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Guide to Unique International Desserts

Who doesn’t love dessert? For many people, it’s the most anticipated part of the meal. Some individuals even subscribe to the old adage, “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” And everyone has their own personal favorites, ranging from simple apple pie to fancier offerings like elaborate tortes or 7-layer cakes.

Dessert is enjoyed the world ever and each country or region of the world has their own signature dessert dishes. While some may seem unusual to us, they reflect the personal tastes of those who live in each locale.

Dessert parties are a growing trend as are dessert buffets at functions such as weddings, and these desserts with international flare are ideal for inclusion in these parties. They offer guests a multitude of different tastes and are perfect for a crowd that is ethnically diverse. Consider some of these favorites from far-and-wide for your next party.

o Tiramisu – This creamy Italian dessert is truly heavenly! The word tiramisu means “carry me up” and this light and fluffy concoction certainly sends the taste buds soaring. The recipe can be made with coffee and Marsala wine-soaked lady fingers OR sponge cake, combined with decadent mascarpone cream cheese, all sprinkled with cocoa powder. Delightful!

o Creme Brulee – Though this dessert has a decidedly French moniker, Julia Child says it originated in England. This “burnt cream” is actually very easy to make and is really just a custard that is topped with brown (or granulated) sugar which is then caramelized under a broiler or with a small kitchen blowtorch. Simple yet sophisticated!

o Irish Porter Cake – This cake, often served at Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day, contains one of Ireland’s favorite ingredients – Guinness Stout! Similar to fruit cake, it also includes raisins, currants, candied cherries, walnuts, and orange or lemon zest and is seasoned with pumpkin pie spice. Serve it with a rich whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

o Olde English Trifle – Served in a huge glass bowl, Trifle is sort of the English version of tiramisu. Made with lady fingers, sponge cake, or pound cake, it’s layered with custard and fruit, usually strawberries or raspberries. For a lighter version, use angel food cake. Top it off with whipped cream, sliced almonds, and additional fruit.

o Sweet Rice with Mangoes – This is a Southeast Asian favorite and is somewhat similar to rice pudding but with more exotic flavors like coconut milk. It’s generally made in individual ramekins and topped with mangoes (or other exotic fruit) and toasted sesame seeds.

o Alfajores (South American sandwich cookies) – The origins of this cookie are in the Andalusian region of Spain but these tasty little treats are quite popular in South American and among Americans of Latino heritage. They are best described as a pair of shortbread-type cookies filled with dulce de leche filling. Delicious, especially for those who love caramel!

o Baklava – Easy to find in America’s many Greek-owned diners, baklava consists of multiple layers of thin phyllo pastry sheets, drenched in butter, and mixed with lots of nuts and spices and sweetened with syrup or honey. Besides being popular in Greece, it’s also a mainstay in Turkey and Iran.

o Bienenstich Cake – A German classic, this so-called Bee Sting Cake includes buttery cake layered with vanilla pastry cream and topped with honey-coated sliced almonds, which – in theory – attracts bees, hence, the name of this favorite cake. It’s usually served in the summer time.

o Kringle – A common sight in Danish bakeries not only in Denmark but also in the U.S., kringle includes a flaky pastry filled with cream cheese, fruit, and nuts, topped with a white glaze and additional nuts. It’s somewhat similar to the Cheese Danish we find in American bakeries and grocery stores but the pastry is so much better.

o Kasutera – This Japanese version of sponge cake may have actually hailed from Spain or Portugal but, today, it’s most popular in the Far East. It’s usually flavored with vanilla and lemon extract and also contains a considerable amount of honey. Some modern versions include cocoa powder or even green tea.