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Sweet Life
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Cake, candy, cookies & goodies from around the world

The clock counts down as the crowd goes wild. A row of competitors push toward the finish line. It’s not a bike race or a 5k. It’s a pączki-eating contest. Every Mardi Gras, from Tappan, New York, to Hamtramck, Michigan, these fried, sugar-dusted fluffs of pastry have become an occasion for celebrating pre-Lent excess, Polish culture, and of course, gastronomic athleticism.

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Along state route 24 in south-central Utah, the Sunglow Restaurant and Motel sells the same unconventional pies they’ve been known for since the 1960s. Located in the tiny town of Bicknell (population: 321, as of 2017), this eatery is situated 13 miles west of Capitol Reef National Park. A full assessment of flavor choices might leave you wondering if you’re looking at the right menu. Apart from classics such as apple or blueberry, you’ll find oatmeal, sour cream, buttermilk, avocado lime, pinto bean, and pickle pies.

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Chocolate tea is so delicious, it may lure you to your doom. This, at least, is the theme of a Barbadian folk song about a man so beguiled by his lover’s chocolate tea, he doesn’t realize she’s actually poisoning him. While the double entendre of the song is debatable, what isn’t up for debate is that this hot, slightly bitter Caribbean cocoa drink is seductive indeed.

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At first glance and taste, needhams may seem like a Mounds bar—a coconut paste covered by a layer of chocolate. But pureed potatoes are the secret ingredient in these typically-homemade candies, which are an old-timey Maine favorite.

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Kvikk Lunsj may look like your standard chocolate-covered wafer. Unwrapped, it could easily be mistaken for a KitKat, save the small storks stamped into its coating. But in Norway, Kvikk Lunsj isn’t just candy; it’s fuel for outdoor exploration.

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Around February or March, Tibetan Buddhists celebrate Losar, a New Year’s festival that lasts 15 days. Participants create elaborate altars in honor of the occasion. These arrays include, among other sacred objects, a number of food-based offerings. Temples display intricate butter sculptures and butter-fueled lamps, both made from yak’s milk. At home, celebrants’ altars include dried fruit, candies, and mounds of hand-formed, deep-fried cookies called khapse.

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Ingberlach isn’t a treat you’ll typically find sold in candy shops. In some Jewish homes, grandmas fashion this sweet, spicy, sticky confection by reducing honey and ginger on the stove, then adding dried fruit and nuts.

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Anyone who loves chocolate owes a huge debt of gratitude to this Dutch chemist. He invented a process that created an easily prepared powdered hot chocolate, which, in turn, led to the production of creamy, solid chocolate as we know it.

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A mother said she was surprised when her young son told her that there is a “hidden” picture on the Toblerone label.

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Bastani-e nooni is a feast for the senses. The gorgeous yellow hue of saffron ice cream. The aroma of rosewater. The smooth texture of the cool, creamy treat countering the crispy wafers and crunchy sprinkling of pistachios.

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If you want a true ice cream sandwich, look no further than Singapore’s street food scene.

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Say (almost) anything #152. Time to celebrate Fruitcake Day!

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Queen Victoria attended a garden party the evening before Prince George was to wed Princess May of Teck. The year was 1893, and the event spawned the first written mention of a dish called “Eton Mess aux Fraises,” recorded by historian Arthur Beavan.

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Does the thought of creamy, chewy wheat berries, roasted nuts, and dried fruit—spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with honey—make your mouth water? In the Eastern Orthodox Church, that’s a heretical move.

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The term Persian can refer to a number of things, including people, cats, rugs, and cinnamon buns covered in berry icing. You may be thinking that the last entry bears no relation to present-day Iran or the empire that preceded it. You’d be right. This fried and frosted delicacy hails from Thunder Bay in northern Ontario. And it’s supposedly “named” after John J. Pershing, an American general in World War I. This, of course, is if you were to pronounce his name “John J. Persian.” Pershing is not Persian, either. He’s from Missouri.

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Hershey's Kisses are sending some home bakers into sugar shock this season.

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Estonians can waltz into almost any grocery store and grab a cold kohuke from the refrigerated dairy aisle. This local favorite roughly translates to “little curd” and is made of pressed cheese coated in a sweet glaze. In its classic form, kohuke is reminiscent of a chocolate-covered vanilla cheesecake bar.

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For centuries, Portuguese nuns doubled as egg yolk–slinging pastry chefs, cementing the country’s specialty in yellow-hued sweets. There’s ovos moles, small, seashell-shaped candies. There’s pão de ló de ovar, a decadent, gooey cake. Then there’s lampreia de ovos, perhaps the most unique among the yolk-based offerings. Made from 50 egg yolks, this sweet replica of a terrifying, ancient sea monster also happens to be a Christmas treat in some regions.

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Most cakes are created in about the same way: You mix a batter, pour it into a pan, and bake it in an oven. Spit cakes, in dramatic contrast, are cooked by flinging batter onto a rotating dowel over an open flame.

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In Denmark, the tradition of eating rice pudding, or risengrød, on Christmas starts with a mischievous elf.

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The Philippines is home to one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, stretching from the beginning of September until the end of December. Months of festivities are sustained by a wide array of delicious, often colorful treats, and among the most beloved is puto bumbong, a purple steamed rice sweet. Stand outside any Catholic church during Simbáng Gabi, the nine-day period of masses leading up to Christmas Eve, and you’re likely spot vendors serving up the brightly-colored, steaming snacks to churchgoers who stop at their stalls.

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Along state route 24 in south-central Utah, the Sunglow Restaurant and Motel sells the same unconventional pies they’ve been known for since the 1960s. Located in the tiny town of Bicknell (population: 321, as of 2017), this eatery is situated 13 miles west of Capitol Reef National Park. A full assessment of flavor choices might leave you wondering if you’re looking at the right menu. Apart from classics such as apple or blueberry, you’ll find oatmeal, sour cream, buttermilk, avocado lime, pinto bean, and pickle pies.

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Firefighters in the town of Werl in western Germany tackled an unusual emergency late on Monday when a tank at a local firm making liquid chocolate overflowed and poured out onto a street.

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If visiting Sweden in December, you will see curled saffron buns everywhere you go. These are lussekatter and they’re not just for eating; they were once believed to ward off the devil.

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Around the holidays, receiving sweet treats from friends and neighbors can be as heartwarming as a cup of hot, spiced glühwein. But among the ranks of Christmas cookies, few are more fetching than Germany’s mold-pressed springerle. The delicate biscuits have been a part of the Bavarian holiday spirit since the 14th century, possibly even earlier.

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While traversing the Indian subcontinent, you’ll come across variations of burfi that go by many names. This sweet, milk-based confection is named after the Persian word for “snow” or “ice.” At its most basic, burfi is just a solidified mixture of condensed milk, ghee (clarified butter), and sugar that gets sliced into small cubes or diamond-shaped pieces, akin to fudge. Also like fudge, burfi is sold in a number of flavors, ranging from chocolate to rosewater. In pista burfi, the addition of ground pistachios (which make up the “pista” part of the name) give the otherwise creamy-white treat a verdant glow.

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Catholics ready themselves for a period of abstinence and fasting, known as Lent, by first reveling in earthly pleasures. Celebrants observe this stretch of partying, gorging, and merrymaking—a period known as Carnival—across the globe. Despite varying cultural rituals, participants seem to agree that eating decadent forms of dough is essential to doing the act of indulgence proper justice. In Hawaii, that means hole-less Portuguese doughnuts. In Russia, it’s butter-topped blinis galore. And in Naples, indulgence comes in the form of a sugar-coated, deep-fried ring. Locals prepare their city’s signature fluffy doughnuts, known as graffe, using dough made from potatoes.

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In centuries past, Scots ate “cream crowdie” for breakfast. The meal consisted of oats and heather honey—a fragrant, woody product harvested from the moorlands—mixed into a soft cheese called crowdie. Over time, fresh raspberries (when in season) and whisky (always in season) were tossed into the mix, creating a festive trifle more akin to an after-dinner treat. Today, Scots across the country call it cranachan (pronounced CRAH-nuh-kun), and regard the mixture as traditional dessert fare.

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Of the many pastries and dishes that Italy has gifted to the world, the Neapolitan treat known as struffoli holds a special place at the holiday table for southern Italian and Italian-American families alike. The dish originally came to Naples from Greece, and the name struffoli comes from the Greek word stróngylos, meaning “round.” Struffoli can be found throughout southern Italy, with many names and varieties, including cicerata and cicerchiata.

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Many American Southerners have fond childhood memories of snow. The sight of falling flakes meant a rare day of sledding, snowball fights, and building snowmen in the otherwise warm climate. It also meant their mothers or grandmothers would whip up a batch of fresh snow cream.

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