Cast adrift in the middle of the Med, Malta’s cuisine counts southern Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East as its main influences. For dessert, this medley of international menus has resulted in a greatest-hits curation of creamy Italian gelato, continental pastries and date-encrusted Arabian delights, each with a uniquely Maltese twist. Here, we tempt your sweet tooth with a sublime selection of traditional Maltese desserts and where to sample the best of them.
Similar to their Italian cousins, kannoli tal-irkotta are crisp wraps of fresh pastry neatly piped with a rich, creamy centre. In Malta, lemon-infused ricotta is a popular filling, sprinkled with chopped nuts, chocolate or cherries. Enjoy them as the Maltese do, with a mid-morning coffee at Busy Bee in Msida while watching the yachts bob on the waterfront.
Local variations of the classic Swiss roll exist the world over but Malta's version, sinizza, is an indulgent amplification of the original. The traditional sponge cake has been replaced with a light, flaky puff pastry flavoured with rose water and nutmeg. Inside, unctuous layers of liqueur-infused ricotta mixed with candied fruit peel create a moist filling. The roll is slathered in honey before baking. Seek out sensational sinizza at the family-run Santa Lucia Café, moments from Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa.
A sugary legacy from the island’s erstwhile Arab rulers, imqaret are deep-fried pastries stuffed with dates, citrus and spice. Small and snackable, imqaret were introduced to the island around the 11th century and are an intrinsic Maltese dessert. The name translates to ‘diamond shaped’, and they’re found across the island, from street vendors to cafés.
Dating back to the 15th century, this iconic Maltese dessert is traditionally eaten at Christmas and also enjoyed at any time of year on the island. Qagħaq ta' L-Għasel (honey rings) are firm rings of dough, stuffed with a dark, treacly filling that’s enriched with mixed peel, aromatic cloves and aniseed liqueur. Purchase one elegantly boxed as a souvenir at Valletta’s historic Caffe Cordina.
Its proximity to Sicily means Malta’s partiality for great gelato is a given. Gelato here comes in rainbows of flavours that beautifully befit the summery Mediterranean setting. Malta has reinvented the Italian import and made it its own version. Maltese gelato is made with condensed milk and mixed with candied peel and cinnamon. Sottozero—The Gelato Factory in St Paul’s Bay is where to find it.
A favourite among vegan visitors, kwarezimal are dairy-free Maltese biscuits that traditionally appear around Lent and Easter. Taking its name from the Latin for ‘40 days of Lent’, the soft, crumbly, finger biscuits are made with ground almonds. Nutmeg and cinnamon lend them warmth, while lemon and orange blossom give a citrusy kick. Find kwarezimal around Easter time at confectioner Tad-Dulċier in Floriana.
Are you an art lover or culture vulture holidaying in Malta? Well, you’ll be pleased to find that this Mediterranean island may be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to art and culture. Here are six recommended destinations to add to your itinerary to experience the best of Malta’s art scene.