Photo: Oxmoor House
Boston Cream Pie
While this classic dessert has “pie” in its title, it’s actually two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla cream custard and covered with a chocolate glaze. It was originally developed in the 19th century and in pie pans because they were more common than cake pans.
Whoopie pies consist of creamy frosting sandwiched between two palm-sized mounds of chocolate cake. They are thought to have originated as a lunchtime dessert for Pennsylvania Amish farmers. They were made from leftover cake batter, and likely got their name from the farmers’ excited exclamations when finding the treat included in their lunch.
Lady Baltimore Cake
This classic white layer cake is topped with a boiled frosting combined with chopped nuts and dried or candied fruits. It was likely popularized by Lady Baltimore’s Tea Room in Charleston, South Carolina, at the end of the 19th century, rather than Lady Baltimore (whose Irish husband inherited Maryland in the early 17th century), who never came to America.
In New Orleans, King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition, baked in honor of the three kings who visited baby Jesus. A circle of twisted strands of cinnamon dough is covered with poured sugar tinted in traditional Mardi Gras colors and filled with custard. A small plastic baby (representing Jesus) hidden inside is said to bring good luck to whoever discovers it. The finder also wins the honor of bringing the cake for the next year’s celebration.
In 1950, Nordic Ware introduced the Bundt pan, requested by a customer who wanted to make her German grandmother’s kugelhopf recipe. The pan was originally called a “bund” pan (meaning “a gathering”) but was later changed to "bundt" to trademark the name. Today, there are nearly 60 million Bundt pans in use across America.
Texas Sheet Cake
Although the recipe for Texas Sheet Cake did not likely originate in Texas, proud Texans have adopted this classic cake as their own. It features a layer flavored with pecans and another of chocolate, all baked up as big and wide as the state of Texas.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
In 1925, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company sponsored a recipe contest, and nearly 2,500 of the 60,000 submissions featured pineapple upside-down cake. The company shared some of the recipes, establishing the cake’s popularity. Although Southern versions often use canned pineapple, in Hawaii, this luau favorite always features fresh fruit.
The Northwest’s many berries and stone fruits make for some top-notch jams. In Portland, Oregon, breakfast mavens stop at Grand Central Bakery for jammers: generous-sized buttermilk biscuits with a thick, crunchy crust and tender, buttery interior, each oozing with a hefty dollop of the region’s preserves.