Recipes for Traditional Croatian Christmas Cakes
Christmas decoration

Traditional Croatian Christmas Cakes

It's already December, the time of Advent, and Christmas time is at the door. Tasty traditional Croatian Christmas desserts have always been popular throughout the whole year, not just in the Christmas season. Here you can read more about the magical desserts' formulas so you can prepare them in the warmth of your home.

Table of Contents

Croatia is known as the gastronomic paradise when it comes to all kinds of foods. The same goes for desserts. Among different doughs, rolls, tarts, cremes, brownies, pies, bars, gingerbread cookies, cream cakes, tea biscuits surely you can find something for yourself.

If you are a sweet-tooth you can really enjoy the Croatian ancient recipes and even try to make them on your own. Recipes we bring you here belonged to our grandmas and mothers and are collected through the years. The most important advice we got is not to stick to the ingredients blindly, but do every recipe „od oka“, meaning: roughly, approximately.

Now let us tell you a few secrets of the traditional Croatian recipes that make every Christmas a joyful experience!

Favourite Christmas ingredientsFavorite Christmas ingredients, source: Pixabay

1. Orahnjaca - Walnut Roll

(pronounced: orahnyacha)

Savory Christmas treat orahnjaca, or the walnut cake is probably the most famous cake in Croatia. If you would ask people to name some traditional Croatian Christmas cakes, orahnjaca would definitely be on top of the list. Housewives make it not only at Christmas time, but also for Easter, and for various family celebrations. Since Christmas is approaching, here is the list of ingredients to make your life easier...

Dough ingredients:

  • 40 dag of white flour
  • a cube of fresh yeast (di-go yeast is the most popular in Croatia)
  • 6 dag of melted butter
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 6 dag of sugar
  • half a deciliter of oil (0.5 dl)
  • lemon zest
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 dl of warm milk

Raw Orahnjaca dough

Raw Orahnjaca dough


Stuffing ingredients:

  • 40 dag or walnuts
  • 15 dag of sugar
  • 10 dag of raisins
  • 2 dl of hot milk
  • a spoon of rum
  • 1 pack of vanilla

Preparation:

You knead the dough manually, an electric mixer is not needed. Beat the eggs in the other bowl and add all wet ingredients in the flour, melting the yeast with warm milk. Put the dough in the bowl, cover it, and leave it to rise up for 1 hour. After an hour, the mixture will be perfect for stuffing.

While the dough is rising, make the stuffing. Clean the walnuts and grind them. Wash the raisins. Add sugar, raisins, vanilla powder, and 2 - 3 spoons of rum. Slowly pour the hot milk into the filling. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, try without the baking scale (our moms did like that). Flatten two pieces of dough with the dough roller (rolling pin).

Orahnjaca dough and a rolling pin

Orahnjaca dough and a rolling pin

Put the walnut stuffing on each piece and roll both halves separately.

Orahnjaca stuffing

Orahnjaca stuffing

A big piece of fabric will be effective to make the perfect roller-like dough.


Orahnjaca makingOrahnjaca making

Leave the dough again for 30 minutes, to be ready for the oven.

Raw Orahnjaca rolls

Raw Orahnjaca rolls


Important: preheat the oven to 180˚C before you start to stuff the dough. Put the dough in the oven and bake it for 40 minutes to 180˚C.

Before baking coat orahnjaca with egg yolks, to get a nice brown crust in the oven.

Coating Orahnjaca with egg yolks

Coating Orahnjaca with egg yolks

Extra advice: You can increase the temperature to 200˚C for the first 10 minutes and then decrease it to 180˚C for the remaining 30 minutes.

Orahnjaca in the oven

Orahnjaca in the oven

How to serve it:

We recommend serving it with powdered sugar, but you can leave it out. This traditional dessert will serve as an excellent supplement to your morning coffee. It can also be a perfect gift to your loved ones.

Delicious Orahnjaca slices

Delicious Orahnjaca slices

2. Makovnjaca – Poppy Seed Roll

(pronounced: makovnyacha)

Another popular pastry after famous and widespread orahnjaca is a bit neglected, but very tasty makovnjaca. The dough is usually the same as for orahnjaca. The stuffing is made of poppy seeds, which do their best when dipped in hot milk. In the presence of lemon or orange peel, the taste will be enriched. Ultimately, you get a finely granular and dusky backdrop. For more fragrance, you can add the notes of orange and lemon flower water, sweet spices, or honey.

Dough ingredients:

...are the same as in orahnjaca. See more above...


Dough in a bowl

Dough in a bowl, source: Pixabay

Stuffing ingredients:

  • 200 g of poppy seeds
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 1 - 1,5 dl of milk
  • 1 pack of vanilla
  • 1 spoon of semolina
  • raisins or walnuts (if you want)

Preparation:

The preparation is the same as with orahnjaca (walnut roll), see above. It is also baked for 40 minutes at 180˚C. Advice is the same: preheat the oven, first 10 minutes bake it at 200˚C, and the remaining 30 minutes bake it at 180˚C. Like grandmas and mothers say: „It depends how good is the oven.“

How to serve it:

Serve it with a cup of favorite tea or coffee. You can bring it to your work; it's very nutritious with a glass of milk and will keep you satiated.

Advice: experienced guidance is needed, especially with the doughs like orahnjaca and makovnjaca. Don't tell we didn't warn you :- )

Makovnjaca – Poppy Seed Roll slices

Makovnjaca – Poppy Seed Roll slices, source: Pixabay

3. Fritule

(pronounced: freetooleh)

The inevitable quick deep-fried dough is perfect for Christmas time or during cold winter evenings. It will warm you up instantly and give you the feeling of home. Fritule is ideal during fasting, and housewives always make it for Christmas Eve. You can also buy it in restaurants and bakeries, it is widely spread on the days before Christmas. There are so many recipes, but the basis is always the same: soft flour mixture is shaped with a hand, between thumb and index finger, and put in hot frying oil. We have already given you the recipe for fritule. You can read it on our blog: How to make Croatian Fritule.

Soft Fritule dough, ready for quickly deep frying

Soft Fritule dough, ready for quickly deep frying

We recommend sprinkling it with powdered sugar and serve it with tea or coffee. One of the famous fritule desserts comes from the Primosten region, a small touristy town between Split and Sibenik.

Fritule

Fritule, Wikimedia Commons, author: Klenje

4. Krostule

(pronunced: kroʃtooleh)

Krostule (Latin „crustulum“) is a fast-made cake that is perfect for the Christmas holidays. The cake, in fact, derives from the Roman era and was given to the Roman soldiers in the war. There are many versions of krostule recipe, but it is a flour-based dough dipped in frying oil. Krostule, like fritule is made for Christmas Eve and is also a good choice for fasting (you mustn't add lard). Here is one old recipe without the lard.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg of all-purpose flour
  • 12 dag of sugar
  • 3 sour cremes
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 pack of baking powder
  • 1 pack of vanilla
  • aroma of rum, vanilla, orange and lemon (you can also add bottled rum, and zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon)

Preparation:

First, you make a bit softer dough. Flatten the dough with the roller, to become very thin. Then cut it with a cutter or knife in the shape of a rectangle. Make a small cut in the middle of each piece and invert one part to the other side, it will look more interesting. Put at least 1 liter of oil in a pot, and heat it before you put dough pieces in the hot oil. You stir the pieces and take them out after less than a minute. Advice: Do not put too many pieces at one time.

Raw Krostule dough

Raw Krostule dough

How to serve it:

We recommend serving it with a cup of tea or coffee. It is perfect for tea time, at any time, not specifically at 5 pm. Croatian are known to be coffee lovers, so we always find some excuse to sit for a cup of coffee with friends. It's something like free therapy in the sun. Well, besides the coffee bill :-)

Krostule

Krostule, Wikimedia Commons, author: Popo le Chien

5. Vanilin Kiflici - Vanilla Rolls

(pronounced: va'ni:lin kiflitʃi)

Here we are going to reveal to you the simplest recipe possible for the favorite fast cookies made just of dough, without the stuffing. They are great because they last longer, just put them in a tin box.

Ingredients:

  • 30 dag of white flour
  • 10 dag of almonds
  • 22 dag of butter
  • 6 dag of sugar
  • 1 pack of baking powder
  • 1 pack of vanilla

Preparation:

You make a dough with your hands, without the hand mixer. The golden rule is to first put the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, almonds, baking powder, vanilla) and then add butter (almost 1 whole butter). Mix it manually for a longer period of time to do it evenly.

Vanilin Kiflici in the oven

Vanilin Kiflici in the oven

Afterward, flatten the dough with a kitchen roller (rolling pin). After that, you cut the dough with the dough cutter and form the sweet rolls. You need to preheat the oven to 180˚C for at least 15 minutes and then put rolls in the hot oven. Hold it inside for 20 minutes, but watch it carefully. You remove it when it is light brown.

Advice: using a toothpick will help you. If the dough remains on it when you stick it - the dough is still raw; if the toothpick is clean, the dough is baked.

How to serve it:

We suggest serving it with the icing sugar when your tea time starts. For a more healthy version, if you take care of your caloric intake, you can try them without the icing. They will be delicious either way.

Vanilin kiflici

Vanilin Kiflici decoration, source: Pixabay

6. Kokos Kiflici – Coconut Rolls

(pronounced: 'koːkɔs kiflitʃi)

In addition, we will give you another secret recipe of one Dalmatian family. It is not complicated, and everyone can make it.

Dough ingredients:

  • 50-60 dag of all-purpose flour
  • 10 dag of coconut (coconut pack)
  • 25 dag of sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 butter
  • 1 baking powder

Preparation:

First put flour, then all other dry ingredients (sugar, coconut, baking powder). Then you add eggs and butter in the end. Mix all ingredients manually. You need to make a solid piece of dough, then leave it on the table for at least 30 minutes. Flatten the dough and make small rolls. You can stuff it with some kind of filling, according to your wishes (chocolate cream).

How to serve it:

Serve it with icing sugar or without it. A glass of tea will do. It is a great dessert for children, so make sure you give it to the kids when they go to school. These cookies can last for a longer period of time.

Kokos Kiflici dipped in chocolate

Kokos Kiflici dipped in chocolate

7. Ruzice

(pronounced: rûʒitse)

Ruzice (roses) is a miniature walnut dessert that irresistibly reminds of small roses. There are different recipes for this small treat, but we chose this from our grandmas.

Dough ingredients:

  • 25 dag of flour
  • 15 dag of lard
  • 1 yeast
  • a zest of lemon

Raw Ruzice dough

Raw Ruzice dough, source: Pixabay

Stuffing ingredients:

  • 15 dag od almonds
  • 25 dag of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla
  • spoon of rum

Preparation:

First, you need to make the dough, which is pretty simple. Then make the almond stuffing by whisking whole eggs with sugar and vanilla. Add almonds and rum in the end. Mix it well. Flatten the dough and put the stuffing. Roll it and cut it into small pieces (approximately 2 – 3 cm wide). Arrange them in a baking tray and bake at 180˚C (or 200˚C) for 10 - 15 minutes, depends on the oven.

How to serve it:

A picture-perfect ruzice dessert is great on the plate. It will even look better if you mix them with other traditional cakes (rafioli, breskvice, etc.). Decorate it with the icing sugar and serve it to your dearest.

Ruzice dessert

Ruzice dessert, source: Pixabay

8. Paprenjaci – Black Pepper Cookies

(pronounced: paprenyatsi)

Paprenjak is also a traditional Croatian cookie, full of black pepper. It is the main ingredient of this Croatian version of gingerbread cookies. It also contains mill products, sugar, starch syrup or honey, fats, eggs, spices. The cookie needs to have at least 10% fat. The finished product can contain a maximum of 5% water. Black pepper cookies from Hvar island do not have pepper in them, while black peppers from Zagreb contain pepper. The art of making the traditional Stari Grad paprenjok is a protected cultural asset of the Republic of Croatia.

Paprenjaci in the store

Paprenjaci in the store, source: Wikimedia Commons, author: Roberta F.

Ingredients:

  • all-purpose white flour 50 dag
  • 220 g of ground walnuts
  • 120 g of granulated sugar
  • 120 g of butter
  • 120 g of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of lard
  • 1,5 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • half a lemon zest
  • 1 egg

You can also add:

  • a pinch of cloves
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • a dash of cardamom

Preparation:

First beat butter and lard, then add sugar and beat it again until it becomes smooth. In a beaten egg add walnuts, zest, and honey. Add flour mixed with spices to these wet ingredients. Make the dough with your hands, not with an electric mixer. It takes a while until it's finished. Then leave it at least for an hour. Flatten the dough, cut out the cookies using the cutter. Paprenjaci is usually made from traditional wooden carved blocks, but you can use something similar. Bake the cookies at 180˚C for 10 minutes.

How to serve it:

Black pepper cookies are best with tea, or as an edible souvenir (something like traditional Croatian licitar).

Paprenjaci decoration

Paprenjaci decoration, source: Pixabay

9. Kuglof – Bundt Cake

(pronounced: koo'glo:f)

Kuglof or kugluf is a cake with a hole in it. It is a typical celebration dessert, great for Christmas or New Year's Eve. You can adorn it with all kinds of chocolates, spices, and other cake decorations.

Ingredients for the white layer:

  • 2 full cups of flour (2x2 dl)
  • 1 full yogurt cup of sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 yogurt
  • 1 baking powder
  • half a cup of oil
  • spices according to wishes

Second layer:

  • half of the white layer
  • 3 spoons of cacao (added after the first half of dough is placed in the baking tin)

Kuglof layers

Kuglof layers, source: Pixabay

Preparation:

You whisk the flour mixture and pour it into the greased bundt pan for making ring-shaped cakes, with a hole in the middle. Basic kuglof usually has 2 layers. The white layer is made of whisked white flour. First, you pour the first part of the liquid mixture into the baking tin. To a second half, you add 3 spoons of cacao (or more if you wish) and then whisk thoroughly. You can add raisins, walnuts, or almonds for a richer taste, or grated apples. Pour the rest, the dark layer of the mixture in the tin. Preheat the oven and bake it approximately for 30 minutes at 180˚C.

How to serve it:

We suggest dusting it with powdered sugar, for richer taste garnish it with melted chocolate or chocolate crumbs. Decorate the bundt with red details to be picture-perfect in the festive Christmas season.

Kuglof

Kuglof, source: Pixabay

10. Biskupski Kolac – Bishop's Cake

(pronounced: beescoop-ski kola:tʃ)

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 70 g of walnuts
  • 70 g of chocolate
  • grated lemon zest
  • 70 g raisins
  • 70 g of smooth cake flour

Preparation:

Separate egg whites from egg yolks. Cut chocolate and walnuts into smaller pieces. Whisk egg yolks with sugar and lemon zest. Add walnuts, chocolate, and raisins. Stir them into the egg yolks, gradually adding flour. Lightly stir in the egg whites. Make the dough and pour it into the greased ribbed cake tin. Bake it for 30 minutes at 180˚C.

How to serve it:

Sprinkle the baked cake with icing sugar, cut into slices, and serve with hot drinks, like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee. It will be perfect after a rich Christmas lunch. The sweet note of this cake will satisfy your sugar craving, for sure.

Biskupski Kolac

Biskupski Kolac, source: Pixabay

11. Croatian Cuisine – culinary and gastronomic paradise

Besides its natural phenomena, Croatia is no doubt a gastronomic oasis. Numerous guests visiting Croatia each year aware of the beauties of it, but still, emphasize that the food is the forte of our small country. Once you find yourself in the gastronomic paradise, your palates will be extremely satisfied. On our website, you can read the article Dalmatian Soul Food, and see the magical recipes and extraordinary pictures to help you understand just a small part of the Dalmatian/Croatian healthy cuisine. Other food blogs you can read on Food in Croatia.

Once you try traditional Croatian Christmas cakes, you will definitely enrich your culinary experience. We advise you to try to make them at home. Like they say; you gotta risk it, to get the biscuit!

Enjoy your meal! (Dobar tek!)


Dessert with coffee - one of life's magic

Dessert with coffee - one of life's magic, source: Pixabay


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