I’m one of those few people who rarely eat sweet foods – desserts. Heck, I moved to Romania partly because I enjoy all the sour, pickled foods. Certainly there is a strong pickled/sour component to Romanian cooking but there is also a wide variety of desserts.
The treats that Romanians enjoy aren’t all exactly analogous to the desserts most English-speaking people are familiar with, so let’s review a few flour-based sweet treats!
Note: for some reason, a chec in Romania is always cooked in a rectangular pan.
tort – From the Latin word for cake, this is the dessert most people serve at birthday parties and special events. Usually these are far “lighter” than western cakes, being topped with some kind of very frothy, light cream (not western “icing”) and usually with a lot of fruit inside or as part of the topping.
Note: in contrast to the chec, a tort is always cooked in a round pan.
diplomat – There are many standard kinds of cakes in Romania but I think the diplomat is one of the most popular (and common). It’s essentially a tort from above but with a rum-flavored topping.
placinta – In every dictionary I’ve ever seen, this word is always translated as “pie”. That being said, a placinta is only very rarely a dessert (i.e. a sweet thing) and is usually filled with meat/cheese. Like any “pie” though it is some kind of pastry with a filling but usually it’s fried rather than baked.
Almost always, a “pie” in Romania is made in single-serving portions. Cooking multi-person “pies” (meant to be sliced) of any type in Romania is exceedingly rare.
rulada – Literally meaning “rolled”, this is a cake-like dessert that is remarkably similar to tort above. Except of course the flour and filling are indeed rolled or folded over to make a spiral design. It’s identical to what’s known in English as a Swiss roll.
cozonac – These are very traditional “cake-like” desserts in Romania, especially during some holidays. I think the closest equivalent to English would be “coffee cake” as it generally skips the creamy filling/topping of a tort and is “drier” and more dense, often having nuts, raisins or other dried fruit in it. Some varieties are extremely similar to what’s known in English as fruitcake.
Note: In Romania cozonac is always cooked in a long, thin rectangular pan.
clatite – Usually translated into English as “pancakes”, these are quite different than both the structure and concept of (esp. American) pancakes, and would be more accurately described as crepes in English. Whether these come with a cheese filling or something much sweeter (chocolate is especially popular), these are considered desserts (or treats) and never eaten as “regular” breakfast food.
corn – From the Latin, literally meaning “horn”, this is the common Romanian word to refer to what’s known in English as a croissant (or sometimes a “crescent roll”). These often come filled with either chocolate or else cheese.
trigon – Any triangle-shaped, single-serving pastry. Usually filled with either cheese or a nut/sweet combination.
strudel – Almost identical to the German dessert (also called strudel in English). In Romania, it’s more common to see versions filled with cheese and/or meat rather than sweet versions (such as apple). Almost always made in single-serving portions.
gogosi – These are usually translated as “doughnuts”. Generally speaking however, these are far more similar to placinte above, being some kind of dough with a filling that’s then fried. Sometimes gogosi come in a sweet variety (filled with jam or chocolate) but varieties with a cheese or cabbage filling are also common.
Note: do not confuse these with gogosari, which are a local variety of the “bell pepper” vegetable and are completely unrelated to the dessert.
biscuiti – There’s a tremendous confusion here because in USA English, these are referred to as “cookies” while in UK English the term is “biscuits”.
In Romania, biscuiti are usually the plainest forms of cookies, the kind you might want to dunk in some coffee for breakfast. The “digestive” style of these desserts are always referred to as biscuiti in Romania. Romanians generally prefer extremely “light”, airy versions of these desserts (such as macaroons) versus thicker, heavier, more ingredient-dense versions (see below).
Note: if you’re not sure which word to use in Romanian for these treats, use biscuiti.
fursecuri – These are the more elaborate kind of cookies, especially the kinds Americans enjoy (like chocolate chip). Usually what makes fursecuri distinctive are multiple ingredients and being much “richer” or denser than biscuiti.
salam de biscuiti – Literally meaning “a cookie/biscuit salami”, this is a dessert made from crushing cookies/biscuits and raisins and rolling it into a log (to be sliced) that resembles a salami sausage (hence the name). One of the all-time most popular desserts in Romania.
Note: There’s absolutely no meat in this dessert. It’s also not cooked but formed from the ingredients and pressed into its shape.
BONUS DESSERT GIFT ADVICE:
If you ever want to bring a dessert as a gift to a Romanian’s home, always, always bring shortbread cookies/biscuits. They aren’t made in Romanian homes and are expensive imports, had to find in the stores. Yet Romanians universally go gaga for them and snarf them up at high rates of speed.
If you’re coming from Britain, get the Scottish varieties for your Romanian friends/hosts.
If you’re coming from America, buy Lorna Doone (or equivalent) cookies.
THEY’LL BE SURE TO THANK YA! :)