In America, it is a custom of the 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.
Tender layers of white sponge cake filled with bourbon-soaked raisins and coconut, Lane Cake is the award-winning creation of Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama. She published the original recipe in her cookbook A Few Good Things to Eat way back in 1898.
“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.
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 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.
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 (dairy farming contributes $594.2 million to Colorado’s economy each year) and health-conscious nature of the state, as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About 60,000 acres of wild blueberries abound throughout rugged Maine, and it is for this reason that Mainiacs have adopted wild blueberry pie as their state dessert.
Flicker: Photo Modified: Jane Thomas CC BY 2.0
Smith Island cake: A multi-layered yellow sponge cake frosted with chocolate fudge frosting is well
Taste of Home
On December 12, 1996, the Massachusetts state legislature passed an ordinance declaring Boston cream pie their “Dessert Emblem.” Note that the Boston cream pie doughnut is also the official state doughnut. Interestingly, the Commonwealth is crazy about claiming things as their own — just see for yourself here. Bonus information: The state recreational activity is volleyball.
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!
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. They were ultimately successful.
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.
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.
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 without hesitation, “Huckleberry pie…and it sucks. Might as well give us the molten lava cake since we are so boring here.” Instead, this chef says she likes to incorporate honey made from Montana’s abundant alfalfa fields into her desserts.
My Baking Addiction
Kolaches, traditional Czech fruit-filled pastries, were brought by immigrants to Nebraska who effectively made Nebraska the “Kolache Capital of the USA.”
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 Jerseyites stop by the bakery, all their favorites are jumbled together in one bakery box!
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.
The Hungry Hutch
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 has claimed everything under their state banner: black-eyed peas, grits, squash, barbecue, and pecan pie, too.
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 ranks as the top-selling tree fruit crop in the state. It 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.
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.
Flicker: Photo modified: Southern Food Ways Alliance / CC 2.0
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.
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, Salt Lake City purportedly consumes the most Jell-O per capita of any other place and dishes like green Jell-O carrot salad with shredded carrots are still popular at family and church functions.
Gentl & Hyers
Flickr/ Photo Modified: Cookbookman17 / cc 2.0
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’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.
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.
Shutterstock Wyoming: S’mores
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 best part is, this classic desert is absolutely covered and smothered in chocolate, just like these 15 other foods.
For the Classic S’mores recipe, click here.
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