Updated: May 22
Easter is right around the corner and honestly, I’m so excited! I have a bit of a sweet tooth and Easter brings one of my favorite candies of all time: Cadbury Mini Eggs. Milk chocolate eggs coated in a confectionary shell that cracks away when you bite into it, leaving you with little crunchy bits of shell coated in divine chocolate that eventually melts away in your mouth. (What? Too much imagery...?) Needless to say, I stock up on them for the year.
With Easter candy comes Easter desserts, which are often made and eaten during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter Sunday), Good Friday, and Easter Sunday itself. I love food, all types of cuisines, but dessert is my favorite part of every meal and Easter is the perfect time to simply indulge.
Given my unusual obsession with sweets, I’d like to share with you some international Holy Week/Easter desserts (as desserts after all are the most important part of every holiday meal).
I don’t know about you, but Hot Cross Buns was one of the first songs I learned how to play on a musical instrument—just saying the name makes the tune play in my head. Hot Cross Buns are a traditional Easter pastry, traditionally made from a spiced, yeasty dough flavored with allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
They often contain dried fruit and are topped off with a cross made from citrus icing. There are many recipe variations, being served anywhere from the United States and the United Kingdom to Australia and South Africa.
Variations may include the addition of nuts, chocolate, or lack of icing, but regardless of its ingredients, you’ll be able to spot a hot cross bun when you see one.
Perhaps a step up from simple Hot Cross Buns, this Polish pastry is a real eye-pleaser. Mazurek królewski is a flat, shortcrust pastry tart with alternating layers of crust with either jam, marmalade, icing, or frosting. It’s often topped with an elaborate lattice design with varying colors of jellies or strategically placed dried fruit and nuts. Like many desserts, there are varying recipes for the signature dish. From a fruity tart filled with almonds and lemon zest, topped with apricot and raspberry preserves, to a rich, chocolaty pastry decorated with slivered almond flowers, Mazurek królewski can be made to fit anyone’s preference.
This Italian pie isn’t exclusive to Easter; ricotta pie is a rich, sweet, and delicate dessert similar to that of cheesecake. Usually made with ricotta cheese and lemon zest, some bakers also add dried fruit, chocolate chips or even liquor to hype up the recipe.
Unlike a typical cheesecake crust made from butter and graham crackers, this pie crust resembles, well, a typical pie. Made from flour, sugar, salt, butter, and eggs, these ingredients create a buttery, flaky, melt in your mouth crust.
A traditional Latin American treat, Cocadas are cookies made from sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and shredded coconut. Sometimes, depending on where you get them, they may contain macadamia nuts, almonds, or caramel. You may also find them rolled in crushed almonds, dipped in chocolate, or dyed a certain color to represent a country’s flag. The names of these tropical treats may change depending on where you get them, but they all contain the primary ingredient of coconut. Don’t let the simplicity of these tiny treats deceive you, they are as addicting as they are cute.
Torrijas are similar to French toast but have a little more pizzazz. A traditional Spanish style dessert, Torrijas are made from stale bread, dipped in milk—sometimes in wine or sherry, or a combination thereof—and eggs with orange or lemon zest, then fried in oil, and topped with honey. The end results offer a sweet, natural, citrusy flavor compared to the classic vanilla maple taste of French toast. They are typically enjoyed throughout Spain during Holy Week but aren’t exclusive to that timeframe, this cross between French toast and bread pudding can be enjoyed year-round.
A simple dessert made from rye flour, powdered rye malt, sugar, and often flavored with orange zest, raisins, or molasses, mämmi is a Finnish dish that dates back centuries. It has a unique consistency, similar to that of porridge or custard, and is somewhat doughy. It’s typically served cold and often sprinkled with powdered sugar or topped off with sweet cream, milk, or ice cream. Some like to eat it as jelly, spreading it on bread or crackers. Though taking several days to make, as the mixture needs to boil for several hours and then be refrigerated for several days, it’s a Scandinavian Easter must-have.
Paskha is a Slavic dish made in Eastern Orthodox countries during Holy week and is often brought to church to be blessed before consumption. It’s a no-bake dessert made from fresh farmer cheese, egg yolks, heavy cream, nutmeg, and lemon or orange zest. The cheese is strained, mixed with the other ingredients until thoroughly combined, then placed in a mold and refrigerated. After the dessert takes shape, and any extra moisture from the cheese is drained, it’s often decorated with dried fruits or nuts.
Chocolate Eggs are a staple for Easter, and they come in all different shapes and sizes with a vast array of fillings. Around where I grew up, homemade Easter eggs consisted of a soft, peanut butter filling coated in milk or dark chocolate. In other places, chocolate eggs can be much larger and filled with more decadent confectionaries. They can be filled with cream, nuts, pralines, caramel, cookie pieces—you name it, there’s bound to be an egg out there filled with it. Some eggs can weigh up to several pounds and are sometimes served with a spoon! Think of a Kinder Surprise Egg but five or six times that size.
Desserts come in all shapes and sizes and holidays are my favorite time to explore traditional food because every family has their own go-to dish or dessert. Traveling around the world I get to explore all these different recipes that I would have never discovered were I not immersing myself in different cultures. And as much as I love my own traditions, I love trying other traditions so I can eat as much as possible!
Regardless of what’s on your dessert menu for Holy Week, Easter, or just a regular weekend, enjoy some of your go-to treats or try something new! Remember, the letter “s” is present twice in “dessert” for this reason only: you can have double the treats.
Until next time,