It’s finally summer, and if you’re like us, you’ve got ice cream on the brain. Unless you’re in a particularly awesome ice cream shop, however, your options are sadly probably limited. Sure, some ice cream shops can have well over a dozen varieties, but far too few are doing things like incorporating seasonal ingredients into their batches, or creating special ice creams that taste like signature sweets of the state they’re in. So we took it upon ourselves to figure out what should be the signature ice cream flavor of every state.
Made with 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. Vanilla ice cream with bourbon raisins and coconut sounds good to us!
Wild berries, including blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are abundant in Alaska, and we can definitely think of worse ways to use fresh wild berries than by turning them into ice cream.
Sopapillas are very popular in the Southwest, especially Arizona. To make one, pastry dough is fried in oil and usually drizzled with honey, so why not chop some up and stir them into honey-flavored ice cream?
Any drive through Arkansas will ultimately lead you to a restaurant that claims to serve the state’s best cinnamon rolls, and there are a lot of them. There are a couple different ways to make cinnamon roll ice cream, but we suggest just chopping up some of the state’s finest and stirring them into a fresh batch of vanilla.
California grows more fruit (and more varieties of fruit) than any other state, but its citrus groves (especially orange) are perhaps most well-known. And if you think orange ice cream can’t be done, have you ever had an Orange Creamsicle?
Connecticut snagged both ice cream as its official dessert and the snickerdoodle cookie as their official state cookie. So why not combine the two and turn it into snickerdoodle ice cream: cinnamon ice cream with crumbled snickerdoodles mixed in throughout!
Strawberries are Delaware’s state fruit, and what’s not to love about some old-fashioned wild strawberry ice cream?
Key lime pie ice cream is insanely delicious, and if you’ve never had it, you should seek it out. Florida Key limes actually make for a great ice cream flavor, and graham cracker chunks are the perfect accompaniment.
A fresh Georgia peach ice cream with a cobbler-style topping mixed in sounds very nice indeed.
Coconut is one of the key flavors of Hawaii, and we can easily imagine ourselves sitting on a Maui beach enjoying some coconut ice cream right now. For extra authenticity, top it with some cubes of haupia, a Hawaiian coconut-flavored gelatin-based pudding (or some chopped pineapple).
Idaho is especially proud of its huckleberries — and why shouldn’t it be?
The modern brownie was actually invented at Chicago’s famed Palmer House Hotel, and the first mention of the word “brownie” in print appeared in the Chicago-based Sears Roebuck Catalog in 1898 (they were also a big hit at the 1892 Columbian Exhibition, held in Chicago). So now that we’ve established the brownie’s Illinois bona fides, why not chop one up, stir it into chocolate ice cream, and make it the state’s official ice cream flavor?
The Hoosier Pie, which is actually as old as the state of Indiana itself, is made with sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla — which just happens to be the same ingredients as vanilla ice cream. So why not dice up some Hoosier pie — crust and all — and stir it into a fresh batch of vanilla?
Blarney Stones — pound cake covered in vanilla frosting and coated in peanuts — is a dessert famously found in bakeries across Iowa. You don’t even need to do much to these; just toss them into a batch of vanilla ice cream and dig in!
You may be saying to yourself, “What the heck is a peppernut?” And we're right there with you. But you may know these little cookies by their original name, “Pfeffernüsse.” German immigrants who immigrated to Kansas in the 1870s brought with them recipes for these special, spicy cookies, which are a staple in many Kansas bakeries. Create an ice cream that approximates the flavor of these — rich with warming spices like cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, anise, and nutmeg — and you’ll bring back childhood memories of countless Kansans.
Bourbon is synonymous with Kentucky, and its rich, woody flavor actually translates into a sweet application really well, as anyone who’s ever had bourbon sauce-topped bread pudding can tell you. Reduce some down with plenty of brown sugar, and you’ve got a killer ice cream base.
Brown sugar caramel ice cream with a heaping pile of toasted pecans stirred in? Laissez les bon temps roulez!
About 60,000 acres of wild blueberries abound throughout Maine, making the berry incredibly popular in the state for both eating straight from the plant and incorporating into pies. No reason to not turn them into ice cream, too!
Old Bay doesn’t exactly translate to ice cream very well, so we’re going to go with a dessert that’s also very popular in Maryland: Smith Island Cake. It’s a multi-layered yellow cake (sometimes with up to 14 layers!) with chocolate fudge icing in between each layer; to convert this into ice cream you can stir chunks of yellow cake into chocolate ice cream.
The Boston cream pie, invented at the city’s Parker House Hotel, is one of the state’s most enduring culinary contributions, but it’s not exactly easy to convert its flavor profile into ice cream. But we’d start with vanilla frozen custard, stir in cubes of yellow cake, and give it a chocolate fudge swirl.
With more than 90,000 tons of cherries being harvested in Michigan every year, this one’s an absolute no-brainer. Toss in some chocolate fudge while you’re at it (an honor of Mackinac Island’s famed fudge shops), and you’re in business.
This popular Minnesota treat contains butter, graham crackers, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts, shredded coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. Does that sound like the makings of a seriously epic ice cream flavor to you, too?
This super-sweet, super-rich St. Louis specialty is made with yellow cake mix that’s been kicked up with lots of extra butter, and it’s topped with a sticky mix of cream cheese, eggs, and powdered sugar. Crumble one of these into a batch of vanilla ice cream and you’ll have a winner on your hands.
During harvest season, the area around Montana’s Flathead Lake is packed with roadside stands selling some of the finest cherries you’ll ever encounter. We like to imagine that at least some of these make their way into ice cream.
Corn is Nebraska’s primary crop (as any extended drive through the countryside will tell you), and sweet corn makes one heck of an awesome ice cream.
S’mores aren’t an official Nevada dessert or anything along those lines, but there are a couple things tying this legendary treat to the state: its reputation for being a classic campfire dessert (and we imagine more than a few campfires have gone down here), as well as its reinvention as a “haute” Las Vegas dessert, at swanky restaurants like N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms. Chocolate ice cream with crumbled graham crackers and marshmallow swirls should do it.
Whoopie pies — two disks of chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting between them — are hugely popular in this part of the country, and we can easily see them being turned into ice cream. Just stir some chocolate cake chunks into marshmallow-flavored ice cream!
New Jersey’s Italian population has played a big role in shaping the state’s culinary identity, and cannoli are arguably the most legendary Italian dessert. Vanilla ice cream with cinnamon, allspice, chocolate chips, and candied citrus rind, served with a cannoli shell on the side? Now we’re talking.
The bizcochito is the official state cookie of New Mexico, where they’re made with lard and flavored with cinnamon and anise. Chop some of these up and mix them into cinnamon ice cream!
The cheesecake is the signature dessert of New York City, and we think that the flavor profile of a perfect slice of cheesecake, with its sweet cream cheese and graham cracker crust, would translate perfectly into ice cream.
North Carolina is the country’s top sweet potato producer, and sweet potato pie is one of its signature desserts. Think about taking all the flavors of sweet potato pie and turning it into ice cream, and tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.
The chokecherry is North Dakota’s state fruit. A member of the rose family, and is related to the black cherry. When ripe, they have a sweet, tart flavor that would pair perfectly with vanilla ice cream.
Go Buckeyes! Without a moment’s thought, every Ohioan will tell you this is their most iconic state treat. Most commonly, buckeyes are soft peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate just enough so that a little eye of peanut butter pokes out. Chocolate peanut butter swirl ice cream, maybe with some actual mini buckeyes tossed in for good measure? Done.
You might not realize it, but watermelon is actually a big cash crop in Oklahoma. Dairy is also its sixth-biggest agriculture product, so we’d love some watermelon ice cream made with Oklahoma milk.
Oregon produces more blackberries than any other state (lucky for them), and if you’ve never had a fresh-picked wild blackberry you’re missing out. Turn them into ice cream and customers will be lining up around the block.
An ice cream based on the flavors of this popular Pennsylvania Dutch dessert, rich with molasses, sure sounds good to us.
This one’s another no-brainer, not because Rhode Island produces a lot of coffee (obviously), but because of Rhode Islanders’ affinity for something called coffee milk. It’s insanely popular in the state (so much so that it’s the official state drink), but barely anyone’s heard of it outside of it. It’s made like chocolate milk, but instead of chocolate syrup, coffee syrup (usually Autocrat brand) is used.
Benne Wafers are thin, crispy, sesame seed-based cookie/crackers brought to the United States by slaves. The Olde Colony Bakery in Charleston, home of the “original Benne Wafers,” has been serving up this treat for over 100 years. We can see these being crumbled into vanilla ice cream for a very nice dessert.
Brought by German immigrants to North and South Dakota, this round, dense cake is filled with a variety of fruit and is one of the state’s signature desserts. Dice it up and stir it into vanilla ice cream and you’ve got the Dakotas in a cone!
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. Cubes of this cake would incorporate very nicely into cinnamon-vanilla ice cream.
Pecans are hugely popular in Texas (it’s the official state tree), and pecan pie has even been named the official state pie. Dark corn syrup can give the ice cream base a rich, molassesy flavor, and some Texas pecans can be studded throughout.
The area around northern Utah’s Bear Lake Valley produces some of America’s sweetest, best raspberries, and they’d make one heck of an ice cream (perhaps with some of the state’s renowned raspberry blossom honey drizzled on top).
Maple syrup ice cream is already super-popular in Vermont; when it’s in soft-serve format it’s called a maple creemee. Vermonters have already spoken, so we’ll agree with their choice.
This custardy pie can trace its roots back to Virginia in the early nineteenth century, and even though it might not automatically sound like one that’s easily adapted to ice cream (it’s a pie filled with custard and a little cornmeal), we can picture this as frozen custard with some butter added for flavor, some cornmeal added for texture, and chunks of pie crust because YOLO.
Washington produces more apples than any other state, 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. You can always serve it with a scoop of ice cream on the side, but why not make an ice cream that tastes just like apple crisp?
Molasses (especially the sorghum variety) is so popular in West Virginia that there’s even a festival devoted to it. Straight molasses ice cream might be a bit intense, so we’ll go with the West Virginia stage cookie — the molasses cookie — crumbled into vanilla ice cream.
The dairy in Wisconsin is so good that you don’t even need to add any flavorings to it to turn it into spectacular ice cream. A little sugar is all that’s necessary.
Believe it or not, Wyoming actually produces some of the best melons in the country! Come to think of it, cantaloupe ice cream on an arid Wyoming afternoon actually sounds pretty great.