The World’s Best Desserts

Around the world in 14 desserts.

6 months Discovery Channel

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The age-old question: what’s for dessert? While we all have our favourites – ice cream, doughnuts, Tim Tams – the rest of the world has even more to offer. From long-standing traditions to modern sugar innovations, these 14 global desserts might just have you booking a one-way ticket.

Banoffee Pie – England

This world-famous dessert lies at the heart of British baking. The delectable combination of banana, coffee, and toffee was fondly shortened to “banoffi” by Nigel Mackenzie, the pie’s creator. Mackenzie claims he made the dessert by adjusting an unreliable American recipe back in 1971, and since then then layered caramel, banana, and whipped cream masterpiece has gone on to become a household favourite.

Egg Waffle – Hong Kong

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Commonly referred to as “eggettes,” this fun dessert is a childhood staple for many Hongkongers. The street snack was originally invented as a way of using up broken eggs; the leftover eggs were mixed with flour, milk, and sugar and poured over portable waffle machines. This mashup of unwanted ingredients would go on to become one of the nation’s most iconic sweet treats, inspiring flavour and topping innovations around the globe.

Ais Kacang – Malaysia

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The Malaysian dessert is also widely popular in Singapore and Brunei. Once made with just shaved ice and red bean, the recipe today is served with a variety of brightly-coloured fruit cocktails and dressings. The most common toppings include sweet corn, grassy jelly, palm seed, and agar cubes. Stalls have started to introduce chocolate syrup and ice cream to further modernise the dish. Whatever toppings you choose, there’s nothing quite like this customisable dessert.

Künefe – Jordan

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Can’t decide between sweet or savoury? Künefe is what you’ve been looking for. This luxurious Middle-Eastern pastry is stuffed with soft cheese and topped with shredded kadaif noodles and pistachios, giving it an extra crunch. The pastry is typically infused with sweet, rose-water syrup, serving up a heavenly, must-try dessert.

Baklava – Turkey

Though the origins of this dessert are still debated, the delicious layers of thin filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and drenched in sugar syrup is something everyone can agree on. This recipe has a number of regional variations, ranging from a unique hazelnut filling to topping the dish with kaymak, a Turkish creamy dairy product, or ice cream in the summertime.

Picarones – Peru

Veggie donuts might sound questionable, but these Peruvian doughnuts are made from sweet potato and macre, a local squash, are guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth. The deep-fried treats are served with chancaca syrup, a warm sauce made from unrefined cane sugar. The molasses-like sauce along with the anise seed in the dough elevates this dessert’s flavours well past any doughnut you’ve ever had.

Kürtőskalács – Hungary

This dessert is one of the simplest, despite its difficult-to-pronounce name. The Hungarian “chimney cakes” are made from sweet, yeast dough wrapped around a cone-shaped baking spit and rolled in sugar. The dough is baked over charcoal with melted butter, creating a beautiful golden-brown colour. From there, the toppings are up to you: ground walnuts, coconut, chocolate, cinnamon, or even filled with soft-serve ice cream!

Gulab Jamoon – India

Fondly referred to as India’s signature dessert, gulab jamoon packs a sweet yet flavourful punch. This dessert is made from a solidified milk-based dough and cardamom. Shaped into small balls, the dough is deep fried and soaked in rose sugar syrup. You’ll find this dessert at any restaurant or any event, from wedding to family get-togethers.

Pavlova – Australia…? New Zealand…?

The Great Aussie-Kiwi Debate: which country is the birthplace of pavlova? The dish is said to be named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova on her tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1920, so the jury is still out on this one. This traditional recipe is simply made from egg whites and caster sugar. Stuffed with whipped cream and finished with fresh fruits, this meringue-crusted dessert is the perfect summer treat.

Sfogliatelle – Italy

Walking the streets of central and southern Italy, it’s hard to miss this distinct, clam-shaped pastry. Traditionally, sfogliatelle is stuffed with sweet ricotta cream, semolina, cinnamon, and some variations use lemon zest or candied orange. Paired well with an espresso, these flaky layers are guaranteed to leave a mess no matter how hard you try!

Patbingsu – South Korea

Like ais kacang, patbingsu is Korean shaved ice served with sweetened red beans topped with fresh fruit. This traditional dish dates all way back to the Joseon Dynasty, reigning from 1392 to 1897. Nowadays, Korean restaurants feature modernised bingsu: mango, green-tea and even Oreo-bingsu: shaved ice milk with crushed Oreos, sweet red bean paste, and topped with ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

Papanaşi – Romania

Romania’s most famous dessert, papanaşi, is a typically fried pastry filled with cottage cheese and topped with smetana, a dairy product resembling sour cream, and berry jam. Some choose to bake or boil the pastry, creating some contention over the best preparation of the indulgent dish. The traditional recipe can be found at every Romanian restaurant more or less, and makes for an incredible dessert or even a main meal.

Sacher Torte – Austria

Calling all chocoholics: this one’s for you. This dense, two-layer chocolate cake is the definition of decadence. This masterpiece was made by Franz Sacher for the Austrian prince back in 1832, and the original recipe is still made at the Hotel Sacher café in Vienna. Filled with an apricot jam in the middle and topped with unsweetened whipped cream, this cake will definitely make you feel like royalty!

Mochi Ice Cream – Japan

Traditionally eaten during Japanese New Year, mochi is a pounded sticky rice cake. Frances Hashimoto is credited with the invention of mochi ice cream, mochi wrapped around a small scoop, requiring both the ice cream and dough to be altered due to differences in temperature and viscosities. The unique dessert can be found in a number of countries, but Japan is still home to the most authentic and delicious.

Words by Anisha Nallakrishnan | Images sourced from ShutterStock and Instagram