Retro Desserts

When it comes to dessert, sometimes we like a bit of nostalgia. These old-school treats may have fallen in and out of favor over the years, but they’re just as delicious as ever—here, a dozen recipes for gelatin molds, chocolate egg creams, and more.

Aunt Renee’s Gelatin Mold

A flip through any cookbook from the early or mid-20th century will reveal a bevy of shimmering, molded gelatin treats like this one, made with peaches and cream cheese.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska first made its way into print in Fannie Farmer’s 1896_ Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,_ but the idea of baking ice cream inside cake and meringue had been around for much of the century. The way was paved in the early 1800s by that genius of thermodynamics Benjamin Thompson, with his work on the resistance of egg whites to heat.

Red Velvet Cake

Though cream cheese frosting is typically used nowadays on red velvet cake, classic whipped cream frosting makes for a more balanced sweetness.

Lemon Meringue Pie

A cloud of meringue is piled sky-high over lemon-curd filling in this recipe inspired by a diner classic served at the Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue, New York.

Boston Cream Pie

The French pastry chef who invented the Boston cream pie at the city’s Parker House Hotel probably didn’t anticipate that, well over a century later, the cake would still be around, sold in supermarkets, interpreted as cupcakes, as ice cream, even finding prominence as a doughnut flavor. But there’s an unwavering appeal to those two layers of golden sponge cake sandwiching thick custard, all topped with a glossy layer of chocolate.

Decadent Trifle

The trifle is a very old concoction—by some accounts, more than 300 years old—but twentieth century variations have turned it into a classic, occasion-ready centerpiece. Drenched in sherry and kirsch, our version features layer upon layer of ginger cake, custard, berries, chocolate, and cream.

Butterscotch Pudding

In 2007, chef Nancy Silverton put an Italian spin on this dessert, calling it a “budino” and topping it with caramel sauce and fleur de sel. Call it what you will, it is still, at its core, everything we’ve always loved about butterscotch pudding.

Key Lime Pie

The history of key lime pie goes back to the mid-1800’s. For a no-cook version, use a store-bought crust.

Chocolate Egg Cream

Chocolate syrup, milk, and a spritz of cold seltzer combine in a frothy masterpiece of a drink that brings to mind ice cream parlors, shiny red stools, and soda jerks.

Thin Edge of the Wedge

This dessert comes from the cookbook The Eating in Bed Cookbook (MacMillian, 1962). It is a voluptuous chocolate pudding, perfect for eating in the privacy of your own bed.

Palm Beach Brownies

The chocolate-covered mints used in these delightful brownies form a soft, chewy middle.

Banana Split

There’s no denying the appeal of a classic banana split—ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, plenty of flavored syrups, and maraschino cherries.