The Top Villas guide to dessert

A person holding a large waffle cone filled with ice cream scoops against a traditional town square in Europe

For travelers with a sweet tooth, the world is a buffet of wonderful desserts to explore. In celebration of National Dessert Day, here’s our guide to some of the best sweet treats in favorite vacation destinations around the world.

UK Desserts

The UK has a rich and varied history when it comes to food, and dessert is no exception. Traditional puddings from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland make up a tapestry of sugary delights, from sticky toffee pudding to Bakewell Tart and creamy cranachan. 

On your UK vacation, follow up your countryside hikes with a piping hot apple crumble or a traditional English trifle. An authentic trifle is a must-try when in the UK, made of delectable layers of jam, sponge, cream, and custard. This filling dessert is almost a meal in itself, so make sure that you leave plenty of room!

Another fantastic traditional dessert from the UK is cranachan. Hailing from Scotland, cranachan is similar to an English trifle, but with a Highlands twist. Layers of cream and fresh raspberries are bolstered by hearty oats and honey mixture. There is also a boozy addition to authentic cranachan recipes; a nip (or two) of fantastic Scottish whiskey. It’s the best of Scotland in a single bowl.

English trifle in a transparent bowl, with a spoon and gingham cloth on a wood table

European desserts

Desserts in France

The home of patisserie is, unsurprisingly, a great vacation destination for dessert lovers. French desserts cover every taste, from creamy, decadent treats to light, fruity finishes to a hearty meal. Wherever you stay on your France vacation, one of the classic French desserts to try is crème Brulee. Thick, silky custard is topped with brown sugar, which is then ‘burnt’ using a grill or blowtorch to form a hard crust. Find traditional French crème Brulee in bistros and restaurants throughout the country. 

If you fancy something a little lighter, try a French soufflé on for size. This airy egg dessert is as much a feat of engineering as it is food, and chefs who achieve the perfect soufflé wear the achievement as a badge of honor. 

Creme brulee

Italian desserts

Italian food is known for being rich, decadent, and incredibly moreish, and their desserts sure fit this description. When you think of traditional Italian desserts, your mind might go straight to gelato. There’s a good reason that Italian gelato is the best in the world, and you will remember your first scoop forever. Look for small gelato shops frequented by locals for the best ice cream experiences.

Make sure you leave room for some of Italy’s other incredible sweet treats. On the mainland, panna cotta, a cold creamy dessert, is a must-try. It’s a simple, delicious, and totally moreish treat to finish off an Italian meal.

If you’re on vacation in Sicily, you’ll find that desserts are slightly different from other parts of the country, but no less delicious. One of the island’s most famous desserts is cannoli. You can find Sicilian cannoli in bakeries and street market stalls. For the uninitiated, cannoli are delicious fried pastries, traditionally filled with creamy ricotta cheese, but more recently, chocolate and fruit creams are just as popular. The word for a single pastry is ‘cannolo’, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to resist indulging in a couple of these moreish snacks.

Ricotta cheese also takes a starring role in another wonderful dessert; Sicilian cassata. Cassata is a sponge cake, which is moistened with fruit (or sometimes liqueur) and layered with ricotta and more fruit. It’s then decorated with marzipan and green and pink icing, making a cake that looks as good as it tastes. 

A plate piled high with cannoli, filled with cream

The best dessert dishes in Spain

When you think of food in Spain, your mind might conjure up images of steaming pans of paella, lively tapas bars or even an earthenware jug of sangria. But don’t forget Spanish desserts! Although not as famous as the sweet treats in other European countries like France and Italy, traditional Spanish desserts are a mouthwatering way to end a Mediterranean meal. 

Perhaps the most well-known internationally are Spanish churros. Hailing originally from the capital city, Madrid, the country has built a chocolate and churros culture around the delicious fried snack. Similar in some ways to a donut, these delectable long fingers of dough are fried to perfection and dusted with sugar or cinnamon. Try them the traditional way, dipped in a pot of hot chocolate sauce.

If the weather is hot and you don’t fancy the heaviness of churros, you could go for something a little cooler and try Spanish flan. A set custardy dessert topped with rich caramel topping, it’s a firm favorite in Spanish celebrations.

Churros and chocolate sauce

Traditional Greek dessert foods to try

One of the biggest joys of a vacation in Greece is indulging in some of the finest food that Europe has to offer. Greek desserts are the perfect way to end an Aegean feast, with typical ingredients including honey, syrup, nuts and fruit. Greek loukoumades are one of the top desserts to try if you have a sweet tooth. Eat these lovely little balls of dough fried and drenched in honey, for a delicious treat at any time of day.  

Another top Greek dessert is kataifi, a quirky-looking pastry stuffed with Greek flavors. The unusual look of Greek kataifi comes from layers of shredded phyllo pastry, which is soaked in syrup.

Greek kataifi - a dessert of shredded phyllo pasrty soaked in syrup

Best American desserts

The USA is a land of variety; a variety of culture, people, and history. The thing that ties everything together is food. Particularly desserts. There are so many iconic sweet dishes hailing from America, you could easily spend your whole vacation trying each of them.

One of the most famous is New York cheesecake. This creamy, rich, moreish, and filling cake can be found across the country, but where better to try it than its Big Apple home? Cheesecake is traditionally served at the end of a meal, but can also be found in bakeries and stores for a treat at any time of day.

Another dessert so good that it bears the name of where it was made is Key Lime Pie. It’s zingy, citrusy, sweet and refreshing, and the perfect tonic to hot Florida temperatures. The best Key Lime is often the simplest, found in shops and bakeries and served with a flurry of whipped cream. This most famous of Florida desserts is so popular, you can easily find vegan and gluten-free options, so everyone can enjoy a slice of the Sunshine State.

Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention the most quintessential US dessert; American apple pie. Is apple pie really American? The jury’s still out on that one, but it has certainly been taken into the hearts (and bellies) of US citizens across the country. Apple pie is quite a simple dish, cooked apples with sugar, cinnamon, topped off with rich, buttery pastry. It’s the perfect winter warmer to finish off a cozy meal with the family.

American apple pie served with ice cream

Dessert dishes to try on your Thailand vacation

Beautiful Thailand is a foodie’s paradise vacation destination. Thai desserts are typically fresh, fruity, and light to complement the hot weather. One of the most traditional Thai desserts is mango and sticky rice. Rice is a powerhouse of Thai cuisine, so it’s no wonder that it shows up in sweet as well as savory dishes. In this dish, it is the perfect accompaniment to the delicate, sweet mango.

On the subject of fruit, you can’t leave Thailand without trying the national fruit; mangosteen. Also known as ‘The Queen of Fruit’, this delicacy is often eaten after meals to refresh the palette. You can find them in street markets and food stores from May to August.

Mango and sticky rice

Traditional Mexican desserts to try

Mexico has to be one of the top vacation destinations for fantastic food. With tasty treats such as tacos, tamales and enchiladas to sample, you might think you’ve no room left for dessert. Make sure you leave space for a slice of the country’s favorite dessert; Mexican Tres Leches cake. The best Tres Leches cake keeps the recipe simple. ‘Tres leches’ translates as three milks, referring to the three types of milk which make up the cake. A light sponge is drenched in evaporated and condensed milk, before being topped off with cream. 

Mexican hot chocolate is a chocolate lover’s dream come true. Unctuous, rich dark chocolate, served piping hot and so thick that you can stand a spoon up in it. It’s naughty but oh-so-nice, and worth every single calorie.

Some of the best places to vacation in Mexico, including Cancun, are also home to amazing food. To sample the best, most authentic Mexican delicacies, find a restaurant filled with local people. If you can opt for a place a little off the beaten path, where the menus aren’t translated and the seats are full. 

Mexican Tres Leches Cake

Desserts in Indonesia

The best Indonesian food is characterized by delicate spices and fresh flavors, and Indonesian desserts are no exception. One of the most famous and popular is Lapis Legit. Indonesia is famed for this delicious 18-layered cake. Eggs. spices, butter, spices a flavoring are the key ingredients. Traditionally, prunes and cheese flavored Lapis Legit, but modern versions include additions such as chocolate. The process of making Lapis Legit is painstaking and meticulous, a real labor of love, and the result is a unique dessert of which Indonesians are rightfully proud. Try Lapis Legit in bakeries across Indonesia, accompanied by a cup of locally grown coffee.

Lapis legit

Caribbean dessert dishes

With more than 700 islands to choose from, the Caribbean is home to some seriously diverse food. Although the region is more famous for delicious savory food and fantastic rum, there are many famous Caribbean desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth on your Caribbean vacation.

Pudin de Pan is the Caribbean answer to traditional bread pudding. It’s made from a delightful medley of sweet bread, raisins, and spices, and can be found across the Caribbean, particularly in the Dominican Republic

We can’t mention Caribbean desserts without talking about one of the region’s most famous exports; rum. Jamaica is particularly well-known for producing incredible rum, which flavors many dishes. Jamaican rum cake is a prime example of this. Rum, vanilla, and sponge are the only ingredients, and it is a perfect example of simplicity being the best approach to baking. You can try authentic Jamaican rum cake in coffee shops and bakeries across the island, and it also makes a great souvenir to bring home to remember your Caribbean vacation.

Pudin de pan

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