Must-have Kiwi cakes and lollies on your New Zealand holiday

Handful of lollies

Blanche Clark

Posted July 27, 2023

The rivalry between Australia and New Zealanders isn’t limited to sports, it comes down to their cakes and sweets as well. Here are some treats to try on your next New Zealand holiday.

Australians and New Zealanders can quibble over who invented the pavlova, but Kiwis can lay claim to an eclectic range of cakes and lollies rarely seen in Australia.

No trip to New Zealand is complete without sampling their wares, especially on an Auckland to Wellington road trip winding through small towns where cute cafes with homemade goods are often the highlight of the day.

You’ll find ginger crunch, lolly cake, louise cake and other goodies that harken back to 1908, when grocer Thomas Edwards published the first Edmonds Cookery Book in New Zealand as a marketing ploy for his baking products business. 

Enjoying the same success as the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook in Australia, the Edmonds Cookery Book is up to its 69th edition and is used by both home cooks and commercial cafes alike. 


Cake with lollies

The lolly cake, which is made with Explorer sweets, is a nostalgic treat that is sold in cafes across New Zealand. Image: Stephanie Imlach

There are also nostalgia-laden lollies that set Kiwis apart from their Aussies mates, including marshmallow Chocolate Fish, hard Mackintosh’s toffees, chewy Jet Planes and fluffy Explorers (which are essential to make the forementioned lolly cake). 

These are all great to keep in the glovebox if exploring NZ’s best North Island attractions or seeing the best wildlife on a NZ South Island road trip.

All you need to wash then down is an L&P – that’s Lemon & Paeroa – New Zealand’s unofficial soft drink since 1907. Originally made with lemon juice, any trace has tartness has been lost over time, and today’s version is a super-sweet drink that’s unique, but akin to Solo.

Hand pouring soft drink

Lemon & Paeroa is the soft drink of choice across the ditch. Image: Stephanie Imlach

Understanding the feijoa obsession 

Pineapple Lumps, slightly chewy and gooey chocolate-covered sweets, have made it across the ditch and into Woolworths supermarkets, but you need to go to Aotearoa (the Māori name for this picturesque country of nearly five million people) to get Pascall’s special-edition Feijoa Lumps. 

For the uninitiated, Kiwis are obsessed with feijoas, an oval green fruit that tastes like a fusion of pear and pineapple. 

Feijoa trees and hedges are ubiquitous in suburban streets and backyards, and even though the feijoa is native to South America, the fruit holds a special place in New Zealand culture. 

Kiwis add feijoas to vodka, beer, tea, juices, kombucha, lollies, chocolate, yoghurt, chutney and more. 

As well as Feijoa Lumps, you can try Lo Bros Feijoa Kombucha or Yoplait’s Apricot and Feijoa yoghurt, as well as any feijoa cake you stumble across it on your travels. 

But nothing beats the real thing. The fresh fruit is widely available in New Zealand between autumn and early winter each year. It makes a healthy alternative to sweets if you’re visiting New Zealand’s best North Island wellness hotspots.


Feijoas with lollies

The feijoa is just as popular as kiwifruit in New Zealand, and it's a flavouring added to sweets, drinks and condiments. Image: Stephanie Imlach

Savoury alternatives

In between the sweet treats you will need some savoury kai (Māori word for food). One unique Kiwi offer is the cheese roll, a speciality of the South Island, where there are three family-friendly destinations you won’t want to miss

The cheese roll is essentially a slice of white bread that's spread with a sauce consisting of evaporated milk, cheese and onion powder, and then rolled and toasted. With the rise of veganism, you’ll find dairy-free versions too. 

Kiwis also take scones to the next level, with big fluffy cheese and dates scones, best eaten with lashings of local butter, which are widely available in cafes when you’re on the road.

The other ubiquitous savoury treat is kumara chips, which you’ll find at Burgerfuel outlets or “fush and chup” takeaways. Kumara is a variety of sweet potato that originally came from the West Indies, but like the feijoa, Kiwis claim it as their own.



car on road trip

Cheese rolls and kumara chips are a quintessential part of the Kiwi cuisine and worth trying on a road trip around the South Island. Image: Supplied

Crunch time for cakes and slices

Everyone who grows up in New Zealand has probably eaten ginger crunch at some point in their lives. What this slice lacks in good looks, it makes up for in taste, with a wickedly sweet and gingery punch. 

But a word of warning—not all cafes stay true to the original recipe. Look out for a biscuity base—it shouldn’t look like compacted muesli—and the icing should be no more than 3mm thick and thinner than the base.

As for lolly cake, it’s made with Explorers, and it’s hard to find a substitute ingredient in Australia. These lollies, which are a mix of pink, yellow, white and green figurines, are often compared to marshmallows, but have a firmer and fluffier texture. 

The louise cake, another old-fashioned treat, consists of a biscuit base topped with raspberry jam and a thin layer of coconut meringue. The origin of the name seems to be lost over time, but there is some agreement among bloggers that it was named after Princess Louise of England, Queen Victoria's daughter, who died in 1939.


Slice of cake

Despite its rather unappealing exterior, ginger crunch is an all-time favourite for Kiwis. Image: Supplied

Who invented the pavlova?

The propensity for naming cakes after prominent people may give some credence to the Kiwi claim that they, rather than Australians, invented the pavlova in honour of Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, who toured the Antipodes in 1926. 

But the authors of the book, Beat Until Stiff: The Secret History of the Pavlova and a Social History of Meringue Desserts, which was published in 2020, found similar desserts were made in Germany and America in the 18th and 19th centuries, and hundreds of desserts were named after Anna Pavlova across the world at the height of her fame.

Perhaps it comes down to who invented the “best” pavlova, and there’s only one way to tell—visit New Zealand and see if you can taste the difference. Or learn how to make your own pavlova at home!


Learn how to make the ultimate pavlova.

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