When I was little, my parents joked that I had a dessert stomach. Kind of like how cows have four stomachs, I had one for regular food (most of which I refused to eat), and one for dessert. It was a common occurrence for me to tell my parents that I was full during dinner, only to ask for ice cream five minutes later. Classic kid move. (They didn’t buy it.)
As an adult, I’ve learned to keep my dessert stomach in check. For the most part. (Who doesn’t have those days when all they want to do is devour an entire pint of ice cream while binge-watching romcoms?) So imagine my delight when I found out that Finland has the highest ice cream (and coffee!) consumption per capita. Two of my very favorite things! Ice cream is just the tip of the Finnish dessert iceberg, however. I was quickly reminded that I now live in Europe. That means European chocolate is readily available. Oh. My. Goodness. Any American who hasn’t tried European chocolate doesn’t know what he’s missing and needs to remedy that immediately. Any Europeans who hasn’t had the misfortune to choke down gritty American chocolate: don’t bother. Just keep walking.
There is no way I’m going into detail about all of the amazing desserts I’ve had in Helsinki (ain’t nobody got time for that), so I’ll give you the highlights.
Princess Cake, or princessakakku: I first had this in Sweden about two years. That makes sense, as it’s actually Swedish. Originally called Green Cake, this confection was made for Swedish princesses. They liked it so much the name was changed to princess cake. It’s everywhere. The market halls sell miniature versions, most bakeries make them, I’ve seen it in the Copenhagen airport, and you can buy a four pack of miniature, or a full sized version in the grocery store freezer section. “But what IS it?” you ask, full of anticipation. The Wikipedia definition is a “layer cake or torte consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, pastry cream, and a thick-domed layer of whipped cream. This is topped by marzipan, giving the cake a smooth rounded top.” That top layer of marzipan is usually green, hence the original name. It’s my favorite dessert and one of the things I was most looking forward to about moving here.
Ice cream: I’ll be honest. I haven’t tried a lot of ice cream here. Once upon a time, I was an ice cream taster. No, really. It’s an actual paying job. The title is more along the lines of “quality control technician”, but most of what I did was taste various flavors of ice cream. (I can tell the difference between the multitude of vanillas.) So when I have such good chocolate at my disposal, why bother with ice cream? Because it’s delicious!! And it’s actually (I feel like I’m repeating myself here) so much better in Finland! I suppose it has to be good if Finn’s eat so much of it. There’s some sort of baked apple flavor that is ridiculously amazing. I’m not big on fruit flavors (except peach, that was always my favorite at work), but this was like eating apple pie in ice cream form. And I don’t even really like apple pie. Of course there are various chocolate flavors (milk versus dark), but it wouldn’t be Finnish if you didn’t try the salmiakki. Okay, so I haven’t tried it, but there is a container in our freezer. I’m sorry, Finland, but salted black liquorice has no business interfering with my ice cream. Just, no. (I have tried chocolate-covered salmiakki and it was pretty good.) The thing with Finnish ice cream is that it’s super creamy without being soft serve. All the flavors I’ve had from the grocery store have a ribbon of chocolate running through them as well. It’s a nice touch.
Chocolate: I feel like this could be its own post, so let’s focus on Fazer. Crazy delicious, rich, and creamy, this is my go-to chocolate brand. It’s mainstream without the mainstream feel. There’s a Fazer Cafe in downtown Helsinki where you have the option of using small shopping baskets to wrangle all your goods, before taking a number to check out. (Taking a number: it’s not just for the DMV anymore!) They also sell truffles and other heavenly-looking goodies, of which I have not taken part. Yet. The other side of the cafe hosts a full restaurant, as well as a simpler cafe. The coffee drinks uphold what I’ve come to know as the high Fazer standard. A bit pricey, but utterly delightful. Other cafes send your drink to you with a small Fazer truffle. I was so confused when this first happened. Free chocolate? Yes, please! Aside from the many flavors Fazer produces, the 47% dark chocolate is my favorite. It’s just good, pure chocolate. You can’t go wrong with it.
There are so very many desserts available in Helsinki (I didn’t even mention pastries) and I can’t wait to try as many as I can (while also avoiding diabetes). If you’ve been to Finland, what’s a dessert you loved? If you’re Finnish, what’s your favorite dessert, or something you would recommend to a foreigner?