Cakes have been raising spirits and clearing gloom since ovens were invented.
There’s no situation too big or too minor for cake.
No major milestone in life can be passed without cake marking the occasion, and few bad moods cannot be temporarily cured by several forkfuls of the sweet stuff.
Here are our favorite cakes from around the world.
The classics, the mainstays, the slices that have conquered dessert menus and the hearts of diners everywhere.
Its name says it all. Meaning “pick me up” in Italian, tiramisu is a sugary, caffeinated spot-hitting cake found on Italian menus all around the world.
It should be made from layers of ladyfingers dipped in coffee and heaped with mascarpone cheese whipped with eggs and sugar, but many modern versions use sponge cake instead and some add coffee liqueur to give an extra kick.
It’s such a popular treat in Italy and beyond that Bar Pompi in Rome has made a name for itself on tiramisu alone.
The cake there is made in many different flavors such as strawberry and pistachio.
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Germany: Black Forest Cake
This chocolate sponge cake with cherries has unfortunately gained a fusty reputation outside of its native Germany, but the authentic version is a boozy gourmet affair.
Its German name is Schwarzwalder kirschtorte and it must be made with kirschwasser – cherry brandy.
And we’re not just talking about a splash or two; recipes can call for up to half a cup of kirsch to be added to the cherry filling.
With the addition of whipped cream, each bite is like eating a cocktail – it’s an exciting, grown-up party in the mouth.
Cafe Schaefer is reputed to have the original recipe for Black Forest Cake, invented by Josef Keller in 1915.
United States: Cheesecake
We could’ve gone with any number of American classics here, so apologies to chocolate brownies, red velvet cake and many others.
Instead, we went for cheesecake.
As far back as ancient Greek times, people have been eating sweetened lumps of cheese, similar to the modern cheesecake.
The Romans also had a baked version, although we would hardly recognize it as the one we know and love today – it was made with lots of honey and aromatic bay leaves.
The contemporary cold cheesecake was only made possible after the invention of cream cheese in the late 1800s.
It later became a fad in New York, where it continues to be popular.
Despite being made of cheese, sugar and eggs on a crust of crushed cookies, the cake has survived numerous dieting onslaughts.
Junior’s is a Brooklyn diner established in the 1950s that’s synonymous with cheesecake. It now has branches all over, all dispensing the same revered slices.
Malaysia/Singapore: Pandan Cake
The radioactive hue of this cake belies its natural woodsy flavor.
Essentially a chiffon cake, it’s infused with green-colored juice from the pandanus palm, an ingredient as common as salt in Southeast Asian cooking.
The pandan leaf flavors everything from sticky rice, chicken and curry to super-sweet, bite-sized kueh.
When married to fluffy-yet-moist chiffon cake, it’s a revelation.
The green cakes are particularly loved in Malaysia and Singapore where Pine Garden’s Cake makes one of the best.
A branch of the popular Bengawan Solo cake shop is conveniently located at Singapore’s Changi Airport as a perfect last stop on your trip.
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It wouldn’t be a classic French cake if the ingredient list didn’t contain a dash of modernist experimentalism, and so – voila – we present the madeleine.
Novelist Marcel Proust famously namechecks madeleines in his enormous tome “Remembrance of Things Past,” writing of how chomping into one unleashes a flood of childhood memories.
Nope, we haven’t read it either, but like everyone else we’re hoping to appear smarter by mentioning this classic “Proustian moment.”
Proust’s were apparently slightly on the dry side, but these simple scallop-shaped little delicacies are best when light, buttery and fluffy – and preferably fresh out of the oven.
Everyone has their favorite bakery, but Ble Sucre boulangerie in Paris’s District 12 is noted for the delicious lemony glaze on its maddies.
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Bits of plain sponge cake are given new life as Lamingtons, with chocolate coatings and coconut sprinkles.
The Australian staple is named after Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901.
The sweet lumps are now an Australian national icon.
To get old-school Lamington goodness, Candied Bakery, just outside of Melbourne, is always a good choice.
They use a zesty raspberry jam as a filling and a chocolate ganache coating with the quintessential shredded coconut dusting.
Candied Bakery, 81A Hudson’s Rd, Spotswood, +03 9391 1335
New Zealand: Pavlova
Named after one of the world’s most famous ballerinas – the Russian dancer Anna Pavlova – this cake sure does justice to its namesake.
Made by beating egg whites stiff with sugar and slow-baking the batter, the Pavlova is served overflowing with summer fruits heaped on top.
One bite through the crunchy, crispy meringue casing and we get to the soft, light marshmallowy center – it satisfies without being stodgy.
The invention of the Pavlova has long been a point of contention between Australia and New Zealand, but was recently resolved.
In its relaunched online edition, the Oxford English Dictionary says the first recorded Pavlova recipe appeared in New Zealand in 1927.
Wellington’s Floriditas is famous for its brown sugar Pavlova topped with seasonal fruit.
Hong Kong: Ma Lai Go
Cake for breakfast, anyone?
If you’re having Cantonese-style dim sum, chances are that’s just what you’re gonna get.
The “ma lai go” is a sponge cake steamed in a bamboo basket and is part of the repertoire of dishes in a classic dim sum meal, typically taken during the morning.
Made from flour, eggs, butter, lard and brown sugar, fermented for a long time to give the cake that extra puffiness, the ma lai go has an addictive caramel flavor and a satisfying chewiness.
For one of the most authentic versions, there’s Lin Heung Teahouse, where a huge ma lai go is served from an oversized bamboo steam basket.
Its appearance in the dining room always causes a mild commotion as diners fight to get their share of the tall, pillowy chunks.
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Mexico: Tres Leches Cake
A dessert that can make grown men swoon and giggle, the tres leches cake is one to be reckoned with.
It’s a very light sponge cake soaked in a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and regular milk – the three milks that give it its name – then coated in lashings of whipped cream.
Although sinfully rich, it somehow manages to be delicate and airy.
The “pastel de tres leches” can be found in many Latin American cities, but is rarely bettered than at Mexico’s Macram bakery.
Macram Bakery, Av. Patriotismo 165, Escandon, Miguel Hidalgo, 11800 Ciudad de Mexico, D.F. Mexico, +52 55 5516 6289
Austrian Kaiser Franz Joseph I was particularly fond of fluffy pancakes, but he had to have them shredded up into little pieces and drenched in a fruit sauce.
This mess of sweetness is now known as kaiserschmarrn, a specialty dish that can sometimes be had as a main course in its native land.
Head to Viennese institution Cafe Central for a small mountain of thick, torn-up pancakes, caramelized and perfectly paired with a scarlet plum sauce.
Uruguay: Postre Chaja
Resembling a mutated version of a Pavlova, postre chaja is a Uruguayan cake with layers of soft cake, cream and (usually) peach encased in a meringue shell.
Created by teahouse owner Orlando Castellano in the early 1900s, the cake is named after the chaja, a South American bird known in English as a crested screamer.
The original recipe for a postre chaja remains an undisclosed secret with the Castellano family.
The family, in its third generation since Orlando Castellano, still runs the factory Confiteria las Familias in the city of Paysandu.
It also has a retail store in Montevideo.
Postre Chaja Confiteria las Familias, 26 de Marzo 3516, Montevideo, Uruguay/18 de Julio 1152, Paysandu.
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Great Britain: Victoria Sponge
In the land of afternoon teas and the world’s best-known royal family, one cake rules them all: the Victoria sponge.
Named after sweet-toothed Queen Victoria, this concoction regularly tops polls to discover the nation’s favorite.
There’s nothing lavish about a Victoria sponge. It comprises two light and buttery sponges that sandwich raspberry jam and – although purists would argue against it – whipped cream.
It’s then sprinkled with icing sugar.
The simple treat is said to be the ultimate cake challenge for bakers – as its basic recipe offers no room for error.
Britain’s century-old Women’s Institution declares the Victoria sponge as its icon as well as the best bake to test the performance of a new oven.
The tearoom of Brown’s Hotel in London – where Queen Victoria once hung out to enjoy tea and cakes – is the ideal place for a slice of the British classic.
Just when you thought you couldn’t possible eat any more food after finishing mountains of doner and dolma, four complimentary pieces of baklava arrive as a post-dinner snack.
And a miracle happens – you devour them without a wince.
Baklava, served alongside tea and fruits, is a popular and addictive way to round off a meal in Turkey.
The Turkish sugary bomb consists of layers of filo filled with pistachio and soaked in syrup.
In 2013, Baklava in Gaziantep province gained protected status for agricultural products and foodstuffs by European Union – the first Turkish product to receive such a status.
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Indonesia: Lapis Legit
Imagine stacking up 18 fluffy sponge cakes then compressing them into one; you’ll get a beautifully layered lapis legit.
With a recipe that calls for an unforgiving amount of butter – the best one uses only Dutch Wijsman butter – and egg yolks, Indonesia’s lapis legit is sweet, moist and firm.
It’s also packed with spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Inspired by European layered cakes with an Asian twist, lapis legit was first created during the Dutch colonial era.
Baking a lapis legit is a laborious task – it’s painstakingly created layer by layer in a process that takes hours.
Therefore, it’s considered a prized treat during local holidays in Indonesia.
Harlie Lapis Legit is a family-run business selling uber-neat homemade lapis legit – usually up to 20 or 22 layers – since 2005.
Its orders come from across Indonesia, as well as neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.
Harlie doesn’t have a store but takes orders online and by phone.
Sweden: Swedish Princess Cake (Prinsesstarta)
Prinsesstarta, or Swedish princess cake, is so beloved that the country dedicates an entire week to the cake.
The celebration takes place in the last week of September when the sales of cake are boosted by discounts.
Like its name, there’s nothing low-maintenance about the dome-shaped concoction.
Sponge, jam, custard and whipped cream are assembled in layers.
It’s then blanketed with a sheet of (usually green) marzipan.
A marzipan rose is crafted as a garnish atop the dome.
It’s claimed the cake was first whipped up by Jenny Akerstrom, a baking instructor to the Swedish princesses in the early 1900s.
Stockholm’s Vete-Katten is the best place for a Swedish fika experience (a break for coffee and pastries).
The forever-popular Vete-Katten and its cakes haven’t changed much – if at all – since its opening in 1928.
Japanese anime fans would recognize this cake as the biggest obsession of Doraemon, a cartoon robot cat.
A dorayaki combines two of Japan’s most popular confectioneries – Castella sponge cake shaped into a pancake patty forms a sandwich around a filling of anko (sweet adzuki red bean paste).
The small disc-shaped cake is named after a dora, which means gong in Japanese.
Legend says it was invented by an elderly couple who dished up pancakes cooked on a gong left by an injured samurai they tended to during the Edo era.
Seijuken in Tokyo, a historic confectioners founded more than 150 years ago, is said to serve some of the best handmade dorayaki in Japan’s capital.
Its generous anko filling takes up to four or five hours to stew.
The shop also stocks a range of other iconic wagashi: traditional Japanese confections.
Danish cakes may not be as famous as the country’s namesake pastry, but they’re just as visually impressive.
Kransekage in Danish (or kransekake in Norwegian) is the most spectacular of them all.
It’s composed of stacks of different-sized ring cakes made from egg whites, sugar and almonds, with the smallest ring on top.
In Denmark and Norway it’s a traditional celebration cake – usually for weddings or on New Year’s Eve.
The rings are decorated with wavy icing and small national flags.
One of the best places to get a kransekage is Conditoriet La Glace, which claims to be the oldest confectioner in Denmark.
Most of the interior decoration and furniture in this family bakery dates back to 1870, when it first opened.