To rephrase Marie Antionette, Let us all eat cake!
It's easy to attest to the wonders of cake. As a sweet tooth, it's been both a comfort food and a celebratory snack to me and plenty others around the world. Today, we explore all the corners of the globe through some of their most delicious takes on this well-loved dessert.
Read also: Fried Rice Recipes From Around Asia
AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND: PAVLOVA
Perhaps one of the most popular forms of cake from the Oceania region is pavlova. Named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, the dessert is made of a crisp meringue crust and a fluffy, marshmallow-like centre. It is often topped with fresh cream and fruits. Yet, however elegant the pavlova is in both taste and structure, its history remains to be one of the most contested in the world of desserts. Both Australia and New Zealand claim its origins from as early as the late 1920's when Anna Pavlova herself had toured both countries. Needless to say, the debate continues today; although if there's one thing everyone can peacefully agree on, it's that pavlova has become an international hit even outside of Oceania.
THAILAND: KHANOM CHAN
Khanom chan is a steamed Thai dessert made of interchanging layers. Known in English a form of coconut-pandan cake, the khanom chan is made from starch rather than flour, giving it a chewy texture that's popular in most Southeast Asian desserts. The batter is divided into two halves — one to be flavoured with jasmine and coconut, and another with jasmine and pandan. The dessert, which is traditionally green and white, derives its colour from the pandan leaves and makes for a wonderful snack at tea-time.
A specialty of Nagasaki, the Japanese kasutera or castella cake, is a fluffy sponge cake of Portuguese origin. While having Western roots, the dessert has since become popular in Asia, and Japanese bakers have continuously been making adjustments on it to please the local palate. In Kyushu, it is often made with green tea powder, honey, or mizuame (starch syrup). Versions of the recipe have also become popular in other Asian nations such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.
GERMANY: SCHWARZWÄLDER KIRSCHTORTE
Don't be intimidated by its German name, the schwarzwälder kirschrorte is just the traditional title for black forest cake. Made with layers of rich dark chocolate chiffon soaked in cherry syrup, the schwarzwälder kirschrorte also incorporates a healthy serving of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. All of the ingredients contribute to make a full-bodied taste sensation that mixes the rich taste of cherries with the depth of chocolate with the mildness of cream. Delicious!
The Greek sunshine has always been something to look forward to. Enjoy a taste of it with a traditional portokalopita. Known as an orange phyllo cake, the portokalopita combines all the exotic tastes of the Mediterranean. There's citrus from the oranges, cinnamon for a sweet kick, and of course, traditional phyllo sheets that make up its base. Oftentimes, traditional recipes also incorporate a yoghurt custard, which is something of a staple in Greek food. Other variations may include candied fruit or semolina.
Everyone loves cheesecake and with its multiple variations, it's become a staple all over the world. Today, we introduce you to a special kind called sernik. Originating from Poland, sernik is a traditional dessert that differentiates itself through the cheese it incorporates. Made with twaróg (a Polish white cheese), the sernik dessert is distinct in flavour — creamy, sweet, and with hints of sourness that complement the overall cake. Admittedly, sernik is a little difficult to recreate when you don't have twaróg, though it's pretty common in Poland (as twaróg is a Polish diet staple).
The Argentinian rogel is an indulgent sweet often characterised by multiple layers of dough and dulce de leche spread. Topped with meringue, it's known as a celebratory cake in the country and is often present in weddings, birthdays, and most any occasion.
The Brazilian pavê is interestingly similar to the Italian tiramisu. Made from ladyfinger biscuits, cream, eggs, and condensed milk, it's a no-bake cake that incorporates many interesting textures in one bite. Though traditionally made with chocolate, many Brazilian households have incorporated various flavours into their recipes — from fruits such as lime, pineapple, and strawberry, to coconut, peanut, and cinnamon.
UNITED STATES: BAKED ALASKA
The baked Alaska is a thing of beauty and making the perfect one requires both scientific understanding and culinary know-how. First invented at the time of the United States' acquisition of Alaska (in a land deal signed with Russia), the baked Alaska dessert was created by Charles Ranhofer, a chef at New York's legendary Delmonico's restaurant. The original version — which consisted of banana ice cream and walnut spiced cake encompassed in an igloo of torched meringue — was not only an opulent offering but also a form of political commentary, Ranhofer's satire on the acquisition of the 49th state. Now an iconic dessert, baked Alaska is enjoyed worldwide for its varying tastes and textures.
Chikenduza is an adorable Zimbabwean dessert reminiscent of muffins. They're called candy cakes in English and are made much like the classic vanilla cake. Their most striking element? The thick pink icing made from powdered sugar that acts as something of a glaze. It's a delicious and celebratory snack that's as cute as you think.
Baseema is a traditional Sudanese cake that's also become quite popular in Egypt. Made with yoghurt and shredded coconut, the baseema batter is usually spread onto a wide pan before it goes into the oven. After having been baked, it is then glazed with sugar and lemon juice for a tangy twist and served in squares.