Desserts Throughout the Decades in the US


Desserts have ended Western meals for many centuries. The term applies to many confections such as: biscuits, cakes, cookies, custards, gelatine, ice creams, pastries, pies, puddings, sweet soups, tarts, and fruit salad. However, over the decades certain sweet treats became classic favourites over others. In today’s blog, we’ll discover these preferences, starting at the turn of the 20th century and endings with us now in the 21st century. Grab your spoon and let’s dig in!

Desserts from 1900s-1990s

When Europeans began manufacturing sugar in the Middle Ages, more sweet desserts became readily available. From here, chefs and patissiers alike began to create exciting new recipes. Additionally, these sweet treats are a reflection of the time and give us a glance into what life was like at the peak of their popularity. So, with that in mind, let’s step back in time!

1900s, Banana Split

A classic banana split consists of:

It takes inspiration from the ice cream sundae which wasn’t debuted until 1904. 

1910s, Sponge Cake

A light cake made with egg whites, flour, and sugar; sponge cake originated during the Renaissance. Buttercream, pastry cream, or frosting enhances its flavour. Additionally, in the 1910s, it often paired with a fruit flavour such as strawberry, orange, or lemon. 

1920s, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This is a cake baked in a single pan with its toppings at the bottom. When removed from the oven, the cake is flipped over to reveal various fruits and syrups (in this case pineapple and maraschino cherries). In the 1920s, the world was recovering from its first total war. Thus, the popularity of canned fruit and easy-to-bake desserts became all the rage.

1930s, Baked Apples

During the Depression era, budgets were tight and food was scare. Thus, recipes had to be as cheap and easy-to-make as possible. Therefore, baked apples took centre stage. It is as simple as stuffing a cored apple with fruits, brown sugar, raisins, or cinnamon, and baking it until soft. 

1940s, Bread Pudding

The effects of the Depression still loomed over home cooks. Additionally, new war rations stood in the way of making something sweet Thus, stale bread and other leftovers were put to good use. All you had to do was mix stale bread, milk, eggs, suet, sugar, syrup, dried fruits, and spices. 

1950s, Baked Alaska

This dessert’s popularity peaked in the 1950s. It consists of ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue. This occurs through baking in an extremely hot oven long enough for the meringue to firm and caramelise, but short enough to prevent the ice cream melting.  

1960s, Fondue

Fondue pots became all the rage in the mid-20th century. Simply, they melted the chocolate down to a runny consistency. Then, dessert eaters dip in slices of fruit, cake, or pastry. 

1970s, Carrot Cake

With the emergence of fad diets came the idea that a cake containing carrots had to be healthy. Prepared like normal cake, bakers additionally mix in shredded carrots and occasionally nuts and spices. Most modern carrot cakes have a white cream cheese frosting. 

1980s, Tiramisu

Italian for “pick me up”, the tiramisu continues to be a staple of restaurant menus to this day. To make:

1990s, Lava Cake

Popularise in the late 1980s, lava (also known as molten chocolate) cakes were everywhere by the 1990s. It gets it name from the its liquid chocolate centre surrounded by chocolate cake. When the outer layer opens, it reveals the “lava” inside. 

Sweet Treats in the 21st Century

Now we’ve explored the 20th Century, let’s move onto our more recent history. 

2000s, Cake Pops

Like other desserts of the past, cake pops are a great way of using leftovers. Simply, they are cake crumbs mixed with icing into small spheres. They are then coated in icing and other decorations and attached to lollipop sticks. 

2010s, Healthy Ice Cream

In the 2010s, “diet” ice creams had entire freezers cases dedicated to them. However, the best version is the one you can make at home. Simply, blend bananas, almond milk, shredded coconut, peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in walnuts and raisins, and freeze for 2-4 hours before serving. 

2020s, ????

This decade is still relatively young. Who knows what dessert we’ll be craving for next! 

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.