Christmas holidays and the feeling of closeness, melting, and warmth are in front of the doors. And what could bring us even closer than baking tasty Christmas cakes together?
If you wonder what cakes Croatians bake during winter holidays, the answer is the endless number of irresistible delicacies. We enjoy the traditional Croatian classics whose recipes were inherited from our grandmas but also playful modern sweets.
In this article, we bring the list of the most common Croatian Christmas cakes. The traditional ones usually depend on the region, but some are specific to the whole country.
Before absorbing the astonishing smells, we want to thank our readers for suggesting some of the cakes we mention. Your support for making this world a better place is always priceless.
Jump to a cake:
- Mašinski keksi
Let’s bake some Christmas cakes…
Cakes that Croatians bake for Christmas holidays
Breskvice (Peaches) are small pink or yellow cakes that look like small peaches. Since Breskvice are colorful, and other Christmas cakes are usually of neutral colors, they bring a little joy and fun to Christmas cake plates.
From their smell, you can recognize walnuts, almonds, and vanilla as one of the main ingredients. They are rolled in sugar, so they look like covered with the first snow. The longer they sit, the tastier they are because they soften.
View a recipe for Breskvice here.
Fritule are traditionally baked on Christmas Eve, usually in Dalmatia, and remind of small doughnuts. The dough for Fritule is deep-fried, and they are ready to eat in no time. Although recipes may vary, the best ones are prepared with yogurt and a sip of alcohol which makes them airy and soft. They are the most delicious when eaten warm, right after baking.
If you visit the Croatian Advent celebrations, there is no way you could miss Fritule. They are sold in paper cups topped with powdered sugar, chocolate, or other toppings. Be sure you will notice the sweet, warm smell of Fritule from afar. Grab a cup to treat yourself and warm up as you wander through Advent events.
View a recipe for Fritule here.
Kiflice (Vanilla rolls) are dry cookies prepared from flour, ground walnuts or hazelnuts, and vanilla sugar. The combination of these simple but tasty ingredients makes Kiflice smell amazing. Since they do not contain eggs, you can prepare and store them a few weeks before Christmas.
Kiflice are one of those cakes that almost everyone likes. It can be considered a traditional Christmas cake since most Croatian households prepare it for the Christmas holidays. It is impossible to get enough of Kiflice.
View a recipe for Kiflice here.
Kroštule are also deep-fried like Fritule, but the recipe for their dough is different, and they taste crunchy. The sip of rum, orange or lemon peel, and their natural look make them unique.
Kroštule are traditional Croatian easy-to-prepare cakes, originally from Istria and Dalmatia. However, they are also baked for other solemn occasions like weddings.
[Read: How to attend a Croatian wedding]
View a recipe for Kroštule here.
Kuglof is a cake that is easy to prepare but also one of the most festive cakes. Although Kuglof is actually just a simple biscuit, it looks elegant and attractive. Different types of Kuglof include ingredients like cocoa, red wine, honey, cinnamon, oranges, apples, and walnuts.
Mramorni vijenac (marble wreath) is the most basic type. It is a yellow biscuit sprinkled with cocoa, giving it an artistic look.
View several recipes for different types of Kuglof here.
Linzeri are one of Croatia’s most adorable and loved Christmas cakes. They were named after the Austrian city of Linz. These cookies are shaped by different molds like stars, flowers, and hearts and glued with jam. They are rolled in powdered sugar, and a jam shape sticks out, so they look a bit royal.
View a recipe for Linzeri here.
Mađarica is a more modern traditional Croatian cake and a queen of Christmas table. Almost everyone adores it. To prepare an ideal, harmonious Mađarica both in look and taste, you must be skilled and experienced.
The perfect Mađarica is almost too perfect – several layers of crust and chocolate glaze are arranged alternately. The thinner the layers are, the more elegant and perfect it is. It melts in your mouth, and the chocolate taste is glorious.
View a recipe for Mađarica here.
If you want to prepare cookies that will survive for weeks, Mašinski keksi (Machine biscuits) are a top choice. These cookies made of flour and margarine are a classic.
Combine different tastes by adding different ingredients to the basic dough, including nuts, coconut, cocoa, or anything else. Once baked, save your cookies to a decorative biscuit box and be proud when serving them. Their deliciousness can’t even be compared to the ones from stores.
View a recipe for Mašinski keksi here.
If you do not like sugar, good old Medenjaci (Honey cookies) is a way to go. I enjoy bitter tastes, and although Medenjaci are sweet, I can’t resist them because honey tastes utterly different than sugar.
Medenjaci are usually shaped with molds of classic Christmas motives, including Christmas trees, stars, houses, and snowflakes. You can decorate them with sugar and purchased cake decorations or simply dip them in chocolate or sugar. If you do not like sugar, leave them casual.
View a recipe for Medenjaci here.
Orehnjača (Gibanica; Povitica or Štrukolo in Istria) is a traditional Croatian cake made of dough and walnut filling. It is an inevitable cake that our grandmas baked for Christmas, other holidays, and festive occasions. It also comes in variations made of a poppy seed (makovnjača), cheese, and carob. Some add a bit of raising or jam to the filling to intensify the taste.
When I get the chance, I treat myself to breakfast with several pieces of orehnjača and a generous cup of strong hot coffee. Pure hedonism! Sometimes classics are simply the best.
View a recipe for orehnjača here.
Pandišpanj (Patišpanj, Pandešpanj) is a traditional biscuit cake baked on the Adriatic coast. Its original name is Pan di Spagna which translates as španjolski kruh (Spanish bread). It is assumed it arrived in Dubrovnik via Dubrovnik sailors.
The recipe is simple and made of basic cooking ingredients you always store in your kitchen, including eggs, sugar, and flour. Interestingly, this cake is very simple, and everyone can prepare it, but it has to be baked in an oven at a low temperature for quite a long – two hours.
View a recipe for Pandišpanj here.
Paprenjaci (singular paprenjak) is a traditional Croatian biscuit made of flour, sugar, starch syrup or honey, fats, eggs, and spices. Paprenjci are protected as indigenous Croatian products and are often bought as souvenirs. They were named after papar which means pepper.
Some Croatian families nurture the tradition of baking Paprenjaci on Christmas Eve. The recipes were inherited from our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Paprenjaci can be decorated the same way as Medenjaci, or simply with a sugar and lemon juice glaze.
View a recipe for paprenjaci here.
Raspucanci are adorable chocolate cookies that burst during baking, leaving a wiggly trace at their top. If you roll them in powdered sugar or chocolate, you will get a small abstract art from each cookie.
Raspucanci are fast and easy to prepare and last long. They are irresistibly crisp on the outside and chocolatey on the inside. They go well with tea.
View a recipe for Raspucanci here.
Rožata (Rozata) is a traditional Dalmatian dessert whose recipe has been passed down for generations. The first records about Rožata date from Venetians from around 1300, when it was called Fratrov puding (friar’s pudding). Rožata was named after its main ingredient – rozalin or liker od ruže (rose liqueur).
Rožata is easily prepared with modest ingredients, including milk, sugar, and caramel, but it tastes fantastic. In addition, Rožata is proposed to be included in UNESCO’s list of protected intangible heritage in Croatia. Do not miss Rožata while visiting Croatia!
View a recipe for rožata here.
Salenjaci are fragrant, crumbly pastries filled with jam that reminds of croissants. What makes them unique is lard used to coat the risen dough. Salo means lard in Croatian. This Slavonian delicacy is crunchy and incredibly soft at the same time.
Until a decade or two, it was usual for Croatians living in villages to raise pigs on their properties, but this is not common anymore. Locals would prepare Salenjaci for svinjokolja (slaughtering pigs) since the lard was fresh.
View a recipe for Salenjaci here.
Although Stolen (Stollen) or Biskupski kruh (Bishop’s bread) is a traditional German cake, and some Croats also prepare it for Christmas. This sweet bread can include candied fruit, almonds, walnuts, marzipan, poppy seeds, and cottage cheese. It smells amazing!
View a recipe for Stolen here.
Last but not least is another traditional Christmas cake inherited from our grandmas. Šape (Paws) are irresistible cookies with added ground walnuts. They are shaped with molds designed specifically for them.
Šape is one of my favorites since they can survive weeks and are simple but delicious. They are usually rolled in powdered sugar. My trick is to allow them to rest for at least a day or two until they soften a bit. Then I serve them with the afternoon coffee and enjoy it while it lasts. Yummy!
View a recipe for Šapice here.
View our other winter holiday posts
- Advent celebrations across Croatia
- Best spots in Croatia to go sledding PLUS where to buy one and winter vocabulary
- Croatian holiday words and phrases
- Epiphany (Bogojavljenje, Sveta tri kralja) in Croatia
- How to grow božićna pšenica (Christmas wheat) in Croatia
- Nikolinje – Saint Nicholas’ Day
- Silvestrovo and New Year’s Eve in Croatia
- St. Lucy’s Day (Sveta Lucija) in Croatia
- Sveti Stjepan, Štefanje (St. Stephen’s Day)
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.