Europe's Best Pastries, Ranked From Good to Can't Live Without
Whether it's a breakfast pastry, an addition to afternoon tea or a decadent follow-up to a meal, pastries are temptresses even the strongest-willed cannot resist.
European Pastries, Ranked
There is a reason the world's best restaurants employ pastry chefs: No one can resist a delicious pastry.
Whether it's a breakfast pastry, an addition to afternoon tea or a decadent follow-up to a meal, pastries are temptresses even the strongest-willed cannot resist — especially when they hail from Europe! (Just try to pass a bakery window filled with these treats, we dare you!)
But which country has the best pastries? We left it to social media to decide (because, even after taste tests, it's just too tough for us to call!). These are the pastries that appear in social media hashtags the most, working as a makeshift decider for our ranking. But, honestly, we'll let your sweet tooth decide.
50. Armenian Gata
Also popular in Georgia and Azerbaijan.
This puff pastry filled with khoriz (a mixture of flour, butter and sugar) can also be made with nuts and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on where you are.
While many are large, round pastries that are sliced and shared, some can be individual-sized. These are especially popular at weddings and festive occasions.
49. Serbian Herovke
This deep-fried treat is popular in the Slovak community. It's not quite like traditional fried dough in that this recipe incorporates sour cream and local schnapps, called rakija, and then the dough is cut and cooked in strips.
Once fried, the strips get rolled into powdered and vanilla sugar. They also offer a savory version.
48. Greenlandic Kalaallit Kaagiat
Also popular in Denmark.
As a Danish colony, the Danes brought Kalaallit Kaagiat to the islanders of Greenland who now enjoy this pastry with coffee.
More a sweet bread than a cake, it is made with sugar and raisins.
47. Swiss Carac
The Swiss do love their chocolate. In this brightly colored tart, dark chocolate fills the pastry and is topped with a green icing and a ganache (more chocolate).
Only the crust is baked. The chocolate is melted and hardens within the shortbread tart that is one of the most popular in the French areas of Switzerland.
46. Scottish Fern Cakes
This classic tart in Scotland is named for the fern of chocolate decorating the top.
The cake is made with almonds, jam and sugar with a fondant icing of sugar glazing the tart's surface.
45. Russian Ptichye Moloko
Meaning "bird's milk," ptichye moloko is a soufflé cake made with gelatin.
It's made using unflavored gelatin to create a layer of white chocolate "mousse" atop a light sponge cake, with a chocolate glaze frosting the top. It is served with whipped cream.
44. Georgian Gozinaki
Similar to a granola bar without the oats, gozinaki is a traditional Georgia dessert made with chopped walnuts, hazelnuts and peanuts sealed together by honey.
This dessert is a feature among New Year's desserts but is eaten throughout the year.
43. Bosnian Gurabija
Also popular across the Balkans.
The Balkans region has a shortbread cookie that gets its flavor from vanilla, lemon zest, and dried fruits and nuts. Just as peanut butter cookies in the U.S. get decorated by fork tines, the gurabija is decorated with a knife or fork.
In Bosnia, however, a sugar cube gets pressed into the cookie's center before it is baked, adding extra sweetness. Sometimes, nuts or dried fruit are also baked into the center.
42. Swedish Strava
Strava, or rosettes, are paper-thin fried doughs with sugar that are made by dipping delicately shaped irons into a batter and then quickly frying.
Most often a treat for Christmas, these pastries are not only fun to eat but also fun to make!
41. Moldovan Cusma lui Guguta
Also popular in Romania.
Guguta's hat is a pastry that dates back to a Moldovan folk story about a man who wore a giant hat to cover everyone under it during the harsh winters.
Made with rolled crepes or pancakes, it is filled with preserved cherries, sugar and sour cream and topped with shaved chocolate and icing.
40. Estonian Kohuke
Also popular in Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia.
This "little curd" dessert of Estonia is a dairy pastry of sweetened and pressed curd cheese. (It's a bit like cheesecake.)
The cheese is coated with a chocolate glaze that hardens and first debuted during the Soviet era. Now, it's a popular pastry in multiple countries.
39. Albanian Makroudh
Also popular in Malta and across Northern Africa.
This sweet diamond-shaped pastry features traditional flavors of the Mediterranean: It is filled with dates and nuts (or an almond paste).
After baking, the pastries are tossed in a sweet syrup or honey — very sticky and very yummy!
38. Irish Barmbrack
This sweet bread is a favorite in Ireland, often coupled with a hot cup of tea. Although it is traditionally served during Halloween with small trinkets and coins added as a treat, you'll find it (sans trinkets) year-round at bakeries.
When not filled with surprises, it's filled with raisins, glacé cherries and sultanas. Of course, the bread is eaten with proper Irish butter.
37. Icelandic Kleina
Also popular in other Nordic countries.
It's difficult to pass up a kleina with coffee, no matter the time of day in Iceland.
Similar to a doughnut, these fried dough rolls are shaped into trapezoids and can be topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon.
36. Ukrainian Medivnyk
Also popular in Poland as miodownik.
Medivnyk, meaning honey cake, is just that — layers upon layers of honey cake. In between the layers of cake made with honey is a cream and jam.
35. Finnish Tippaleipa
Referred to as funnel cakes in the U.S., this deep-fried batter pastry uses a lemon flavoring in the dough for a tartness that blends well with the powdered sugar dusted on top.
The cakes are especially popular as a May Day treat in Finland.
24. Lithuanian Kibinai
The national dish of Lithuania, the kibinai is both a meat pie meal and a fruit-filled dessert pie.
As a dessert, kibinai is often made with apples, plums and/or blueberries with creme fraiche. It is then fried and topped with sugar or cinnamon.
33. Norwegian Krumkake
Take a thin Norwegian waffle cookie made with sugar, vanilla and eggs, and roll it into a cone to create the beloved krumkake of Norway.
Next, fill it with whipped cream and you're dessert-ing like a Norwegian.
32. Danish Drømmekage
Contrary to its name, the Danish originated in Austria. While popular in Denmark (known as Wienerbrod or Viennese bread), the drømmekage was, in fact, created in Denmark and is the country's go-to pastry.
This "dream cake" is made with dark brown sugar and shredded coconut. It's often served with a side of cream.
31. Liechtenstein's Dreikonigskuchen
Also popular in Switzerland and the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Known as a King Cake, this special pastry is enjoyed on the 12th day of Christmas in Liechtenstein, which is Jan. 6. (Others enjoy the pastry to celebrate Mardi Gras or Carnival before Lent.)
The cake is actually a sweet roll made with almond, milk, lemon, sugar and often an apricot jam filling, and you can still find it at bakeries outside of the holiday.
30. Bulgarian Banitsa
Also found in Serbia and Croatia.
The banitsa phyllo pastry can be sweet or savory.
As a dessert, the phyllo dough pastry is filled with feta cheese and either milk or yoghurt.
29. Slovenian Prekmurska Gibanica
Also popular in Croatia, Serbia and the Balkans.
Similar to the banitsa is the gibanica, which can be sweet or savory and incorporates phyllo dough.
As a dessert, the layers of dough are filled with a sweet cheese with raisins, an apple and cinnamon filling, poppyseeds and a walnut filling then topped with a sweetened sugar cream.
28. Greek Galaktoboureko
You'll find this sticky pastry across Greece. Phyllo sheets topped with a custard and melted butter get baked and chilled before covered in its sugary syrup.
The syrup is often spiced with orange flavors.
27. Croatian Kremsnita
Also popular in Romania, Poland, Hungary and Serbia.
Cremeschnitte, cremsnit, krempita, kremsnita, napoleonka or cremes, this is a light and airy dessert in any language.
Take two layers of a flaky pastry and sandwich them around a vanilla-flavored creme and whipping cream. Add some powdered sugar, and voila!
26. Hungarian Kiffles
Also popular in Poland as kolaczki.
These Hungarian cookies (sometimes called kifli) are made with a light rolled pastry dough.
Inside the baked treats are various filling options, including fruity jams, nuts and cheese.
25. Romanian Papanasi
Also popular in Moldova.
Haven't heard of papanasi? You've been missing out.
Not only pretty on the outside but delicious on the inside, this Romanian treat is a doughnut-shaped pastry that has been either boiled or fried and stuffed with a soft cheese such as urda. The concoction is then topped with sour cream and a sour jam as well as the fried doughnut hole.
24. Azerbaijani Badambura
Meaning almond pie, this multilayered puff pastry is filled with — you guessed it — almonds.
The bottom of the treat is filled with an almond meal combined with sugar and ground cardamon, while the top is dusted with powdered sugar after cooking.
23. German Hamantaschen
During Germany's medieval times, these triangular "poppy seed pockets," known as mohntaschen, were a popular pastry. Fast-forward 2,000 years when German Jews nicknamed them Hamantaschen, or "Haman's pockets."
The wordplay is based on Haman's pockets being filled with money from bribes. Today, the treat is especially enjoyed during Passover but can be found in Jewish bakeries across Europe with other fillings such as apricot or raspberry jam.
22. Czech Kolace
This cake-like pastry is named for its round shape and is filled with jams. While it's typically made mostly with the fruit uncovered, you can also envelop the filling.
Fruit serves as the main filling, but nuts, sweet cheese, raisins and poppy seeds are often enjoyed as well.
21. Polish Rugelach
A Jewish pastry that may have originated in Poland and spread across Eastern Europe and beyond is known as the rugelach. In Yiddish, it means "little twist."
The twisted pastry is often a croissant style and can be sliced. Inside is a sweet filling, often fruit or a walnut and brown sugar combination.
20. Slovakian Trdelnicky
Also popular in the Czech Republic.
Cooked on a spit, the Trdelnicky is a pancake-like dough rolled around the spit to leave an opening that can then be filled with creme, chocolate, Nutella or ice cream.
Cinnamon and sugar coat the outside of the grilled dessert that can be found at street vendors and bakeries around the country.
19. French Mille-feuilles
Translated into "a thousand sheets," this airy dessert pastry is made up of practically translucent sheets of phyllo dough and filled with custard, almond slivers and vanilla icing.
Also called a "Napoleon," its name doesn't stem from the French emporer but from Naples, Italy, where it is rumored the dessert actually originated as the Neapolitan.
18. Italian Sfogliatella
Although it looks similar to the badambura, this Italian treat is said to have been created by Amalfi Coast nuns in the 1700s.
Europeans definitely have an appetite for paper-thin dough coupled with powdered sugar because this is yet another variation. The sfogliatella eventually began to be filled with custard cream and black cherries. You can find both versions of the pastry high available in any pasticceria.
17. Swedish Kanelbulle
Also popular in Denmark as kanelsnegl, Norway as skillingsboller and Kanelsnurr, and in Finland as korvapuusti.
Everyone loves cinnamon buns, which is what kanelbulle are in Sweden. So beloved are these breakfast pastries that the Swedes celebrate a national day designated to it on Oct. 4.
The cinnamon bun (or roll) is said to have originated in Sweden, but other Northern European nations argue this claim.
16. Danish Kringle
Also popular in other Scandinavian countries.
This often pretzel-shaped pastry is flaky and filled with sweets like sugar, marzipan and raisins.
Said to be created by Roman Catholic monks in Denmark, the pastry often uses seasonal ingredients to change its flavors.
15. Greek Loukoumades
Also popular in Turkey.
Honey is a popular sweetener along the Mediterranean, and in Greece, these honey-dipped fried dough balls have been a popular dessert since the beginning of recorded history in the country.
They are often sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon.
14. Swedish Kladdkaka
This sticky chocolate cake is a national dish in Sweden, providing a crisp shell and gooey chocolate center akin to a molten lava brownie.
The cake is often topped with raspberries and sometimes whipped cream.
13. Polish Paczki
What we call jelly doughnuts in the U.S. are paczki in Poland. Typically more jelly than doughnut, a bite into one of these will have fruit filling oozing out so be careful!
Paczki were developed by French cooks in Poland during the reign of Augustus III in the Middle Ages — who knew jelly doughnuts were so ancient?
12. Belgian Gaufre
The Belgian waffle, known as a gaufre, is not just a breakfast item in Belgium, but it's also a sugary-sweet holder of toppings like chocolate, ice cream, fruit and nuts.
Each square in the waffle is perfect for holding toppings even when eating on the go, which is why you can find street vendors selling them throughout the country.
11. Dutch Stroopwafel
One of the most popular pastries in Europe, the Dutch stroopwafel is a wafer cookie sandwich filled with caramel.
The wafer is meant to be placed over a hot cup of coffee or tea, where the steam will melt the caramel into the cup, and it can then be used for dipping. Still, there are plenty of people who eat it without the coffee and instead pair it with whipped cream, ice cream or other sweets.
10. Austrian Apfelstrudel
Also popular in Bavaria and Northern Italy.
Americans aren't the only ones who love a good, old-fashion apple dessert. The Austrians invented the apfelstrudel, or apple strudel. Created for the Hapsburg family, the strudel quickly spread around the world.
The flaky phyllo crust is wrapped around diced apples and cinnamon then topped with powdered sugar.
9. Portuguese Pastel de Nata
You'll find lines out the door at bakeries where they sell Pastel de Nata (or Pastel de Belem, depending on where you are), as these egg custard pastries are best served hot.
They're so popular that they seem to be constantly coming out of the oven and can be topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon, or eaten as is. Be sure to order more than one!
8. German Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte
Black Forest cake, as it is known in English, was created in Bavaria as a layered cake with chocolate, whipped cream and cherry layers. The cake is then topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and cherries.
Not named for the Black Forest, the cake is actually named for the Black Forest cherries, which are sour and make the kirsch found in the cake.
7. Italian Cannoli
A joke from "The Godfather" is, "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." That's because no one can pass up this delicious dessert, which lands at No. 5 on our list.
First created on the island of Sicily, these fried tubes of pastry dough are filled with a sweet ricotta filling. Often, chocolate chips are added to the ends.
6. Dutch Speculoos
In the U.S., you may know them as windmill cookies. Or perhaps a Delta flight's Biscoff cookie? The Dutch almond cookie, often made in the shape of the iconic windmills of the Netherlands is called a speculoo and is a popular cookie to enjoy with tea or coffee.
Special designs may also be made during the holidays, sprinkled with slivers of almond baked right in.
5. French Eclair
You expected a French pastry to be included in our top five, right? While the French have a number of pastries that make it difficult to choose from when visiting a patisserie, the classic éclair may just be the most popular.
This oblong-shaped airy pastry is filled with a cream, pasted with a chocolate icing and is so light you won't be able to eat just one.
4. Turkish or Greek Baklava
Also popular in Greece and the Balkans.
Coming in third is this rich multi-layered phyllo pastry dessert that originated along the Mediterranean. Once again, the sweetness comes from honey, which uses its sticky goodness to hold together the chopped nuts that are found between the layers of phyllo.
Now, we understand Greek baklava is just as popular, so when giving a country the No. 3 spot, the honor should be shared between the countries that overlook one another along the Adriatic Sea. The countries often debate which one had baklava first, so we'll call this one a tie.
3. French Pain au Chocolate
Of course, there is another French pastry in the top five (did you ever doubt it?)
In English, you know pain au chocolate as a chocolate croissant, but it doesn't matter what language you speak, these croissants are a staple of France. Just how do the French make their croissants so light and flaky?!
Most often consumed as a breakfast pastry, it's delicious with a hot cup of coffee.
2. English Scones
Is it possible to hear the word "scone" and not think of the English? They are practically synonymous! Scones are more than breakfast food, they are a tea-time pastry, too.
Served with tea and slathered in jam, butter or slotted cream, these cakes are now enjoyed worldwide.
1. Spanish Churros
It's practically impossible to visit Spain without sampling the churros. Now found in Latin countries across the globe, these fried dough strips are narrow, long and covered in sugar.
Meant to be dipped into a creamy hot chocolate so thick it seems more like a fondue, chocolate dips have become the must-have when eating these desserts. Churros are often sold at food trucks as well as bakeries.