Besides being mouth-watering, Romanian desserts also give us a glance into the country’s diverse culture. From sugary pastry delicacies and layered cakes to sweet bread items, you will find a wide array of flavors and textures in them. A common ingredient primarily used as a sweet filling is banza de vaci or Romanian cow cheese.
Hungarian desserts like vargabéles and kürtőskalács have also been introduced to the Romanian cuisine due to the large Hungarian population in the Transylvanian region. They are now a favorite among the people of the whole country.
Papanași is a sweet and savory item traditionally made by mixing the egg dough with banza de vaci, a Romanian cow cheese. Feta cheese or cottage cheese is also used as a substitute nowadays.
Once fried, the donut-shaped dessert appears soft, fluffy inside, and crunchy on the outer side. Adding fruit jams and sour cream on top makes it tastier.
There’s also a boiled version of papanasi in which the dough is shaped into smaller sizes and coated with breadcrumbs and sugar to give a sweet and crispy touch.
Vargabéles, a delicious cake is prepared from thin wheat noodles folded in an egg mixture, placed between pastry sheets, and baked.
The filling can be made rich and flavorful by adding raisins, lemon zest, and vanilla. After dusting with powdered sugar, they are usually served hot or at room temperature. The varied textures and taste bursting inside the mouth make it a must-try dessert item.
There is a lot of speculation regarding its origin. Some sources say that it gets its name after Varga, a Hungarian who invented it. A few theories even mention it to appear for the first time on the menu of a restaurant at Darvas, in Romania.
Kürtőskalács, a tube-shaped pastry famous in Romania’s Hungary-speaking regions, is alternately known as chimney cake because of its unique, spiral shape replicating a chimney. After rolling the yeast dough in granulated sugar and brushing with butter, they are roasted on a brick oven or grill until the surface attains a golden-brown hue. During baking, the sugar on the kürtőskalács turns brown, becoming crispy and shiny. However, the electric ovens have replaced the brick varieties in the present time.
Toppings of walnut, powdered cinnamon, or powdered sugar make it enticing and even intensify the overall flavor. You could also include fillings of sweet cheese, whipped cream, or cocoa.
The recipe was found in the 18th century in a cookbook by Mária Mikes de Zabola, a Transylvanian countess. It was initially a delicacy of the upper class. Eventually, it became popular among the common mass, mostly sold as street food and even eaten during festivals.
Brânzoaică is a tasty dessert made with baked dough and sweet cheese filling. Adding lemon zest or orange peel and raisins makes it more aromatic. The unique technique used to fold them includes enclosing the edges of the small square-shaped dough after putting in the filling.
Once baked, they are served hot with powdered sugar sprinkled on top. It is not overly sweet, making it an instant favorite for even those who don’t crave sweet delicacies.
Plăcintă cu mere or apple pie is a favorite bakery dessert in Romania. It is prepared with two baked doughs consisting a filling of grated apples, sugar, and cinnamon.
Additional flavors of orange zest and vanilla sugar also go into it. It has a pastry-like texture consumed after being topped with powdered sugar.
Though mostly eaten as a dessert accompanied with ice cream or custard, many enjoy it as a breakfast dish or a snack as well. Upon eliminating the eggs and dairy items from the dough, one could eat it as a sweet dish when fasting.
Pască is a sweet bread consisting of a rich, creamy filling of branza de vaci or ricotta, lemon zest, and raisin. A braided dough forms the round edge of the cheesecake, with the filling sitting in the middle.
Light and fluffy in texture, pască is a favorite item of the Easter feast and also popular in other celebrations like Christmas or even during weddings.
Mucenici is a traditional Romanian pastry, made with a sweet dough boiled in flavorful water of spices, walnuts, and sugar. It results in sweet pasta soup enriched with nuts and infused with a faintly sweet and cinnamony aroma.
The word translates into martyr as it is typically prepared on March 9 during the feast of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. They were a group of Romanian soldiers drowned in water for embracing Christianity. While the twisted sweet dough resembling the number 8 represents their bodies, the flavorful water in which it is boiled alludes to the lake where they were drowned.
Frigănele is tasty and wholesome, making it a perfect breakfast item. It is basically the sweet version of French toast in which the bread is dipped in a mixture of eggs and cinnamon and topped with a fruit jam or powdered sugar.
Joffre, a fancy-looking cake, stands perfect for any special celebration. The layered dessert comprises a combination of chocolate and buttermilk, filled with chocolate ganache. A frosting of chocolate buttercream elevates its attractive appearance.
Originally created in honor of Joseph Joffre, the French military commander who visited Romania right after the First World War, it was a diabetic-friendly dessert as he himself had diabetes. The cake’s shape and size is believed to be similar to Adrian’s helmets, worn by his Romanian and French troops during the war.
Clătite is simple and easy to prepare crepe with a sweet filling. The batter is spread thinly on a girdle and filled with ingredients of one’s choice like sliced fruits, homemade jams, or chocolate spread. Lemon zest or cinnamon sugar are also added to get a sugary, spicy, and sour taste. They are delicious, mainly found at the food trucks and walk-up windows.
Cozonac is a yeast bread having a soft, chewy texture. A popular Christmas and Easter delicacy, it is slightly sweet and tangy due to the flavorings of lemon and orange zest. A nutty filling goes inside the twisted dough, making it rich and tastier. Once baked, it becomes fluffy and attains a spiral pattern. It is best enjoyed with hot tea or coffee.
Carpatis are sponge cakes, also known as Carpatian Mountain Cakes, due to their towering shapes. It consists of eight layers, all baked separately, with chocolate ganache in between. A chocolate lover’s delight, it is topped with a chocolate glaze and covered with shredded coconuts. They are sweet and moist, usually served during special occasions like Christmas or Easter.
Romanian desserts are satisfying with their delicate flavors. While these are some of the best ones, there’s more to the list that are equally mouth-watering. Desserts like Prăjitură cu caise, Gogoși and Amandine deserves a special mention.
Best Romanian Christmas Desserts: Cozonac, Carpati, Pască
Traditional Romanian Desserts: Papanași, Mucenici, Kürtoskalács
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