Although native to Central and South America, the beans harvested from the fleshy pods of cacao trees have transitioned from being brewed in only traditional Olmec and Mayan spice-enhanced beverages to becoming one of the world’s favorite foods — chocolate. Bitter until sweetened, chocolate sales amount to roughly $200 billion per year.
While chocolate bars were invented in England, Switzerland revolutionized chocolate confections, making the nation the world’s largest consumer. On average, a Swiss person consumes more than 22 pounds of chocolate per year! Although slightly less popular in Asia and Africa, chocolate appears in recipes across the globe. From gooey chocolate cake to delicate pastries dusted in cocoa powder, here are 14 of the world’s best chocolate-infused dishes.
Accounts vary, but forgotten baking powder may have been the origin of Sweden’s famed kladdkaka (“sticky cake”), proving that sometimes mistakes can lead to a mouthwatering delicacy. With a crispy, brownie-like crust and a fudgy, molten lava-like chocolate interior, this thin and gooey cake is sweetened with dark cocoa powder and lots of melted butter. Rich and decadent, the cake is perfect with nothing more than a cup of coffee — and perhaps just a dollop of whipped cream.
Part-truffle, part-fudge, and 100% sweet, Brazil’s most popular chocolate confection was named after presidential candidate Eduardo Gomes, a man considered handsome by the country’s female electorate, who had only recently gained the right to vote, and known simply as “the Brigadeiro.” Creative bakers dealt with post-war ingredient shortages with ingenuity. Heloísa Nabuco de Olivera combined sweetened condensed milk, butter, and cocoa powder to invent the beloved bonbon named after Gomes. Try the simple and easy recipe here.
Bûche de Noël (France)
A French holiday tradition, the “bûche de Noël" has been appearing on tables during the Christmas season since the 19th century. Shaped to resemble the decorated Yule log that families burned for good luck on Christmas Eve, the cake is a delicious confection of chocolate sponge cake with a heavy cream filling rolled into a log shape. The cake is then covered in chocolate frosting, striated to resemble tree bark, and adorned with meringue or marzipan mushrooms (and perhaps a sprig of holly). The end result is a festive and fancy holiday treat.
Austria’s most iconic chocolate dessert, the Sacher-torte, made its debut in 1832, when Franz Sacher, a 16-year-old confectioner apprentice, had to step in at a state dinner for Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna. The “acceptable to the court” result, a deceptively simple glazed cake featuring fine chocolate, whipped cream, and apricot jam, spawned a culinary empire (including a hotel named the Hotel Sacher) that survives to this day. Have a slice of the original recipe in the historic tea room or order one for yourself here.
Tim Tams (Australia)
Arnott’s Bakery released these chocolate “bickies” in 1964, and Tim Tams became an instant classic. Similar to American Oreos, Tim Tams consist of two malted chocolate biscuits, which are filled with chocolate cream and then bathed in an outer layer of milk chocolate. These days, there are dark chocolate and white chocolate-covered Tim Tams, too.
Who says chocolate dishes have to be sweet? The Aztecs drank pulverized cacao beans mixed with chile peppers and cinnamon, and that combination lives on in the mole, Mexico’s most famous sauce. There are as many variations of mole recipes as there are cooks to make it. Taking hours — and sometimes days — to prepare, a traditional mole often features a unique blend of up to 30 different peppers and spices. Thickened by bread, nuts, seeds, or masa (ground corn dough), mole’s star ingredient is chocolate, which gives the sauce its characteristic depth, with just a hint of bitterness.
Salame de Chocolate (Portugal)
This Portuguese and Spanish specialty is cigar-shaped like a traditional salami, but you won’t find any pork products in this chocolate-infused treat. Instead, this no-bake confection contains broken cookies, cocoa powder, butter, and confectioner’s sugar, often enlivened by liquor (port is popular), nuts, and chopped fruit, such as dried figs or cherries. Easy to make in advance, the salame de chocolate is a sweet surprise on a traditional charcuterie board.
Kadori Shokolad (Israel)
This Israeli after-dinner treat literally means “chocolate ball” in Hebrew and contains crushed cookies, butter, sugar, and cocoa powder. The mixture is rolled into small spheres that are typically coated in coconut flakes or rainbow sprinkles. Variations on these no-bake bites abound. The chokladbollar is the Swedish variant (also called havregrynskugler in Danish). These chocolate balls are made with oats instead of cookies and often flavored with rum or brandy.
Czechs enjoy this old-fashioned multi-layered cake with a cup of coffee. Baked in a Bundt or kugelhopf pan, bábovka features two marbled vanilla-and-chocolate layers of airy sponge cake. Like the yeasted Ukrainian babka, the layers swirl together to form an attractive (and tasty!) pattern. Most bábovka recipes call for Greek yogurt, which gives the finished product a pleasant tang.
Chocobananos (El Salvador)
Popular throughout Central America but mainly in El Salvador, this sweet street food is the essence of simplicity. A banana on a stick dipped in melted chocolate with a quick roll in toppings and straight to the freezer — what could be easier? The fun comes in choosing your favorite toppings: coconut flakes, crushed cereal, chopped nuts, and sprinkles are all crowd-pleasers.
Afghan Biscuits (New Zealand)
A Kiwi favorite, this crispy, chocolatey cookie gets its addictive crunch from cornflake cereal and its distinctive richness from a high percentage of butter. After the unleavened biscuits are baked, they’re covered with a layer of creamy, chocolate-fudge frosting and topped with walnuts. Want to make your own? Try this recipe.
Chocolate Malva Pudding (South Africa)
Spongey, caramelized, and topped with a decadent cream sauce, Malva pudding originated as a vinegar-leavened and apricot-flavored relative of Britain’s beloved sticky toffee cake. But the addition of chocolate to this classic South African “pudding” (dessert) elevates it to an entirely new level. The big debate is whether or not the cocoa-flavored cousin should be topped with traditional “plain” cream sauce or whether the sauce should be chocolatey, too.
Alfajores de Chocolate (Argentina)
Tender and crumbly, sandwiching a layer of luscious dulce de leche (caramelized milk), alfajores are a favorite cookie in many parts of South America. But the chocolate version of these shortbread-like biscuits quickly became a tasty sensation. The citrus-and-almond notes in the cookies tastefully complement the tangy dulce de leche, then the entire confection is dipped in a rich coating of dark or milk chocolate. If you don’t care for baking your own, Havanna is Argentina’s favorite brand of alfajores — and they’re happy to ship them straight to your door.
Chocolate Biscotti (Italy)
Dipped into a rich cup of espresso, nibbled with a glass of wine, or set aside a plate of antipasti, Italy’s crunchy, slender biscotti are undoubtedly the national cookie of choice. Thinly sliced and twice-baked, these crispy treats keep well for weeks and are often enhanced with chopped fruits and nuts and kissed with a flavorful liqueur or spirit to further bring out their delicate flavor. Every Italian has their favorite flavor, but the most luxurious are always half-dipped in a coating of rich chocolate — and chocolate-dipped chocolate biscotti are the most prized of all.