Photo courtesy of Chef Carolyn Johnson
States across America have regional nicknames, animals, snacks and more as identifiers. But have you ever wondered what treats satisfy your area’s sweet tooth? From Alabama to Wyoming, these are the most iconic desserts from every state and Washington, D.C.
Only a handful of states have passed legislation electing an emblematic dessert. For those states that don’t have an official dessert, we based our selection off of popular local confections, regional specialties, official state fruits and widely produced goods, such as agricultural products.
With a fluffy layer of white sponge cake filled with raisins and coconut, lane cake is the most iconic dessert in Alabama. The award-winning creation of Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, was first published in her 1898 cookbook “A Few Good Things to Eat.” The dessert requires a tall list of ingredients, so make sure none of your pantry staples have expired.
While Alaska doesn’t have a named state dessert, baked Alaska was inspired by the state’s history. In 1867, Alaska became the 49th state when America bought land from Russia in the land deal, around the time this impressive but difficult dessert was created. Celebrate the state’s past by attempting to make this delicious bread pudding baked Alaska recipe.
Sometimes referred to as the Navajo taco, sopaipillas originated in Arizona. The dish can be made savory or sweet depending on how it's prepared. In taco form, the dish is topped with refried beans, cheese and sour cream like some of our favorite Mexican dishes. But as a dessert, sopaipillas are topped with sugar, cinnamon and honey.
Arkansas is known to have some of the world’s sweetest watermelons. In fact, Hope, Arkansas, has hosted a popular watermelon festival since the 1920s, and the state has 1,600 acres dedicated to watermelons. To celebrate the state’s lucrative watermelon history, try making these delicious watermelon pops, one of those frozen desserts perfect for summer.
While you may be used to seeing avocados paired with perfectly-cooked scrambled eggs or in dip and salsa recipes, the fruit can also make an appearance in dessert. As the largest producer of avocados grown in the U.S., it’s only fitting California’s unofficial state dessert is an avocado fruit parfait.
On the western slope of Colorado, you’ll find some of the country’s best fruit, including Palisade peaches, which are known to be some of the best in North America. This recipe transforms the seasonal fruit into a delicious compote which is then spread over goat cheese pancakes.
Connecticut is known as the Nutmeg State, so it’s fitting that nutmeg cookies are Connecticut’s iconic dessert. Reportedly, the state’s early inhabitants were known to make and sell wooden nutmegs, hence the name. And while baking nutmeg into cookies isn’t the most unexpected ingredient you could use, it is transformative. This recipe for old-fashioned pumpkin cookies wouldn’t be complete without the state’s beloved ingredient.
While you may association peaches with Georgia, the official state dessert of Delaware is peach pie. The state was actually the country's leading producer of peaches during the 19th century. Try making the state’s most iconic pie with this recipe that comes straight from Delaware.
In 2006, Florida declared key lime pie its official state dessert. With a graham cracker crust, tangy Key lime custard and sweetened whipped cream, Key lime pie is a legendary Floridian dessert. Try making the sweet treat in an Instant Pot with this easy recipe.
Georgia has designated the peach as its official state fruit, so a classic Southern peach cobbler is the state’s most iconic dessert. Try out this decadent peach cobbler recipe, which can be made using biscuit mix.
To beat the Hawaiian heat, shave ice is the way to go. The Aloha State’s most iconic dessert is made by shaving a block of ice and topping it with refreshing syrups in flavors like strawberry or orange. Add it to your list of regional desserts that you need to try.
It’s no secret that potatoes are a staple in Idaho, so much so that the state’s most iconic dessert is ice cream that’s shaped like a potato. An ice cream potato consists of vanilla ice cream that is covered in cocoa and topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, resembling a potato with a dollop of sour cream on top. This recipe comes straight from Boise’s Westside Drive-In, one of the drive-ins in America you can still pull up to.
While you may know this dessert as a Thanksgiving classic, Illinois went the extra mile and named pumpkin pie as its official state pie in 2015. This easy pumpkin pie recipe takes just five minutes to prepare and will last in the freezer for up to two months after it's been baked.
While Iowa doesn’t have an official state dessert, it’s the leading producer of corn. And at Iowa’s iconic annual state fair, sweet popcorn is regularly featured as a food option, with choices like Cookies and Cream Popcorn and Vanilla Caramel Popcorn. To celebrate Iowa’s corn industry, try this recipe for white chocolate popcorn.
Pfeffernüsse are treats that were brought to Kansas in the 1870s by Russian Mennonites. The special, spicy cookies, which are a staple in many Kansas gift shops around the holidays, will leave you eager to try more recipes from around the world.
Kentucky’s relationship with bourbon dates back more than 200 years. Bourbon balls are a no-bake treat made by dipping bourbon-soaked nuts in chocolate. But, if you’d rather celebrate the state’s history by having one of your favorite Bourbon-based cocktails, go right ahead.
While Smith Island Cake is a beloved dessert in Maryland, we've got to show a little love for the state’s ice cream history. Did you know that Maryland reportedly holds the title for serving the first ice cream on the continent? The state also had the first commercial sales of ice cream. In between making your own ice cream, brush up on more state food fun facts.
Massachusetts is one of the happiest states in America, and we’re starting to wonder whether it has anything to do with Boston cream pie. The state’s iconic dessert has been reimagined as cupcakes, doughnuts and more, but the pie will always be No. 1.
While Michigan hasn’t yet named fudge as its official state dessert, the state’s incredible weekend getaway spot Mackinac Island is touted as America’s Fudge Capital. Spice up the classic treat with this recipe, which incorporates caramel and pecans into the dessert.
Muffins are one of those iconic breakfast foods it’s hard to imagine living without, but that doesn’t mean the sweet food isn’t equally as delicious during dessert. Minnesota’s state muffin is the blueberry muffin, which we think qualifies it as the state’s most iconic dessert (if you eat it as a midday treat).
While Mississippi is home to many popular savory dishes, the state’s dessert options shouldn’t be overlooked. Bread pudding originated as a way to use leftovers and eventually became very popular during the Civil War. Bread pudding can now be found in restaurants around Mississippi.
Missouri is one of the few states that has declared an official state dessert. In 1904, the ice cream cone first appeared at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, and it was named as the state’s formal dessert in 2008. This recipe for frozen dream cones — a great dessert to make with kids — reimagines the ice cream cone by spreading the inside of a cone with a layer of peanut butter and topping it with whipped cream.
While Montana doesn’t have an officially named dessert, the state is home to some of the most incredible national and state parks in America. And what goes better with camping, hiking and nature than a nice roasted s’more?
Nebraska doesn’t have a designated dessert, but it does have a state beverage: milk. In 1998, the drink was officially commemorated to acknowledge Nebraska’s importance in the dairy industry. To celebrate the state’s milk, make a classic vanilla shake. It's a great way to use up a lot of milk before your gallon goes bad.
Basque culture is such a strong part of Nevada that the state has been hosting an annual Basque festival for the past 57 years. And that means the Gâteau Basque, which translates to Basque cake, ranks among the state’s most iconic desserts. The tart-like treat has a flaky pastry crust that’s usually filled with jam or pastry cream. But, if you don’t have some of the ingredients for this dessert, don’t fret — here are some baking substitutions everyone should know about.
If you’re from New England, you know that apple picking is one of those essential fall weekend trips to take every year. And, in New Hampshire, where apple cider is named as the state’s official beverage, nothing compares to a warm apple cider doughnut that’s baked to perfection and coated in sugar.
While New Jersey is home to one of the best old-school boardwalks in America, the state also has a detailed history with blueberries. Hammonton, New Jersey, is touted as the blueberry capital of the world, and New Jersey as a whole is one of the top 10 blueberry producers in America. For this reason it’s only fitting that the Garden State’s most iconic dessert is blueberry pie. This recipe turns the treat into mini blueberry pies that can serve 16 people.
The most iconic dessert in New Mexico is biscochitos, which was introduced to the state by Spaniards in the 16th century and became the official state cookie in 1989. Bischochitos embody the key components of grandma’s cooking, like baking from scratch and not shying away from ingredients like lard and anise. If you're short on time but still want the flavor of biscochitos, try making these anise cookies, they take just 10 minutes to prepare.
New York is so obsessed with cheesecake that the state has its own way to serve it: dense, with cream cheese and served without fruit. Making this recipe at home is a great way to celebrate the history of the Empire State and to really put your baking skills to the test.
It’s no secret that Ohio’s most iconic dessert is buckeyes — its nickname is the Buckeye State. Frozen balls of peanut butter are dipped in chocolate to resemble the nuts that grow on buckeye trees. The dessert may be one of those foods you can only find in the Midwest, but now you can make the treat at home with this delicious recipe.
While Oklahoma doesn’t have a designated state dessert, it does have a state fruit. In 2005, the strawberry was named as Oklahoma's official fruit as a way to commemorate the annual strawberry festival in Stilwell, Oklahoma. Because of this, it’s only fitting that the state’s dessert is strawberry shortcakes, the perfect dessert to serve at backyard cookouts or bring along on picnics.
Marionberries are a type of blackberry that originated at Oregon State University and are now known as the state’s most iconic food. Today, marionberries are the most widely planted trailing blackberry in the world, and 90% are produced in Oregon.To celebrate the state’s blackberries, try making these blackberry iced pops.
If you’ve ever been to a carnival then you’re familiar with funnel cake. But are you aware of the popular state fair food’s history? Funnel cake is said to have been invented by the Pennsylvania Dutch, Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th century.
In the state of Rhode Island, coffee milk is all the rage. The drink was named as the state’s official beverage in 1993, a few decades after it was introduced to Rhode Islanders. A spin on coffee milk, this frosted coffee float recipe is a mixture of coffee, vanilla ice cream and cocoa, reminiscent of some coffee recipes you can make at home.
There are plenty of guilty pleasure foods we won’t apologize for loving, and cake is one of them. The people of South Carolina agree — the state’s most iconic dessert is coconut cake, which is said to have debuted at the Charleston-based restaurant Peninsula Grill in 1997.
In 2000, kuchen was declared the official state dessert of South Dakota. Kuchen, which is German for cake, is sometimes compared to coffee cake. Pay homage to South Dakotan and German heritage by making this sour cream coffee cake recipe, which is reminiscent of a type of kuchen. If you think a classic kuchen may be too advanced, try taking one of these online cooking classes.
Tennessee loves banana pudding so much that the state holds an annual festival for the dessert. If you can’t make it to Tennessee for the event, try whipping up this easy Banana Cream Pie Pudding Cup recipe — it’s one of those desserts that requires fewer than five ingredients.
Texans have a handful of treasured recipes. But, the state’s most iconic dessert has to be pecan pie. Not only are pecans the Lone Star state’s official nut, but pecan trees are also grown commercially on about 70,000 acres in the state.
While Jell-O may be a beloved childhood dessert all around America, it’s been claimed as Utah’s state snack after it was revealed that the people of Utah consume more Jell-O per capita than any other state in the U.S. Turn the treat into gold with this Orange Creamsicle Jell-O recipe that melts right in your mouth.
While chess pie is a beloved dessert all throughout the South, it first appeared in an 1824 cookbook “The Virginia Housewife” under the title “transparent pudding,” marking it as the state’s most iconic dessert.
Because Washington is the nation’s top apple producing state, the fruit was recognized as a state symbol in 1989. This Deep Dish Apple Crisp recipe is packed with the flavors of Washington and topped with nuts and oats.
In 2006, cherries were named the official fruit of Washington, D.C. The capital is known for its annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which began when the mayor of Tokyo gave the city 3,000 cherry trees. To this day Washington, D.C., is one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the world. To celebrate the flavors of D.C., try making this cherry pie.
Like some regional slang you’ve never heard of, you might also be unfamiliar with molasses cookies. In West Virginia, many rural families relied on molasses during the late 19th century until it was replaced by refined sugar after World War II. Channel West Virginia by making these Molasses Spice Cookies.
The most iconic dessert from Wisconsin is also the state’s official pastry: the kringle. The flaky dessert typically has a fruit or nut filling and was brought to the state by Danish immigrants in the 1880s. This recipe includes cranberry as its chosen fruit, but you can mix it up with another tart fruit like cherries. For more cherry recipes, check out our list of the best cherry desserts around.
Although Wyoming has no official state dessert or state fruit, it does have great truffles thanks to Tim Kellogg, whose origin story is as Wyoming as it gets. Kellogg started making chocolate as a way to pay for rodeo. His store, Meeteetse Chocolatier, is now among the best dessert shops in America.
More from The Daily Meal: