In Europe, each bite of cake can be a cultural lesson on how simple combinations of sugar, flour and butter come together to make a highly celebrated national symbol. Take the decadently rich Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gateau) in Germany and Austria’s iconic Sachertorte. And it’s not just Europe – the Americas have iconic cakes worth travelling for too.
1. Black Forest gateau, Germany
A traditional and very authentic Germany Black Forest cake tastes even better in Bavaria. Most of the family-run hotels and restaurants in Schwarzwald – Black Forest, a region in the state of Baden-Württemberg in South-west Germany – will make everything from scratch. Chocolate sponge, whipped cream and boozy cherries are layered to make the perfect German Black Forest cake of your dreams.
The Schwarzwaldstube restaurant located in Baden-Württemberg’s Hotel Traube Tonbach has three Michelin stars, but the cake (below) can be enjoyed at the hotel for less than four euros (US$4.65). Cafe Schaefer is reputed to have the original recipe for Black Forest cake, invented by Josef Keller in 1915, but you really can’t go wrong with any German cafe and bakery located in the Black Forest area.
2. Princess cake, Sweden
Sweden has a host of desserts and sweets to cure any sweet-tooth craving, like the cinnamon bun and tarts filled with glorious amounts of whipped cream, but nothing is as pretty and culturally symbolic as the prinsesstårta (Princess cake). The cake was said to be a favourite of the Swedish princesses Margaretha, Martha and Astrid, and was named in their honour.
In fact, the cake is so loved by the Swedes that an entire week of celebrations takes place in September to acknowledge the national dessert. Made with a delicate sponge, lots of cream, finished with a blanket of smooth green marzipan and topped with a pink marzipan rose, the cake is definitely a royal dessert.
Join locals for Swedish afternoon tea, known as Fika, at Stockholm’s Vete-Katten for one of the best Princess cakes around.
3. Sachertorte and strudel, Vienna, Austria
One of the most iconic cakes is the Sachertorte – a super-rich, dense and decadent chocolate cake covered with an equally rich chocolate ganache that is Austria’s pride and joy. Created in 1832 for the Prince of Austria, the cake can be enjoyed in Hotel Sacher, which claims to have launched the famous dessert. The cake even has a day in its honour (National Sachertorte Day, December 5).
If you are not a fan of chocolate, seek out the other national dessert in Austria – apple strudel. The Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna has one of the best experiences – a metre-long apple strudel is wheeled around the hotel lobby, inviting guests to indulge in a bit of Austrian jause (snack) with dollops of whipped cream for good measure.
4. Opera cake, Paris, France
Paris is well known for its glamorous desserts and pastries like the Paris-Brest, a pastry ring filled with praline-flavoured cream, but the gâteau opéra (opera cake; below) is unique to the Parisian people.
The cake dates back to 1955 when French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon worked at the legendary gourmet shop, Dalloyau. He wanted to create a dessert where you could taste everything the cake had to offer – the almond-flavoured sponge, coffee syrup, buttercream and chocolate ganache – all in just one glorious bite. His wife told him it reminded her of the Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier, and the opera cake was born. The original cake can still be found at all Dalloyau locations today.
5. Appeltaart, Netherlands
A trip to the Netherlands is not complete until you’ve had the famous appletaart. The cake dates back to the Middle Ages and has more than a dozen variations. The most popular version is a buttery cake filled with spiced apples, and one of the best can be found at Cafe Winkel 43 (below) in the heart of Amsterdam.
6. Banoffee pie, UK
You may have heard of the Victoria sponge but have you tried a Banoffee pie (above)? If you love gooey toffee, this is a dessert made for you. Filled with banana, caramel toffee and cream, this relatively new creation has gained the affection of Britons and visitors alike.
The nation has supported this ingenious cake with its use of one of England’s favourite confections, toffee since its launch in 1971. Nigel Mackenzie, the original creator from The Hungry Monk Restaurant in East Sussex died a few years ago, but there are plenty of places to find it, such as The Sussex Ox.
7. Flødeboller, Denmark
Imagine a fluffy marshmallow-like cake covered in rich dark chocolate ganache sitting on top of a crunchy and buttery biscuit. It’s a flødeboller. Found mainly in Copenhagen, this Danish treat is a tea cake invented in the 1960s. More than 800 million of these treats are made every year in Copenhagen and one of the best can be found in the famed Hotel D’Angleterre. If you are a guest staying at the hotel, you get it for free upon arrival.
8. Cassata, Sicily, Italy
Italy has gelato, tiramisu and lot of delicious sweets to celebrate different occasions, but the cassata is definitely a sweet dessert with the most controversy. Some believe that the lavish cake was created during the Arab occupation of Sicily in the 9th and 10th centuries, but no matter what people believe, this cake combines all the great ingredients of Italy: sweetened ricotta cheese layered between liqueur-soaked sponge, decorated with a green marzipan ring and topped with candied fruit. It is a colourful dessert worth seeking out in the South of Italy and Pasticceria Cappello is a Palermo institution with a great cassata.
9. Cheesecake, New York, USA
There are so many great cakes in the United States, like Red Velvet from the South and the popular cinnamon roll in Aspen, Colorado, but the New York cheesecake is perhaps one of the most popular. Although there are varieties of cheesecake found all around the US, the one from New York has a denser and slightly tangy taste, which goes exceptionally well with the buttery shortcake crumb base. Junior’s (below) in Brooklyn is a great spot to grab a huge slab.
10. Lamington, Australia
Australians love a good slice of cake, and the lamington (below) is definitely an Aussie icon found in every Australian’s childhood lunchbox. Believed to have been named after Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, the jam-and-cream filled sponge dipped in a chocolate is rolled in coconut flakes and best enjoyed for afternoon tea. Lamingtons can be found in pretty much every bakery in Australia, as well as at the supermarket.
11. Pavlova, New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand both stake claim to this glorious dessert. The biographer of famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova claimed the dessert was named in her honour during one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, while the family of Herbert Sashse of Perth’s Hotel Esplanade have laid claim to it. In New Zealand, it is a light meringue with a crisp crust, usually topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Floriditas (below) in Wellington is famous for a brown-sugar pavlova topped with seasonal fruit, but you can find it in all good cafes and bakeries around town.
12. Ma lai gao, Hong Kong
A famous dim sum favourite is Hong Kong’s ma lai gao – a rich and fluffy sponge cake steamed to perfection. For one of the most authentic versions, there’s Lin Heung Teahouse, where a huge ma lai gao is served from an oversized bamboo steam basket.
13. Tres leches cake, Mexico
Mexico’s tres leches cake is a combination of three kinds of milk – condensed, evaporated and fresh – all poured on top of a sponge cake and allowed to soak through before being given lashings of whipped cream. Sinfully rich, this cake is found pretty much in every good bakery in Latin America. Check out Pastelería Macram (Calle Ribera de San Cosme 130, Cuauhtémoc, San Rafael) for one of the best.
14. Lapis legit, Indonesia
It almost feels like you are eating eighteen fluffy sponge cakes in one bite, so what’s not to love? Lots of butter and egg yolks go into this very rich and iconic cake. Inspired by European cakes but given an Asian twist with spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, the dessert was created during the Dutch colonial era. Though time-consuming to make, this Indonesian treat is the pride and joy of the nation. Harlie (below) is known for their family recipe and very fresh lapis legit – expect lots of layers, lots of calories and lots of enjoyment.
– TEXT BY MICHELLE TCHEA
PHOTOS: HOTEL TRAUBE TONBACH FACEBOOK, FLICKR USER PETER SUNNA (PRINCESS CAKE), FLICKR USER MICHELA SIMONCINI (SACHER TORTE), DALLOYAU FACEBOOK, CAFE WINKEL 43 FACEBOOK, JUNIOR’S RESTAURANT & CHEESECAKE FACEBOOK, 123RF.COM, INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.