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The 12 sweets you need to know about (and try)

Have you ever tried vinarterta? How about gugelhupf? Whether these are familiar or completely foreign to you, this list of sweets are a must for everyone with a sweet tooth. All the sweets, cakes, desserts, and treats on this list come from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, so give them a go and try one, some, or all!

1. Cassata

A cassata is a lavish cake from Sicily, a complex concoction of layered liqueur-soaked sponge cake interspersed with sweetened ricotta cheese, fruit preserves and jellies surrounded by marzipan and decorated with Baroque garnishes and flourishes of marzipan fruits, rosettes, flowers, and curlicues.

2. Gugelhupf

A gugelhupf is a light, mildly sweet cake traditionally leavened with yeast and baked in a distinctive sculptural mold made of glazed earthenware, but also of metal, and even bronze or cast iron. The cake is popular throughout a wide swath of Europe encompassing eastern France, South Germany, Switzerland, Poland and regions formerly within the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is also a traditional cake among the Pennsylvania Dutch, who refer to it as Deitscher Kuche (Dutch Cake).

3. Rosogolla

A rosogolla is a popular Indian ball-shaped sweet prepared from chhana (fresh milk curd) soaked in sugar syrup. These moist treats are a common sight at sweet shops across the subcontinent.

4. Vacherin

A vacherin is a French dessert consisting of an elaborately decorated meringue shell filled with whipped cream, fruit, ice cream, or sorbet.

5. Whoopie pie

A whoopie pie is a treat formed from two palm-sized rounds of chocolate sponge cake filled with a white frosting, made either of confectioner’s sugar beaten with shortening, or marshmallow frosting. Whoopie pies are associated strongly with Maine and Pennsylvania, where they are sometimes called “gobs”.

6. Vinarterta

A vinarterta is an Icelandic rectangular delicacy comprised of five to nine layers of fruit jam and shortbread pastry, although contemporary versions incorporate baking powdered-leavened bread in order to achieve a lighter consistency. It is frequently iced with a simple sugar glaze that can be laced with vodka or bourbon. The dough is often flavored with almonds, and the fruit filling spiked with cardamom, vanilla, or red wine.

7. Tres leches cake

The pastel de tres leches is a sponge cake soaked in three milks (tres leches), usually condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream. The immediate origin is almost certainly a recipe developed or at least disseminated by Nestlé in the 1970s or 80s in cookbooks and on the backings of labels on cans of La Lechera (“the milkmaid”) condensed milk.

8. Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding is a lightly baked sponge studded with chopped dates and topped with a butterscotch sauce.

Cassata & Malvasia. Photo by mat's eye. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
Cassata & Malvasia. Photo by mat’s eye. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

9. Mochi

Mochi in Japanese, refers to rice cakes and other dumpling-shaped foods made from sticky substances. Rice cake mochi are made from polished glutinous rice, which becomes naturally sticky when steamed. Traditionally, the steamed rice is pounded in a large mortar with a pestle to form the cakes. Rice cakes can be formed into many shapes and are integral to ceremonies and seasonal observances.

10. Laddu

Laddu is a round, sweet ball, and is probably the most universally popular Indian sweets and one of the most ancient. The basic version (besan laddu) is made with chickpea (gram) flour, sugar, clarified butter, and cardamom powder. The flour is fried in the butter before adding the sugar and cardamom; when the mixture cools, it is formed into round balls around 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

11. Croquembouche

A croquembouche is a French dessert made by sticking together cream puffs with caramel. Croquembouche literally means “crack (or crunch) in the mouth”, due to the consistency of the hardened caramel.

12. Chiffon pie

Chiffon pie is a single-crust pie with a light, fluffy filling. This filling is generally a custard mixture lightened with beaten egg whites and/or whipped cream, with or without added gelatin, and flavored with an almost infinite variety of ingredients. The pie shell was originally made from pastry, but crumb crusts are now popular.

Headline Image Credit: CreamPuffs. Photo Breville USA. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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