of the most popular desserts in the world.
We both grew up eating Ice Cream Cakes but, as a kid Daryl had the pleasure of ‘knowing’ Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss. Those cleverly named Carvel cakes were popular in Philadelphia (especially at kid’s birthday parties) but not in Mindi’s hometown of Atlanta.
Dip your knife in hot water as you slice your Ice Cream Cake.
64. Chocolate Fondue (Switzerland & USA)
Everybody knows that Cheese Fondue was invented in Switzerland centuries ago. Popular at both mountain chalets and city restaurants, Switzerland’s liquid cheese dip is as popular today as ever.
Chocolate Fondue is a different story. Apparently a Swiss restauranteur invented the chocolate version at Chalet Suisse, a now-closed New York City restaurant, using three ingredients – heavy cream, Toblerone chocolate, and kirsch liqueur.
Ironically, though we both have connections to New York City, we never ate Chocolate Fondue in Manhattan, Our favorite version so far was at a Montreal restaurant where we greedily dipped fruit and cake into oozey chocolate until it was gone.
Buy a Fondue Maker from Amazon if you want to make Chocolate Fondue at home.
65. Lemon Meringue Pie (USA)
Lemon Meringue Pie is one of those desserts we never thought much about but have always enjoyed eating when it’s presented to us. Not so different from a Key Lime Pie, it starts with a short pastry crust and has lemon curd filling plus a poof of meringue on top.
If you had asked us where it was invented, we may have guessed Paris. Boy, would we have been wrong. As it turns out, this pie’s creation is attributed to fellow Philadelphian Elizabeth Coane Goodfellow back in 1806.
National Meringue Pie Day is celebrated on Mindi’s sister’s birthday which happens to be August 15th.
66. Mocchi (Japan)
Mochi may seem like something new but the the Japanese have been serving this ooey-gooey dessert for centuries. The traditional, strange Mochi ceremony involves pulling and hammering the final product.
We’ve encountered Mochi both at American sushi restaurants and in Hangzhou, China shopping malls. While we enjoy chewy Mochi, especially when it surrounds ice cream, we also enjoy exploring the rest of Japan’s exciting world of desserts in cities like Osaka.
Discover more great food in Osaka.
67. Struklji (Slovenia)
When we think of Štruklji, we think of Ljubljana. Fortunately, we have fond memories of both Slovenia’s capital city and this iconic food which can be simply served with sugar and breadcrumbs or ‘done up’ with toppings like chocolate and strawberry.
To make Štruklji, Slovenian bakers roll dough into a paper thin sheet, almost like phyllo, and fill it with a local form of cottage or farmers cheese, before boiling, frying or baking the dish. When given the choice, we prefer boiled Štruklji which has a texture that reminds us of delicate sheet pasta.
Slovenia’s Štruklji reminds us of Croatia’s version as well as Strudel in Austria. Beyond Slovenia, Austrians serve Štruklji in Graz.
Discover six tasty things to do in Ljubljana.
68. Věneček (Czech Republic)
The Czech Republic’s Věneček isn’t nearly as famous as France’s Paris Brest but maybe it should be.
Like the Paris Brest, the Věneček, which translates to wreath in Czech, starts with two wheels of choux pastry. But, unlike the famous French pastry, the wheels of a Věneček are filled with pure vanilla cream and finished with an opaque white sugar glaze.
You may be tempted to eat an elegant Věneček with utensils. However, its perfectly fine, though maybe a little messy, to eat this Czech pastry with your hands. It’s also fine to pair with coffee – a bitter sweet combination which we highly recommend.
Discover the great food we ate during our epic Prague food tour.
69. Cantuccini Biscuits with Vin Santo (Italy)
Cantuccini, Tuscany’s twice-baked almond biscuits that date back centuries, are best enjoyed with Vin Santo, Tuscany’s slow fermented holy wine made with white grapes. Once you dip Cantuccini into Vin Santo, you won’t want to eat them without sweet wine. Unless it’s morning. Maybe.
We were introduced to the concept of dipping crunchy Cantuccini into Vin Santo during a fun cooking class in Florence a few years ago. Our host advised us to dip each each biscuit twice. Who were we to do otherwise?
Read more about our Cesarine experiences in Bologna and Florence.
70. Khanom Khrok (Thailand)
Khanom Khrok is Thailand’s answer to Netherland’s Poffertjes (see below) but, in this case, the miniature pancakes are made of coconut, rice, rice flour and a blend of white and palm sugars. Sold all over Thailand, this sweet snack will hook you in and make you clamor for more after just one bite.
Thai street food vendors generally top Khanom Khrok with scallions or corn which can be deceiving the first time you eat the tiny pancakes. Upon ordering Khanom Khrok our first time, at a local Chiang Mai night market, we received strange looks from the Thai vendor when we ignorantly asked for hot sauce. After tasting the creamy, sweet, coconut-flavored rice pancakes, we never committed that mistake again!
Discover more great food in Chiang Mai.
71. Sponge Candy (USA)
While we’re not including commercial American candies in this dessert list, we’ve decided to include Sponge Candy since the main ingredient is honeycomb toffee.
Similar to New Zealand’s Hokey Pokey and South Africa’s Honeycomb Toffee, Buffalo’s Sponge Candy is chunky honeycomb toffee coated with chocolate. Crunchy but not hard, the texture quickly melts in the mouth with an burst of honeycomb and chocolate.
Discover more great food in Buffalo.
72. Stroopwafel (Netherlands)
Daryl first tried Stroopwafels while touring Amsterdam with his band. Every morning, his host would serve grocery store versions of the thin wafers filled with liquid caramel syrup. Those Dutch waffle sandwiches were a pleasant breakfast treat each morning after a night of high energy performance.
Fast forward to 2016, we both enjoyed freshly made Stroopwafels at Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam’s DePijp neighborhood. As we learned that year and when we returned in 2019, there’s nothing like breaking a warm Stroopwafel in half to reveal its stretchy, gooey filling.
Buy a tin of Stroopwafels from Amazon and enjoy them at home with hot coffee.
73. Birthday Cake (Everywhere)
On paper, a birthday cake is a just a cake with candles on top. But in reality, a birthday cake is a symbol of all the exciting possibilities that come with starting a new trip around the sun.
Different cultures have different cakes for this celebratory purpose. As Americans, we grew up with layered birthday cakes covered with frosting. Some had flowers and others had more creative designs. They all tasted great.
Don’t forget to make a wish when you blow out the candles. You can even buy a colorful birthday candle selection from Amazon to brighten your birthday cake.
74. Sorbet (Everywhere)
Sorbet has always been a part of our lives, either as an intermezzo palate cleanser or as a tasty, fruity complement to rich ice cream and gelato flavors. On a hot sunny day, when the thought of dairy is too heavy for refreshment, cool sorbet, in flavors like raspberry, lemon or even chocolate, totally hits the spot.
But where and when was it invented? Research reveals that the origins of sorbet go back millennia way before refrigeration. Some sources point all the way to Persia. We guess that, back in those days, ice was brought down from mountains and fruit was added but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know for sure.
With just three ingredients (fruit, sugar and water), Sorbet is both fat-free and dairy-free.
75. Loukomades (Greece)
With a history dating back to the first Olympics in 776 BC, Loukoumades may be the world’s oldest Donuts. More than two millennia later, these little round balls of golden fried dough flavored with cinnamon, honey syrup and occasionally powdered sugar remain difficult to resist.
We craved more donuts made with orange blossom honey after we ate Loukoumades at Krinos, a popular spot for the fried dough rounds in Athens. They were just as good as we remembered when we ate them again.
Discover more Greek food favorites.
76. Baked Alaska (USA)
Proving that there’s no such thing as an original idea, the roots of Baked Alaska, though touted as coming from singular inventive pastry chefs at legendary restaurants like Delmonico’s (New York) and Antoine’s (New Orleans), can’t be firmly traced. Earlier versions of the ‘hot/cold’ American concept date back to the 18th century in Europe.
Regardless of its origin, we love eating this inventive combination of torched meringue covering ice cream and surrounding a sponge cake center. The dish is a veritable showstopper and, when executed well, is one of the best desserts you’ll ever eat.
American scientist Benjamin Thompson Rumford gave scientific credence Baked Alaska when he proved that meringue’s insulating properties keeps ice cream cold.
77. Floating Island (France)
We enjoyed our first Ile Flottante, i.e. Floating Island, in a dark, candlelit bistro in Croix Rousse – Lyon, France’s upper town. In this unique dessert, a light cube of egg white literally floats on a ‘pond’ of sweet, lightly thickened cream topped with spun sugar. In other words, you’ll likely love Floating Islands if you love meringue.
The history of this classic French dessert goes back to the 1700s and didn’t always involve egg whites. In the original version of Ile Flottante, the ‘island’ actually consisted of pieces of floating cake. Our personal history with this dessert includes eating it at a French bistro in Philadelphia where the chef was from, you guessed it, Lyon.
Discover more great food in Lyon.
78. Chimney Cake (Central Europe)
Chimney Cake is not your everyday dessert. Eastern Europeans prepare this cake by spinning a conical spit wrapped with sweet, sugary dough over fire-hot charcoal. It’s also hard to pin down its origin.
Records in countries like Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania all show a history with Chimney Cake but with different names and ingredients. We ate Lithuania’s tasty version simply called Sakotis during our week in Vilnius.
Discover more Lithuanian food favorites.
79. Brigadeiro (Brazil)
The Brigadeiro is a legendary Brazilian pastry named after Eduardo Gomes, an equally legendary brigadier general in the Brazilian military. Rio de Janeiro bakers created the chocolate treat when Gomes was running for President in the 1940s.
Decades later, Brazilians love eating little round Brigadeiro pastries mades with condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter plus chocolate chips which coat the balls. They’ve already brought the sweet treat to Portugal. Who knows where it will go next.
Order a 12-pack of Brigadeiro pastries from Amazon.
80. Bomboloni (Italy)
Bomboloni are Italy’s version of the Berliner which is Germany’s version of the filled doughnut which is Austria’s version of… you get the point. Bomboloni, which are commonly found at Italian cafes, can be filled with cream or jelly and are often found in the same case as Cornettos, Italy’s version of France’s Croissant.
We enjoyed a terrific Bombolone in Florence at Ditta Artigianale, the city’s terrific coffee roaster. It’s almost impossible to find a bad Bombolone in Italy. We’ll let you know if it ever happens.
Discover our favorite things to eat and drink in Florence.
81. Whoopie Pie
It’s practically impossible to not smile while eating a Whoopie Pie. The name itself is amusing. More important, the dessert delightfully connects two cake-like cookies with a layer of cream. We’re smiling just thinking about Whoopie Pies now.
This American dessert was invented in either Pennsylvania’s Amish Country or Lewiston, Massachusetts, with both locations claiming credit for the smile-inducing dessert. We rarely resist eating a Whoopie Pie even when we’re walking through a London food market.
Discover the best food markets in London.
82. Egg Coffee (Vietnam)
We had questions about Egg Coffee. Is it an egg drink or is it coffee? Is it sweet or is it savory? And the what the heck does it taste like?
After one sip of Café Giang’s original creation, we were hooked on the sweet, rich, caffeinated concoction that immediately became our favorite Vietnamese sweet treat. Cafe Giang (and a slew of copycats) tops strong coffee with a sweet topping made of whisked egg yolk and sweetened condensed milk.
The end result is magic in a cup.
Discover more Vietnam food favorites.
83. Chocolate Cake (Everywhere)
Yes, we have a separate entry for Birthday Cake since any Chocolate Cake could be a Birthday Cake but any Birthday Cake can’t be a Chocolate Cake. Could a Flourless Chocolate Cake be a Birthday Cake? Sure, but there has to be some chocolate involved.
There’s the Chocolate Cheesecake. But that’s really not a Chocolate Cake, is it? We say a perfect Chocolate Cake should have some layers and be lightly textured yet filled with chocolate flavor. It should also have dark flavorful frosting. Daryl would enjoy the cake and the frosting while Mindi would leave the cake and only eat the frosting.
Don’t even get us stated on Black Forest Cake or Molten Chocolate cake or Sachertortes…
Although chocolate is not native to America, Pittsburgh bakers get credit for baking the first official Chocolate Cake in 1886.
84. Tres Leches Cake (Mexico)
Tres Leches involves a light sponge cake that’s ‘soaked’ with a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk (or cream). These are the “three milks” used to make this moist cake a classic.
Some trace the cake’s development to Central America before it became a fixture on Mexican restaurant menus around the world. There’s a good reason for Tres Leches’ popularity – it’s a moist cake with a custardy texture that provides an excellent ‘big finish’ to any Central American meal.
Tres Leches Cake is as popular in Central America countries like Nicaragua as it is in Mexico.
85. Baba au Rhum (France)
You may see versions of Rum Baba that are essentially cakes infused with rum that’s pre-poured before service. But our favorite versions of Baba au Rhum in France are served with cake and a literal side of rum. The amount that you pour and ‘infuse’ your cake with is up to you.
The backstory of the original baba involves legendary pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer and an ingenious solution for cakes becoming dry during long journeys from Alsace to Paris. Rum was allegedly added around 1830 and there you have it.
Babas are also common in the city of Naples, Italy – a relic of French influence over the kingdom that was still alive in the 19th century.
86. Xuixo (Spain)
Imagine a rolled puff pastry, like a croissant, filled with pastry cream and then fried. A cronut you say? You would be wrong. It’s actually a Xuixo, Catalan’s greatest pastry.
We enjoyed more than our share of Xuixos during the month we spent in Girona. It’s an ideal treat to eat before a long day touring the region. We almost lost a computer due to a Xuixo but that’s a different story.
Discover more great food in Girona.
87. Indiano (Portugal)
Portugal has dozens of desserts that are easy to find at pastelerias around the country. The Indiano is not one of these pastries. In fact, we’ve only seen the unique pastry at Versailles and Confeitaria Nacional during our travels around Lisbon.
We’re yet to figure out how the Indiano got its name or why it’s not more popular. Its moist cake provides a spongey base for cream and icing. We’ve eaten Indianos topped with chocolate, vanilla and coffee icing and have enjoyed them all.
Order an Indiano if you’re in Portugal and want a break from convent sweets made with doce de ovos, Portugal’s ubiquitous, bright yellow, sweetened egg yolk confection.
88. Cassata (Italy)
The Cassata hasn’t lasted for a thousand years, give or take, by accident.
Similar to Sicily’s Cannoli, Cassata ingredients include ricotta cheese and candied fruit. But this super sweet dessert goes further with the addition of liqueur-soaked sponge cake, marzipan and icing.
Try Casata Gelato if you like Casata. It’s wonderful.
89. Kouighn Amann (France)
Could there be a “greatest pastry in the world?” If so, maybe the Kouign Amann fits the bill. Perfecting this four cornered pastry from Brittany has become a badge of honor for some of the world’s finest pastry wizards.
We experienced our first Kouign Amann when the pastry was brand new to the USA at B. Patisserie in San Francisco. We became instant fans of the pastry that literally translates to butter cake in its native Breton dialect.
We’ve since enjoyed fabulous Kouign Amanns at Dominique Ansel in NYC and, more recently, we ate a fabulous version of it at Yann Couvreur in Paris. If you’re at any self respecting patisserie and you see a Kouign Amann in a display case, eat it.
Buy Dominique Ansel’s cookbook from Amazon if you want to learn how to bake Kouign Amann at home.
90. Zuccotto (Italy)
If you’re not familiar with Zuccato, close your eyes and imagine a little mound of cream or mousse surrounded by liquor-soaked sponge cake. A local favorite since it debuted in Florence during the 16th century, the semifreddo dessert eventually fell out of fashion.
Order one if you see it on a Florence menu even if you’re not hungry. It’s that good. Plus, it’s shaped like the Duomo which is nothing short of special.
Discover more traditional desserts in Italy.
91. Torta Ricotta e Visciole (Italy)
Legend has it that Jewish bakers created the Torta Ricotta e Visciole, i.e. Ricotta and Sour Cherry Cake, in the 18th century when Roman Jews were forbidden to sell dairy products to Christians. By mixing ricotta with cherries and adding a flat crust topper, the creamy ricotta was hidden. Problem solved!
As for us, we have no problem eating Torta Ricotta e Visciole. The combination of sweet sheep’s milk ricotta and sour black cherries creates a dessert that’s satisfyingly sweet without being cloying.
Discover more Rome food favorites.
92. Malabi (Middle East)
Also known as Muhallebi and Mhallabiyeh, Malabi is a Persian milk pudding that’s stood the test of time. It remains popular in countries like Iran, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey after more than 1,000 years.
Since Mindi never tasted Malabi during three trips to Israel (what was she thinking?!), we tasted it together for the first time at the Amsterdam outpost of Israeli restaurant NENI. Flavored with rose water syrup and topped with fruits, nuts and shredded coconut, it was easily the best pink pudding we’ve ever eaten.
Buy Rose Water from Amazon if you want to make Malabi at home.
93. Peach Cobbler (USA)
Some desserts are works of art made by skilled bakers who focus on every detail including aesthetics. Peach Cobbler is not one of these desserts. Instead, it’s a lazy version of Peach Pie without a pie crust or fancy lattice.
Especially popular in Georgia (the state) where Mindi grew up, Peach Cobbler tastes best when it’s baked in a Dutch oven and served with vanilla ice cream. Outside of Georgia, we’ve eaten fine versions in both Memphis (Tennessee) and Lockhart (Texas).
Read about BBQ in Lockhart, our real reason for visiting the Texas city.
94. Franzbrotchen (Germany)
Hamburg’s Franzrötchen reminds us of a French croissant. It also reminds us of a Finnish Korvapuusti. Perhaps it was inspired by both. Or neither.
Either way, we fell for Franzrötchen during our first trip to Hamburg and fell for it again the second time around. The sweet pastry makes a great little breakfast or afternoon treat. It’s even better when paired with coffee.
Discover more great food in Hamburg.
95. Tarte à la Praline (France)
Upon arrival to our first (and certainly not only) trip to Lyon over 8 years ago, the city’s love of color struck us immediately. This was a visual city and everything about the town, from the gleaming lights on the river to the multicolored pastries at the Marche Paul Bocuse, was filled with vivid light and color. Among the colorful smorgasbord was a bright red praline that seemed to be peering out of every window.
Are Lyon’s pink Praline Tarts naturally colored? That would be a no. Apparently, they were created centuries ago by a chef who admired the colors of roses that grew in the beautiful Rhone valley. To us, they’re a crunchy, fun element of a vivid food culture that tastes as good as it looks.
Praline Tarts taste great with coffee. Discover Lyon’s best coffee shops.
96. Travesseiro (Portugal)
The Travesseiro is the third Portuguese dessert on this list and not just because we live in the Iberian country. Named after a pillow, this Portuguese pastry tastes like a dream.
Sintra’s Casa Piriquita has been baking Travesseiros since 1862 as the pasteleria proudly advertises on its walls. Besides a puff pastry shell, ingredients include almonds, eggs and sugar.
Discover more great food in Sintra.
97. Bussola Cookies (Italy)
Dessert fans who travel to Venice could easily eat Gelato every day and be happy, but that would be as shame. The watery city has a slew of classic cafes and pasticcerias that sell traditional cakes and cookies. The Bussolà cookie is the most iconic of the lot.
Created on Burano, Venice’s most colorful island, Bussola cookies were previously baked by local women for their husbands to take on fishing expeditions. Today, bakeries sell these simple cookies that pair perfectly with coffee. Whether you dip or dunk is up to you.
Discover more great food in Venice.
98. Potica (Slovenia)
The food culture in Slovenia pleasantly surprised us enough to justify three slots in our list of favorite desserts. Potiça, the third Slovenian dessert, dates back to medieval times when it was rolled and baked in monasteries. The tasty treat is now available in bakeries in cities like Ljubljana and is especially popular during holiday celebrations.
In a nutshell (pun intended), Potiça is a rolled cake typically made with walnuts. Other potential fillings include hazelnuts, poppy seeds and tarragon.
Read about our weekend exploring Slovenian food.
99. Poffertjes (Netherlands)
Poffertjes aren’t typical pancakes.
First of all, they’re small. Really small. And second, the batter is made with buckwheat flour. Despite these differences, Poffertjes taste delightful once they’re fried to crispy goodness.
Dutch people typically embellish Poffertjes with powdered sugar and butter. However, don’t hesitate to add Nutella or syrup if that’s your preference.
Buy a Poffertjes pan from Amazon if you want to make little pancakes at home.
100. Molten Chocolate Cake (France or USA)
Chocolate Molten Cake is like Chocolate Cake on steroids thanks to a warm chocolate center that flows like lava once the outer cake layer is pierced. Not surprisingly, this dessert is also called Chocolate Lava Cake.
While we’re confident that this decadent dessert is baked with butter, chocolate, eggs, flour and sugar, we’re not so sure about its origin. Although Jean-Georges Vongerichten claims to have invented Chocolate Molten Cake in New York, Jacques Torres (quoted at the top of this article) asserts that it was invented in France.
We’re also confident that you should eat Chocolate Molten Cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a glass of port wine. It’s a combination made in dessert heaven.
Buy a set of Non-Stick Molds from Amazon to make Chocolate Molten Cake at home.
101. Koeksister (South Africa)
Some desserts like Ice Cream and Chocolate Cake are available all over the world. The Koeksister is not one of these desserts. However, the Afrikaner dessert looked enticingly familiar the first time we encountered Koeksisters at our Stellenbosch hotel.
What can we say except that we like fried dough. However, unlike other fried treats in this epic dessert list, the Koeksister, which loosely translates to sizzling cake, is soaked in honey or syrup before it’s fried. The resulting fritter is a sticky, sweet treat.
Discover more great food in Stellenbosch.
102. Zuppa Inglese (Italy)
All things must come to an end and such is the case with our love letter to the top desserts in the world. But we have one last dessert so add… Zuppa Inglese.
Although Zuppa Inglese literally translates to English Soup and may have been inspired by England’s Trifle, this dish is a delightful Italian dessert that involves dipping ladyfingers or sponge cake into Alchermes liqueur. The end result is a custard that’s different at every restaurant in Italy’s Food Valley.
Learn more about the Food Valley in Emilia-Romagna.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: March 1, 2021
Sunday 20th of February 2022
Seriously, no kunafa or qashta and pistachio maamoul? You definitely need a trip to Lebanon…
Tuesday 2nd of March 2021
Love your article.