Our 20 Best Classic American Dessert Recipes

From regional favorites to national treasures, here are our 20 most essential American dessert recipes

By SAVEUR Editors

Published on August 1, 2017

Traditional American food culture sometimes gets a bad rap—no, it’s not just burgers and fries—but when it comes to dessert, who could deny the confectionary achievements of the 50 states? Sure, France may have the most refined pastries, and Asia a myriad of sweets imbued with tropical fruits (and maybe magical powers), but what is tarte tatin to the comforts of apple pie or sweet rice cakes to a hot-out-the-oven peach cobbler? (Discuss amongst yourselves).

We’re not saying American desserts reign supreme, but they’re no laughing matter either. If you’re in the mood for American classics, we’ve rounded up 20 essentials. That means the best cookies, best pies, and more sugary goodness. From retro baked Alaska to Thomas Keller’s fancy coconut cake, here are our best classic American dessert recipes.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

We've found that rolling these cookies into bigger portions, then refrigerating them for at least 2 hours before slightly under-baking them at 350°, results in incredibly gooey, soft chocolate chip cookies. Get the recipe for The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies »

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Peach Cobbler

Barry Sorkin from Smoque has a bold claim about their peach cobbler. "It's kind of like a fruit cup. You could almost argue it's breakfast food if you want." A roasted almond streusel on top adds a complex nutty complement, and hey, you might as well eat it for breakfast. Get the recipe for Peach Cobbler »

Vanilla Gelato

The use of cornstarch in this simple gelato base results in a silky-smooth texture. Get the recipe for Vanilla Gelato »

Apple Pie Ice Cream Pie

A crust of finely ground gingersnap cookie crumbs adds delicious crunch to a pie of caramel-drizzled, maple-apple ice cream. Get the recipe for Apple Pie Ice Cream Pie »

Todd’s Snickerdoodles

Cinnamon-sugar dusted snickerdoodles are always one of the most-requested holiday cookies. Get the recipe for Todd's Snickerdoodles »

Classic Carrot Cake

This version of the cake is a potluck and bake sale favorite; the addition of crushed pineapple helps to keep it sweet and moist. Get the recipe for Classic Carrot Cake »

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

Pastry chef Anna Posey of Chicago's Publican blackens rhubarb in a wood-fired oven for the cheesecake's compote topping. A standard oven will also do the trick. Get the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake »

Bananas Foster

Created in 1951 at the legendary Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans to honor Richard Foster, a friend of the restaurant and local businessman, this boozy, buttery concoction of caramelized bananas flambeed in rum sauce has since become a dining-out classic. Get the recipe for Bananas Foster »

Baked Alaska

With three colorful layers of ice cream domed atop a fudgy, flourless chocolate cake, our version of this retro dessert is a project perfect for celebrations. (Especially if you make your own ice cream: We used our homemade Pistachio Gelato and Raspberry Ice Cream.) You can vary the assembly as you like—layering the ice cream in any pattern or thickness, or flambéing the meringue topping or not. But whatever you choose, give yourself a day or two in advance to prepare. Get the recipe for Baked Alaska »

Boston Cream Pie

There's an unwavering appeal to the Boston Cream Pie's two layers of golden sponge cake sandwiching thick custard, all topped with a glossy layer of chocolate. Get the recipe for Boston Cream Pie »

Indiana Sugar Cream Pie

As Indiana's state pie, this rich, nutmeg-dusted custard pie also goes by the name "Hoosier Pie." Get the recipe for Indiana Sugar Cream Pie »

Molasses Pie

Shoofly pie—a molasses-filled, crumb-topped concoction from Pennsylvania Dutch country—was supposedly given its name because its shiny, sweet, and aromatic filling attracted flies that needed to be politely asked to leave. The pie, which is sprinkled with buttery crumbs that sink into the molasses and give it a cakelike consistency when baked, is classically served one of two ways: "wet bottom" (cakelike up top and still fudgy below) or "dry bottom" (cakelike throughout). To us, it was a no-brainer to stop baking when the bottommost layer remained gooey and custard-like. Get the recipe for Molasses Pie »

Thomas Keller’s Coconut Cake

Thick Italian meringue is sandwiched between moist layers of cake, which is topped off with sweetened shredded coconut in this recipe from chef Thomas Keller. It first appeared in the tablet edition of our Jan/Feb 2014 SAVEUR 100 along with the story 20 Years of SAVEUR: The Fountain of Youth. Get the recipe for Thomas Keller's Coconut Cake »

Banana Pudding

Custard, vanilla wafers, and bananas are layered and topped with whipped cream in our version of the classic Southern dessert. Get the recipe for Banana Pudding »

Peanut Butter Buckeyes

These chocolatey confections—popular in the Midwest, especially the Buckeye State, Ohio—are like a Reese's cup with extra filling. Get the recipe for Peanut Butter Buckeyes »

Chocolate Pudding Pie

Senior editor Keith Pandolfi's mom, Ellendean, would occasionally surprise him with this creamy chocolate pie when he came home from school, then watch as he devoured a quarter of it while watching "MAS*H" reruns. Get the recipe for Chocolate Pudding Pie »

Nick’s Supernatural Brownies

Fudgy brownies make an ideal base for a decadent ice cream sundae. Get the recipe for Nick's Supernatural Brownies »

Smoked Almond S’mores with Whiskey Marshmallows

We love a classic Hershey's s'more, but this version kicks things up a notch with homemade ingredients. Get the recipe for Smoked Almond S'mores with Whiskey Marshmallows »

Pittsburgh-Style Nut Roll

This buttery pastry roll features a simple, yeasted dough twisted around a sweet walnut and sugar paste. While slight variations on the dough, filling, and shape exist all over the US, central Europe, and Eastern Europe—such as using poppy seeds in place of nuts—nut roll is the catch-all name for pastries of its kind in the US. You can eat nut roll once it's cooled, but it's even better (and easier to slice) the following day. Get the recipe for Pittsburgh-Style Nut Roll »

Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Chunker Cookies

There are chopped salted cashews in the mix; winey, sweet-tart dried cherries; chopped milk chocolate; and both chopped and melted bitter-sweet chocolate. You need a lot of chocolate—more than a pound!—and every penny that you put into buying great chocolate for these will come back to you in oohs, aahs and culinary contentment. There's no question that Chunkers are one of the world's great cookies. Get the recipe for Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Chunker Cookies »

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