In good times and bad, people have always made desserts. Sweets are a treat that many of us look forward to, and throughout history, home cooks have created cakes, pastries, pies, and other decadent fare for their families and loved ones utilizing whatever ingredients were plentiful at the time. (This is the best donut shop in every state.)
Some traditional American dessert recipes were brought to the States by immigrants – the Japanese in Hawaii, the Danes in Wisconsin, the Czechs in Nebraska, etc. Some quintessential Southern desserts, like sweet potato pie, were created by slaves from West Africa who used sweet potatoes to replace the yams they grew back home.
Before sugar was widely available, many households sweetened desserts with molasses, which led to the popularity of confections like molasses cookies and shoofly pie. Regionally produced ingredients like huckleberries, maple syrup, and key limes have also influenced the creation of local delicacies in small pockets of the U.S.
Drawing on a variety of culinary websites and regional sites and cookbooks, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the most iconic desserts in every state. Many of these are culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations locally and are little-known in other parts of the country – while others have gained nationwide and even international popularity. (Dessert and otherwise, here are the most iconic foods every state has given the rest of the U.S.)
Desserts like the hot fudge sundae and strawberry shortcake may need no introduction, but read on to find out what states love possum pie, scotcheroos, and peppernuts.
Alabama: Lane cake
> Where to get it: Simply Cakes Bakery & Eatery (Dothan)
The official state dessert of Alabama, Lane cake first appeared in the 1890s when Emma Rylander Lane won a county fair baking competition with her original recipe for what was later termed “prize cake.” Lane cakes typically include three layers of white sponge with a filling of pecans, bourbon-soaked raisins, and coconut, often with a white icing on the top and/or sides.
Alaska: Agutuk (“Eskimo ice cream”)
> Where to get it: In a Native Alaskan home
A Yupik word meaning “mix them together,” agutuk is a native Alaskan food that is made a little differently in each household depending on seasonal ingredients. Traditionally composed of whipped animal tallow (caribou, moose, or walrus,) or seal oil mixed with snow, fresh berries, and sometimes dried fish or meat, agutuk is now often made with vegetable shortening instead of tallow and sometimes contains added sugar.
> Where to get it: Goyita’s (Tucson)
These pillowy soft, deep-fried dough squares are a Southwestern staple. They can be served sweet or savory, with the dessert version usually covered in powdered sugar or honey (or both). A relic of Spanish influence in the Americas, sopapillas are comparable to the Navajo fry bread also common in Arizona.
Arkansas: Possum pie
> Where to get it: Patticakes Bakery (Conway)
A topping of whipped cream and pecans obscures a layer of chocolate pudding, which gives way to a layer of cream cheese filling in this dessert named after a rodent that likes to play dead. Called possum pie because of its deceptive layers, this Arkansas treat thankfully contains no possum.
California: Hot fudge sundae
> Where to get it: Lawry’s the Prime Rib (Los Angeles)
Clarence Clifton Brown, a Los Angeles candymaker in the early 20th century, is credited with inventing the hot fudge sundae, which became popular in his son’s Hollywood Boulevard ice cream parlor. Although C.C. Brown’s ice cream shop closed in 1996, their original recipe hot fudge sundae is still sold at Lawry’s the Prime Rib in Beverly Hills.
Colorado: Trail mix
> Where to get it: Colorado Nut Company (Englewood)
High on the list of healthiest states in the U.S. is Colorado, with its plethora of outdoor adventure opportunities including mountain biking, hiking, and skiing. It’s no surprise then that a popular Colorado dessert is…well, not really a dessert at all. Trail mix, a portable snack that can contain any combination of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, and more, is the perfect energy booster for people on the go.
> Where to get it: Heirloom Market at Comstock Ferre (Wethersfield)
These crackle-topped cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar are the state cookie of Connecticut. The name snickerdoodle may have been passed down by German immigrants, as a derivation of “schneckennudeln” (a type of cinnamon roll), but other sources claim the name comes from a New England tradition of whimsical cookie names. Although their etymology is debatable, they have been a New England favorite for over a century.
Delaware: Strawberry shortcake
> Where to get it: Cannon’s Custom Cakes and Bakery (Newark)
As strawberries are an important crop in Delaware’s agricultural industry, they were named the official state fruit of Delaware in 2010. Multiple strawberry festivals in the state feature strawberry shortcakes in recipe competitions.
Florida: Key lime pie
> Where to get it: Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe (Key West)
The key lime — a smaller, seedier lime with more acidity and flavor than the common Persian lime variety — is named for the Florida Keys. Most of the key limes in the U.S. are grown in Mexico or Central or South America, but they’re cultivated in the Keys, too, and wherever they come from, are used to flavor the official state pie of Florida. Key lime pie often comes with a graham crust and has a creamy filling made of sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and key lime juice. Whether it should be topped with meringue or whipped cream (or neither) is a debate we won’t get into.
Georgia: Peach pie
> Where to get it: Crave Pie Studio (Duluth and Alpharetta)
Thousands of acres of peaches are grown annually in Georgia, and the peach is Georgia’s official state fruit. Peach pies, therefore, are ubiquitous in this Southern locale, especially in July and August when the fruits ripen. Although Delaware claimed peach pie as its official state dessert in 2009, this flaky, fruity pastry is still the Peach State’s claim to fame.
Hawaii: Shave ice
> Where to get it: Matsumoto Shave Ice (Haleiwa, Oahu)
Brought to the Hawaiian islands by Japanese immigrants, this refreshing dessert is made of thinly shaved ice and fruit flavored syrup, sometimes accompanied by adzuki beans, mochi, or sweetened condensed milk. At Matsumoto’s, one of the oldest shave ice shops in the state, flavors like bubblegum and fruit punch are served alongside local flavors including ume (purple yam,) lilikoi (passion fruit,) and papaya.
Idaho: Idaho Spud bar
> Where to get it: Candy counters (Idaho Candy Company brand)
A classic candy bar in the Northwest, the Idaho Spud is a cocoa-flavored marshmallow coated in chocolate and coconut flakes. Although it contains no potato, its shape may vaguely resemble one. According to the confection’s creator — the Idaho Candy Company — the Idaho Spud has been a favorite since 1918.
> Where to get it: Sweet Mandy B’s (Chicago)
Brownies come in many forms; sometimes chewy or fudgy, occasionally cakey, delicately crispy on top, and often covered in walnuts. Although they weren’t called brownies at the time, these baked chocolate squares were created at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago as a portable dessert for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and are still a mainstay in the Windy City.
Indiana: Hoosier pie (sugar cream pie)
> Where to get it: My Sugar Pie (Zionsville)
Sugar cream pie, or Hoosier pie, was dubbed the unofficial state pie of Indiana in 2009. Most likely introduced to the area by Quaker settlers in the early 1800s, this single-crust custard pie uses ingredients likely to be on hand including cream, flour, sugar, and butter, and comes dusted with nutmeg.
> Where to get it: Beyond the Bar Bakery (Decorah)
The recipe for these no-bake dessert bars first appeared on Rice Krispies boxes in the 1960s, and they have been an Iowa favorite ever since. Scotcheroos resemble a peanut butter Rice Krispies Treat and get their name from their chocolate butterscotch topping.
> Where to get it: Main Street Café (Durham)
These small, anise-flavored spice cookies were brought to Kansas by European Mennonites. Similar to German pfeffernüsse, Dutch pepernoten, and Danish pebernødder, peppernuts are a holiday tradition in many Kansas homes and are made by rolling cookie dough into thin ropes and cutting it into bite-size pieces. Although recipes often vary, spices including anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and white pepper are traditionally used to flavor the cookies.
> Where to get it: The Brown Hotel (Louisville)
This chocolate walnut pie, especially popular around Kentucky Derby time, was invented in the 1950s by the Kern Family, who decided on the name by pooling options and pulling one from a hat. Kern’s Kitchen pie company bakes over 100,000 of these pies every year and although the recipe is a well-guarded secret, the iconic pies are available at restaurants and retail stores across the state.
Louisiana: Bananas Foster
> Where to get it: Brennan’s (New Orleans)
This traditional New Orleans dessert, designed in the 1950s to make use of one of the city’s biggest imports, consists of bananas sautéed in sugar and butter, bathed in rum, and set alight, then served over vanilla ice cream with the pan sauce. The dish is named after Richard Foster, a local civic leader and friend of restaurateur Owen Brennan, in whose kitchen the dessert was invented.
Maine: Blueberry pie
> Where to get it: Mabel’s Lobster Claw (Kennebunkport)
Blueberry pie — made with wild Maine blueberries, of course — is the official state dessert of Maine. This double-crust or lattice-top pie highlights one the state’s most notable crops, which grow well in Maine’s rugged climate and rocky soil. Although blueberry pie is available all year long at many diners, restaurants, and bakeries around the state, the best time to have a slice is from July to September, when the berries are harvested and the pie is baked fresh.
Maryland: Smith Island cake
> Where to get it: Smith Island Bakery (Ewell)
An isolated Chesapeake Bay island only accessible by boat, Smith Island is home to a unique cultural heritage and a culinary tradition that created Maryland’s official state dessert. Smith Island cake is composed of at least seven layers of yellow cake separated by a boiled milk chocolate frosting. The original recipe is likely older than its first appearance in print (in “Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook,” published in 1981) and modern variations include a wide range of cake and frosting flavors.
Massachusetts: Boston cream pie
> Where to get it: Parker’s Restaurant, Omni Parker House (Boston)
Created at Boston’s famous Parker House hotel in the latter 19th century, Boston cream pie is not quite a pie, but rather two layers of sponge cake filled with a thick vanilla custard and topped with chocolate sauce. This classic cake not only inspired a popular doughnut flavor, it was also named the official state dessert of Massachusetts in 1996.
Michigan: Mackinac Island fudge
> Where to get it: May’s Candy Shop (Mackinac Island)
Mackinac Island is known as the fudge capital of the world. This vacation destination is home to over a dozen fudge and candy shops which churn out thousands of pounds of fudge daily during peak season. Made of a base of boiled milk, butter, and sugar, fudge must be churned as it cools to achieve a smooth texture. Fudge makers at many Mackinac shops are on display to the public as they work the candy by hand.
Minnesota: Bundt cake
> Where to get it: Nothing Bundt Cake (numerous locations nationwide)
Bundt cakes — which can be any flavor as long as they are ring-shaped and baked in a tall decorative pan — are modeled after a European cake of a similar shape called a Gugelhupf. The St. Louis Park, Minnesota, company Nordic Ware began making bundt pans in 1950, and bundt cakes gained popularity in the ’60s. Still popular in Minnesota, bundt cakes now have their own national holiday — November 15.
Mississippi: Mississippi mud pie
> Where to get it: Rowdy’s (Vicksburg)
Although its origins are murky, the name of this decadent chocolate pie is a clear reference to the dark, muddy banks of the Mississippi River. Mississippi mud pie comes in many varieties, usually with a chocolate cookie crust holding various fillings including chocolate pudding, whipped cream, marshmallow, ice cream, liqueur, and pecans.
Missouri: Gooey butter cake
> Where to get it: Park Avenue Coffee (St. Louis)
With origins in Depression-era St. Louis, gooey butter cake was a regional Missouri treat until celebrity chef Paula Deen introduced a variation of the recipe to a national audience. Although purists insist that the cake be made from scratch with a yeasted dough, recipes involving boxed yellow cake mix and cream cheese have become the norm. Whatever the recipe, this dense, sticky cake bar is always made with loads of butter.
> Where to get it: A campfire, or The Resort at Paws Up (Greenough)
Alongside camping, eating s’mores is a Montana tradition. Usually involving graham crackers, fire-toasted marshmallows, and chocolate squares, s’mores are simple fare that can be jazzed up with any number of candy bars, caramel squares, cookies (to replace the graham crackers,) flavored marshmallows, and even bacon. S’mores ice cream is widely available at Montana ice cream parlors, and gourmet s’mores are not uncommon at the state’s resorts.
> Where to get it: Verdigre Bakery (Verdigre)
With origins in central Europe, these lightly sweet pastries were brought to the U.S. by Czech immigrants. Kolache is made from a yeasted dough which can be filled with any number of fruit, cheese, or poppy seed fillings. Verdigre, Kansas claims to be the kolache capital of the world, celebrating Czech culture with a yearly kolache festival.
Nevada: Gateau Basque (Basque cake)
> Where to get it: Basque restaurants (Reno and Elko)
Basque immigrants who moved to Nevada during the mining rushes of the mid 19th century brought extensive culinary traditions to the area, including gateau Basque. This buttery cake is made from a dough rather than a batter. It resembles a pie and is often filled with cherry jam or pastry cream.
New Hampshire: Whoopie pies
> Where to get it: Just Like Mom’s Pastries (Weare)
These whimsical treats resemble a cookie sandwich, with cake-like layers around a creamy filling or frosting. Chocolate whoopie pies with vanilla filling are traditional, but flavors such as pumpkin with cream cheese, chocolate with peanut butter, and red velvet are also common. Although its origins are unclear and several states lay claim to the invention of the whoopie pie, New Hampshire bakeries are famous for whipping up these cream-filled sandwiches.
New Jersey: Salt water tаffy
> Where to get it: Shriver’s Salt Water Tаffy & Fudge (Ocean City)
According to local legend in Atlantic City, New Jersey became the birthplace of salt water tаffy after a boardwalk candy shop flooded in a storm, and its owner jokingly called his confections “salt water tаffy.” The name stuck. These confections are now ubiquitous on the Jersey Shore, and tаffy shops boast large display windows where customers can watch the tаffy being made in numerous flavors. Salt water is not one of the ingredients.
New Mexico: Biscochitos
> Where to get it: Celina’s Biscochitos (Los Ranchos de Albuquerque)
Biscochitos are butter cookies customarily made with lard and flavored with cinnamon and anise. They became New Mexico’s official state cookie in 1989 but their roots in New Mexico date back hundreds of years. Popular during religious holidays as well as at weddings and graduations, these cookies come in a variety of shapes including crosses, stars, and the traditional fleur-de-lis.
New York: New York-style cheesecake
> Where to get it: Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery (New York City)
Compared to everyday cheesecakes, New York-style cheesecake is taller, richer, denser, and ultra creamy. The addition of heavy cream or sour cream and extra egg yolks help this New York specialty stand out above the rest. While many New York restaurants tout their cheesecake as the best in the city, Junior’s in Downtown Brooklyn has long been the destination for an authentic slice.
North Carolina: Sweet potato pie
> Where to get it: Priester Pies (Indian Land)
North Carolina is the leading producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, and in 1995 the sweet potato became North Carolina’s official state vegetable. The quintessential dessert made from this tuberous root is sweet potato pie, which has long been a Southern tradition with roots in West African cuisine. With a flaky single crust and a custard filling, sweet potato pie not only replaces pumpkin pie during holidays in many North Carolina homes but is also enjoyed year-round.
North Dakota: Chippers
> Where to get it: Widman’s Candy Shop (Grand Forks)
Chippers — chocolate-covered potato chips — are one of those versatile snacks that satisfy both salty and sweet cravings. Although they’ve become mainstream around the country over the last two decades, they are especially well-loved in North Dakota — mostly thanks to Widman’s Candy shop, which has been making them for years in numerous variations.
> Where to get it: Anthony Thomas (Columbus)
No candy says Ohio like the buckeye — a peanut butter fudge ball partially dipped in chocolate that bears a striking resemblance to the buckeye nut that grows on Ohio’s state tree. These confections are often homemade and enjoyed at celebrations and football games, but they’re also available at candy shops, bakeries, grocers, and just about any store that carries sweets.
Oklahoma: Fried pies
> Where to get it: Jimmy’s Round-Up Cafe and Fried Pies (Oklahoma City)
Hand-held, deep-fried fruit pies have long been a favored Southern dessert, and Oklahoma is home to numerous fried pie shops that utilize recipes handed down for generations. Bakeries often keep their recipe for tender, flaky crust under wraps. Oklahoma fried pies come with many kinds of fruit or custard fillings, but apple, apricot, and peach are some of the most popular flavors.
Oregon: Marionberry pie
> Where to get it: Willamette Valley Pie Company (Salem)
Developed at Oregon State University and grown exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, the marionberry is a cultivar of blackberry that is particularly sweet, with a well-balanced acidity that makes it perfect for preserving and baking. Oregon is famous for its marionberry pies, which are widely available at pie shops and diners in mid-summer when the berries are in season.
Pennsylvania: Shoofly pie
> Where to get it: Dutch Haven Shoo-Fly Pie Bakery (Ronks)
A molasses pie with a crumb topping, shoofly pie has been around since the late 19th century, when it was crustless and eaten for breakfast as a coffee cake. It is a staple of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, and its modern name is likely taken from the Shoofly Molasses brand from Philadelphia. Shoofly pies come in two varieties: wet-bottom, which is par-baked and custard-like, and dry-bottom, which is cake-like.
Rhode Island: Del’s frozen lemonade
> Where to get it: Del’s Lemonade (numerous locations)
A summer seaside destination, the Ocean State has nearly 400 miles of coastline where locals and tourists can enjoy sightseeing, sailing, swimming, and more. All summer long, Del’s frozen lemonade stands serve refreshing lemonade slushies to beachgoers, in classic lemon as well as blueberry, watermelon, and other fruity flavors. This family-run business has been offering their famous spoonless slushies since 1948.
South Carolina: Lady Baltimore cake
> Where to get it: Sugar Bakeshop (Charleston)
This Southern white layer cake is filled with boozy dried fruits and nuts and covered with a fluffy seven-minute frosting made of boiled sugar syrup and whipped egg whites. It was likely invented in Charleston, and although several conflicting stories exist as to the cake’s creator, its fame can be attributed to author Owen Wister, whose 1906 novel “Lady Baltimore” featured the dessert.
South Dakota: Kuchen
> Where to get it: Karen’s Kuchens (Larimore)
Kuchen, the German word for cake, can apply to a wide range of desserts. In South Dakota, where German immigrants passed down their family recipes, a kuchen is a custard filled with fresh fruit and baked into a sweet, yeasted dough crust. The official state dessert of South Dakota, kuchen is available in bakeries as well as many home kitchens, and the recipe variations are limitless.
> Where to get it: MoonPie General Store & Chattanooga Bakery (Chattanooga and three other locations)
Made at Chattanooga Bakery since 1917, MoonPies are composed of two graham cookies around a soft marshmallow filling, all dipped in a chocolate coating. These affordable treats are popular as Mardi Gras throws and in children’s and workers’ lunch boxes. Aside from the original chocolate MoonPie, flavors including vanilla, banana, lemon, and salted caramel are also made at the bakery, which produces about one million pies every day.
Texas: Pecan pie
> Where to get it: Royer’s Cafe (Round Top)
In a state with 70,000 acres of pecan trees, the pecan pie is a must-have dessert on Texas tables. The first pecan dessert recipes appeared in Texas in the late 19th century, and the first printed pecan pie recipe appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1886. With a gooey corn syrup-based filling and a flaky crust, this sweeter-than-sweet pie became the official state pie of Texas in 2013.
> Where to get it: Almost anywhere in the state
More Jell-O is consumed per capita in Utah than in any other state, so no wonder it’s the official state snack. The quick and easy gelatin-based dessert is popular at church functions and extended family gatherings in the largely Mormon locale. A throw-back to the Jell-O salad days of the ’50s, add-ins are still popular in Mormon cuisine; canned pineapple, cottage cheese, maraschino cherries, and nuts can frequently be found floating in molded Jello-O rings on Utah tables.
Vermont: Maple creemee
> Where to get it: Palmer Lane Maple (Jericho)
In a land of dairy farms and maple producers, maple flavored soft-serve ice cream is bound to be a hit. A creemee, as soft serve is called in Vermont, can be made with locally produced maple syrup for a uniquely Vermont flavor experience. Creemee stands all over the state serve maple creemees, and maple syrup producers often serve creemees on their farms as well.
Virginia: Chess pie
> Where to get it: Livin’ the Pie Life (Arlington)
Although there is little consensus on its composition or the origin of its name, chess pie is a classic Virginia dessert. The first chess pie recipe (under the name “transparent pudding”) came from an 1824 cookbook called “The Virginia Housewife.” The pie is characterized by a thick custard filling often containing cornmeal, buttermilk, eggs, and butter. Vanilla flavor is customary, but lemon, chocolate, and coconut chess pies are also common.
Washington: Apple pie
> Where to get it: Snohomish Pie Company (Snohomish)
The apple is the official state fruit of Washington, which is the largest apple-producing state in the U.S. Numerous bakeries in Washington are famous for their apple pies, which are made in numerous variations. Some use only pink lady apples, while others prefer fuji or gala. Some peel the apples and slice them thinly, while others leave the peels and cut the apples into thick chunks. Any way it’s made, apple pie is a Washington favorite.
West Virginia: Molasses cookies
> Where to get it: Old Mill Bakery (Hurricane)
A derivation of European gingerbread, molasses cookies have a long history and gained popularity in the Americas when the price of molasses was much lower than the price of sugar. Spiced with ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, these soft, chewy cookies are still a beloved dessert in West Virginia.
> Where to get it: O&H Danish Bakery (Sturtevant and Racine)
Wisconsin is the only state with an official pastry, and that pastry is the kringle. With roots in Denmark, this Wisconsin specialty is most popular in Racine County, where many Danish immigrants settled in the mid to late 19th century. Kringle traditionally has 32 flaky layers of Danish pastry dough that are shaped into a large oval, filled with fruits or nuts, and frosted.
Wyoming: Huckleberry ice cream
> Where to get it: Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream (Jackson Hole)
Huckleberries, which are native to the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest, are widespread throughout western Wyoming including in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Huckleberry ice cream has become a summer delicacy in the state, especially during August and September when the wild berries ripen.