It’s hard to pin down what makes Carnival such a lovable exercise in festivities, year after year. To anyone with a bout of scepticism, Carnival can seem rowdy, loud, gaudy and wild. To the optimistic eye, that is precisely the point – Carnival is not like any other time of the year. It’s a colourful spectrum of letting loose and celebration, and maybe the fact that it inspires so much joy to people of all ages is a telling sign that we need to add some more colour to our daily routine.
That doesn’t mean we’d vouch for more frequent carnivals, though! Just like how the magic of Christmas presents would be lost if we received them every day, the traditions of Carnival are special because you’re not going to find them regularly in Malta. This is especially true of the special confectionaries and sweets that become available in Malta and Gozo during the Carnival period.
These sweet treats are absolutely heavenly, but would you want them to be available all year round? Instinctively, we’d shout a resounding yes – but the truth is that waiting for the whole year to pass so that you can get your hands on a portion on these scrumptious goods makes them taste even better!
If you’re new to Maltese Carnival, though, you’re probably not partaking in the collective mouth-watering just yet. What are these magical carnival treats, and where can one find them? The answer to the second question is quite simply ‘everywhere’, but the first requires a bit more depth. Luckily for you, we’re providing the answer throughout the rest of the article.
The first thing to stress here is that if you go to just about any place celebrating Carnival this year, you’re going to find the usual street vendors selling an assortment of sugary goods, like ice creams and doughnuts. That’s not we mean when we’re talking about traditional carnival treats, of course! Delicious as they might be if you’re looking to sample our more traditional offerings, try out some of the below:
Photo credit: www.tisjir.com
If we were to conduct a poll asking which Carnival treat was the overall favourite, we’re sure that Prinjolata would take the cake. Often considered to be the quintessential Carnival treat, this would be the one to sample if you could only limit yourself to one sweet (but why torture yourself like that?).
Prinjolata is a kind of cake that is made first by blending ‘pan di spagna’ sponge with cocoa nibs, pine nuts, and cherries. That is the body of the cake, and it is then covered in succulent cream, drizzled melted chocolate, and more cherries. You don’t need us to tell you it’s not the best cake to eat on a diet. Indeed, ‘sinful’ and ‘decadent’ are two great words to choose when describing prinjolata cakes, but arguably that just makes them even more appropriate as a pre-Lent indulgence!
Photo credit: Bora Pra Malta
Simply put, perlini are almonds cased in a strong sugar coating. They’re colourful and definitely will hit the spot if you find yourself craving that sugary, nutty taste, but we would like to offer a word of caution first: perlini are usually quite hard. Biting into them is definitely not the wisest choice – instead, opt for sucking on them till they soften up.
It might seem like a silly or even obvious thing to say – however, perlini are mostly enjoyed by children, so passing on the message to your kids is a simple way of avoiding unexpected and unwanted trips to the dentist this Carnival!
We’re not trying to diss perlini, of course – they’re great fun in their sweet simplicity. They also have a very particular place in Maltese Carnival history. Perlini used to be thrown to children by people on top of the carnival floats.
Sfrappole (and similar Sicilian treats)
Photo credit: www.instructables.com
Because of Malta’s proximity to Sicily, you’ll find a few places offering some of Sicily’s coveted Carnival treats. One such treat is ‘Sfrappole’, and is simply fried dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. It might sound underwhelming and simple, but it’s quite delicious – think of it as kannoli (another popular treat in Malta) pastry without the ricotta filling!