Grab your whisk, flour and measuring cups and preheat that oven – it’s time to get baking! One of the best things to do when you are travelling is sample the destination’s cuisine. What’s more, there is nothing quite as sweet as indulging in a classic/traditional baked treat from the country you are visiting! To celebrate World Baking Day this year, the Expat Explore team has put together classic baking recipes from across Europe that you can make at home!
World Baking Day has been growing in popularity since it started in 2012. It’s traditionally celebrated on the third Sunday of May (this year it falls on 16 May 2021). On the day, people will be busy in their kitchens creating their favourite cakes, pastries, biscuits and more. Take a look at our list of each country’s classic bakes (plus extras to check out!) and choose one to make at home.
The list covers France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Greece, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia and Spain.
From French croissants to Portugal’s Pasties de Nata, at least one of these recipes is sure to have your mouth watering! Whipping up a few of these baked goods can even help you feel like you are experiencing new parts of Europe while we wait for travel to open up again. Plus it will give you a headstart on knowing what tasty treats to try the next time you travel.
Top baking recipes from across Europe
France is all about pastries and delicate sweet fancies! French cooking and cuisine are famous worldwide for the preparation style, attention to detail and delicious dishes. The best known French pastries are croissants; check out the recipe below and challenge yourself to make a batch!
Time: 3 hrs 30 minutes (plus time for chilling dough overnight)
500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 ½ tsp salt
2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
Oil, for greasing
300g butter, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
Put the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Measure 300ml cold water into a jug, add the yeast and stir. Make a well in the flour and pour in the liquid. Mix, then knead on your work surface for 10 minutes. Shape into a ball, put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and chill for at least 2 hrs.
Put the butter between 2 sheets of baking parchment. Using a rolling pin, bash and roll it into a rectangle about 20 x 15cm. Leave wrapped in the baking parchment and chill.
Transfer the chilled dough to a floured surface and roll into a 40 x 20cm rectangle. Place the unwrapped slab of butter in the centre of the dough, so that it covers the middle third.
Fold one side of the dough up and halfway over the butter.
Fold the other side of the dough up and over the butter in the same way, so that the two edges of the dough meet in the centre of the butter.
Fold the dough in half so that the point where the ends of the dough meet becomes the seam. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling process (steps 3-6) twice more in exactly the same way – rolling the pastry while it’s still folded – without adding more butter. Wrap and chill overnight.
The next day, roll the dough out on a floured surface into a large rectangle, measuring about 60 x 30cm. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, trim the edges to neaten.
Cut the dough in half lengthways so that you have 2 long strips, then cut each strip into 6 or 7 triangles with 2 equal sides.
Take each triangle in turn and pull the two corners at the base to stretch and widen it.
Starting at the base of each triangle, begin to gently roll into a croissant, being careful not to crush the dough.
Continue rolling, making sure the tip of each triangle ends up tucked under the croissant to hold in place.
Bend the ends of the croissants inwards, then transfer to baking trays lined with baking parchment, spaced well apart. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for 2 hrs, or until doubled in size.
Heat oven to 200˚C/fan 180˚C/gas 6. Mix the beaten egg with a pinch of salt and use it to generously glaze the croissants. Bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and golden brown, then cool on wire racks.
Two more classic French treat recipes: Crêpes – easy to make, thin pancakes – and macarons which are sweet, meringue-based confections.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are famous for a number of classic savoury dishes. From fish and chips all the way to haggis! The United Kingdom is also known for a number of sweet baked goods. The Victoria Sponge is a classic!
Time: 1 hour (plus time for cooling)
200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk For the filling
100g butter, softened
140g icing sugar, sifted
Drop vanilla extract (optional)
Half a 340g jar good-quality strawberry jam
Icing sugar, to decorate
Heat oven to 190˚C/fan 170˚C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper.
In a large bowl, beat 200g caster sugar, 200g softened butter, 4 beaten eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 2 tbsp milk together until you have a smooth, soft batter.
Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Bake for about 20 minutes until golden and the cake springs back when pressed.
Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
To make the filling, beat the 100g softened butter until smooth and creamy, then gradually beat in 140g sifted icing sugar and a drop of vanilla extract (if you’re using it).
Spread the buttercream over the bottom of one of the sponges. Top it with 170g strawberry jam and sandwich the second sponge on top.
Dust with a little icing sugar before serving. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.
Italy is famous for being the home of pizza, pasta and gelato. It’s also well-loved for its sweet desserts! One of the most famous and most popular desserts is tiramisu. Take a look at the recipe here:
Time: 30 minutes
568ml pot double cream
250g tub mascarpone
5 tbsp golden caster sugar
300ml strong coffee, made with 2 tbsp coffee granules and 300ml boiling water
175g pack sponge fingers
25g dark chocolate
2 tsp cocoa powder
Put the double cream, mascarpone, marsala and golden caster sugar in a large bowl.
Whisk until the cream and mascarpone have completely combined and have the consistency of thickly whipped cream.
Pour the coffee into a shallow dish. Dip in a few of the sponge fingers at a time, turning for a few seconds until they are nicely soaked, but not soggy. Layer these in a dish until you’ve used half the sponge fingers, then spread over half of the creamy mixture.
Using the coarse side of the grater, grate over most of the dark chocolate. Then repeat the layers (you should use up all the coffee), finishing with the creamy layer.
Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Will keep in the fridge for up to two days.
To serve, dust with the cocoa powder and grate over the remainder of the chocolate.
Extra Italian recipes to try at home:Biscotti are Italian almond biscuits perfect for dipping in hot drinks. Cannoli originated in Sicily and are fried pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta filling – sounds delicious, right?
No trip to Greece is complete without indulging in the food! Gyros, dolmades, spanakopita, moussaka and more. This isn’t even listing the sweet desserts and bakes! While the origins of baklava may be disputed, it has definitely become a classic Greek treat to try. Take a look at baklava and a few more classic Greek baking recipes below:
Time: 2 hrs 40 minutes
For the baklava
25–30 sheets of phyllo dough
500g walnuts, chopped (or a mix of walnuts, pistachios and almonds)
2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp ground clove
300g butter, melted
Whole cloves for garnish (optional) For the syrup
80g honey or glucose
zest of 1 lemon or orange
1 cinnamon stick
To prepare this Greek baklava recipe, start by melting the butter in a saucepan over low heat, being careful not to burn it. Use a cooking brush to butter the bottom and sides of a baking pan. (For this baklava recipe you will need a large baking pan approx. 40 x 30cm). Begin by layering the sheets of phyllo on the bottom of the baking dish to form the base. Layer the sheets one at a time, making sure to sprinkle each one with melted butter. Use about 10-12 layers for the base.
In a large bowl, mix the chopped nuts, cinnamon and ground clove. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the phyllo base and continue forming the top of the baklava. Top the nuts with the rest of the phyllo sheets (10-15 of them), sprinkling each one with melted butter and brush the top of the baklava with enough butter. You could also try adding some of the filling in between layers of phyllo.
Place the baklava in the fridge for 15 minutes to make it easier to cut into pieces. Remove from the fridge and using a sharp knife cut all the way down into pieces. If you fancy the taste of clove, place one whole clove into the middle of each baklava piece and sprinkle the top with some cold water.
Place the baklava in a preheated oven at 150˚C/ fan 130˚C/ gas 2 on the lower rack (both top and bottom heating elements on) and bake for about 1 1/2- 2 hours, until all the phyllo layers are crisp and golden.
Prepare the syrup. Into a small pot mix all the ingredients for the syrup (except honey) and bring to the boil. Boil for about 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Take it off the heat and stir in the honey. Let the syrup cool down. You can also put the syrup in the fridge. As soon as the baklava is ready, slowly ladle the cold syrup over the hot baklava, until it is fully absorbed.
Let the baklava cool down completely and serve after the syrup has soaked throughput. Enjoy!
Two more sweet Greek recipes to try out: Bite-sized loukoumades are Greek doughnuts soaked in syrup or honey -yum! Many people will recognise the distinctive white-dusted kourabiedes (Greek almond shortbread) which are traditionally eaten at Christmas.
In Portugal, sharing a meal is an excellent way to gather family and friends. The same thing is true when it comes to Portuguese sweet treats! Pasties de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts) are the most famous and popular (and rightfully so!) Check out the recipe here:
Pasties de Nata
Time: 1 hour (plus time for cooling)
Difficulty: Easy-moderate (Note: You will need a mini muffin tray)
1 whole egg (large)
2 egg yolks (large)
115g golden caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
400ml full fat (creamy) milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin and pre-heat oven to 200˚C/fan 180˚C/gas 6
Put egg, yolks, sugar & cornflour in a pan and mix well together then gradually add the milk until the mixture is well mixed and smooth.
Place pan on medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Put custard in a glass/ceramic bowl to cool and cover with cling film to prevent skin from forming.
Cust pastry sheet into two pieces and place them on top of each other. Roll the pastry tightly, from the short side, into a log and cut the log into 12 even-sized rounds.
On a lightly floured board, roll each round into a disc (approx. 10cm) and press the pastry discs into the muffin tin.
Spoon in the cooled custard and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling although they can be eaten warm.
Another great Portuguese treat: Bola de Berlim are sweet Portuguese doughnuts that are sliced in half and filled with creamy custard.
While Germany may be well-loved for rich, hearty fare like bratwurst, sauerkraut and spätzle, the country is also home to delicious desserts! Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gâteau) is named after a beautiful region of Germany and this rich chocolate cake is filled with whipped cream and cherries, and is as delicious as it looks!
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gâteau)
Time: 1 hour (+ 1 hour for cooling)
75g salted butter, plus extra for greasing
200g bar dark chocolate
300g plain flour
375g golden caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs
200g buttermilk or natural yoghurt To assemble
425g can pitted cherries, 2 tbsp juice reserved, rest drained
100g morello cherry jam
4 tbsp kirsch (or more juice from a can if you want it to be non-alcoholic)
500ml tub double cream
3 tbsp icing sugar
1 small punnet fresh cherries (optional)
Heat oven to 180˚C/fan 160˚C/gas 4. Grease and line the base of 3 x 20cm cake tins. Boil the kettle. Put the butter and 75g chocolate broken into chunks in a small pan and gently heat, stirring until completely melted.
Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda with a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk or yoghurt together. Scrape the melted chocolate mixture and egg mixture into the dry ingredients, add 100ml boiling water and whizz briefly with an electric whisk until the cake batter is lump-free.
Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25 minutes, swapping the tins round after 20 minutes if they’re on different shelves. To test they’re done, push in a skewer and check that it comes out clean.
Prick the cakes a few times with a skewer. Mix together the 2 tbsp reserved cherry juice and the kirsch (or more juice) and drizzle over the cakes. Cool the cakes.
Mix together the remaining drained cherries and jam. Tip 200ml of the cream into a small pan and heat until just below the simmering point. Chop the remaining chocolate and put in a heatproof bowl, pour over the hot cream and stir until melted. Set aside until spreadable.
When the cakes are cool, whisk the remaining cream and the icing sugar together until softly whipped. Spread over two of the cakes, then spoon over the jammy cherries. Stack the cakes together. Spread the chocolate cream over the third cake and sit on top of the other cakes. Pile the fresh cherries in and around the cake and serve.
Try this German baking recipe next: Similar to a Portuguese Bola de Berlim, a Berliner is a German doughnut.
One of Belgium’s most well-known foods to try are Belgian waffles! The country is famous for a number of indulgent things to try including its waffles, chocolate and beer. Bring the mouthwatering allure of Belgium into your home with this recipe:
Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy (Do note, you will need a waffle maker)
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
Oil the waffle maker.
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, separate egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form.
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks, milk, oil, and vanilla, stir slightly.
Add to dry ingredients and mix well.
Fold in egg whites.
Cook in waffle iron on medium-high heat for around 5-10 minutes.
Another mouthwatering Belgian recipe to make at home:Mattentaart is a sweet puff pastry filled with cheese curds – these little cakes are a speciality of Geraardsbergen – a city in East Flanders, Belgium.
The Dutch have created a number of delicious sweet treats! When you visit the Netherlands you can’t leave without gobbling up a tray of poffertjes (tiny pancakes) or dipping a few stroopwafels or speculaas into a warm cup of coffee! Try out this poffertjes recipe at home:
Time: 35 minutes
Difficulty: Easy (Do note that you will need to use a special poffertjes pan)
1 ½ cups (350 ml) milk, heated to about 40°C
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1 ¾ cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling on poffertjes
Add yeast to lukewarm milk; stir to combine. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes or until frothy.
Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and egg. Beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth, about 1 minute.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let sit until bubbly and doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Heat poffertjes pan on medium heat until hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush cavities with melted butter. Add about 1 tablespoon of batter to each of the cavities. When small bubbles start to appear and the top starts to look a bit dried out, quickly flip poffertjes.
Allow poffertjes to cook on the other side until nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve hot with a pat of butter and sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar. Yield, about 60 poffertjes.
Extra Dutch recipes to whip up at home: Treat yourself to a few (dozen) speculaas cookies. Or go the whole hog and make traditional Dutch boterkoek (Butter cake)!
Austria is widely known for its imperial history, its magnificent architecture and its rich musical culture. The country is also home to a fair amount of sweet treats! Check out the recipe for sachertorte, a classic Austrian bake, here:
Time: +- 2 hrs 30 min
For the cake:
140g plain chocolate
140g unsalted butter, softened
115g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 free-range eggs, separated
85g ground almonds
55g plain flour, sieved For the topping and the icing
6 tbsp apricot jam, sieved
140g plain chocolate
200ml double cream
25g milk chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan 160˚C/gas 4. Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin then line the base with greaseproof paper.
Break the chocolate into pieces, melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally, then cool slightly. Beat the butter in a bowl until soft, then gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate and the vanilla extract and beat again. Add the egg yolks, then fold in the ground almonds and sieved flour. The mixture will be quite thick at this stage.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Add about one-third to the chocolate mixture and stir in vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
Bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until well risen at the top and the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.
To make the topping, heat the apricot jam in a small pan and then brush evenly over the top and sides of the cold cake. Allow to set.
Make the icing by breaking the plain chocolate into pieces. Heat the cream until piping hot, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted, then cool till a coating consistency. Then pour the icing on to the centre of the cake. Spread it gently over the top and down the sides, and leave to set.
For the ‘icing’ writing, break the milk chocolate into pieces then melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Spoon into a small paper icing bag or polythene bag and snip off the corner. Pipe ‘Sacher’ across the top and leave to set.
Try this Austrian baking recipe next: Apfelstrudel (Apple strudel) is a delicious traditional Viennese strudel that’s popular across many countries in Europe.
Green hills, sparkling blue lakes and fairytale castles; Slovenia is a land of storybook magic. It’s also a destination for sweet lovers! While you wait for the chance to visit, here is an iconic Slovenian cream cake from Lake Bled to create at home:
Time: 4 hrs 12 minutes
For the custard:
4 cups milk whole
12 egg yolks
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ tbsp vanilla sugar (vanilla-infused sugar)
3 packages gelatin, unflavored For the whipped cream, to be added to the custard:
3 cups heavy whipping cream full fat
3 packages vanilla sugar
2 tbsp powdered sugar For the pastry:
1 package puff pastry dough defrosted
Gently bring 4 cups of milk to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan. Separately, start a ban marie (add water to a saucepan, large enough to hold a large heatproof bowl without touching the water). Bring the water in the ban marie to a simmer.
In the meantime, in the medium mixing bowl, beat the 12 egg yolks with the white sugar and vanilla sugar, until the mixture becomes light and creamy.
While the milk is simmering and the custard mixture is prepared, prepare the gelatin. Boil a quarter cup of water and slowly pour the water over the gelatin in a small bowl. Stir until the gelatin completely dissolves. The custard, the gelatin and the simmering milk need to be ready at the same time. Be careful not to overheat/burn/scald the milk. And, don’t let the gelatin cool completely and set completely. The trick is to have all 3 elements at the same or very similar temperatures.
Once the milk is simmered, move the milk into the large bowl of the ban marie. The bowl should not touch the water, the ban marie is to create a gentle, even heat. With a whisk, slowly begin adding the custard mixture into the milk while the water continues at a light boil beneath. Once all the custard is incorporated into the milk, keep stirring until the custard is thicker, and coats the back of a spoon (about 15 minutes).
Gently heating the custard, and not overcooking it, takes patience. Try not to give up and turn up the heat to get results faster. Trust in the process, it will work!
At this point, turn off the simmering water while keeping the custard mixture in the bowl of the ban marie. Slowly add the prepared gelatin (from the small bowl, strain any lumps). Stir the custard mixture until the gelatin is thoroughly blended (about 5 minutes). Remove from the ban marie, let it cool completely at room temperature. Stirring occasionally, until it has reached room temperature.
After it reaches the correct room temperature (this should take about half an hour), place the custard mixture into the refrigerator.
The custard will continue thickening in the refrigerator. Stir every 15 minutes as it cools and sets in the fridge.
Once the custard is chilling in the refrigerator, start the whipped cream.
Whip the heavy whipping cream with vanilla sugar and powdered sugar until soft peaks form.
Combine the custard and the whipped cream mixture, gently folding together until all the cream is incorporated without deflating the whipped cream. Chill the custard/whipped cream mixture in the refrigerator until the puff pastry is ready.
Place the defrosted puff pastry sheets onto a lightly floured surface. Cut each sheet lengthways into thirds, then cut across into four even parts. You should get 12 slices of pastry squares per one sheet.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/fan 180˚C/gas 6. Place the 12 pastry squares onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, place another baking sheet on top of the pasty to keep them from puffing up too much. Bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly brown (remove the top baking sheet, and bake for longer if needed. The pastry should be light brown, and crispy). Repeat with however many pastry sheets you have.
Once baked, separate each puff pastry (using layers to separate each piece in two) to create a top and bottom, then set each piece together (in two parts) so you can compile the dish. Line a serving tray with half of the pieces (the bottoms of the kremsnita).
After placing the pastry pieces, mix the custard gently one last time, then pour it on top of the pastry pieces in the tray. Evenly spread the custard using an offset spatula, placing the baked pastry tops on the custard so they match the bottom pieces.
When ready to enjoy this delicious treat, dust liberally with powdered sugar, then carefully cut a chilled slice from the tray, cutting easily between the top pastry pieces as your guide.
Another Slovenian sweet treat to make at home:Potica is a Slovenian bread with a sweet, nutty filling and is traditionally enjoyed during all festive holidays!
Hola, Spain! The country is famous for its cuisine – from tapas sharing plates to colourful paella. Spain is the place to go to treat your taste buds to sweet and savoury creations. Take a look at this recipe for Turrón, a Spanish sweet treat, here:
Time: 15 minutes
⅔ cup honey 200g
½ cup confectioners sugar 8tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ lemon zest (approx ½ lemon or a little less)
1 egg white
3 cups ground almonds/300g almond flour
Line 2 15 x 10cm dishes with cling wrap/film.
Warm the honey over a medium-low heat in a skillet/frying pan. Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar and keep stirring until it is blended in. Continue to warm for a couple of minutes then add the cinnamon and lemon zest.
Mix the cinnamon and lemon in well then remove the pan from the heat and add the egg white. Whisk it in quickly to ensure it is well mixed. Don’t worry that it initially get white streaks, but do mix it well or you will get chunks of egg white in there even after mixing which you don’t really want.
Return the mixture to the heat, warm for a minute then stir in the ground almonds. Mix through well then divide evenly between the two lined dishes. Press the mixture down well, getting it into the corners and flattening the top.
Cover the top of the locks of turron with cling wrap/film (either folding in the sides or additional piece if needed) then weigh down the top (eg. with a bag of rice). Leave to chill and compress overnight in the fridge before removing by lifting up by the cling wrap/film. Cut into chunks to serve. Best kept refrigerated.
An extra Spanish recipe to tuck into:Churros are a fried doughy treat that is popular across much of the globe but originated in the Spanish and Portuguese regions. Try your own churros at home today!
Now that you have your pick of tasty European baking recipes, the next step is to pick the ones you want to create! Why not do some travel daydreaming while you wait for your dough to rise or for your mixture to chill? Start planning your next Europe vacation today.
Don’t forget to share some photos of your baked goods with us on Expat Explore’s social media!