Here are 10 around-the-world desserts that you can make at home. Eat your way across the globe, from Singapore to South Africa to Argentina, without leaving your kitchen. And since I’ve recipe-tested all of these treats, you won’t have to worry if they’re delicious or not.
#1: Singapore Ice Cream Sandwich & Pandan Bread Recipe
One of the around-the-world desserts that I absolutely adore is the Singapore Ice Cream Sandwich. It is composed of a slice of pink-and-green-colored pandan bread cradling a rectangle of ice cream.
For those of you who don’t know what pandan is, it’s a very popular flavoring derived from a plant used in many desserts in Southeast Asia. It has a beautiful, electric green color which makes the dishes not only tasty, but visually appealing as well.
For this recipe, I used an adapted version of my Hokkaido milk bread which utilizes something called a tangzhong which is basically a flower roux. And while in Singapore it’s common to have many choices of ice cream for your sandwich, I’ve decided to keep it simple here and use vanilla.
#2: Chocotorta: a 4-Ingredient No-Bake Cake from Argentina
Composed of coffee-soaked chocolate biscuits layered with cream cheese and dulce de leche, this international dessert, Chocotorta, is an Argentinian birthday party favorite. And because it is a no-bake recipe you could put this together anywhere in a snap!
One ingredient you are going to need to make this recipe is a box of cookies called Chocolinas, which are little rectangular biscuit cookies that have no filling. (If you can’t find Chocolinas you could substitute any similar wafer-like chocolate biscuit.)
For the dulce de leche, or milk caramel, which you can certainly make at home on your own using cans of condensed milk, I decided to use a canned dulce de leche from Argentina as I didn’t want to risk my filling being too runny.
You will also need two packages of cream cheese and a cup of cold coffee — and that’s it!
Want to try making it? Find the recipe here.
#3: Korean Street Waffles
I love street food. I love the whole process of being right there with whoever is making your food, hearing the scraping and banging, smelling the smells, listening to the chatter and banter all around.
But sometimes you have a craving for street food when you’re stuck at home — like what do you do if it’s eight o’clock at night and raining, but you have a hankering for Korean Street Waffles?
What are those, you ask? Well, they’re extra crispy, round, Belgian-style waffles filled with honey-sweetened cream cheese and whipped cream. When you fold the waffle in on itself you get a beautiful, sweet waffle taco which is absolutely gorgeous and absolutely delicious.
So some recipes call for coconut-pandan flavored waffles, but you can just make plain vanilla waffles instead. My recipe calls for rice flour and tapioca flour (instead of all-purpose flour) in order to get a much crispier waffle.
#4: Lime Maria Icebox Cake – “Carlota de Limon” from Mexico
Carlota de limón, a popular dessert in Mexico and the Americas, is SO easy to make and only uses 4 ingredients. What’s not to love!?
Now, because it is made in so many different places, this dessert goes by many different names including “carlota de limon,” or “pie de limon,” or “postre de limon.” For English speakers, we’ll go ahead and call it our Lime Maria Ice-Box Cake.
Our cake consists of four simple ingredients: Maria cookies, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and fresh lime juice.
Now, a beautiful thing happens when we add acid to dairy: it coagulates, creating a beautiful, thick, custard-like cream which becomes the base of this dessert. And the Maria biscuits will be the bricks while the cream will be the mortar.
The whole cake, or pie, is constructed in layers and then left overnight in the fridge to set up creating a cake-like, no-bake, layered dessert.
If you are looking for the recipe, you can find it here.
#5: Cremora Tart from South Africa
AS far as around-the-world desserts go, Cremora Tart, which hails from South Africa, is one of the simplest. Made with powdered milk creamer, condensed milk, and lemon juice to create a thick cheesecake filling without the need for baking or buying cream cheese.
It’s called Cremora because that is the brand name of the non-dairy creamer that’s used in this recipe. Now obviously, depending where you are in the world, you are not going to have that brand, but any similar non-dairy creamer will do.
And the same goes for the Tennis Biscuits used for the crust. Both of these brands hail from South Africa and so may not be readily available to you. Many people from the U.S. make this recipe using graham crackers instead.
So what really intrigues me about this recipe is that the resulting tart or pie has a texture very similar to cheesecake, but there’s no baking involved.
And since there are very few ingredients, making the whole thing come together is a snap!
#6: FRIED MILK Recipe 2 ways: Zha Xian Nai from China & Leche Frita from Spain
Deep fried milk is probably one of the most common of the around-the-world desserts as it can be found in many different cuisines including China where it is known as zha xian nai, in India as gulab jamun; in Italy as latte dolce; and in Spain as leche frita.
The two fried milk recipes that I’ve tried are both super easy. The leche frita involves mixing some spices with milk over heat, then simmering with cornstarch before refrigerating the mixture to set up. Once that is done, it’s simply a matter of deep frying.
The Chinese version, zha xian nai, is similar to the leche frita, but uses panko, or Japanese-style breadcrumbs as a coating before deep-frying.
#7: Pouding Chômeur, or Unemployed Person’s Pudding from Canada
Pouding chômeur, a Great Depression recipe from Canada, is a dessert pudding made from leftover stale bread and brown sugar syrup. Today’s incarnation happens to be a little fancier, but still harkens back to its roots.
My recipe, instead of using stale bread, will be done with cake, while the syrup will be made from a maple syrup and cream mixture.
The most intriguing thing about this recipe for me is that when we put the maple cream on top of the cake batter, as the cake begins to bake, it floats to the top while the cream oozes to the bottom, in a way saucing the cake.
And in truth, this recipe turns out to be quite decadent and a tad expensive for most people nowadays because it calls for real maple syrup. Back in the day, in Canada, though, maple syrup was probably something many people had in their larder, especially if they sugared their own maples.
For the interesting history of pouding chômeur and its factory roots, you can read more about it on Gastro Obscura here.
#8: Halo-halo: Filipino shaved ice dessert
Here’s how to make halo-halo, the classic Filipino shaved ice treat. Topped with syrupy fruits and a scoop of ice cream, it’s the perfect way to beat the heat. A perfect, summertime entry into my around-the-world desserts list.
So halo-halo is a filipino dessert that is basically kind of a Filipino take on a sundae. The word halo-halo itself, in Tagalog, translates to something like ‘mix-mix.’
The dish consists of sweetened fruits and beans; shaved ice topped with condensed milk and a bit of evaporated milk, and then topped with a scoop of ice cream — in this case ube flavor.
And similar to a sundae, this dish lends itself to customization. So by all means be creative when you make it! I made my ube ice cream from scratch, but you certainly don’t need to. As for the other ingredients, many should be available at your local Asian grocer or online.
#9: Japanese Cheesecake in an Instant Pot
Another of the around-the-world desserts that I adore is this Japanese-style cheesecake. It’s called “Japanese-style” because it’s lighter in texture than, say, a New York-style cheesecake. Think of it more as a kind of a cross between a cheesecake and a chiffon cake.
Now the gold standard for Japanese-style cheesecakes, I’d have to say, is the Jiggly Cheesecake. But that recipe is nowhere near as easy as this recipe which calls for only three ingredients.
What’s also different and interesting about this recipe is that it is cooked in an tanghulu, or bingtanghulu, which are crunchy, edible glass candy-coated fruit, similar to a candied apples. In this case we will be using strawberries, but you can also use blueberries or grapes or whatever other small fruit you have on hand.
Originating in China, the two common names for this treat mean “sugar bottle gourd” 糖葫芦 and “rock sugar bottle gourd,” 冰糖葫芦 respectively. Depending upon the fruit you use, your final product will look more or less like a gourd.
Making these fun, candied treats is fairly straightforward, though you must take extra care when making your candy syrup as, like in all candy making, it must be prepared at an exact temperature and doesn’t like being stirred.
To make the tanghulu, fruits are first skewered, then dipped in a gorgeous shell of clear crunchy candy syrup, then left to harden.
OK lovelies, that’s it! I hope you make some of these desserts and love them as much as I do. Happy making!