Sweet Traditions: 14 Holiday Desserts Worth a Trip

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Traditional Christmas Stollen with Candles in Background (Photo: Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 5, 2013. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Alicante, Anne Banas, Argentina, Australia, Barcelona, Dresden, England, France, Greece, Israel, Jamaica, Jijona, Lisbon, Milan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, Vienna.

(Photo: Christstollen via Shutterstock)

Equal parts sugar and tradition, holiday desserts the world over have stood the test of time. And what could be sweeter than experiencing a festive cake or cookie in the very place where it originated? As a travel editor and pastry chef, I always sample the local sweets wherever I go, learning everything I can about their fascinating histories and sometimes heading behind the scenes to see how they are made. You can, too. From witnessing a German baker knead dough into a classic Christmas fruitcake to indulging in jelly-filled Hanukkah doughnuts in Israel, here's the story on 14 internationally loved holiday treats and ways to enjoy them when you travel.

Christstollen, Germany


In Germany, few holiday treats stand out more than the Dresdner Christstollen. With a history dating back to medieval times, the sweet, enriched yeast cake has been cherished for centuries, especially once a pleasure-crushing butter ban was lifted in 1491. Since then, locals have made sure the stollen is baked with ample portions of all the luxe ingredients, from clarified butter and full-cream milk to candied citrus peel, sultanas, almonds, spices, and spirits (usually rum). Still handcrafted from old family recipes, each loaf is kneaded, rolled, proofed, and shaped into a tapered oblong roll with a ridge down the center (to represent the Christ Child in swaddling clothes), then dusted with powdered sugar to form a snow-white crust that melts in your mouth upon impact. Stollen season runs from October through December, but try to resist eating the cake too soon, as its flavors meld better the longer it ages.

Where to Find It:: There are multiple ways to experience stollen in Dresden. I went behind the scenes with the master baker at Schaubackerei Scheinert to learn how it's made—and to taste it; however, many of the city's other authentic bakeries sell the cake and offer baking demonstrations. There's also an annual festival, during which the highlight is a multiton giant stollen.

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