Indulging in dessert after a meal is one of life’s simple pleasures. But when you’re at a restaurant nowadays, desserts tend to fall into only a couple categories: a standard assortment of cakes and pies, and brand new creations dreamed up by a pastry chef. What happened to those classic old desserts that were popular decades ago? They’re still just as delicious as they’ve always been, and they need to make a comeback.
This dessert is made by lining a dish with sponge cake, topping it with ice cream, and then covering it with meringue. The meringue is then baked in a hot oven until firm and then traditionally flambéed tableside (the meringue works as an insulator, preventing the ice cream from melting). The recipe, which is generally attributed to Delmonico’s legendary chef Charles Ranhofer, was a cruise ship staple for decades.
Also called a bienenstich, this German dessert is made of a sweet yeast dough filled with buttercream or vanilla custard and topped with baked-on caramelized almonds.
Invented at Boston’s famed Parker House in 1856, the Boston cream pie (which is actually a cake) was originally made by filling two layers of rum syrup-brushed sponge cake with pastry cream, covering the sides with pastry cream and toasted almonds, and topping it with chocolate fondant. Today’s recipes usually forego the rum syrup and replace the fondant with ganache. You usually can only find it at bakeries instead of on restaurant menus.
Invented by none other than Auguste Escoffier in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Cherries Jubilee is made by making a sauce with cherries and liqueur (usually kirschwasser), flambéing it, and serving it over vanilla ice cream. It was once a fine dining staple, but today has all but gone extinct.
Chocolate cake is still thankfully a restaurant standby, but German chocolate cake (a layered chocolate cake with a coconut-pecan caramel frosting) is beginning to fall by the wayside. It can trace its roots not to Germany, but to an American chocolatier named Samuel German, who developed a dark baking chocolate in 1852 that came to be known as Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. In 1957, a Dallas homemaker named Mrs. George Clay sent a recipe she invented to the Dallas Morning Star. It then became so popular that Baker’s distributed it across the country and it became a national staple.
Grasshopper pie is an American classic, but it’s sadly one that you just can’t find anymore. Thankfully, it’s easy to make at home. Make a crust by mixing crushed Oreos with melted butter, and fill it with a mixture of marshmallow, cream, crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and whipped cream. Let it get cold, and you’ve got yourself some serious Americana.
Like Grasshopper Pie, lemon ice box pie was very popular in the 1950s and 60s. It’s made by making a filling of lemon juice, eggs, and condensed milk and letting it set in a pie crust of graham crackers and butter. It’s one of the easiest desserts to make.
This desserts starts with a shortcrust pastry crust, which is topped with a layer of lemon custard and fluffy meringue; it’s then baked until the meringue browns. It was invented in the 1800s, and for a while it seemed like it was on every single dessert menu.
This classic English dish is still popular across the pond, but it doesn’t appear at nearly as many dinner parties and dessert menus in America as it used to. The trifle is traditionally made by layering a glass dish with sponge cake, sherry or brandy, custard, whipped cream, berries, peaches, and toasted almonds, but the possibilities are limitless.
Invented by chef Auguste Escoffier at London’s Savoy Hotel in honor of the Australian soprano Nellie Melba, this dessert, which is made by topping vanilla ice cream with sliced peaches and raspberry purée, was once a high-end dessert menu staple. It briefly reclaimed its throne as king of the dessert world in 2012, when it was the final dish served at Ferran Adrià’s legendary elBulli.
A hallmark of postwar entertaining, the pineapple upside down cake is made by placing pineapple rings, butter, and sugar at the bottom of a pan before pouring batter on top, then turning the pan upside down to serve it. Some maraschino cherries complete the package.