May 29, 2024 | Samantha Henman

Wildly Decadent Desserts From Around The World


Death By Dessert

Honestly, if any one of these desserts is the thing that takes us out—we’ll go happily. While the USA truly is a paradise of fantastic desserts (and we’d never dream of making a list of decadent desserts without showing them some appreciation), there’s a lot of decadence out there to explore. These wildly decadent desserts from around the world are guaranteed to make your mouth water.

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Kouign-Amann, Brittany, France

This unique pastry comes from Brittany, in the northwest of France. While Brittany may be best known for their crepes, the kouign-amann is a masterpiece. It involves layers of croissant dough laminated with butter and sugar and then baked to golden perfection. The sugar gives it a crunchy crust almost akin to crème brulee.

While it used to be hard to find in North America, more and more French bakeries stateside are doing their best to recreate this incredible treat.

Kouign-amann French Pastry with BlueberriesOks Malkova, Pexels

Pavlova, Australia & New Zealand

Can a dessert simultaneously feel incredibly rich and decadent…while also being light and fresh? If you’re talking about pavlova, the answer is yes. This down under dessert features a crisp meringue shell, fluffy whipped cream, and fruit.

Close Up Photo of Pavlova cake on a wooden boardDariusz Więckiewicz, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Rigó Jancsi, Hungary

We’ve all heard chocolate desserts described as sinful—but this one actually has the scandalous past to match. Rigó Jancsi is a layered chocolate cake from Hungary, featuring layers of cake, chocolate mousse, apricot jam, and a thin chocolate glaze. It’s named for a Romanian violinist who ran off with a Belgian princess in 1896.

Close Up Photo of Rigójancsi, Hungarian CakeAntidiskriminator, Wikimedia Commons

Pasteis De Nata, Portugal

On the surface, pasteis de nata seem too simple to be included on this list. An egg custard tart? Been there, done that. But a proper Portuguese pasteis de nata, like the ones from Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon, are a wonder to behold. With a light, flake crust that feels like it has 1,000 layers, a rich, creamy center, and a lightly bruleed top—cinnamon optional—a true, authentic pasteis de nata is one of the best dessert experiences to be had.

Close Up Photo of Pasteis de Natahelmut.weigel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Key Lime Pie, Key West, Florida

Fruit pies—and fruit cream pies—are some of the best desserts that the US has to offer. But Florida’s contribution, the Key lime pie, is oh-so special. Featuring a crumb crust, silky, tart filling, and a smooth topping, there’s nothing like a slice of Key lime pie. Key limes are simultaneously tarter and sweeter than their “regular” lime cousins, and have a stronger aroma.

Close Up Photo of Key Lime Pie on a white plateChris Palmer, Flickr

Pączki, Poland

A good ol’ American donut is a thing to behold—but the Polish certainly give them a run for their money with paczki. The Polish donut is large, filled with a variety of delectable cream or fruit fillings—raspberry is always a great pick—and is either sheathed in a thick glaze or absolutely covered in powdered sugar. It’s impossible to eat one without making a mess…as it should be.

Close Up Photo of Pączki filled doughnuts found in Polish cuisineFamily News Service, Flickr

Nama, Japan

Asian desserts often favor fruit over chocolate—but when they do it, they do it well. Nama is essentially a ganache, made from melted cacao and fresh cream. When the ganache solidifies, it’s cut into cubes and sprinkled with cocoa powder, making for an extremely decadent, melt-in-your-mouth bite. Who knew three ingredients could make such a rich dessert?

Close Up Photo of Nama a Japanese dessertMokiko, Flickr

Nanaimo Bars, Canada

A go-to for any Canadian holiday, potluck, bake sale, or any other occasion where you want to get a large crowd hopped up on sugar, this no-bake bar is something to behold. It features a dense, cocoa-rich bottom layer made with graham cracker crumbs and coconut, a middle layer of sweet, custardy icing, and a top layer of thick chocolate ganache. Other variations include mint or peanut butter icing instead of custard.

Close Up Photo of Two nanaimo bars on a blue plate.Stephanie Spencer, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Alfajores de Chocolate, Argentina

Alfajores are rich enough—but then Argentina went and upped the ante by adding chocolate. This dessert features a chocolate shortbread cookie sandwiching a layer of thick dulce de leche, a creamy caramel made from milk.

Close Up Photo of Chocolate alfajores on a white plateMor Shvartzberg, Flickr

Mango With Sticky Rice, Thailand

Some people reminisce about family holidays, or exotic trips, or a great concert they saw. Other people—our kind of people—reminisce about that one great, fresh, in-season mango they had one time. This Thai dessert highlights the beloved fruit, serving it alongside a rich bowl of sticky rice, made by simmering glutinous rice in coconut milk and palm sugar.

Close Up Photo of Mango with Sticky Rice on a white plateKalboz, Flickr

Sticky Toffee Pudding, England

Speaking of sticky…Sticky toffee pudding is one of those desserts that, on the surface, might not appeal to many people outside of the UK—until they try it. One bite, and you’ll never go back. This rich treat features a soft, molasses-sweetened cake studded with dates and topped with a creamy, caramel-like sauce, as well as a dollop of thick cream or custard to really round it out.

Close Up Photo of Sticky Toffee Pudding on a white platePan Pacific, Flickr

Passion Fruit Mousse, Brazil

There’s nothing quite like a tropical fruit in season—and ripe passion fruit is the star of this dessert from Brazil, featuring a mousse made from the distinctive fruit, sweetened milk, and crème de leite, which is similar to evaporated milk. It’s silky, sweet, tart, and has an aroma unlike anything else.

Close Up Photo of Passion fruit mousse on a white plateNei Borgert, Flickr

Mosaic Cake, Turkey

Why enjoy one dessert when you can smash together a bunch and enjoy that instead? That’s kind of what the Turkish do with mosaic cake. It features shortbread biscuits, which are smashed into small squares, and then combined with sugar, butter, cocoa powder, and bittersweet chocolate. The mix gets set in a loaf pan before being sliced and served.

Close Up Photo of Mozaik cake on a white plateone2c900d, Flickr

Knafeh, Levant

This dessert features a trio of Middle Eastern sweet staples: nuts, pastry, and sweet syrup. In this case, it’s a “shredded” pasty crust enveloping a sweet and creamy cheese filling flavored with orange blossom water or cardamom, and pistachios. It’s sugary, crispy, and creamy all at once.

Close Up Photo of Knafah Middle Eastern Dessert on a white platewatashiwani, Flickr

Chocolate Lebkuchen, Germany

This rich, layered cookie from Germany features a shortbread cookie base topped with a dollop of oat, nut, and cocoa mix that bakes up in the oven. It’s then finished with a dark chocolate glaze to really take the decadence to the next level.

Close Up Photo of Chocolate Lebkuchen on a white surfaceanaix3l, Flickr

Tres Leches Cake, Nicaragua

Why have one kind of milk when you can have three? This cake originated in Nicaragua and is their national dessert, though it’s also popular all over Latin America. It features a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: whole milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk.

Close Up Photo of Tres Leches Cake on a white plateMasa Assassin, Flickr

Tiramisu, Italy

Tiramisu is divisive. It seems people either love or hate it—with the haters perhaps having had one terrible restaurant tiramisu that ruined it for them. When it’s done right, tiramisu is a perfect dessert—and it’s all a matter of ratios and timing. Espresso-soaked ladyfingers float in a fluffy, rich layer of sweetened mascarpone and are topped with cocoa powder.

When the ladyfingers are soft, but haven’t yet dissolved, and the cocoa has been sitting long enough that it melts into the mascarpone, it really can’t be beat.

Close Up Photo of Tiramisu Cake on a white plateRaffaele Diomede, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Japanese Cheesecake, Japan

It’s a dessert that seems like it’s made for Instagram—but much to our surprise, it tastes just as good as it looks. It’s lighter and fluffier than regular cheesecake, thanks to the addition of whipped egg whites. Its lightly browned, domed top is the proverbial cherry on top.

Close Up Photo of Japanese Cheesecake placed on a white surfaceOcdp, Wikimedia Commons

Kanelbullar, Sweden

Sure, there’s nothing like a cakey, gooey Cinnabon—but without Sweden and their kanelbullar, we’d never have sticky, sweet cinnamon rolls to enjoy. Kanelbullar are made from sweetened leavened dough, with a delicious layer of cinnamon or cardamom rolled in. They’re so beloved that Sweden celebrates Kanelbullens Dag, AKA cinnamon roll day, every year in October.

Close Up Photo of Kanelbullar dessert placed on a tablelisamikulski, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Tarte Tatin, France

You can call something as American as apple pie, but the French give us a run for our money with tarte tatin. This dish quite literally turns apple pie on its head. It’s made by pouring sugar into a baking dish and topping it with sliced apples. The crust dough is then added on top before baking. The result? The sugar caramelizes onto the apples, which become a deep brown.

The pastry also stays firm and crispy, since the juices from the apples don’t drip down onto it. It’s then served with a dollop of cream fraiche to cut the tartness of the apples.

Close Up Photo of A Tarte Tatin placed on a white plateLoslazos, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Cannoli, Sicily

Like tiramisu, cannoli can be hit or miss. Too many people have tried disappointing cannoli—but when they’re fresh and properly made, cannoli are unbeatable. With a deep-fried shell filled with sweetened ricotta or whipped cream (team ricotta), some like them with a sprinkle of pistachios—but our favorite version have chocolate chips to take it to the next level.

Close Up Photo of Sicilian Cannoli on a metal plateStefano Mortellaro, Flickr

Black Forest Cake, Germany

There are few things as picturesque—or tasty—as a Black Forest cake, AKA Schwarzwälder kirschtorte. Dark chocolate cake is soaked with kirch, a cherry liqeur, before being layered with kirsch-soaked cherries and whipped cream. The cake is then topped with more cherrie, more whipped cream, and dark chocolate curls.

Close Up Photo of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte Black Forest Cake on a crystal plate.Mikel Ortega, Flickr

Galaktoboureko, Greece

This dessert from Greece utilizes phyllo dough to sweet perfection. It’s sprinkled with melted butter and layered with a semolina custard, then baked and chilled—but the process doesn’t end there. It’s then soaked in a spiced orange syrup, turning it into a unique, refreshing, and decadent melt-in-your-mouth treat.

Close Up Photo of Galaktoboureko Greek Dessert on a white plateDunk, Flickr

Beaver Tails, Canada

This fried dough treat goes by many names, but the abovementioned moniker was popularized by the BeaverTails chain of pastry stands and shops that serve it. It’s a large piece of fried dough, stretched into the shape of a beaver’s tail, and covered in any variety of toppings—from icing sugar to chocolate sauce to ice cream and beyond.

Close Up Photo of Three Beavertail pastries placed on a wooden surfaceBeaverTails, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Torte Tenerina, Italy

With a name that translates to tender cake, that’s exactly what this dessert is—among other things. It also has a rich center and crispy edges. Made with chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, and cornstarch, this flourless chocolate cake is as decadent as it gets.

Overhead Photo of Torta TenerinaViola, Flickr

Champurrado, Mexico

Mexico has taken hot chocolate to the next level in many ways, but perhaps the most decadent variation is champurrado. It’s hot chocolate brewed with a cinnamon stick, sweetened with piloncillo (a type of whole cane sugar), and thickened with masa—an essential step that makes it thick and rich.

Close Up Photo of Hot bowl of champurradoTom White, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

Soufflé au Chocolat, France

Notoriously hard to bake correctly, soufflés are surely one of the top five most decadent desserts out there. Featuring dark chocolate folded into a creamy egg yolk base and whipped egg whites, it is then portioned into ramekins and baked just long enough to set the outside, but leave the center smooth and velvety.

Close Up Photo of Souffle au chocolate on a white plateAlpha, Flickr

Funnel Cake, USA

Sure, there are plenty of fried-dough desserts out there—but no one does deep frying like the good old United States of America. Funnel cake is often found at carnivals and amusement parks, making the treat all the more special. It involves drizzling sweet batter into hot oil, which results in crispy, overlapping layers of deep-fried delight, which is then topped with a variety of toppings, including powdered sugar and/or ice cream.

Close Up Photo of A funnel cake on a colorful plateKingofthedead, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Gianduiotto, Italy

How can something so simple be so decadent? Gianduiotto, or gianduia, is a confectionary from Turin, Italy, combining smooth cocoa and sugar with hazelnut paste. It’s about as rich, sweet, velvety, and chocolatey as a sweet can get.

Close Up Photo of Gianduiotto a chocolate originally from Piedmont, northern ItalyClop, Wikimedia Commons

Kulfi, India

Often called “Indian ice cream,” kulfi is made from cream—but there’s a lot to separate it from ice cream. It’s creamier and denser, since it’s not whipped. Since it’s more dense it also melts more slowly, and comes in a variety of flavors, including rose, mango, and cardamom.

Close Up Photo of Mango Kulfi on a crystal plateKanesue, Flickr

Mooncakes, China

These eye-catching desserts are made to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, and feature a chewy dough shell wrapped around a sweet, rich filling made from red bean or lotus seed paste.

Close Up Photo of Chinese Moon CakeWebel, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Black Cake, Caribbean

Black cake, AKA rum cake, is a decadent treat from the Caribbean that features rum-soaked fruit mixed into a cake batter which features caramelized sugar—leading to a dense, super-rich dessert.

Close Up Photo of A rum cake or black cakeKent Wang, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Trifle, England

Another eye-catching, mouth-watering treat, trifle is a delight—as long as you don’t follow Rachel from Friends’ recipe. A traditional trifle features sponge cake soaked in sherry, some soft fruit, perhaps macerated, egg custard, and optional Jell-O. No beef, peas, or onions in sight.

Close Up Photo of Trifle dessert on a wooden surfaceBen, Wikimedia Commons

Saffron Ice Cream, Iran

It’s not just a rich ice cream that makes this dessert decadent—it’s the addition of saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron ice cream, which is also flavored with rose water and pistachios, is served at Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Close Up Photo of Persian Saffron Rosewater Ice CreamJOY, Flickr

Mexican Wedding Cookies, Mexico

These tiny, crumbly cookies coated in powdered sugar are guaranteed to make a mess—and to be a presence at Mexican weddings. A type of shortbread made with almonds, they’re an easy crowd pleaser.

Close Up Photo of Mexican Wedding CookiesSlice of Chic, Flickr

Gulab Jamun, Indian

They may look like a shiny donut hole—but they’re so much more than that. Gulab jamun dough is make with khoya, a thick, sweet reduced milk product. The dough is fried in ghee, which makes it extra crispy, and doused with a sweet sypup featuring rose water and cardamom.

Close Up Photo of Gulab jamun topped with almond sliversCabeza2000, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

New York Cheesecake, USA

Is there anything better than a towering slice of New York cheesecake? The perfect cheesecake is tall, creamy, and so dense that it feels like your fork can barely lift a bite. Flavored with just a hint of lemon or vanilla—or nothing at all, this decadent dessert has a texture unlike anything else.

Close Up Photo of New York Cheesecake on a white plateScott Veg, Flickr

Medovik, Russia

This enchanting cake features thin, honey-sweetened layers—sometimes up to ten—and a rich icing, either made from sour cream or sweetened condensed milk. Whatever the baker chooses, it ends up as an incredibly rich, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.

Close Up Photo of Medovik Cake on a white plate.insatiablemunch, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Mandazi, South Sudan

This African dessert features tender, pillowy fritters which are enhanced with the addition of rich coconut milk—differentiating them from other fritter-y desserts, like beignets. Mandazi are often served with coffee or tea—but to take them to the next, decadent level, try them dipped in chocolate sauce.

Overhead Photo of Mandazi on a metal plate.Helene Lindberg, Flickr


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