45 Classic American Desserts for the History Books

overhead view of The Best Lemon Bars recipe on a white platter
Photo: Allrecipes Magazine

What's more American than blue jeans and baseball? Well, we'd like to think these classic American desserts are up there on the list of all-American standouts. From old fashioned banana splits to New York cheesecake, these uniquely American desserts go beyond just apple pie (but don't worry, we included it too). Find all the best American desserts with roots right here in the U.S. — you just might learn a little American history along the way!

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Chantal's New York Cheesecake

closeup of a slice of cheesecake with a thin sour cream layer and glazed strawberry on top
chibi chef

New York-style cheesecake is a lot like New Yorkers themselves — no nonsense, just the cake without any toppings or sauce (although you can always add them). It's hard to resist the smooth, extra-creamy texture of this classic dessert, like that of this top-rated recipe from recipe creator Taliesen: "Everyone that's tried it has said it tasted just like the ones in a deli!"

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Fresh Southern Peach Cobbler

closeup of a white ceramic baking dish of cobbler with fresh peaches in the foreground
aki s

What's more all-American than a classic Georgia peach cobbler? Don't forget the vanilla ice cream!

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Bananas Foster II

Bananas Foster II with ice cream
House of Aqua

Bananas cooked in a warm, buttery rum sauce and served over vanilla ice cream, this dessert originated in New Orleans in the 1950s and has been a classic ever since.

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Angel Food Cake I

slice of angel food cake topped with strawberries

Everyone loves the light and cloud-like texture of a classic angel food cake, a dessert that dates back to the late 19th century. Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped topping.

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Pecan Pie

Overhead view of pecan pie with spatula on marble
Allrecipes Magazine

Pecans are plentiful in Southern states, so it's no wonder you'll find them in all sorts of Southern desserts, but none are more classic than a traditional pecan pie.

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Texas Sheet Cake V

Texas Sheet Cake piece being served

Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the cake! This moist and delicious chocolate cake is baked in a rimmed baking sheet and yields a whopping 32 servings.

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

colorful plate of Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
France C

It's hard to believe this iconic cookie's invention was actually an accident! In 1930, Ruth Graves Wakefield, who ran the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, substituted pieces of semi-sweet chocolate for baker's chocolate, thinking it would result in a solid chocolate cookie...and the rest is history.

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Old Fashioned Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Old Fashioned Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This iconic fruit-studded cake came out of a 1925 Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now called Dole Company) cooking contest calling for pineapple recipes.

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Buckeye Balls II

chocolate covered buckeye balls on a white plate
My Hot Southern Mess

Named for their resemblance to the nut of the Ohio Buckeye tree, these chocolate-peanut butter confections are great for sharing.

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Watergate Salad

watergate salad
Trusted Brands

Originally called "Pistachio Pineapple Delight," this iconic American "salad" features instant pistachio pudding mix, canned pineapple, marshmallows, walnuts, and whipped topping.

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Baked Fresh Cherry Pie

Baked Fresh Cherry Pie
tara Spencer

Apple pie gets all the credit, but cherry pie is another fresh fruit pie that's just as American and just as classic. This recipe features fresh cherries for a truly homemade dessert.

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Banana Pudding I

banana pudding in a large glass bowl

How banana pudding came to be a Southern staple is a bit of a mystery, considering bananas don't grow here. However, it's no wonder its popularity has only increased with time, because this trifle-like dessert is easy to serve to a crowd and doesn't have to be kept warm — perfect for all those summer potlucks and picnics!

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The Best Lemon Bars

overhead view of The Best Lemon Bars recipe on a white platter
Allrecipes Magazine

This classic bake sale dessert is the perfect blend of sweet and tart, all wrapped up in a buttery dessert bar.

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Buttermilk Chess Pie

a side view of a slice of pie, with a browned top layer and a smooth pale custard filling
Michelle Tellez

Buttermilk pie, along with vinegar pie and mock apple pie, are considered "desperation pies." Born out of the Great Depression and World War II, these pies were made using readily available, staple ingredients, as opposed to fresh fruits. But don't let that fool you — in the case of buttermilk pie, the result is an unexpectedly decadent pie, with a smooth, buttery filling.

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Homemade Banana Split

overhead shot banana split

This old-fashioned soda fountain treat is so easy to recreate at home. Reviewer and Allrecipes Allstar Jenny Aleman de Bolaños describes it as, "A classic dessert that never disappoints."

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Phoenician's Key Lime Pie

Phoenician's Key Lime Pie
Brie Passano

"When I moved from Lebanon to Florida spring of 1999, I brought with me my love for cooking and search for new recipes. The famous key lime pie was new to me," says recipe creator Arlette Therese Abdallah. "I kept playing with the recipe, and the right flavor was found."

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Sunday's Apple Pie

slice of apple pie with scoop of vanilla ice cream

Apple pie is so patriotic that it's not uncommon for folks to use the phrase "as American as apple pie" when looking to describe something that's quintessentially American. Try using a combination of apples such as Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples for a nice balance of sweet and tart flavors.

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Funnel Cakes IV

overhead view of Funnel Cakes dusted with confectioners' sugar
Allrecipes Magazine

Synonymous with county fairs and carnivals, funnel cakes are believed to be created by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Reviewer April suggests using a cleaned out ketchup bottle to dispense the batter.

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pralines stacked on paper plate
Maria Whitmore Cowart

American pralines were developed in New Orleans as a variation of French pralines. Pecans were substituted for almonds, and cream was added to the mix for a super smooth, fudge-like confection.

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Boston Cream Pie I

Beautiful layered Boston Cream Pie Cake on cake stand with a plated slice out nearby
Meredith Food Studios

Also known as a Boston Cream Cake, this classic Boston delicacy dates all the way back to the late 19th century. It features a smooth custard sandwiched between layers of sponge cake and topped with rich chocolate fondant.

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Sugar Cream Pie I

slice on pie on plate with spices

Named the official state pie of Indiana in 2009, sugar cream pie is believed to have originated in Amish and Shaker communities. It's made with flour, butter, salt, vanilla, cream, and brown sugar, and can be served warm or chilled.

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Whoopie Pies I

single chocolate whoopie pie

It is said that Amish husbands and children would shout "whoopie!" upon finding one of these handheld pies in their lunch, although many different places from Maine to Pennsylvania lay claim to this iconic American treat.

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Black and White Cookies I

Black and White Cookies
Black and White Cookies. AuntE

Born out of New York City bakeries, this eye-catching cookie features one half vanilla and one half chocolate frosting.

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Hawaiian Wedding Cake II

Hawaiian Wedding Cake II
Photo by Lori Schreiner.

A Hawaiian wedding cake is like a piña colada in cake form. The best part? It's made with tons of shortcut ingredients including boxed cake mix, canned pineapple, instant pudding mix, and frozen whipped topping.

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Lemon Chiffon Cake

Lemon Chiffon Cake
Photo by Carissa Bagnell.

A whipped lemon pie filling is sandwiched between layers of light and airy lemon chiffon cake in this bright and luscious dessert.

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Sweet Potato Pie I

overhead view of a partially sliced sweet potato pie. One slice has been plated in the bottom right hand corner
Meredith Food Studios

Sweet potato pie, the Southern cousin to pumpkin pie, was developed by enslaved people, and continues to be tradition in the South and within Black communities. Reviewer SL says, "People who have eaten sweet potato pie all their lives say this recipe is the best they have ever tasted."

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Harvey Wallbanger Cake

Harvey Wallbanger Cake

Inspired by the 1970s libation, this cake came onto the scene not long after its cocktail counterpart and features ingredients from the classic drink including Galliano liqueur, orange juice, and vodka.

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Mississippi Mud Pie I

Mississippi Mud Pie
My Hot Southern Mess

This fluffy, chocolaty dessert comes in countless variations, some with two layers, some with five. This version features a graham cracker crust with layers of fluffy cream cheese and chocolate pudding. "I've made this for two occasions now and it was always the first empty dish," says reviewer Mary.

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Zebra Cake III

Zebra Cake III

Recipe creator Joanne L. Hayes learned this easy-to-make icebox cake from her grandmother-in-law, who served it during World War II.

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Copycat Berger Cookies

a tray of freshly frosted berger cookies sits next to a bowl of chocolate frosting.
Meredith Food Studios

"Berger cookies are a product of Baltimore's DeBaufre Bakeries," says recipe creator thymeforpineapple. "They are similar to New York City's Black and Whites (a.k.a. Half-and-Halfs or Half Moons). They are cake-like cookies piled with thick, rich chocolate icing."

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Baked Alaska

a large baked alaska with golden meringue

This unique and admittedly strange dessert consists of cake and ice cream enveloped in a toasted meringue. The meringue acts to insulate the ice cream from the heat, making this classic dessert quite the culinary feat.

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Old-Fashioned Strawberry Pretzel Salad

slice of strawberry pretzel bars

A strawberry pretzel salad is standard fare at potlucks (there's always at least one in the church cookbook!). It features a crust made of pretzels, topped with layers of cream cheese and strawberry jello.

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Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles

Two cinnamon-dusted sugar cookies on a white plate, one with a bite taken out of it

The real key to an excellent snickerdoodle is cream of tartar: This humble ingredient gives the cookies its signature tang and chewy texture.

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Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle

peanut brittle in food storage container

As legend has it, peanut brittle was apparently an accidental creation: In the late 19th century, a woman was making taffy when she added baking soda instead of cream of tartar. The result was a hard brittle rather than a soft, chewy taffy.

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Southern Red Velvet Cake

Slice of red velvet cake with the remaining cake on a stand in the background.

Originally, red velvet cake got its hue from the reaction between raw cocoa powder and acidic ingredients such as buttermilk and vinegar. Today's cocoa powder has been alkalized, so in order to achieve the eye-catching red color you'll need to rely on red food coloring or plant-based alternatives like beets.

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Grandma's Sour Cream Pound Cake

grandmas sour cream pound cake

Sour cream imparts moisture, richness, and its signature tang to many types of baked goods, but few are more beloved than a classic sour cream pound cake.

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Joe Froggers

Joe Froggers
Joe Froggers. llgotts

These molasses-spice cookies date back to the Colonial era, and get their signature flavor from the rum: "An old-time American cookie from New England, attributed to the legendary Uncle Joe who made cookies as big as lily pads," says recipe creator Dawn.

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Peaches and Cream

peaches and cream on a plate
Holiday Baker

The name of this classic dessert is also used to describe any instance in which everything seems to be going well (ex: "Everything's been peaches and cream!"), which is pretty fitting for this easy-to-make dessert that always turns out delicious.

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Minnesota Apple Crisp

ramekin with apple crisp with whipped topping

An apple crisp is like apple pie's no frills but equally delicious cousin. What's the difference between a crisp and a crumble? A crisp topping usually incorporates oats, which gives it its signature crunch.

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Ibby's Grasshopper Pie

grasshopper pie with crushed mint chocolate candies

This retro dessert was inspired by the 1950s cocktail. Grasshopper pie usually has a chocolate cookie crust with a creamy filling flavored with creme de menthe.

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Fresh Coconut Cake

layer cake with white frosting and grated coconut

What's not to love about this classic Southern dessert? White cake is flavored with fresh coconut, frosted with white frosting, and sprinkled with grated coconut.

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Shoofly Pie V

Shoofly Pie V

This Pennsylvania Dutch pie gets its name because the sweet molasses, brown sugar, and butter filling inevitably attracts pesky flies.

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Holiday Ambrosia Salad

holiday ambrosia salad
Trusted Brands

Synonymous with holiday celebrations in the South, ambrosia salad is prepared in advance and served cold, making it excellent for potlucks or any gathering.

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Lady Baltimore Cake

cake with gold sprinkles and cherry on top
Carol Bennett-Chevereau

Nope, this classic cake does not hail from Baltimore. It's actually named for the cake referenced in Owen Wister's 1903 romance novel titled "Lady Baltimore." The real life cake was served to Wister by Alicia Rhett Mayberry in Charleston, South Carolina, or so the story goes. It's no wonder this show-stopping cake made it in Wister's novel — layers of white cake alternate with a fluffy frosting and a fruit and nut filling.

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Coco-Cola Cake II

Coco-Cola Cake II

In the South, there is no soda, only "Coke." So, it's only fitting that the famous drink would become the inspiration for this Southern dessert. It somewhat resembles a Texas sheet cake, but features cola soft drink and sometimes mini marshmallows in the batter. The resulting cake doesn't taste all that much like cola, but it does have an ultra-moist, rich texture thanks to the fizzy drink.

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