Some of Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Christmas Sweets from Around the Globe!
Not everyone likes mince pies. Shocking, but true. I remember looking after a couple of kids in Germany during my brief stint as an Au Pair, and both of them being positively horrified at my beloved Christmas confection. This is what makes Christmas such an important holiday, and its food so emotive – it is tied up with how we grew up. Really clever restaurant marketing – like really clever food - taps into this well of emotion and uses it to connect with people. So, this week we are celebrating London’s multiculturalism by discovering mince pie equivalents around the world.
Argentina, Spain, Peru, Puerto Rico = Turrón
This delicious nougat-esque dessert is a Christmas favourite throughout Spain and Latin America. Made of honey, sugar, egg white and almonds, it can be formed into almost any shape, comes in a number of different consistencies and be filled with any other ingredients – from dried fruit to puffed rice – as long as the core ingredients are always ther. The oldest surviving recipe can be found in a Manual de Mujeres (“Women’s Manual”) from the 16th century, this ancient festive treat takes its name from the Latin word torrere meaning “to toast”.
Denmark = Æbleskiver
Hipster delight waiting to happen – these are essentially round spheres of pancake-y goodness, normally served with jam and covered in icing sugar. Made from a mix of buttermilk, wheat flour, eggs, sugar, and salt, they are formed in an oiled pan composed of little half-spheres where they are tweaked with a long skewer halfway through to form their distinctive shape. Sort of like a sweet, globe-shaped Yorkshire pudding. Originally served with the apple slices from which they get their name, nowadays they come with gløgg – Scandinavian mulled wine – which I’m sure we’ll all agree is way better.
France, Canada = Bûche de Noël
Based on the pagan tradition of the Yule log, these are delicious sponge cakes, rolled up and iced to look like a log, and you can read all about them Here.
Germany = Stollen
This traditional German delicacy is essentially a sweet bread filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices, slathered in melted butter and rolled in icing sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven, which sometimes has a marzipan rope in the middle. Beloved across the country, it is particularly popular in Dresden which has been holding a “Stollenfest” at their annual Christmas Striezelmarkt (“Striezel” was an old word for Stollen) since the 15th century.
India = Allahabadi Cake
It may not be a country-wide tradition, but Christmas is indeed celebrated in some parts of the India subcontinent. One of those is Hindustan in the northwest, where the Christian population prepare Allahbadi Cake for Christmastide. This traditional Indian rum and fruit cake is made with maida, eggs, clarified butter, sugar, petha, marmalade, nuts, ginger, and fennel and gets its name from the north Indian city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago = Christmas Black Cake
Looking for Christmas cake with a kick? Then you should head to the Caribbean where rum cake is the traditional holiday dessert. Developed from traditional English favourites – like figgy pudding – in Jamaican black cake, dried fruit is soaked in rum for many months, before being added to a caramelised sugar and water mix. The result is a light but boozy black cake which – if not consumed responsibly – may well get you seasonally sozzled.
The Philippines = Puto Bumbong
Sticky purple rice anyone? It may sound a little odd, but this Filipino dessert is a Christmas favourite. Made with a special type of glutinous rice, called pirurutong, this pudding has a distinctive purple hue. The rice is soaked in saltwater, dried overnight, and then poured into a bamboo tube called a bumbong. This is then steamed until the steam rises from the tube before being served with a type of rice cake called bibinka, topped with butter, shredded coconut, and brown sugar.
Portugal = Bolo Rei
Literally “King Cake” this Portuguese cake is enjoyed during the 12 Days of Christmas, between December 25th and Epiphany. Although the recipe was originally from France (where the Galette des Rois is also a popular dessert celebrating the Three Kings) it found its way to Portugal in the 19th century. With a large hole in the middle, it is designed to resemble a crown and is covered with ‘jewels’ of crystallised and dried fruit. The dough itself is soft, white and filled with raisins, nuts and fruit and has one hidden dried fava bean. Whoever ends up with the bean has to buy the bolo rei the following year.
Scandinavia = Gingerbread
Probably one of the oldest desserts around, gingerbread was first introduced to Sweden by German immigrants in the 13th century. It can now be found all over the world in many different forms – from soft like a cake to crunchy like a biscuit, but it is particularly prevalent in Scandinavia. In essence, gingerbread is any baked good flavoured with ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar, or molasses. Believed to ease indigestion by Swedish nuns in the 1400s, it now has fewer medicinal uses, except for those of an emotional kind. Scandinavian gingerbread is most popular in its thin, brittle biscuit form, known as pepparkakor (Swedish), pepperkaker (Norwegian), piparkokur (Icelandic), piparkakut (Finnish) and…brunkager (Denmark being a little bit different there).
Wherever you are from, Christmas desserts seem to have a few things in common – they are sweet, warming, and comforting, just like Christmas should be. So, whatever you eat this Christmas, may it be delicious.