If you are considering delving into European desserts then prepare yourself for just how varied they are.
While some desserts are commonly known around the world, each country has a range of sweet treats that are still easy to make.
A lot of them come with a sponge, a creamy filling, and have flavors based on chocolate, fruit, or berries. It also helps to set some time aside as some can take upwards of four hours to complete.
In this guide, we will look at 30 of the best European desserts. We will also include a bonus section dedicated to ice cream desserts.
Any list of European desserts should begin with the classic Italian dessert, Tiramisu. This heady mix of rum (though you can use Marsala), mascarpone cheese, and eggs is set to wow guests.
You can make it in advance but begin by making fresh Italian coffee, then closer to the time to serve it, whip up egg whites, beat egg yolks, and then incorporate mascarpone cheese.
Layer it all up with coffee-soaked ladyfingers, dust off with cocoa powder and serve in heady portions.
You may see a Black Forest Gateau at a special occasion such as a birthday or wedding in Germany, specifically the Black Forest region.
Similarly to Tiramisu, sponge is soaked and in this case it is soaked in kirsch which is a cherry syrup. That creates a moist cake which also includes whipped cream, sour cherries, and chocolate cake.
There are three cake layers in total which are covered in even more whipped cream and then topped with cherries, chocolate shavings, and even more whipped cream.
Another German dessert is Bienenstich, which translates to Bee Sting Cake. Hailing from Bavaria, the dessert could be classed as closer to a pastry than cake.
The filling is a pastry cream made from milk, vanilla extract, egg yolks, granulated sugar, flour, cornstarch, and liqueur.
All that filling is surrounded by a Brioche dough and then topped off with a honey-almond topping.
4. Sacher Torte
An exquisite Austrian dessert is Sacher Torte which was first made in 1832 to impress the guests of the Austrian State Chancellor.
The main cake is made from dark couverture chocolate, softened butter, six separated eggs, a vanilla pod, confectioner’s sugar, caster sugar, and wheat flour.
Warmed apricot jam is placed between, on the sides, and on top of halved portions of the baked cake.
On top of all that is a chocolate and sugar glaze which is poured over the top and allowed to set over a few hours.
5. Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta looks to be a dainty dessert yet you can make the classic Italian creation yourself. It may take over four and a half hours but it is worth it simply for that texture.
Bring milk, heavy cream, salt, and sugar to a simmer until the water has dissolved. Remove from the heat and separately heat up gelatin leaves in water then whisk it into the creamy mixture.
Cool the saucepan in an ice bath and then add the vanilla extract and divide between ramekins.
Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and leave to refrigerate for four hours. Once set, serve in the ramekins or try to invert onto a serving plate.
Serve immediately with a rich berry sauce for a delicious flavor variation.
For a more flavorful version of Panna Cotta, create this Chocolate Vanilla Tart. This still uses a typical vanilla Panna Cotta filling but comes in a chocolate pie tart.
Once the pie tart crust has baked and cooled, add the Panna Cotta mixture and allow it to set in the refrigerator overnight.
The berry sauce is added right at the end and can include any type of berries mixed with water and honey, simmered until the berries break down and then left to thicken before adding on top of the Panna Cotta.
7. Spanish Flan
Another dessert with a melt in the mouth texture is Spanish Flan. Only four ingredients are involved though you will need to keep ramekins warm while pouring in slightly browned sugar syrup.
The filling comes from a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla which is poured on top of the ramekins.
Bake until jiggly in a water-filled dish then chill in the refrigerator until set and the sugar syrup should be a delicious caramel coating.
You have probably tried Churros at a fair but you can make them at home too. Start by creating a batter from flour, salt, oil, water, and baking powder.
Transfer the batter into a piping bag and then cook in hot oil until golden and crisp.
Drain the churros on paper towels and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve while still hot with melted chocolate sauce.
French Palmier cookies only use three ingredients yet are a delicate, delicious dessert.
Roll out puff pastry sheets then spread on melted butter and sprinkle with sugar before repeating with another layer on top.
Roll the sheets to meet in the middle then slice them and bake while turning over halfway through. The puff pastry should expand and the sugar creates a lovely topping.
10. Arroz Con Leche
Essentially Spanish Rice Pudding, Arroz Con Leche is warm, comforting, and ideal in fall. Medium grain rice is rinsed, then placed in a pan with water, lemon zest, and a cinnamon stick then heated up.
Milk is gradually added and stirred while the rice absorbs the liquid. Finally, the cinnamon stick and lemon strip is removed while sugar is added and stirred so it dissolves.
From France comes Parfait which is a creamy dessert typically served with fruit.
The parfait itself is made from egg yolks, and heated sugar and water which is then whisked up into soft peaks with cream and vanilla extract.
Cooking the apples is a bit simpler as they are simply heated up until soft and create a delicious cinnamon syrup.
To assemble, layer up parfait with cooked apples and crushed Biscoff biscuits twice then drizzle on the cinnamon syrup.
Serradura is almost like a mini version of cheesecake with blitzed biscuits and whipped up heavy cream with vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk.
Alternate layers of biscuit crumbs and whipped cream form the dessert which ends with cream and more biscuits as a light garnish.
Refrigerate and, once ready to serve, add berries and chocolate shavings.
13. Crème Brûlée
Aside from a blowtorch, you will also need a vanilla pod to make a traditional Crème Brûlée.
Begin by placing the heavy cream and vanilla pod into a saucepan and bringing to the boil to infuse. In a bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks then gradually add the cream and pour into ramekins.
Cook them in a hot water bath in the oven until set and just trembling in the middle then refrigerate. Coat each ramekin with vanilla sugar and use a blowtorch to melt it to form that crispy top.
Granted, a soufflé can be one of the most difficult desserts to make but once you get it right, it’s sensational.
Just like a Crème Brûlée, you will need to use ramekins though these are filled with a batter from melted butter and chocolate. Whisked egg yolks, salt, and vanilla extract are added to the chocolate mixture.
In another bowl, egg whites are beaten with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Sugar is slowly added to form stiff and glossy peaks which are then folded into the chocolate mixture.
After being refrigerated, the mixture is poured into sugar and butter-coated ramekins and baked until the edges are set and there is a jiggle in the middle.
For a touch of true decadence, try to create these French Chocolate Truffles.
You only need four ingredients so place semisweet and finely chopped chocolate in a bowl then pour over heated heavy cream.
Add in vanilla extract and stir until the chocolate is fully melted. Leave to cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight so that the mix is spreadable.
Scoop out the ganache and roll into cocoa powder then chill before serving.
Another indulgent French dessert is Clafoutis which uses cherries which burst with color when baked. Eggs are beaten with confectioners’ sugar and milk then folded into flour with salt.
Simply grease a baking dish, pour in the batter then add the cherries and bake for between 35 and 40 minutes. Once ready to serve, sprinkle over some more confectioners’ sugar.
Though Sfogliatella looks like a French croissant, they come from Italy with a delicious filling. You will need a pasta machine to create the dough the day before.
On the following day, semolina is cooked in water and allowed to cool before a mix of ricotta, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and candied orange peel is added.
The assembly can be complicated yet they only take around 25 minutes to bake.
Though tricky to pronounce, this Danish red berry pudding is served cold with a topping of heavy cream.
You can use a range of berries but larger ones, such as strawberries and raspberries, should be cut to ensure they are all the same size in the mixture.
Bring the berries to a boil with water and vanilla extract and then simmer. Add dissolved potato starch then simmer for a few more minutes before allowing to cool and serving with cold heavy cream.
Appeltaart may seem like an apple pie yet the Dutch dessert is well worth creating. Create a pie crust or use a shop-bought one and then work on the filling.
Raisins are steeped in hot water then drained and added to apple slices with custard powder, sugar, and cinnamon.
Pour the filling into the pie crust and lay on pastry strips for a cute lattice pattern then cover in egg wash and bake until golden brown.
20. Arnhemse Meisjes
These small Dutch cookies go really well with coffee but form a great dessert on their own merits. Defrost some puff pastry or use it fresh and roll them out then cut out into cookies.
Sprinkle with a sugar mix of vanilla sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and lime zest then brush with egg wash and dip into the mix. Bake until golden brown and serve warm.
Some of the best European desserts are just so simple, like Swiss Pears and Chocolate. Use canned pears as the syrup will come in handy.
First, whip up whipping cream with sugar until thick then place the drained pears in a bowl and cover with the cream. Melt chocolate with the reserved syrup, leave to cool, spoon over, and chill it well.
Originating from Sifnos, an island in the Southern Aegean, Melopita is an easy and traditional Greek honey cake. Start by whisking together ricotta with honey, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs.
Grease a round pan with butter and then dust over cornstarch before pouring in the pie batter.
Bake until golden brown, allow to cool, and then flip onto a serving plate before adding more honey, a dusting of cinnamon, and perhaps some pomegranate seeds.
This Hungarian dessert does take some skill, not only do you need to create a vanilla bean-infused milk but flaky pastry (though you can buy the latter from the store).
Make sure that the pastry is golden before you add the delicious custard. This is where you use the vanilla bean-infused milk while you also have to fold the custard into egg white peaks.
Allow the custard to set then cut it into pieces and dust with powdered sugar.
The name of this Austrian dessert literally translates to ‘The Emperor’s Mess’, so you do not have to be truly dainty to create one.
Essentially, it is a light and fluffy pancake, topped with rum-soaked raisins and then fried in butter.
Not only that, the ‘mess’ is then created when the pancake is cut into pieces, covered with butter shavings and crystal sugar then caramelized.
Add on a dusting of caster sugar and cinnamon then you are finished.
25. Apple Strudel
Apfelstrudel, to give the dessert its full German name, can be really fun to make. Strudel dough is relatively straightforward though it does need to be rested for between an hour and 90 minutes.
Soaked and drained raisins are then mixed with Panko breadcrumbs, thinly sliced apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon.
More breadcrumbs are sprinkled onto the dough with melted butter while the whole mixture is rolled and divided into two strudel and baked.
This French dessert is simple, indulgent, and so delicious. A batter is created from creamed butter, granulated sugar, and eggs while rum and vanilla extract is beaten in.
Chopped apples are folded in then the cake is baked and inverted or the sides are removed if you are using a springform pan.
Served warm, it goes really well with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Cannoli may seem complicated yet the Italian dessert can be recreated at home for an impressive dessert. There is some preparation involved as the ricotta has to be drained for up to 24 hours.
Once the time has come, combine the ricotta with mini chocolate chips, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest then place in a pastry bag.
Pipe the filling into cannoli shells one end at a time then dip the ends into more chocolate chips and dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Most chocolate cakes are an indulgence yet this Swedish dessert should come sticky. Melted butter lines the pan and is coated with cocoa powder for an even coating.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder with sugar and add to melted butter in a saucepan.
Whisked eggs and vanilla extract are gently added then the cake is baked until the top is just set but the center remains gooey and sticky.
The chocolate cake should remain sticky when it is allowed to cool and dusted with powdered sugar.
29. Eton Mess
Another messy dessert is appropriately titled Eton Mess which also does not require any baking.
Essentially, this is a deconstructed Pavlova with whipped cream, strawberries (or whatever berries are in season), and mascarpone cheese.
You can use shop-bought meringues which are smashed together with the berries and cream then topped with more fresh berries.
30. Strawberry Fool
Begin by beating chilled whipped cream to become fluffy though you can add some extra flavors here.
Grand Marnier, Chambord, or just vanilla bean can provide a welcome variation that works with the strawberries.
Mash those strawberries with sugar and vanilla extract then spoon and fold them into the whipped cream.
You can mix up the serving by combining layers of whipped cream, mashed strawberries, and adding sliced strawberries as a garnish.
Bonus Section: Ice Cream Desserts
Ice cream is one of the most popular desserts worldwide yet the Italians are the masters of it. From Affogato to Gelato Al Pistacchio and simple Chocolate Gelato.
Affogato is such a simple Italian dessert that it only requires two ingredients. In a wide glass, place a scoop of your favorite gelato.
Working quickly, create a shot of espresso and pour it over the gelato. Grab a spoon and enjoy.
For such a rewarding Italian dessert, Gelato Al Pistacchio is relatively easy to make at home. Mix together cornstarch and sugar then heat up to a boil with milk and stir the mixture into eggs.
Fold in chopped pistachios and the custard should be just about ready to be churned in an ice cream maker until frozen. Simply store it in the freezer until ready to serve.
Just like Gelato Al Pistacchio, creating Chocolate Gelato is pretty simple. Heat up milk until simmering then add bittersweet chocolate until it melts.
In a bowl, mix together milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch then stir in the hot milk mixture.
Heat it up until thickened then leave the mixture to cool overnight in the refrigerator and leave in an ice cream maker until ready.
Are There any Jamaican Desserts That Are Similar to European Desserts?
When exploring incredible jamaican dessert recipes, you will find unique flavors that differ from European desserts. However, some similarities can be seen in certain dishes. The Jamaican fruit cake, made with rum-soaked fruits and spices, is reminiscent of European fruitcakes. Likewise, coconut drops and grater cake share similarities with European coconut-based sweets. While Jamaican desserts have their distinct flair, these few treats might display resemblances to their European counterparts.
For such a comparatively small area compared to the likes of America and Asia, Europe has such a varied number of desserts.
Each country has its own take on what to serve after a main meal. Whether it be an Eton Mess or a Strawberry Fool in England, Gelato in Italy, or Clafoutis and Crème Brûlée in France.
It also helps to balance out the heaviness of a meal with a lighter dessert so opt for creamy desserts with a particularly filling meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
While many believe that the Crème Brûlée is one of the most traditional French desserts, it is not the oldest.
That title goes to La Galette des Rois, which translates to King’s Cake. This is a traditional pastry which is used to celebrate the 6th of January in France, known as the Epiphany.
Around early January, pretty much every French bakery should be offering La Gallette des Rois.
A Black Forest Gateau may be very popular in Bavaria, but the Apple Strudel is known to be Germany’s favorite dessert.
However, the dessert actually originates in Austria but has crossed the border to be especially popular in the south of Germany.
Even outside of Germany, the sliced apple filling and flaky crust are well-liked. The flavor combinations of apple, cinnamon, and raisins go really well with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.