Signature desserts in every state
Who doesn’t love a great dessert to cap off a delicious meal? According to Technomic, 41% of consumers say that they enjoy dessert at least once per week after a meal. And if you’re traveling the country, there’s no better way to enhance your knowledge of a region than through its native foods—including its signature desserts!
Whether you’re tucking into a slice of tangy key lime pie at a beach bar in Florida, fluffy chiffon cake at a wedding in California, or an airy cream puff at the Wisconsin State Fair, there’s no denying the effect. Indulging in a location-specific sweet treat will create a special memory that stays with you, connecting you to a place forever. Knowing what a significant role dessert can play in linking taste to memory, Stacker compiled a list of signature desserts in every state, combing through regional newspapers, blogs, and homemade recipe collections.
Some states, such as Delaware, Maine, and Maryland, have “official” desserts, while others, such as Connecticut, Hawaii, and Nevada, adopted desserts that were brought to the U.S. through immigration. Still other states have popular desserts that blossomed out of an agricultural bounty, such as pumpkins in Illinois and marionberries in Oregon.
Some signature dessert recipes take more time—and more ingredients—to make than others. Many recipes were created during hard times when not much was available in the pantry, while others took advantage of bountiful fruit harvests. “Depression cakes” swap out ingredients like butter for oil, and some recipes can be made without milk, butter, or eggs.
Whether you want to don your apron and make some of these signature desserts or you’re just in the mood for a few minutes of drooling, settle in and prepare yourself for the tastiest read of the week.
Think you know the signature dessert in your state? Read on to find out.
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Alabama: The Lane Cake
This super-moist cake screams “Southern” with its toasted pecans, coconut flakes, dried peaches, and frosting infused with peach schnapps. Originally created by Alabamian Emma Rylander Lane for a baking competition more than 100 years ago, this is one cake that has stood the test of time.
Alaska: Baked Alaska
Baked Alaska did not begin in Alaska, but it has made a home there. The classic Baked Alaska was created in 1867 at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York by chef Charles Ranhofer to celebrate the U.S.’s purchase of Alaska from Russia. The original recipe features walnut cake, apricot jam, banana gelato, and toasted meringue.
Served throughout the Southwest, fry bread originated with Native Americans. Making the dessert version, sopaipillas, involves tossing the fry bread in cinnamon and sugar or drizzling it (while still warm) with honey.
Arkansas: Possum pie
Possum pie is so named because it “plays possum” with its ingredients, not because it features an actual possum. Under a crowning layer of whipped topping, you might find a layer of chocolate, cherries, apple, or peaches before getting to its decadent cream cheese and crunchy pecan-cookie-crust levels.
California: Chiffon cake
Fluffy, light, and most commonly frosted and layered with whipped cream and strawberries, the chiffon cake is a cross between a sponge cake and oil cake. Invented in 1927 by a Los Angeles insurance agent, the cake was served to Hollywood stars and guests at the famous Brown Derby restaurant.
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Colorado: Peach pie
Peach season means peach pie in Colorado. The town of Palisade grows some of the tastiest peaches around, which fans eat whole and integrate into a plethora of peach-centric desserts, most famously peach pie.
The official state cookie of Connecticut, snickerdoodles are believed to have arrived in the U.S. with immigrants from England, Scotland, and Denmark. The name is said to have come from the German “schnecke knödel,” meaning “snail dumpling.” A traditional drop cookie that’s rolled in sugar and cinnamon, snickerdoodles also contain cream of tartar, giving them a unique, chewy texture.
Delaware: Peach pie
The people of Delaware love strawberries, but peach pie was designated as the state’s official dessert in 2009. Peaches hold a historical and agricultural significance to the state that dates back to colonial times.
Florida: Key lime pie
Originating in the Florida Keys, the recipe for key lime pie varies depending on who is making it. Basic, traditional ingredients for the filling include key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. This mixture is spread on top of a graham cracker crust before being topped with meringue and torched.
Georgia: Peach cobbler
Peaches may only be in season for 16 weeks in Georgia, but they’ve sure made an impression on locals. Not only are more than 50 streets in Atlanta named after peaches, but peach cobbler has become a favorite dessert. Topped with crumble or quick-baked into a mixture of flour, butter, sugar, and milk, peach cobbler is a Georgia favorite.
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Hawaii: Shave ice
Shave ice has been a staple in Hawaii for over half a century.
Ice is shaved into edible bits, packed into a paper cone, and topped with flavorful syrups and an optional cream that’s made with condensed milk. The origins of shave ice in the Hawaiian Islands can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when Japanese immigrants working in the sugar and pineapple fields ate ice flakes to cool off.
Idaho: Huckleberry pie
Named the official fruit of Idaho in 2000, huckleberries are a popular pie ingredient throughout the state. In 2018, there was talk of making huckleberry pie the official state dessert, but ultimately lawmakers decided not to pass the official dessert bill.
Illinois: Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie was designated the official state pie of Illinois in 2015. The move was prompted by the fact that the state of Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state, providing 85% of America’s pumpkins.
Indiana: Sugar cream pie
Also referred to as “Hoosier Pie,” this easy-to-make pie was brought to Indiana with the Amish in the 1800s. It’s designed to use whatever you have in your kitchen, especially when your fresh produce may be running low. The custard base sits atop a traditional butter-pie dough and is dusted with nutmeg.
Iowa: Cherry pie
Cherry season in Iowa means cherry pies with lattice, crumb, or traditional pie toppers. Iowa State University has held an annual cherry pie sale every year since 1920, when it was first held to celebrate George Washington’s birthday.
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Peppernuts, or German Pfeffernusse cookies, are common at holiday gatherings throughout Kansas. The cookies, which were introduced to the state by the Mennonite community, are nut-size, crunchy cookies peppered with spices such as anise, cinnamon, sugar, white pepper, and clove.
Kentucky: Chocolate bourbon walnut pie
A classic pie for Kentucky Derby day or any celebration, chocolate bourbon walnut pie is similar to pecan pie but swaps out the pecans for walnuts and tosses in bourbon and chocolate. Sometimes referred to as “Derby Pie” because of its popularity on Derby Day, the name was trademarked by the pie’s original creator, George Kern.
Louisiana: Bananas Foster
Originating at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter in the 1950s, Bananas Foster is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Servers light this dessert composed of bananas, brown sugar, rum, and banana liquor aflame in front of guests before serving it over ice cream.
Maine: Blueberry pie
Almost all of America’s low-bush blueberries come from Maine, with harvest season taking place from July through September. Because of the abundance of blueberries, the Maine State Legislature decided to make blueberry pie the official state dessert in 2011.
Maryland: Smith Island cake
The traditional eight-to-10-layer Smith Island cake became the official dessert of Maryland in 2008. While it can be topped with a variety of frostings from coconut to strawberry, the classic recipe calls for chocolate fudge between layers of moist yellow cake.
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Massachusetts: Boston cream pie
Boston cream pie, which is actually cake, was introduced during the grand opening of Boston’s Parker House (now Omni Parker House) in 1865. Since then, it’s become a tourist attraction and official dessert of Massachusetts. Originally named “chocolate cream pie,” Boston cream pie is a two-layer cake filled with pastry cream, topped with chocolate icing, and coated with toasted almond slivers on all sides.
Michigan: Sanders Bumpy Cake
Considered the unofficial dessert of metropolitan Detroit, thousands of Michiganders have grown up on Sanders Bumpy Cake. The first Sanders shop opened in 1875, with 57 locations now churning out cakes and chocolates. The Bumpy Cake stands out for its decadently moist chocolate cake, topped with thick, silky, chocolate fudge and hiding rows (or “bumps”) of perfectly sweet vanilla buttercream.
Minnesota: Bundt cake
Bundt cake pans have been manufactured in Minnesota for nearly 75 years, creating a perfect opportunity for thousands of Minnesota homes to own a bundt pan and, presumably, cook bundt cakes. Bundt pans come in all shapes and sizes, and the bundt cake recipes are endless.
Mississippi: Mississippi mud pie
Due to its name, Mississippi mud pie has become synonymous with Mississippi. No one really knows the true origins of the pie, but variations on its recipe involve a cookie crust topped with ice cream, marshmallows, whipped cream, pudding, cake, and sometimes liquor.
Missouri: Ice cream cone
The ice cream cone was originally introduced during the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Fittingly, Missouri decided to make the ice cream cone the official state dessert in 2008.
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Montana: Huckleberry ice cream
Folks in Montana like huckleberries as much as Georgians like peaches. So when it’s huckleberry season, they search out ice cream shops that carry huckleberry ice cream. Some versions are creamier, some are sweeter, and all are packed with those famous Montana huckleberries.
Nebraska: Tin roof sundae
Warm marshmallow cream and skin-on Spanish peanuts tops the famous tin roof sundae, named after the tin ceiling of the soda shop. Originating in the 1930s inside The Potter Drug Co. in Potter, Nebraska, the original is still available today.
Nevada: Basque cake
Basque cake is a popular dessert at one of the many Basque restaurants located throughout Nevada. Basque settlers showed up in Nevada during the Gold Rush, bringing culinary items such as their cake with them. Basque cake recipes involve baking pastry cream inside short-dough pastry.
New Hampshire: Apple cider doughnuts
Warm doughnuts smelling of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg are a real treat on a cool fall or winter day in New Hampshire. The addition of local apple cider adds flavor and acidity to the sweet treats, which are easy to find at bakeries and farmers markets throughout the state.
New Jersey: Blueberry pie
Blueberry pies are abundant in the Garden State because Hammonton, New Jersey, is the “Blueberry Capital of the World.” An annual festival takes place, along with a blueberry-pie-eating contest. Some New Jersey farms even invite locals to pick their own blueberries for homemade pies.
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New Mexico: Biscochitos
The official state cookie of New Mexico is the biscochito, a shortbread cookie containing flavors of anise, cinnamon, and sugar. They’re popular during the winter holidays and at celebrations of all kinds.
New York: Cheesecake
Arnold Reuben is credited with introducing New York-style cheesecake in the early 1900s (he’s also the guy who brought the world the Reuben sandwich). Historically, cheesecakes were made with cottage cheese before Reuben came along and experimented with using cream cheese.
North Carolina: Moravian cookies
Razor-thin Moravian cookies are currently under consideration to become North Carolina’s official state cookie. Flavored with ginger, mace, nutmeg, and cloves, Moravian cookies are difficult to make since they’re so thin, but they’re a common treat in North Carolina. As of May 2019, the bill to make the cookie official had passed the House, 115-0.
North Dakota: Krumkake
This traditional Norwegian cookie is simple and delicate. Wafer-thin, the dough for a krumkake is rolled up like an ice cream cone and makes for a popular treat during North Dakota holidays. The recipe contains just flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and cream.
Named after the nut that grows on a buckeye tree and referred to as “everyone’s favorite Ohio treat,” buckeyes are peanut butter fudge that’s dipped in just enough chocolate to allow an “eye” of peanut butter to show through. There’s even a 31-stop Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail that marks the candy shops carrying the state favorite.
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Oklahoma: Pecan pie
Oklahoma has an official state meal on record, designated in 1988 by the 41st Legislature. This traditionally Southern meal includes a slice of pecan pie. Restaurants and bakeries around the state offer classic pecan pies as well as twists on the classic such as pumpkin pecan or apple praline.
Oregon: Marionberry pie
The marionberry was developed at Oregon State University in 1945 by combining two different types of blackberries and naming the result after the state’s Marion County. Now, the fruit is harvested in the summer and found in everything from pies to ice cream.
Pennsylvania: Shoofly pie
With a sweetness factor similar to pecan pie, the Pennsylvania Dutch shoofly pie combines molasses, light brown sugar, flour, egg, and shortening. Local fans of shoofly pie use words such as “richly flavored,” “sticky sweet,” and “decadent” to describe it.
Rhode Island: Doughboys
Available plain or with sugar, doughboys are Rhode Island’s version of a zeppole. Doughboys are made by flattening and frying pizza dough and sprinkling it (while still warm) with sugar, cinnamon, and/or powdered sugar.
South Carolina: Buttermilk pie
Buttermilk is a staple in the South, where it’s used in making everything from biscuits to fried chicken. It only makes sense that South Carolina homes and restaurants would celebrate buttermilk pie, a custard-like pie using simple ingredients found in home pantries.
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South Dakota: Kuchen
Kuchen—which means “cake” in German—is the official state dessert of South Dakota. The word “kuchen” can be used to describe several different desserts and pastries, including a pastry similar to pie with a cakey crust and a custard filling, a nut roll, coffee cake, or cheesecake.
Tennessee: Banana pudding
Each year, Tennessee hosts the National Banana Pudding Festival, complete with tastings, eating contests, and lots of banana pudding to go around. A favorite dessert in many areas of the South, banana pudding combines vanilla pudding and bananas, layering them with vanilla wafer cookies and whipped cream.
Texas: Pecan pie
In 2013, pecan pie was named the official state pie of Texas. The traditional Texas pecan pie recipe includes generous portions of light brown sugar, corn syrup, pecans, butter, eggs, salt, and vanilla extract, mixed and poured into a pie shell.
More Jell-O per capita is consumed in Utah than in any other state. The practice has been linked to the number of Mormons who enjoy the inexpensive and easy-to-make gelatin snack. Jell-O has been lauded as both a quick-and-easy treat to bring to church gatherings as well as a vehicle for college party Jell-O shots.
Vermont: Apple pie
Apple pie became the official state pie of Vermont in 1999. When the bill was signed into law, it was amended to offer suggestions on how to enjoy the apple pie: with a glass of cold milk, a slice of cheddar cheese, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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Virginia: Virginia peanut pie
A fun spin on pecan pie, Virginia peanut pie swaps out the pecans for Virginia peanuts. The pie has ties to Wakefield’s Virginia Diner, which has been serving the pie whole and in slices for decades.
Washington: Nanaimo bars
Seattle has been a fan of Nanaimo bars since at least the 1980s, according to this recipe in the Seattle Times which dates back to 1988. These three-layer bars, featuring a bottom layer of graham crackers, coconut and nuts, middle layer of whipped cream and pudding mix, and top layer of chocolate originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, before crossing the Canadian border into Washington.
West Virginia: Hot dog pastry
West Virginia has long debated what its signature dessert could be: Is it shoofly pie, molasses cookies, no-bake cookies? One dessert that appears all over the state is the hot dog pastry, a doughnut that’s split down the middle and filled with cream.
Wisconsin: State Fair’s cream puffs
Available at the Wisconsin State Fair since 1924, 400,000 cream puffs are sold each year at the event. This year, with the State Fair suspended due to COVID-19, the cream puffs are being sold curbside so that cream puff fans don’t have to go without.
Wyoming: Cowboy cookies
Wyoming cowboy cookies are hardy enough for a hardworking cowboy and so decadent that some fans can’t eat more than one. Loaded with coconut, chocolate chips, pecans, and oatmeal, some recipes suggest doubling the size of the cookie, as well as using any leftovers to crumble over ice cream. Now that’s a satisfying cookie!
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