The Desserts that Define America: A State by State Breakdown
It’s no secret that Americans have a sweet tooth, and desserts are an integral part of American culture. From classic favorites like apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, to lesser-known regional specialties, dessert plays an important role in defining the culinary identities of each state. In a recent article on Slate, writer L. V. Anderson and artist Jess Fink created an interactive map of the United States that features a dessert representing each state. Here, we take a closer look at some of the desserts that define America.
Starting in the Northeast, Anderson and Fink chose whoopie pies for Maine, which were first made by Amish women and were traditionally made from leftover cake batter. In Pennsylvania, whoopie pies are known as “gobs” and there is even a Whoopie Pie Festival held annually in Lancaster County. For Massachusetts, the classic Boston cream pie was chosen, which is a layered cake filled with vanilla custard and topped with chocolate ganache.
Moving to the Mid-Atlantic, there are some classic desserts that have been around for generations. In New York, the classic baked cheesecake was chosen, which originated in Jewish delis and has become an iconic dessert of the city. For Maryland, the Smith Island Cake – a layered cake with buttercream frosting that originates from Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay – was selected.
The South is known for its “down-home” cooking, and desserts are no exception. Anderson and Fink selected pecan pie for Georgia and Mississippi, which contains a filling of egg, sugar, butter and pecans and is a classic Southern recipe. In Texas, the classic home-style dessert of peach cobbler was selected, while in Kentucky, the bourbon ball – a chocolate-covered confection with a boozy, bourbon-flavored filling – made the cut.
Moving to the Midwest, the dessert choices are varied and represent the culinary traditions of each state. In Michigan, Anderson and Fink selected cherry pie, which is a nod to the state’s famous cherry orchards. For Ohio, Buckeyes – a peanut butter and chocolate candy shaped like the state’s tree nut – were chosen. Anderson and Fink selected kolaches for Nebraska, which are a type of Czech pastry filled with fruit or cheese that is popular in Midwestern states with strong Czech communities.
In the West, Anderson and Fink focused on the unique desserts that represent the region’s diverse culinary traditions. For California, the state’s signature dessert of avocado ice cream was chosen, which is a fusion of classic California ingredients and Mexican flavors. In Washington, Anderson and Fink chose Rainier cherry pie, which is a dessert that embodies the state’s agricultural heritage. The dessert that represents Utah is fry bread – a Native American recipe that has become an iconic part of the state’s cuisine.
No matter where you go in America, you’re sure to find a dessert that represents the rich culinary traditions of each region. From classic pies to regional specialties, dessert is an integral part of American cuisine and has helped to define many of the cultural identities of each state. Whether it’s enjoying a slice of Boston cream pie in Massachusetts or indulging in Louisiana’s famous beignets, America’s love affair with dessert is sure to continue for generations to come.