When asked what gives them the special feeling around Christmas, besides being with family and friends and enjoying the traditional Christmas cheer, a lot of people will tell you that one thing that makes this time of the year special is also the delicious sweet scent that comes from the kitchen. Here are some traditional Christmas cakes that are a part of this magic.
The Italian spongecake originating from Milan has somewhat become one of the inevitable Christmas cakes all around Europe and many parts of the world. Usually made with raisins or candied fruit, it can also be made with chocolate or filled with different types of creams. And while many people love to make their own panettone, there is something mesmerising when seeing all the panettone boxes piled up in a store that just makes you grab at least two – one for you and one for your friend or neighbour.
2. King cake
Though there are many versions of the king cake which is a big Christmas hit in lots of countries with, French and Spanish roots, the king cake is usually round with a hole in the middle to resemble the crown and with abundance of crystallised and dried fruit that symbolise the jewels in the crown. The king is of course little Jesus as it’s his birthday we’re celebrating.
3. Yule log
One of the favourite Christmas desserts of the French is definitely the chocolate cake called yule log or bûche de Noël that quickly became very popular in all the countries linked to France. Popularised by French bakers during 1900s, it has a very specific look which can hardly go unnoticed – looking like a log and usually garnished with some edible leaves or meringue mushrooms, it represents the yule log that families would burn on Christmas Eve and the good luck in the new year.
Popular in Denmark and Norway, this tower cake with the literal meaning ‘wreath cake’ is made up from layers of concentric cookie rings. The impressive cake is also covered with royal icing that gives it even more luxurious look but also keeps the rings together.
Technically not a cake but pastry, this delicious dessert traditionally made from puff pastry and plum jam is a favourite in Finland during Christmas time. Though it can be in different shapes, the most usual ones are a star or pinwheel, and sometimes the apple jam replaces the prune one.
6. Christmas pudding
Despite being known also as ‘plum pudding’, this traditional English Christmas dessert contains no plums – this comes from the fact that historically, the term ‘plums’ was used for raisins in the pre-Victorian times. And while there are some legends like the one that the pudding is made of 13 ingredients symbolising Jesus and Twelve Apostles, many families have their own secret recipe for the Christmas pudding that they handed down through generations.
This very special Christmas cake originates from the Philippines but is also popular in other Asian countries where Christmas is celebrated. A rice cake made with coconut milk, bibingka is baked wrapped in a banana leaf, making it look very attractive.
8. Sweet potato pie
One of the most favourite Christmas cakes in the US is actually a pie. It’s usually made only with the lower crust, open at the top. Often associated with Thanksgiving, the sweet potato pie is made during the time of holidays from Thanksgiving until the New Year.
Similar to doughnuts but not really, fritule are favourite Christmas sweets in Croatia. How would they not be when they contain such fine ingredients like citrus, raisins and brandy. You can top them with powdered sugar or chocolate – either way they’re best when eaten outside with friends and family at a Christmas market.
These vanilla biscuits are very popular in some parts of Europe like Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic… basically the European countries that were formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Made with either nuts or almonds, they are best after they rested a couple of days when they become soft and melt in mouth – perfect for cozy morning breakfasts or nibbling throughout the day. They are most definitely a part of every Christmas of mine, yesterday’s batch in the below picture: