12 International Christmas Cakes

The Christmas season is a great excuse to eat ludicrous amounts of dessert under the guise of "holiday spirit." But not eveyone puts on the seasonal 10 pounds by eating the same sweets. We took a look at various countries' Christmas cakes to see what people in places like Italy, France and Japan are stuffing themselves with this holiday season.

Note: the term "cake" is used loosely. Admittedly, there is more than one holiday bread loaf on this list. Additionally, you'll no doubt notice that the Swedish kringla doesn't exactly come in slices, but like Food Republic's Swedish co-founder, Marcus Samuelsson, we just can't pass up a good kringla. And oh yeah, we left off the traditional American fruitcake, because it tends to scare us.

France: Bûche de Noël

What says holiday spirit better than a cake that looks like a Yule log? Hats off to the French for giving us a whole tube worth of dessert to eat every holiday season. Simply roll up some sponge cake and buttercream and you've got yourself one delicious bûche de noël.

Italy: Panettone

Panettone (which hails from Milan) is a distictinctly airy sweet bread with hints of citrus. What beverage do Italians like to pair with Panettone? You guessed it — wine. But, Italian's aren't the only one who love this loaf. Panettone is also a holiday favorite throughout most of South America, and it's a standby in Italian-American households as well.

Germany: Weihnachtsstollen

Once you get over trying to pronounce this cake's name, you'll find it's similar to Italy's panettone, with the notable addition of powdered sugar or frosting on top (good one, Germany). Bakers in Germany have a long history with this Christmas classic which dates back to the 15th century. Since then it has gotten substantially sweeter (a.k.a. way better).

United Kingdom: Christmas Cake

British Christmas cake can vary substantially based on who you ask about it, but typically it's a dense fruitcake topped with marzipan. Before it became a fruitcake, British Christmas cake started off as the exotic sounding "boiled plum cake." Mmmm. Eventually, more spices were added to the cake to respresent the spices brought by the Three Wise Men, and some brandy was thrown in for good measure. Thus, boiled plum cake blossomed into the holiday standby: Christmas fruit cake.

Scotland: Whisky Dundee

The Scots put their own twist on the traditional UK Christmas cake by adding whisky (surprise, surprise) and making it lighter, so it's less brick-like and more crumbly. The Whisky Dundee further distances itself from the heavy fruit cake by featuring glazed pecans as the topping instead of marzipan.

Japan: Kurisumasu Keki

For their Christmas cake, the Japanese break away from the fruit cake mold and instead opt for a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries. The cake, which is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, is also topped with chocolate Santas. The term "kurisumasu keki" isn't all about holiday spirit, however. It has also been used as slang in Japan for an unmarried woman over 25, with the logic that like a Christmas cake, after the 25th they're "spoiled." 

Sweden: Kringla

Drawing inspiration from the pretzel, the Swedish Kringla is a knotted pastry with an almond filling and almond icing. Unlike Danish Kringle, the Swedish variety doesn't have nuts or raisins. The key to a great kringla is an exorbitant amount of butter... just the way a dessert should be.

Greece: Christopsomo

The early form of the cross that decorates the top of the Christopsomo loaf (a.ka. Christ's bread) makes this holiday dessert arguably the most religious on our list. In that vein, Christopsomo bakers take their charge very seriously and often cross themselves before baking the bread, which is full of raisins, nuts, and winter spices.

Hungary: Bejgli

Like the French, Hungarians appreciate a good dessert roll. What it lacks in icing, Bejgli makes up for in delicious walnut or poppy seed filling. Can't get enough of this roll? You're in luck — it's traditionally eaten at Easter too.

Poland: Piernik

Unlike all of those fruit cakes and nut loaves, Poland mixes things up with a dark gingerbread topped with chocolate frosting. Gingerbread baking guilds have existed in Poland since the Middle Ages, and there's even a museum in Torun that showcases the ancient baking molds.

Iceland: Vinetarta

Icelanders are the only people brave enough on this list to celebrate Christmas by eating lots of mashed-up prunes. Vinetarta — a cake that consists of cookie-like layers held together by prune filling — is a tradtional part of any Icelandic Christmas celebration.

Spain: Roscon De Reyes

We know, we know — this is technically a King's Day cake (January 6th), not a Christmas cake, but we'll let it slide since it's appropriately festive. Like the King Cake served on Mardi Gras, this King's Cake — which is baked in the shape of a ring (a king's ring, get it?) — has a tiny baby Jesus figurine baked into it. Whoever finds the figurine is king or queen of the party (the less fun prize is that he/she also has to take it to church on February 2nd).