Cuban Sweets and Pastries

Cuban Sweets and Pastries

On the tropical island where sugar cane is one of the main commodities along with the rum made of the very same sugar, and where the enormous abundance of tropical fruits make up a great deal of the local diet, it is only natural to expect the richness of dessert cuisine. Pair it with the strong Spanish influence to which Cuba had been exposed for centuries, and you will get the colorful gamut of Cuban desserts, the most notable of which are featured here!
Image Courtesy of: Popo le Chien

1. Flan - Authentic Cuban Sweet

Flan - Authentic Cuban Sweet
Image Courtesy of: Popo le Chien
Originated in ancient Rome and later adopted by the Spaniards who then introduced it to Cuba, this initially savory dish has eventually evolved into a sweet, smooth, creamy and fragrant custard dessert – a blend of caramel, sugar, and vanilla sauce, resting on a soft, spongy base – something you would definitely want to enjoy after a delightful meal. Egg custard, milk (condensed or evaporated), vanilla extract and sugar are its base ingredients. Cinnamon stick, lemon zest and caramel sauce are often added, for taste, as well. In some recipes, cinnamon is replaced with anise. Sometimes, they also make flan with a coconut, guava or rum raisin topping. Yummi all the same!
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2. Pastelitos de Guayaba - Tempting Guava Pastries

Pastelitos de Guayaba - Tempting Guava Pastries
Image Courtesy of: Kim
The undisputed winner of the Cuban breakfast pastry category, these delightful, small and easy-to-make pastries – sweet or savory – are just as good fresh from the oven as they are the day after. Most often, Cuban pastelitos appear as the flaky pastry dough glistening with a crisp, sugary glazed, puffy exterior, stuffed with delicious guava jelly – a combination of guava paste and cream cheese. In some cases, pineapple and/or coconut variations are also possible.
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3. Arroz con Leche - Famous Cuban Rice Pudding

Arroz con Leche - Famous Cuban Rice Pudding
Image Courtesy of: Dario Alvarez
Another delicacy introduced by the Spaniards to Cuba, to become the essence of the local comfort food, is this sweet and velvety marvel of a rice pudding. Made with rice, milk, sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon, that agitates your taste buds, this fragrant dessert may also include raisins and a hint of citrus to compliment the sweet creaminess of its liquid sauce. A definite not-to-miss one!
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4. Natilla - Tasty Cinnamon and Vanilla Custard

Natilla - Tasty Cinnamon and Vanilla Custard
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Natilla is a type of vanilla pudding made of cornstarch, milk, sugar, lime peel and, of course, vanilla itself. Its creamy custard gel is made with milk and eggs, and is typically accompanied with a rich sprinkle of citrus and cinnamon dust, as a garnish. Unlike English custard, Natilla is a standalone delicasy that does not need the accompaniment of a sponge cake. Wise!

5. Churros - The Irresistible Snack

Churros - The Irresistible Snack
Image Courtesy of: Krista
Similarly to their Spanish counterparts, Cuban churros are long, thin, crispy sticks of deep-fried dough dusted with sugar powder and consumed dipped into a thick hot chocolate, which is then drunk to the last drop, if there's left any. Unlike Spain, however, where churros are a breakfast snack, in Cuba they are treated merely as a dessert. Churros are easy to make and just as easy to enjoy, an ideal treat for those craving something sweet and fried, all in one.

6. Brazo de Gitano - Mouth-Watering Cake Roll

Brazo de Gitano - Mouth-Watering Cake Roll
Image Courtesy of: Benjwong
Literally translating as "Gypsy's arm", Brazo de Gitano is a rolled sponge cake layered with a jelly filling of one of Cuba’s most favorite fruits – guava, topped with shredded coconut and some other candied fruits. While the combination of the light and airy cake and creamy filling make it incredibly satiating, the guava jelly gives it a nice kick.

7. Buñuelos de Viento

Buñuelos de Viento
Image Courtesy of: Tamorlan
These appetizing fritters are the distant cousins of doughnuts. Fried pastry balls made of boiled cassava (yucca) and arum (malanga) mixed with egg yolks, sugar, anise and flour, and then either dusted with sugar powder or covered in whipped cream, or drizzled with either maple or anise syrup or the one made of sugar, cinnamon, lemon and vanilla, Buñuelos de Viento are the traditional Christmas treat in Cuba. They are extremely light and crispy, and make a perfect teatime snack to keep one's hunger at bay. Always served warm.

8. Turrones – Traditional Cuban Nougats

Turrones – Traditional Cuban Nougats
Image Courtesy of: Tamorlan
Another traditional Cuban dessert, imported from Spain, is turron – the nougat made of nuts, honey, sugar and egg whites. There are several major flavors of turron, such as chocolate, cream-walnut, honey, and fruit. The most popular in Cuba, however, is called turrón de maní (peanut nougat), of which there are two types: blando – for which ground peanuts are pressed into bars, mixed with brown sugar; and duro – coarsely chopped roasted peanuts bound together with caramelized sugar and honey. The sweet and crunchy turron is a healthy and much loved traditional Cuban holiday treat, widely available all over the country in both, snack-size bars and two-pound family loaves.

9. Tocinillo del Cielo - Typically Cuban Dessert

Tocinillo del Cielo - Typically Cuban Dessert
Image Courtesy of: Luis Villa del Campo
Often, and erroneously so, referred to as “Tocino del Cielo,” which means “Bacon from Heaven,” this “distant cousin” of flan has no trace of bacon in it whatsoever (nor does it taste or look like bacon for that matter). Its main ingredients are sugar, water, and egg yolks. While the origin of the snack's name remains a mystery, it doesn't cause any detriment to its popularity in Cuba. Eggy in taste and beautifully aerated and tender in texture, Tocinillo del Cielo is sweeter and lighter on the palate than Flan. Its two major flavors – lemon-citrus and almond – are equally delicious.

10. Merenguitos – Easy-to-Make Cuban Merengues

Merenguitos – Easy-to-Make Cuban Merengues
Image Courtesy of: Andrés Moreira
Whisked eggs and sugar, paired with a cream of tartar, to harden the mixture, plus a few drops of lime or vanilla essence, to enhance the taste, produce the so simple to make, yet so much elegantly looking and crunchy drops of biscuity heaven, a true delight to nibble on, whenever you want. The Cuban Merenguitos resemble lemon pie topping, only drier and puffier, and go extremely well with coffee or tea.

11. Pastel de Queso de Guayaba - Authentic Guava Cheesecake

Pastel de Queso de Guayaba - Authentic Guava Cheesecake
Image Courtesy of: Roozitaa
In addition to the obligatory cream cheese, sugar and butter – the key ingredients of any cheesecake, the authentic Cuban guava cheesecake demands the presence of guava – a delicious fruit with distinct tropical flavor, well-loved in Cuba – in the form of guava paste and guava marmalade topping. The recipe calls for canned, poached, guava shells to contribute greatly to the blended fruit puree that makes this particular cheesecake stand out in terms of flavor and appearance. The tanginess of guava, complete with the cheesiness of the cake, makes it a unique dessert that is equally refreshing and rich, and will make you feel like it has been the best part of your meal. The coral pink guava cheesecake pairs perfectly well with a cup of strong Cuban coffee.

12. Cake de Ron - A Classic Cuban Christmas Dessert

Cake de Ron - A Classic Cuban Christmas Dessert
Image Courtesy of: Kent Wang
One cannot imagine traditional Cuban holiday without a rum cake – a moist cake baked in either Bundt or ring-shaped pan and boasting a complex Caribbean flavor influenced by lemon zest, vanilla, whipped cream, banana liqueur and, ideally, a generous dollop of dark rum. Courtesy of the classical banana/rum combination, that will tickle your gustatory receptors, a single bite of this delicious cake will see you carried away to the tropics in an instant.
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