Canada has rich and varied desserts to offer, thanks to its diverse cultures and traditions. The indigenous people, settlers from Scotland and France, and German immigrants have mainly introduced many sweet items. After going through some alterations, they have been widely accepted by the country’s people. The dominant flavor of maple syrup used as a topping or filling takes them to the next level.
Pancakes were most probably brought to North America and Canada by the German immigrants in the 18th century and have been a favorite among the people ever since. Its batter, prepared with flour, eggs, milk, butter, and sugar, is similar to French crêpe. Adding a leavening agent like baking soda makes the pancake thick. Additional flavorings of vanilla or blueberry can also go into the mixture to enhance the taste.
A breakfast staple, pancakes are usually served by stacking them and pouring a generous amount of maple syrup with a piece of butter on top.
Canadian butter tarts are mouth-watering pastries comprising a flaky outer shell with a sweet and gooey center. The filling usually has eggs, butter, and sugar in it, further sweetened with maple syrup. Its richness and flavor is enhanced further by adding walnuts, pecans, or raisins. Baking the tarts gives them a crispy and golden brown outer crust, while the center obtains a semi-solid and chewy texture. An iconic dessert of the country, it is common in every Canadian sweet shop and bakery.
Originating in Quebec, Canada, by the French settlers, sugar pie resembles their Tarte au sucre. The dominant flavor of maple syrup in it is what sets it apart from its French counterpart. Other main ingredients that go into its preparation are flour, eggs, cream, butter, vanilla extract, sugar, and salt. It is typically a single crust pie, but some modern versions also include a top crust. It gives a heavenly feel when served with a dollop of cream on top. Though relished all year round, it is an indispensable sweet item during the holidays.
Timbits are the bite-sized balls removed from the center of donuts, prepared by frying them in vegetable oil. They are usually covered with icing or powdered sugar, enjoyed with a cup of hot drink during parties and meetings. However, some also contain an additional filling of custard, chocolate syrup, or strawberry jam. They are a common find in North American fast food joints like Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Originating in the city of Nanaimo in Canada, Nanaimo Bars are tempting treats, similar to a chocolaty fudge. It is a no-bake three-layered dessert. Crushed graham crackers, coconut, and chopped nuts blended make up the base; a creamy custard icing goes in the middle layer, topped with a glossy chocolate coating. Once the layers are set, they are cut into square shapes and served. These bars have various other versions made with mint, peanut butter, or instant vanilla pudding.
Also known as date crumbles or date squares, a matrimonial cake is a bar cookie believed to symbolize a strong marriage bond. Perhaps, this is why it is eaten during the wedding ceremony, with the cake mainly broken over the new wed’s head as a part of the traditional custom. Whatever the reason is, this tasty treat consists of a sweet date filling sandwiched between crumbly oatmeal crust. The rolled oats forming the base were a perfect savior when flour was too expensive to afford.
Enjoyed all over Canada, it is readily available in any sweet shop or coffee shop. Other variations are also present, with nuts added to the outer layer or substituting the date filling with candied peel.
Its name translates to an unemployed man’s pudding, first prepared during the Great Depression by female factory workers. Due to poverty, they mostly used stale bread as the base drizzled with sweet caramel sauce on top. However, in the present versions, a simple cake batter is made and topped with homemade syrup or readymade maple syrup. The cake rises and sits in a pool of syrup that settles down at the base on baking it. Seasonal fruits or vanilla ice cream serve as ideal accompaniments with it.
This mouth-watering pie has Saskatoon berries, native to Western Canada, as its main ingredient. They look much similar to blueberries but are smaller, nuttier, and sweeter. Other components include pie crust, flour, butter, sugar, and lemon juice. The thin-crust pie with flavorful berry filling tastes heavenly, especially when paired with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Figgy Duff is a traditional pudding originating in Newfoundland and Labrador. The word ‘figgy’ meant raisins in Cornwall, while ‘duff’ refers to the dough. Apart from raisins, ingredients like flour, molasses, breadcrumbs, butter, and brown sugar also go into the preparation. Orange zest, vanilla extract, or currants are optional, but make it more flavorful when included. The process of putting the mixture in a cloth bag and boiling or steaming it is pretty similar to the Scottish Clootie Dumpling. This rich sweet dish was typically a part of the Jiggs dinner, prepared and enjoyed on Sundays. Serving it with warm rum sauce, fruit custards, or whipped cream takes its taste to another level.
Flapper Pie is a classic Canadian prairie dessert prepared with a graham cracker crust, layered with a thick and creamy custard filling topped with soft and fluffy meringue. After sprinkling some breadcrumbs on top, it is baked and then cooled or chilled in the fridge before serving a slice of it. The sweet and spongy delight is a hit during any special occasion.
This frozen dessert is an orange-flavored ice cream drizzled all over with black licorice ribbon, resembling a tiger’s stripes. It was a common item in Canadian ice-cream parlors in the 20th century but is sold by retailers like Kawartha Dairy and Loblaws even today. It is also prepared and enjoyed in households to recreate childhood memories.
This fried sweet dessert earns its shape for resembling a beaver’s tail, Canada’s national animal. The yeast-leavened dough is made of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, warm milk, and salt. After resting it for some time and cutting it, each piece is hand-stretched to attain a tail-like shape. Once fried till golden brown, they acquire a crisp texture. Garnishes vary from Nutella and almond toppings to cinnamon and sugar sprinkles, best paired with a hot drink.
This simple fried bread is comfort food of the indigenous people of Canada. Simple ingredients like flour, melted butter, salt, baking powder go into making a dough. After shaping it into a flat circle, it is fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. Though traditionally prepared to make it last longer, it was later modified to suit the people’s tastes in the country. Toppings like cinnamon and sugar or condensed milk make it sweet and tastier.
Originating in a bakery in Thunder Bay, Ontario, these sugary rolls are like cinnamon buns. However, they have a smooth pink-colored icing on top, making them unique and different from other pastries. Flour, egg, butter, brown sugar, dry yeast, and cinnamon form the primary ingredients of the pastry dough. On the other hand, the icing is prepared by blending raspberries or strawberries with butter, whipping cream, and icing sugar. After spreading it on the deep-fried rolls, they are enjoyable at room temperature.
Maple Taffy is a favorite winter treat made by drizzling boiled maple syrup on fresh and clean snow. Once it hardens, it is pulled out with a popsicle stick. Served while the syrup is warm, it has a soft or slightly chewy texture with maple’s rich, pervading flavor. It is mainly prepared in Quebec’s sugar shacks or cabane à sucre and enjoyed by adults and kids alike.
These are some of the best Canadian desserts to indulge in throughout the year. Whether fried, baked, or frozen, they all are made with easily available ingredients but taste like no other.
Best Canadian Holiday Dessert: Nanaimo Bars, Butter Tarts, Flapper Pie
Traditional Canadian Dessert: Saskatoon Berry Pie, Butter Tarts, Pancakes with Maple Syrup
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