50 States of Iconic Desserts
Every state boasts a signature sweet beloved by locals. Get ready for a sugar rush from our all-dessert tour of America, featuring region-specific ice creams, cookies, pastries and more.
Photo By: Lynn Donaldson
Photo By: Jonathan Boncek
Photo By: Brian T. Evans
Photo By: Michael Harlan Turkell
Photo By: juefraphoto
Photo By: Staci J. Perry
Photo By: William Wolfe
Photo By: Nick Caito
Photo By: Becky Stein
Photo By: Chris Whonsetler
Photo By: Paula Forbes
Mississippi: Mississippi Mud Pie at Mary Mahoney's
It may take its name from the dank and murky banks of the Mississippi River, but this oh-so-Southern pie is a lot more tempting than that image. That's because the "mud" is made from an excess of chocolate, from the cookie crust to the pudding filling and the swirl of sauce on top. Located in one of the oldest homes in America, Mary Mahoney's has been the pride of Biloxi since 1962; it stands to reason that such a landmark restaurant should serve the state's signature dessert. The Mississippi mud pie is the perfect ending to a feast of seafood gumbo, fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and crab gratin.
Nevada: Basque Cake at the Star Hotel
Think Nevada's only claim to fame, foodwise, is its over-the-top buffets? Guess again. The state's sizable Basque population has left quite the edible imprint, including all manner of festivals and family-style restaurants throughout the northern region. For a true deep dive into Basque culinary culture, visit the Star Hotel in Elko. Guests gather round communal tables for convivial, shareable, Spain-and-France-inflected feasts that invariably end with Basque cake: almond-flavored wedges filled with pastry cream and dolloped with cherry jam.
Montana: Huckleberry Ice Cream at Wilcoxson's
What are huckleberries, you ask? They're fruits that love hot, moist weather and transform the mountain ridges in Montana's northwestern region into a dazzling expanse of purple. They have a tart and concentrated flavor, thick and snappy flesh and a surplus of crunchy seeds. And they're grown only in the wild, so a haul of hand-picked huckleberries is a special treat indeed. That's especially true when they're incorporated into ice cream bars at Livingston-based Wilcoxson's — the creamy chocolate shell hides a sweet, amethyst-tinted surprise.
South Carolina: Benne Wafers at Olde Colony Bakery
They may look like crackers, but these sesame-speckled rounds are actually thin, extra-crunchy cookies that have been enjoyed in the low country since Colonial times. They were brought over by African slaves (benne is the Bantu word for sesame), who believed eating the wafers would bring good luck. And it's certainly worked for Olde Colony Bakery, which has been selling the South Carolina specialty since the 1940s. Its bakers use what's believed to be the only existing original benne wafer recipe, dating back well over 100 years.
Florida: Key Lime Pie at Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe
A lime by any other name just isn't the same, and there's a reason the standard variety of green-skinned citrus doesn't have a signature pie. Key West's trademark fruit is tarter, more floral and much more aromatic — in other words, well worth the effort of squeezing a number of smaller specimens in order to produce one killer dessert. The perfectly punchy pie at Kermit's definitely stands out from the crowd, but that's hardly the only thing here that the glorious juice enhances. Look for Key lime cooler cookies, Key lime white chocolate cookies and Key lime choc-o-roon cookies, along with Key lime pie bars and chocolate-enrobed Key lime pie slices on a stick!
New Hampshire: Whoopie Pies at Just Like Mom's Pastries
New England states in general, as well as Amish-settled Pennsylvania, worship at the shrine of whoopie pies. This means that New Hampshire is just one of the states that claim them as their own. But no matter where these treats originated, the fact remains that you can't throw a stick in New Hampshire without coming into contact with two puffy cakes sandwiching gobs of marshmallow cream. You'll want to aim that stick directly at Just Like Mom's Pastries, which makes its celebrated pies in flavors like Black Forest and chocolate mousse.
New York: Cheesecake at Junior's
Cheesecake easily gives hot dogs and pizza a run for their money as New York's signature foodstuff. Granted, it was probably invented by the ancient Greeks around 230 A.D., but just try telling that to a New Yorker — as far as Big Apple natives are concerned, cheesecake wasn't really cheesecake until it found its way here. It's most closely associated with circa-1950s diner Junior's, which still makes its famed dessert in small batches, selects premium ingredients with no stabilizers or fillers, and dishes it up in artery-clogging slabs.
Arizona: Prickly Pear Desserts at Ruze Cake House
This Scottsdale bakery is committed to using local ingredients, from honey and citrus from local farms to the eggs in its own backyard. But few dessert additions scream "Arizona" more than prickly pear. A fruit-producing cactus (you can also eat the pads), it's proven an edible oasis across the desert-covered state. And at Růže, the pebbly, neon-pink pods (tasting faintly of watermelon and bubble gum) appear in multiple guises. Look for prickly pear bubble tea, prickly pear apple pie, elaborate prickly pear wedding cakes and delicate, cactus-curd-centered macarons.
Massachusetts: Boston Cream Pie at Flour Bakery
As synonymous with Boston as baked beans — but with considerably more crowd appeal — this cream pie isn't actually a pie at all. Created at the Parker House Hotel in the 1800s, it consists of French butter sponge cake filled with custard and cloaked with shiny chocolate ganache. And the coffee-soaked version at Boston's premier sweets purveyor, Flour Bakery (from James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Joanne Chang), is a paragon of form. That said, Boston cream has caught on in such a big way over the years that it's considered less of a cake (to say nothing of pie) and more of a flavor; it's been reimagined as everything from cupcakes to ice cream to doughnuts.
Delaware: Peach Pie at Fifer's Farm Market Cafe
While peach pie is heavily associated with Georgia, it's actually Delaware that counts the dish as its state dessert. The First State was a leading grower of peaches in the 19th century (the crop was first introduced in colonial times), but in modern Delaware, peach pies greatly outnumber peach trees — except at fourth-generation-owned Fifer Orchards, which has an abundance of both. Be sure to visit its cafe, country store or farm market stands for a truly field-to-table treat.
Illinois: Ice Cream Sundae at Margie's Candies
Illinois is purported to have coined the name "ice cream sundae." The story goes that Evanston's Garwood Drugstore found a way around a law banning ice cream sodas on Sundays in observation of the Sabbath, by simply removing pop from the equation. And Chicago's Margie's Candies has proved an exercise in pure hedonism since 1921, indulging the public's appetite for over-the-top ice cream concoctions seven days a week. Ice creams and waffle cones are still housemade from recipes handed down for three generations at this family-owned spot. Try scoops of butter pecan, banana and cheesecake in the Hot Butterscotch Banana Split, or French vanilla in the Chocolate Honeycomb Chip Sundae, made with confections from Margie's adjoining candy kitchen.
Connecticut: Snickerdoodles at Connecticut Cookie Company
There are two standout features of snickerdoodles: their comical name (likely German in origin, either translating to "snail dumpling" or derived from a word meaning "crinkly noodles") and the fact that the crackle-topped cookies are distinctively rolled in coatings of cinnamon sugar. They're also almost universally beloved, although only Connecticut has gone so far as to name the snickerdoodle its state cookie. And Fairfield's Connecticut Cookie Company more than makes the case for statewide preeminence, infusing its chewy, hand-patted rounds with vanilla from the owner's grandmother's hometown.
Louisiana: Beignets at Cafe du Monde
Ordering up a powdered sugar-dusted stack of beignets — specifically at the original Café du Monde, in the French Market — invariably makes every New Orleans visitor's must-eat bucket list. Brought to Louisiana by the Acadians (French-speaking Canadians, who came to be later known as Cajuns), the fried squares of choux dough are best served piping hot, next to a bracing cup of chicory-laced coffee.
Oklahoma: Fried Pie at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies
What's better than a slice of warm pie? A personal pocket of deep-fried pie, of course! Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, which started as a mom-and-pop operation in the back of a gas station on I-35, has turned into a full-on fried pie franchise, luring drivers and destination diners throughout Oklahoma, as well as in four other states. It's easy to see what the draw is — who could say no to dough made from a century-old family recipe, folded around fillings like cherry, pineapple, lemon cream or pecan?
Ohio: Buckeye Candy at The Buckeye Chocolate Company
You've got to give it up to the Buckeye State for keeping things consistent. Taking its moniker from the state tree, Ohio's state dessert was developed to resemble the nuts on that tree. And, unsurprisingly, balls of peanut butter fudge partially dipped in chocolate are the trademark treat at the (also appropriately named) Buckeye Chocolate Company — a family-run business producing quality confections for two generations.
Pennsylvania: Shoofly Pie at The Famous Dutch Kitchen Restaurant
The Pennsylvania Dutch may have introduced it in the 1800s, but it isn't only Amish communities that gravitate toward shoofly pie. Like the namesake insects that the sticky, molasses-based sweet seduces, residents from all over the state are magnetically drawn to this pie. And while some favor the "dry bottom" version (which is baked until set, to achieve a more cakelike consistency throughout), the popular "wet bottom" is what you'll find at family-style favorites like The Famous Dutch Kitchen Restaurant. For an all-pie feast, order a crumb-topped and custardy shoofly slice after enjoying a shareable pot of crustless, noodle-rich chicken pot pie.
Hawaii: Shave Ice at Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice
A staunch believer that not all shave ice is created equal, Ululani Yamashiro sought to re-create the frosty treat (which, she stresses, isn't the same as snow cones) that she grew up eating in Oahu. An invention of Japanese immigrants who moved to Hawaii to work the plantations, the two-ingredient delight — literally ice scrapings topped with juices or syrups — is just the thing for cooling off in the hot climate after a long day in the fields (or, you know, chilling on the beach). Many migrants went on to open family-run shave ice stores, and at Ululani's, the tradition has remained. The variety of flavors has definitely expanded, though; look for calamansi lime, guava, passion fruit, pickled mango and tamarind, with topping options like red beans, mochi or sweetened condensed milk.
Minnesota: Bundt Cake at Nothing Bundt Cakes
Inspiration can happen anywhere. Take the top kitchen-product manufacturer, Nordic Ware, which was established by a married couple in their Minnesota basement. It originally specialized in Scandinavian baking implements, but krumkake irons and ebelskiver pans had somewhat limited audiences. Yet the tall, fluted, empty-centered Bundt became a standby in American kitchens. Nothing Bundt Cakes (get it?) reflects that popularity, offering cakes in every conceivable flavor, shape and size. Think white chocolate raspberry Bundtlets, confetti Bundt towers and pecan praline Bundtinis, sold from eight locations in Minnesota and 260 more nationwide.
Maine: Wild Blueberry Pie at Two Fat Cats
Late July through early September is the time to take advantage of Maine's tiny, wild-growing blueberries, which dot low bushes and fields like sparkling sapphires all throughout the state. And while there are only 100 or so types of cultivated berries, a whopping 6.5 million distinct varieties of wild ones exist! It seems like they're used in just about that many ways in Maine, where you'll find blueberries scattered in muffins, salads, pancakes and, of course, pie. Two Fat Cats in Portland is pretty much the perfect place to go "wild," as it honors the baking traditions of New England with from-scratch methods and high-quality ingredients — chief among them a stash of impossibly sweet Maine berries.
Maryland: Smith Island Cake at Smith Island Baking Company
It goes without saying that Smith Island Baking Company is the destination for experiencing Maryland's unique state dessert. Sent along with fishermen in the 1800s during the autumn oyster harvest, as a reminder of the families waiting for them at home, the impressively stacked cake is composed of up to 15 microthin layers, sandwiched with a rich and dense fudge frosting. Smith Island Baking Company was first established in the 400-year-old fishing village (housing 250 residents, and accessible only by ferry) where the nostalgic confection was invented, but demand eventually led the owners to expand with a second location, across the water in Crisfield. From there, they're more effectively able to ship the sweet worldwide, in variations beyond the classic chocolate — we're talking strawberry cream, cooked coconut, pumpkin spice, red velvet and more.
North Dakota: Kuchen at Charlie's Main Street Cafe
Though it's literally German for "cake," kuchen isn't a catchall term for anything sugared, frosted and baked. In fact, it's more of a flat fruit tart, with produce folded into custard and poured into a cakey crust. That's certainly what you'll find if you order strawberry and rhubarb, peach and cheese, blueberry or apricot kuchen at Charlie's, one of the oldest restaurants in downtown Minot.
New Jersey: Saltwater Taffy at Shriver's
Whatever images spring to mind when you think of the Jersey Shore, don't forget about saltwater taffy, which has been around much longer than a certain reality-TV series. The result of an accident — either because an assistant inadvertently added seawater to candy batter, or a rogue storm flooded a batch, depending on which origin story you believe — the recipe does indeed contain salt and water, albeit not obtained directly from the ocean. Get your chewy, stretchy nuggets at Shriver's, the oldest business on Ocean City's boardwalk, which mixes flavors like grape, peanut butter, molasses and spearmint in with the traditional salt.
South Dakota: Kolache at Tyndall Bakery
An influx of Czechoslovakian immigrants in the 1800s led to South Dakota's abiding love of kolaches, which are as round as the wheels from which they take their name. Made from coils of soft and sweet yeast dough, wrapped around fillings like cheese and fruit, they're omnipresent during Tabor Czech Days, an annual festival celebrating South Dakota's Central European founders. Thankfully, Tyndall Bakery — in operation since the 1900s — provides a means of enjoying kolaches the whole year round. And with a wide range of flavors, including apple, cherry, apricot, lemon, poppyseed, strawberry-cream cheese and prune, visitors can switch up their kolache order every day of the week.
North Carolina: Sweet Potato Pie at Beasley's Chicken and Honey
We'll go out on a limb by saying that, when it comes to orange vegetable-based pies, pumpkin doesn't have a thing on sweet potato. Largely associated with the South (where it was likely introduced by African-American slaves), it has unsurprisingly emerged as top dog among desserts in North Carolina, the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States. And while the folks at Beasley's take modern liberties with soul food staples — dusting black-eyed peas with cumin salt, using hot chicken to top eggs Benedict, and forming cheese grits into fries — as far as pie is concerned, they know better than to mess with a winning recipe.
Wisconsin: Kringle at O&H Danish Bakery
Wisconsin's Scandinavian roots have caused it to go crazy for kringle, an oversized, flaky, filled and frosted pastry that's maneuvered into pretzel shapes or rings. And Racine's O&H Danish Bakery has been racking up awards for its version since 1949, undertaking a three-day process that uses traditional methods and results in kringle sporting 36 paper-thin layers. Further endearing the Olesen family's pastries to the state is the fact that they're made with ingredients exclusive to Wisconsin, from local cream cheese to Door County cherries and cranberries fresh from the bogs.
West Virginia: Apple Dumplings at Apple Annie's Bakery
State agriculture often informs regionally iconic desserts, and such is the case in West Virginia, birthplace of the Golden Delicious apple. Ever since discovering the first, wild-growing tree in Clay County in the 1890s, residents of the Mountain State have retained a soft spot for the sweet, sunshine-hued fruit. So what better way to experience the popular produce than a trip to Morgantown's Apple Annie's? Look for apple pies, apple waffles, apple scones and apple dumplings with flaky folds of pastry enveloping an entire golden orb.
Washington: Loganberry Pie at Whidbey Pies & Cafe
Though this blackberry-raspberry hybrid grows in swaths throughout Washington, Greenbank Farm on Whidbey Island was once the largest producer in the world. It's now owned by the Gunn family and home to their Whidbey Pies. They turn out 1,500 handmade treats a week (a large portion of them containing the state's signature berry), and their efforts help sustain the landmarked 151-acre farm and keep the beloved loganberry from the brink of extinction.
Rhode Island: Coffee Milk at Dave's Coffee
We'd say Rhode Island's state drink — little more than super-sweet coffee syrup mixed with milk — could easily double as dessert. Local brands like Eclipse and Autocrat have been supplying residents with a caffeine buzz and a sugar rush since 1931, but newer companies like Dave's have begun to make waves in the clubby coffee-milk world. Though their bottles are adorably retro, the contents speak to contemporary tastes, being free of artificial sweeteners, colors and artificial corn syrup, and counting additions like cocoa powder in a mocha version, and Madagascar bourbon beans for vanilla.
Arkansas: Possum Pie at Old South Restaurant
Not to worry ... no marsupials were harmed in the making of this pie! The jury is still out on how it got its colorful moniker, although general consensus is that the pie "plays possum." Instead of pretending to be dead, it creates the illusion that it's less delicious than it is, hiding layers of custard and pudding under a shroud of whipped cream. That said, the secret is very much out at Russellville's Old South — the last remaining outpost of a circa-1947 chain — whose owners have always known better than to take the cream-cheesy, pecan-crusted confection off their Southern comfort menu.
Colorado: Root Beer Float at Sweet Cow
Root beer floats can be found just about anywhere, but Colorado gets the bragging rights for bringing them into being. As legend has it, a miner and bar owner named Frank Wisner invented the dessert drink in 1893 after musing that the moon shining over snow-capped Cow Mountain looked like a dollop of ice cream resting over a dark-colored beverage. Moving over to the bar to execute his image, he came up with the Black Cow Mountain, a name later shortened to Black Cow and eventually to root beer float. Hometown ice cream spots like Sweet Cow serve up the ideal tribute to Wisner and his creation, topping bottles of Boylan's cane-sugar root beer with small-batch, local-ingredient-sourced scoops.
Georgia: Peanut Butter Pie at Mary Mac's Tea Room
When we've got Georgia on our mind, our thoughts inevitably wander to Atlanta's Mary Mac's and its famous peanut butter pie. A haven of Southern eats made from scratch since 1945, Mary Mac's is one of the last of 16 tearooms that once dotted the city. It's such an institution that in 2011 Georgia's House of Representatives actually passed a resolution declaring this place Atlanta's Dining Room. And while peaches get their due on the menu, the state's actual top crop, peanuts, is perfectly showcased in that indulgent pie, poured into a crushed-Oreo crust.
Indiana: Sugar Cream Pie at Wick's Pies
Introduced by Amish and Shaker communities in the 1800s, this custard-filled, nutmeg-dusted dessert was formerly referred to as "desperation pie," because it was whipped up when times were lean or fresh produce wasn't available. It's now known as sugar cream pie or Hoosier pie (owing to its Indiana provenance and prominence), and lack of fruit or funds has nothing to do with the treat's widespread, year-round appeal. In fact, Wick's in Winchester has based a flourishing, 60-year-strong business on it. Using his grandmother's recipes, founder Duane Wickersham started by selling pies in the 1940s, from the back of a Buick sedan. Now run by his children and grandchildren, Wick's produces 10,000 sugar cream pies — which the owners liken to creme brulee in a crust — per every 8-hour shift and use them to supply their own cafe as well as wholesalers and retailers throughout the state.
California: Fortune Cookies at Chocolate Fortunes
By now most folks probably know that fortune cookies are not a "thing" in China, despite their popularity at Chinese restaurants across the U.S. It was California immigrants — possibly even Japanese settlers — who popularized the dessert, peddling them from family-run bakeries throughout San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Golden State remains a stronghold, thanks to companies like Chocolate Fortunes, SoCal's largest distributor of dipped and decorated treats since 1987. While the cookies are generally prized less for their flavor than for the paper prophecies they hold, this company ensures that the cookies are tasty by dunking them in dark chocolate, white chocolate, mint chocolate and butterscotch chocolate. They also play with proportions, offering a 7-inch Giant size and a 4-inch Baby Giant size as well as the traditional size.
Iowa: Blarney Stones at Sweetheart Bakery
No trip to Emmetsburg, Iowa, is complete without a visit to the Blarney Stone. A chip off the Irish original, it was gifted by Dublin to the community, in honor of their deep-rooted ancestry. In the same vein, you can't pass through Clinton without a pilgrimage to Sweetheart Bakery, which crafts its justly lauded Blarneys out of squares of yellow cake, frosts them in housemade buttercream icing and rolls them in ground, salted peanuts. If these treats don't grant you the gift of gab (as the stone is purported to do), it's probably because your mouth is crammed full with pastry.
Missouri: Gooey Butter Cake at Park Avenue Coffee
Does the name have you drooling yet? This is another delicious "mistake" — a German baker stumbled upon the recipe in the 1930s when he added too much butter to his coffee cake batter, with delectably gooey results — and it's been purposefully recreated by Missouri cooks for almost a century. If you're in St. Louis, be sure to grab a square at Park Avenue Coffee, whose traditional, award-winning rendition of this treat features a cakelike crust and a suitably gooey interior made from a mix of cream cheese, powdered sugar and of course an excess of butter!
Alabama: Lane Cake at The Cakerie
Alternately known as prize cake or Alabama Lane cake, this bourbon-soaked and pecan-, raisin- and coconut-layered confection was invented by Emma Rylander Lane in the 19th century, when she won top honors for it at a county fair. (Another feather in its cap: It's also prominently featured in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.) And while it's said to taste better the longer it rests, it's rare to find leftovers sitting around Birmingham's The Cakerie. Word of mouth has done wonders for the state sweet's modern-day profile, and orders for Lane cake come fast and furious, especially around the holidays. Thankfully, the fact that the whiskey bath acts as a delectable method of preservation allows owner Lexi Ginsburg Mota to keep pace; it's the only bakery item she actually makes the day before pickup.
Michigan: Bumpy Cake at Sanders Candy
How about purchasing an iconic dessert straight from the source? Still in business after 143 years, Sanders Candy created and continues to sell a sweet that's become directly associated with the state. A bit of a happy accident, Bumpy Cake came into being in 1912, when baker Fred Sanders set out to create a devil's food cake in honor of his dad. Upon running out of buttercream on one of his test runs, he formed the cake into four ridges, which he sealed together by pouring chocolate ganache straight over the top. The quirky cake not only garnered acolytes in Michigan, but also became a hit all over the world. Fortunately for its far-flung fans, you can order international shipments of bumpies, in vanilla, chocolate, carrot or caramel.
Kentucky: Derby-Pie at Kern's Kitchen
Though it's baked and enjoyed throughout Kentucky and beyond, you can still buy Derby-Pie from the ancestors of the family that invented it. Created in 1950 at the Melrose Inn, by proprietors Walter and Leaudra Kern and their son George, the chocolate-walnut tart is now the trademarked specialty of Kern's Kitchen. And since the recipe has remained a family secret, it's often duplicated but never quite replicated. Thankfully, the magic of mail order has leveled the playing field, allowing anyone, anywhere, to get their hands on a bona fide Derby-Pie.
Tennessee: MoonPies at Chattanooga Bakery
Chattanooga Bakery created the moon pie and has been churning them out since 1917. As the legend goes, when a coal miner asked one of their traveling salesman for a snack as "big as the moon," the canny company responded with this treat consisting of two graham cracker cookies cradling marshmallow centers, enrobed by a blanket of hardened chocolate. It certainly met with the miner's approval, being filling, portable, and easy to eat by hand. And it's for those very reasons that moon pies have seldom seen a dip in popularity, whether shipped as part of care packages to soldiers during World War II or tucked into lunchboxes for schoolchildren today. Of course, modern-day moon pie acolytes have their pick of a larger array of flavors, like banana, strawberry, vanilla and salted caramel.
Nebraska: Tin Roof Sundae at The Potter Sundry
Frozen in time since 1916, the still-kicking Potter Sundry is the actual drugstore-soda fountain where the tin roof sundae was created. The dessert is believed to have been named for the store's tin ceiling, which, though covered up, is still intact today. Of course, contemporary prescriptions for illustrious concoction of chocolate syrup, marshmallow cream and nuts tend to include extra scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice creams.
Idaho: Idaho Ice Cream Potato at Westside Drive In
What greater expression of Idaho's allegiance to potatoes can there be than the fact that the state has managed to bring them into the dessert realm? Not content to limit his tubers to savory preparations, Chef Lou Aaron also crafts spuds entirely out of ice cream! Rolled in cocoa powder and topped with whipped cream "sour cream," this Idaho no-tato looks impressively like the real thing. No wonder Westside, a quirky, circa-1957 drive-in — among Boise's very first — has been drawing in crowds for over 60 years.
New Mexico: Biscochitos at Golden Crown Panaderia
These anise-and-cinnamon-infused butter cookies are the result of influence from Spanish colonists and immigrants from other Hispanic countries. And while they were adopted as the state sweet in 1989, they were a top seller at Albuquerque's Golden Crown Panaderia well before that. Run by father and son Pratt and Christopher Morales, the bakery demonstrates a multigenerational sensibility with its diverse offerings — you'll find sugar-free, blue corn, chocolate and cappuccino biscochitos alongside the classic cookie.
Oregon: Marionberry Pie at Willamette Valley Pie Company
Another hyper-regional fruit, the firm and earthy marionberry is a variety of blackberry, cultivated in collaboration with Oregon State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. It's still grown exclusively in Oregon, accounting for more than half of the state's annual blackberry crop. So when you buy a pie from the Willamette Valley Pie Company — actually owned by a family of berry growers and processors — you're basically eating the state on a plate.
Texas: Pecan Pie at Royers Pie Haven
It's no wonder uber-patriotic Texas picked this as its state dessert — unlike apples, pecans are native to the Americas. The nuts have been prominently featured in Texan cookbooks since the 1870s, and though the first recipe for pie appeared in a St. Louis book in 1898, it was actually a Texas woman who'd submitted it. So when in the Lone Star State, be sure to get your "pa-can" (not "pee-can") on at Royers in Round Top, which cheerfully commands visitors to "come eat some pie, y'all!"
Alaska: Cinnamon Rolls at Tetsa River Lodge
No, baked Alaska wasn't invented in the state itself and, in fact, is rarely found on area menus except maybe as a tongue-in-cheek joke. When Local Frontier residents experience serious sugar cravings, they're far more likely to seek out cinnamon rolls, which are omnipresent around the Alaska Highway. And of that practically 1,400-mile-long parade of gooey, spicy, icing-gobbed buns, the best are widely believed to reside at Tetsa River Lodge and RV Park. The self-proclaimed "Cinnamon Bun Centre of the Galactic Cluster," it's also the last family-owned inn on the stretch. It's now run by Ben Andrews, grandson of the original purveyors, who bakes small batches of the half-foot-wide buns throughout the day — close to 200 during busy seasons. Somehow, we can't imagine baked Alaska generating as much roadside excitement.
Utah: Jell-O at Chuck-a-Rama
Utah's affinity for Jell-O far exceeds a simple "state dessert" designation. There's a week devoted to it, for starters. It was fashioned into a pin to promote the 2002 Olympics, and Salt Lake City residents consume more gelatin per capita than anywhere else in America. And certainly, its clean, family-friendly, Norman Rockwell-esque associations have caused it to become a hit with the Mormon community. It's also a lot more versatile than one might think, as evidenced by the lemon-flavored, suspended-fruit-studded and whipped cream-crowned Chiffon Jell-O "salad" at Chuck-a-Rama, a string of buffets whose original Salt Lake City location opened in 1966.
Virginia: Chess Pie at The Horseshoe Restaurant
Having nothing whatsoever to do with the game, "chess" — which is what any curdlike pie was once called — is thought to be an Americanization of the English word "cheese." Yet the creamy texture of this pie owes nothing to cheese, since the base is generally a simple custard of eggs, sugar, butter and flour. Sometimes a bit of cornmeal is added for texture, or lemon, buttermilk or even vinegar is added to help create those curds. And though this dessert is popular all over the South, Virginia has bragging rights to the first recorded recipe. So the circa-1930s Horseshoe, located along historic Route 1, could be said to serve up a little slice of history in the form of buttermilk, brown sugar and, yes, lemon chess pie.
Kansas: Pfeffernusse at Prairie Harvest
Also known as peppernuts (the translation of their German name), these bite-sized spice cookies are a popular holiday treat throughout Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. You'll find them in Kansas, too, and you don't need to wait till Christmas to get your hands on one (or 10 — they're tiny!). Prairie Harvest, located on the edge of Flint Hills, stocks them year-round. It's fitting, considering the area is where many German Mennonites settled in the 19th century, bringing their peppernut-making traditions with them. They used to store the dough in crocks in fruit cellars so the spices permeated it completely, then roll it into long ropes and slice them into cookies, or cut small circles from flattened dough using thimbles. Nowadays, Prairie Harvest offers three versions: traditional, wheat-free or, interestingly, without anise (we guess the licorice-y spice has proved to be a love-it-or-hate-it ingredient).
Wyoming: Truffles at Meeteetse Chocolatier
Tim Kellogg began selling truffles in 2004, as a way to raise money for a new bronc saddle. How Wyoming is that? And since he became a full-on chocolatier, his love for the land has expressed itself in all manner of ways, from turning Meeteetse into a nearly zero-waste business (producing less than one bag of garbage every seven to 10 days) to infusing the flavors of the state into bite-sized balls of chocolate. Look for truffles that incorporate locally distilled whiskey, sarsaparilla, prickly pear, huckleberry and sage!
Vermont: Maple Creemee at The Creemee Stand
If you ask Vermonters, everything's better with maple. And you certainly can't knock their thinking, considering that the tree-blessed region is the leading supplier of syrup in the United States. And while compressed, sugary candies are ubiquitous at every shop, outlet and farm, we'd say the superior sweet is undoubtedly the frozen maple creemee. A soft-serve custard made with eggs and flavored with rivers of woodsy, treacly maple, it manages to be dense yet lusciously creamy (hence its name) at the same time. The seasonal, roadside Creemee Stand is frequently honored as serving the very best in the state. It's certainly a plus that its creemees are made with pure Vermont maple syrup, exclusively produced in its very own town of Wilmington.