Five Popular Cuban Desserts & Confections
Every culture’s cuisine has its own unique sweet treats, and Cuba is certainly no exception. Many of the most popular Cuban desserts feature a milky, creamy consistency, which makes them the perfect follow-up to the country’s hot and spicy main dishes. These five desserts are common in Cuba, and are a good place to start for anyone looking to experiment with making sumptuous Cuban confections.
Tres Leches Cake
Tres leches is Spanish for “three milks,” and this cake is indeed made with three forms of milk. For this light, airy sponge cake, a fully baked white cake is pierced all over with a fork, and a mixture of condensed milk and evaporated milk is poured on top. The cake soaks up the milk mixture after about 30 minutes, and then whipped heavy cream, which is the third milk ingredient, is added as a topping. Tres leches cake is a very typical birthday cake in Cuba and Mexico.
Flan is a custard dessert found in many different Latin American cultures. It generally has a smooth and silky texture and a mild flavor, lending itself to many different additives and variations. A typical flan consists simply of beaten eggs, vanilla and sugar mixed with boiled milk and then baked. A caramel sauce is usually added either to the top of the baked flan or to the bottom of the baking dish before the egg mixture is poured in. Ingredients such as coconut, citrus zest or even chocolate can be added, but a basic, plain flan is sublime and uncomplicated all on its own.
Arroz Con Leche
The last of the milk desserts on this list, arroz con leche is a Cuban rice pudding. This dessert is simple and sweet, and is made by boiling white rice with cinnamon sticks and lemon, then adding evaporated milk and condensed milk and refrigerating until cold. Arroz con leche can be tweaked in any number of ways. Fruit or chocolate can be added to the top, cinnamon sticks can be used as a garnish, or nuts and raisins can be included.
Buñuelos are heavenly morsels of golden-fried goodness, traditionally eaten with sweetened syrup or dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. They are usually enjoyed at Christmas time, and are made by combining boiled, pulpy yucca with egg yolks and a flour mixture and frying it in small batches. Sometimes they are served in a ball shape, but are more often twisted into a shape similar to that of a pretzel. The syrup for drizzling on top of buñuelos is made by boiling sugar and water with vanilla and lemon juice until thickened.
Turrónes are another Christmas dessert, and have a texture similar to nougat or fudge. In Cuba, turrónes are made in large sheets and cut into smaller squares, sometimes even appearing in boxes of pre-packaged chocolates. There are several variations of this candy, but the most commonly consumed variety in Cuba is coconut turrónes covered in chocolate. These are made by cooking shredded coconut with coconut milk and butter, then cooling the mixture in a sheet pan until set. Once the coconut is firm, melted chocolate is spread over the top and bottom. Cubans traditionally slice them into squares, box them, and give them as holiday treats to friends and family.