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Discover a gorge-worthy sweet side to one of Eastern Europe’s most delicious cuisines with these Ukrainian desserts, and prepare yourself for plenty of food envy!
With their elaborate decadence, hearty compositions, and delicately balanced sweet and savory flavor profiles, the desserts of Ukraine will leave you wanting more, no matter how full you’re feeling. Let’s delve in, and discover 21 of the country’s must-try desserts as recommended by a local.
Ukrainian Desserts to Try
You simply cannot imagine a traditional Ukrainian breakfast without syrnyky. Toasty crust, soft, and delicate, filling, light vanilla flavor – they simply melt in your mouth.
Syrnyky (also spelled as syrniki) are usually made from fresh and creamy curd cheese, to which eggs, flour, and sugar are added. There are some popular variations to this classic recipe, which feature vanilla, raisins, or orange peel. Shaped as small cakes, once prepared syrnyky are pan-fried in sunflower oil or butter before being served stacked.
Most typically, syrnyky are served with sour cream, jam, and honey. Berries, slices of fruit, and powdered sugar are often used as toppings.
Read more: Cottage Cheese Pancakes Recipe (Syrnyky)
2 – Verhuny (Вергуни) – Deep-Fried Dough Cookies / Angel Wings
Verhuny are famous Ukrainian pastry crisps, made from non-yeast dough with kefir. They have an intricate brushwood shape, achieved by cutting the dough into strips.
The ends of each strip are pulled through a slash in the middle, forming a knot. Traditionally, verhuny used to be fried in lard, but in the past decades, it has become more common to fry the cookies in sunflower oil.
A common way to serve verhuny is fresh from the pan, while still airy and crispy. It’s an absolute must to top them with powdered sugar, adding a lightly sweet flavor, and enjoying these delicious cookies with a cup of cocoa or tea.
Angel wings pastries are common to many European cuisines such as Bulgarian, Croatian, French, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian, and others. They go by different names in other cuisines and can use different ingredients.
3 – Kyiv Cake (Київський торт) – Hazelnut Meringue Cake
One of the most recognizable symbols of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv Cake has been popular in many Eastern European countries over the last half a century. Surprisingly enough, it was invented by chance – thanks to a confectioner’s mistake.
Kyiv Cake consists of two sponge layers of meringue, with sugar, hazelnuts, and flour, filled with Charlotte cream, and sealed with chocolate buttercream. The top is usually covered with meringue crumbs, and decorated with buttercream flowers.
The combination of the creamy filling with the crunchy texture with every mouthful is truly unforgettable, and Kyiv Cake is a definite must-try for anyone traveling around Ukraine.
Most countries have their own variations of pancake or crepes, and Ukraine is no exception. Nalysnyky are crepes, made from a batter of eggs, sugar, milk, and flour.
What makes nalysnyky special is that they’re never served plain. Right after frying, they’re rolled with curd cheese, berries, jam, or any other filling, depending on preference.
It’s very common in Ukraine to make a cake of several nalysnyky, stacking them on top of each other, and adding a chocolate-cream glaze, creating a true show-stopper of a dessert.
5 – Apple Solozhenik (Яблучний соложеник) – Apple Meringue Crepe Cake
Like many Ukrainian foods, solozhenik was originally a festive dessert, cooked during the Easter holidays. Over time, it has become more common to eat at all times of the year, and many varieties of this cake have appeared. However, the most traditional version remains apple solozhenik.
Essentially, apple solozhenik is a baked dessert of a stack of pancakes, sandwiching layers of with fried apples, coated with whipped egg whites. Out of the oven and baked correctly, it has a crispy top, while its base remains soft.
Solozhenik is a rich and hearty dessert, making it an excellent choice for afternoon tea during wintertime.
Varenyky with cherries are an extremely popular national dessert, likely to be found not only in most traditional Ukrainian restaurants, but also in supermarkets and department stores. Unlike other dumpling varieties, varenyky are cooked in boiling water, and never fried.
Their iconic semicircle shape is achieved by using a regular glass to cut the unleavened dough varenyky are made from. Each even dough circle is then filled with a couple of cherries, and carefully folded in half.
Varenyky are the only dessert from this list that can be enjoyed as lunch. They’re best served with a generous dollop of sour cream and sprinkled with sugar.
7 – Banyky (Баники) – Yeast Rolls with Filling
Just like solozhenik, traditionally these delicious sweet rolls made of yeast dough were a festive dessert, cooked for Christmas and Easter. Nowadays, they continue to grow in popularity all year round.
The beauty of banyky is in the variety of their fillings. Possible options include apples, poppy seeds, curd cheese, or nut cream, to name just a few. Topped with mixed eggs, banyky are usually baked until a browned crust forms, and then cut into slices.
8 – Honey Shulyky (Медові шулики) – Honey Wheat Cookies
Honey shulyky is a traditional dessert cooked for the Honey Feast of the Saviour, an orthodox holiday. Originally, the very first batch was blessed at church, to bring health and welfare to people’s homes.
Shulyky are made from a flat dry shortcake, which is usually cut into square pieces to form even-shaped cookies.
Small and crispy, these cakes are covered with a sweet mixture of honey, water, and poppy seeds. Once soaked in the syrup-like mixture for up to two hours, shulyky becomes an incredibly rich and sweet treat that Ukrainians love to eat.
9 – Hombovtsi (Гомбовці) – Curd Cheese Balls
Despite their Hungarian origin, hombovtsi were enjoyed so much in Western Ukraine, that over time they’ve started to be considered a national dessert.
Like many other Ukrainian cakes, hombovtsi are made primarily from curd cheese. According to the classic recipe, the cured cheese is mixed with eggs, semolina, sugar, and flour to create a batter. Once the batter has been prepared, hombovtsi are shaped into balls by hand, boiled, and coated with breadcrumbs and sugar.
Served with sour cream and a cup of tea, hombovtsi can be both an excellent choice for breakfast, or a delicious afternoon snack.
Related: Hungarian Desserts You Need to Try
10 – Perekladenets (Перекладенець) – Layer Cake
The name perekladenets originates from the Ukrainian word ‘перекладати’, or ‘to layer’, making this an aptly named Ukrainian cake.
It consists of four layers of shortcrust pastry, sandwiched between three filling layers of apricot or currant jam, poppy seeds, and walnut cream, in that specific order. The top layer is usually covered with egg whites, just before the cake is put in the oven to bake.
The extraordinary combination of flavors and creamy and crispy textures is perfectly balanced, creating a truly unforgettable taste with each and every mouthful.
However, being more time-consuming to prepare than other traditional desserts means perekladenets is mostly served on special occasions.
11 – Kiflyky (Кіфлики) – Ukrainian Crescent Rolls
The origins of kiflyky are attributed to Austria, along with the name, coming from the Austrian ‘kipferl’. First adopted in Zakarpattia, this dessert soon become popular all over the country.
Traditionally made of shortcrust pastry, Ukrainian kiflyky are filled either with nuts or plum jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The key to creating a perfect crescent starts with a triangular-shaped piece of dough, which is topped with filling, and should be rolled starting at the wide end.
Kiflyky are a melt-in-your-mouth type of dessert. They’re most popular during the winter, but can be found throughout the year.
12 – Pryanyk (Пряник) – Spicy Honey Bread or Cookies
Pryanyk is a honey bread flavored with various spices. It’s a close relative of the famous gingerbread, with one major difference – ginger is almost never used in the Ukrainian recipe.
Nowadays, the variations of pryanyk are practically endless. The dish can be served as a cake or as cookies, and it can feature peppermint, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, vanilla, and orange peel, among many other flavors.
Though traditionally pryanyk was cooked without filling, some confectionaries offer jam-filled varieties. The younger generation tends to prefer the latter, for its rich and soft center.
13 – Makivnyk (Маківник) – Poppy Seed Roll
Among all the desserts popular in Ukraine, makivnyk is one of the oldest, dating back to the times of Kievan Rus. The tradition of baking makivnyk for Christmas has remained for centuries, without any significant changes to the recipe.
The roll gets its name from the Ukrainian word ‘mak’, which means ‘poppy seed’. This is very much the main ingredient of makivnyk, helping give the roll its tender, bittersweet taste.
Made of yeast dough, makivnyk has a rich and soft texture and is commonly enjoyed served hot.
Poppy seed rolls are also popular in many Eastern and Central European countries, with each cuisine having its own different but delicious version.
Oladky are a variety of deep-fried Ukrainian pancakes, cooked until the edges are browned and the center is golden. The addition of kefir to the batter is the key to giving oladky its light and buttery texture.
Crispy on the outside and puffy soft inside, oladky a deeply beloved Ukrainian dessert. Unlike most pancakes, they are pillowy and rather small, with a diameter of no more than 10 centimeters.
While some of the desserts on the list are more common in certain regions of Ukraine, oladky are cooked throughout the whole country as an everyday treat for friends and family to enjoy.
15 – Babka (Бабка) – Sweet Easter Bread
The day (or two) before Easter, most Ukrainians, young and old alike, put everything aside and turn their attention to baking babkas.
Of course, on the eve of the holiday, these traditional Easter cakes can be found in any grocery store. But in most families, it’s a matter of honor to cook at least one batch together.
Babka itself is a leavened bread, cylindrical and tall, made from yeast dough and raisins. Some prefer eating the bread as it is, while others can’t imagine babka without glazed icing. For most people babka is not just a dessert, but a symbol of a festive Easter family breakfast.
16 – Sweet Pampushky (Солодкі пампушки) – Ukrainian Doughnuts
The first thing that comes to mind of any Ukrainian who hears the word ‘pampushky’ is a dish of puffy garlic buns served as a side to a traditional Ukrainian soup. Round-shaped sweet pampushky, however, are very different from their savory alternative.
Usually made of dough infused in milk, sweet pampushky can be either baked, or deep-fried in sunflower oil, giving the buns a delightful crispy texture. The soft center can be left as it is, or filled with fruit.
17 – Yabluchnyk (Яблучник) – Layered Apple Cake
If you’ve never tried a sandwich cake, yabluchnyk is definitely your chance to! Yabluchnyk consists of two layers of crumbly and flaky shortcrust pastry, with a soft apple filling in-between. Cinnamon and raisins are optional, but highly advisable additions to the filling, giving it a richer, tart flavor.
Among all the Ukrainian baked desserts, yabluchnyk is one of the easiest to make. It is, however, a super delicious alternative to the classic apple pie, which makes it quite popular in Western Ukraine. Usually, yabluchnyk is served on its own, but it can be also dusted with powdered sugar.
18 – Syrna Paska (Сирна паска) – Curd Cheese Easter Cake
Syrna paska is an unbaked variation of babka, that is also prepared exclusively on the eve of Easter. It’s made from a mixture of curd cheese, eggs, sugar, and butter, and sometimes enriched with nuts and raisins.
Traditional variations of syrna paska do not require any cooking. You simply assemble the cake, refrigerate it overnight, and in the morning the delicious cake is set, ready to eat. However, some Ukrainians will opt to boil the batter first, claiming that it makes paska tender and creamy.
This dessert is also famous for its extraordinary pyramid shape. The best way to get its assembly just right is to use a special cheese mold, with a square hole in the bottom.
19 – Sochniki (Сочники) – Cookies with Curd Cheese
Sochniki are made of circular pieces of dough, folded in half over lightly sweetened dollops of curd cheese. Modern fillings include seasonal fruit and berries.
With their tender and moist curd cheese filling, and crusty shortbread coating, sochniki are commonly cooked at home and can be spotted in bakeries across the country. They are a tea-time classic, typically served hot.
20 – Pinnyk with Apricots (Абрикосовий пінник) – Apricot Soufflé
Wondrously moist and rich with the flavor of apricots, pinnyk is a unique pearl of Ukrainian traditional pastry. Unlike the other desserts, it’s not too heavy, yet its flavor heavenly.
The apricots used in the recipe are first boiled to become soft, thoroughly sieved, and then mixed with whipped egg whites and sugar.
The batter is baked for a short while, and once the pinnyk is ready, all that’s left is to sprinkle it with powder sugar before serving.
21 – Sweet Knyshi (Солодкі книші) – Filled Puffs
Knyshi are one of those dishes that pair with nearly everything and can be made either sweet or savory. While knyshi stuffed with meat are much more common, the sweet variety has a lot of admirers as well.
A dish of small, rounded cakes, sweet knyshi are made from puff pastry, and usually filled with jam or fruit. Although this dessert is fairly simple to prepare, its light and delicate crust balances wonderfully with it sumptuous soft center, making each mouthful truly delicious.
Ukrainian Desserts Summary
Their decadence alluring, aromas enticing, and flavors spellbinding, there is just so much to indulge yourself in when it comes to the sweeter side of Ukrainian cuisine.
These popular desserts are loved by millions across the country, and their flavors, beauty, and technique perfectly capture what this vast and intriguing country is all about.
Seek out as many of these beloved dishes as you can during any trip to Ukraine, and look far and wide in bakeries, eateries, and restaurants. You are in for a real treat!
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Contributor: Yuliya Vedenikina is a freelance content writer and translator from Ukraine. She is highly enthusiastic about culinary art and strives to inspire readers to discover Ukrainian cuisine and explore new cooking horizons.
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