The Most Iconic Dessert From Every State Gallery
The Most Iconic Dessert From Every State
It's a custom of American states to claim various objects, activities, and foods to represent them. For instance, the state animal of California, showcased on the state flag, is the grizzly bear, while the state flower of Kansas is the sunflower.
To become a state emblem, the item in question must have significant ties to the state through heritage, agriculture, or environment. It is a real government process: A bill must be passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor for something to be officially inducted.
Only a handful of states have passed legislation electing an emblematic sweet, however. But that doesn’t mean each state is lacking in noteworthy pies, cakes, and other treats! For those states without official desserts, we have taken the liberty of suggesting desserts or iconic local confections that we think represent them in the sweetest way possible.
Without further ado, here is our sweet list of the most iconic desserts from every state.
Alaska: Lingonberry Jam on Biscuits
“Don’t you dare put baked Alaska as our state dessert,” threatened one local. “It was invented in New York and no one eats it here… or anywhere else for that matter.” True, baked Alaska was invented in New York City by chef Charles Ranhofer at the famous Delmonico’s restaurant in honor of the nation’s purchase of the Alaska territory from the Russians in 1867.
Instead, to honor the enthusiastic berry-picking culture of Alaska — and it’s a serious culture, as one article articulated, “Asking Alaskans to reveal their favorite berry-picking spot is an unspoken social faux pas, right up there with talking politics, religion or asking a woman her age” — we deem native lingonberry jam the official state sweet treat and have paired it here with a soft, buttery buttermilk biscuit. Lingonberries, also known as low-brush cranberries, are very tart and high in antioxidants (much more so than blueberries, in fact.)
Sometimes referred to as the Navajo taco, sopaipilla is the correct name for the fried bread invented by the indigenous Navajo Indians, and the treat was voted the state dish of Arizona in a 1995 poll conducted by the Arizona Republic newspaper. Sopaipilla can be served either savory or sweet; the sweet version is most often drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
Arkansas: Possum Pie
Nope, no opossum meat in this pie from Arkansas, just pie crust filled with cream cheese and chocolate pudding and then topped with whipped cream. To “play possum” means to pretend to be asleep or dead, this particular pie takes the name because the whipped cream hides what’s really beneath its billowy layer. (Hint: It’s chocolate pudding and not vanilla pudding. Gasp! Fooled you!)
California: Frozen Yogurt
California needed a state treat that could speak to the citizenry’s health-conscious and active mentality and one that could also represent such a large state with a diverse population. The answer: Froyo. Everyone loves froyo, and according to frozenyogurtfinder.com California boasts of a whopping 189 establishments serving the frozen dessert, whereas Illinois, with the second most froyo establishments, only has 28.
Colorado: Yogurt Parfait Topped With Granola
Ok, Denver Post, we listened. We think you deserve a better treat than pot candy, too. How about a nice, healthy yogurt parfait topped with crunchy granola. This can represent the more bohemian (read: crunchy) nature-loving population who may also enjoy a pot candy or two, while also respecting the thriving dairy industry and health-conscious nature of the state, as well.
Delaware: Peach Pie
Much to the surprise of Georgia peach fans everywhere, Delaware claimed peach pie as their own on July 30, 2009. That said, peaches have also been an important part of Delaware agricultural heritage since colonial times.
Florida: Key Lime Pie
With graham cracker crust, tangy Key lime custard, and sweetened whipped cream, Key lime pie is a legendary Floridian dessert invented in Florida. Interestingly, it was only declared the official state pie in 2006.
Georgia: Peach Cobbler
Delaware took the pie, but Georgia still has the peach as its official state fruit. Therefore, we think it’s entirely appropriate to give Georgia the peach cobbler — like this brown butter peach cobbler, for instance.
Idaho: Huckleberry Pie
Idaho is especially proud of its huckleberries — and why shouldn’t it be? The filling for huckleberry pie is usually made with about six cups of huckleberries, tossed with orange zest, tapioca for thickness, and orange juice.
How Sweet Eats
Interestingly, pumpkins are the state fruit of Illinois, but brownies first made their appearance at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Note that popcorn is the official state snack and so a strong case for caramel corn could also be made here.
Indiana: Sugar Cream Pie aka Hoosier Pie
A Hoosier favorite, this recipe supposedly first appeared the year Indiana was established. The pie incorporates sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract to make a custardy filling that is baked inside a flaky butter pie crust.
You may be saying to yourself, “What the heck is a peppernut?” And we are right there with you. But you may know these little cookies by their original name: pfeffernüsse. Russian Mennonites who immigrated to Kansas in the 1870s brought with them recipes for these special, spicy cookies which are a staple in many Kansas bakeries.
Kentucky: Mayday Pie
You may know this Kentucky dessert as “Derby Pie,” but unfortunately, that name is (aggressively) copyright-protected by the creators, so instead we’ll use the more generic name for it: Mayday pie. This particular confection is closely associated with the Kentucky Derby and tastes like a version of chess or pecan pie: sticky, sweet, and nutty. It’s studded with bourbon, chocolate chips, and walnuts and then baked in a pie crust.
Lavishly dusted with confectioners’ sugar, beignets — or French doughnuts — are an iconic New Orleans treat most famously served at Café du Monde. They puff up to look like fluffy pillows when fried and are best served piping hot with a cup of chicory coffee.
Maryland: Smith Island Cake
Flicker: Photo Modified: Jane Thomas CC BY 2.0
Smith Island cake is a multi-layered yellow sponge cake frosted with chocolate fudge frosting, and is pure deliciousness. Smith Island lies in the Chesapeake Bay between Maryland and Virginia, and the cake dates back to the early 1800s (some say the 1600s), when residents of the island would send it as sustenance for watermen while out harvesting oysters. It also happens to be the official dessert of Maryland.
Michigan: Cherry Pie
This state is famous for its cherries. The light, dry, sandy soil of northern Michigan is the perfect environment in which to cultivate the fruit. Michigan grows a staggering 32,000 acres of tart cherry trees — which is a good thing since tart cherries are ideal for baking!
Minnesota: Blueberry Muffin
Because wheat is such an important agricultural crop in Minnesota, and because wild blueberries are native to northern Minnesota, the students from South Terrance Elementary School, in Carlton, Minnesota, lobbied for the blueberry muffin to be the official state muffin, and they won!
Mississippi: Mississippi Mud Pie
Photo Modified: Flickr / cyclonebill / CC BY . SA 4.0
Mississippi mud pie is named for what Mississippi River tributaries look like after a rainstorm: muddy, brown, and dirty. But this pie is only sweet, chocolatey, and delicious — albeit usually a little messy. Chocolate cookies and chopped pecans make up the crust, and coffee-flavored liqueur, vanilla extract, and unsweetened chocolate help the smooth filling before it is all topped with whipped cream.
Missouri: Ice Cream Cone
It may seem strange that Missouri gets to claim the ice cream cone as its own, but, in fact, the state is quite deserving: The ice cream cone was made famous at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis (though it was invented in New York City and patented the year before). A booth selling Syrian waffle-like pastries called zalabis was conveniently situated next to an ice cream booth. Once the ice cream man ran out of bowls, the two teamed up serving scoops of ice cream on zalabis cone base.
Montana: Alfalfa Honey Pie
Gentl & Hyers
With no official state dessert designated to the state, some investigating was necessary. When asked to name Montana’s most iconic dessert, one local chef said she likes to incorporate honey made from Montana’s abundant alfalfa fields into her desserts. Makes sense (and sounds delicious!) to us.
Kolaches, traditional Czech fruit-filled pastries, were brought by immigrants to Nebraska who effectively made Nebraska the “Kolache Capital of the USA.”
Nevada: Basque Cake
New Jersey: Italian Cookies
The tristate area’s Italian population means a lot of amazing Italian bakeries. Colorful pastries and cookies, pignoli, biscotti, pizelles, and polenta cookies dipped in chocolate are must haves. We couldn’t choose just one cookie to represent the state of New Jersey because usually when locals stop by the bakery, all their favorites are jumbled together in one bakery box!
New York: Cheesecake
There was uproar when the state legislature made yogurt the official state snack, but few can disagree with the fact that New York-Style cheesecake is one of New York’s most famous confections. New York cheesecake is inherently simple, but it is also supremely rich and dense, as it is made with extra egg yolks and thick cream cheese.
North Carolina: Sweet Potato Pie
The Hungry Hutch
North Dakota: Berliner Kranser
The largest Scandinavian Festival in North America is the annual Norsk Høstfest held every October, in Minot, North Dakota. There, common food choices expand far beyond smelly lutefisk, and locals serve up confections like krumcakes and Berliner Kranser, or wreath-shaped butter cookies often eaten during the holidays.
Oklahoma: Pecan Pie
Oklahoma has claimed everything under their state banner: black-eyed peas, grits, squash, barbecue, and pecan pie, too.
Oregon: Pear Cake
Oregon farming culture produces wonderful apples, cherries, berries, and, of course, pears. Oregon produces a variety of pears, including Comice, Anjou, Bosc, and Bartlett, and the pear was officially elected to be their state fruit in 2005. For dessert, a pear tart is a wonderful way to showcase Oregonian pears; bonus points if you can incorporate filberts into the recipe, too.
Pennsylvania: Shoofly Pie
Shoofly pie is a molasses-based pie made popular by the Pennsylvania Dutch. The name is said to have come from the act of shooing away flies that were attracted to the sweet molasses filling. After you have prepared your pie shell, the filling can come together in less than 10 minutes.
Rhode Island: Doughboys
South Dakota: Kuchen
Tennessee: Tennessee Mountain Stack Cake
This Appalachian creation is a stack of firm cake disks saturated with apple preserves and dried apples. It is most traditionally a wedding cake, and, according to folk wisdom, wedding guests would each bring a layer of the cake to the bride’s family, which they spread with apples and stacked right then and there. “It was said that the number of cake layers the bride got determined how popular she was,” reports Appalachian History.
Texas: Mexican Wedding Cookies
While similar to New Mexico’s biscochitos, the most popular dessert treats in Texas, Mexican wedding cookies, are more influenced by Mexico than Spain. They are rolled into balls or formed into crescent shapes and covered with confectioner's sugar.
Utah’s state snack is brand-named Jell-O. Strange, yes, but Jell-O marketing is intentionally targeted at large families. The company has actively marketed their products to moms and children and has lobbied to be associated with “good, wholesome fun” instead of with college campuses where Jell-O shots are popular for other reasons. To this effect, Utah consumes a lot of Jell-O and dishes like green Jell-O carrot salad with shredded carrots are very popular at family and church functions.
Vermont: Apple Pie
Gentl & Hyers
Virginia: Chess Pie
A cousin of the pecan and sugar pie, chess pie is known as the “ultimate pantry pie” and sometimes even goes by that name. It’s easily constructed with items already found in your pantry: eggs, milk, and sugar.
Washington: Apple Crisp
Washington’s state fruit is the apple, and the orchards in this state are truly spectacular. An amazing way to enjoy apples is through dessert, and apple crisp made with flavorful apples and a sweet oat crumble is an excellent way to enjoy Washington’s bounty.
Washington, D.C.: Cherry Crumble
It was rumored that George Washington could not tell a lie to his father, and admitted damaging a cherry tree on the family property with his hatchet. Though later revealed to be a tale spun by biographers, the story captured the imagination of many, and the cherry has come to symbolize our country’s first president. Though Washington, D.C., didn’t actually become the capital until 1790 (a year after George Washington became president) and he never lived in the White House (it wasn’t completed until 1800), the cherry, George Washington, and our nation’s capital are forever intertwined. It’s no lie that this cherry crumble is absolutely delicious.
West Virginia: Molasses Cookies
Wholesome molasses cookies are so popular in West Virginia that they’ve been formally recognized as the state’s favorite. Sugar, ginger, and molasses come together to make an incredibly chewy dessert that’s hard to pass up.
Kringles (the name means “ring” or “circle”) are a Scandinavian pastry. In 2013, the kringle became the official state pastry of Wisconsin. It’s made with a ring of pastry that is then topped with fruit and frosting. Racine, Wisconsin, in particular, is known to be a hub of Danish-American culture and of expert kringle-making.
Unfortunately, this state doesn’t have an official state treat, snack, or dessert to guide the choice here, yet Wyoming is one of the best places in America to experience the awe-inspiring expanse of nature. From hiking in the Grand Tetons to visiting Old Faithful, skiing in Jackson Hole, or farming and ranching on the prairie ranges, Wyoming is a place for people who love the outdoors. So while you sit by the campfire enjoying nature, enjoy the perfect rugged outdoor dessert: s’mores! The only thing more delicious in Wyoming might be their famous salted honey pie, one of the best pies in every state.
For the Classic S’mores recipe, click here.
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