If you’re looking to try something new, one of the most exciting places to start is with regional dessert recipes. Below, we’ve rounded up some signature favorites — namely cakes and pies! — all of which have long-standing histories in select states or regions across the country. And all of them deserve a spot in kitchens nationwide.
1. Wisconsin’s Fudge-Bottom Pie
Originating in the 1940s on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, this icebox pie has since become a bit of a local legend. It features a salty-sweet graham cracker crust, a puddle of rich fudge, and a silky layer of vanilla custard — all topped with fresh whipped cream.
2. New England Apple Cider Cake
Tart Granny Smith apples are packed into a buttery batter, then baked and drizzled with a creamy cider glaze. Like its apple pie cousin, this is best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
3. Old-Fashioned “Do Nothing” Cake
This simple one-bowl dessert might just be the original dump cake — since it practically makes itself. The pineapple- and coconut-studded cake also goes by many names depending on the region or state, including Arkansas Doodle Cake, Cajun Cake, and Granny Cake.
4. Boston Cream Pie
The three main components of a successful Boston Cream Pie? Lush pastry cream, airy yellow cake, and a rich chocolate glaze or ganache. When done right, it’s magical.
5. St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
In the 1930s, a St. Louis baker botched the amount of butter he put in a coffeecake he was trying to make — and ended up with this instead. With a crispy-chewy base and a (true-to-its-name!) gooey and rich filling, the cake has remained a local favourite ever since.
6. Kentucky Bourbon and Walnut Pie
This is basically a pecan pie that trades pecans for walnuts — then adds plenty of chocolate. This streamlined version starts with pre-made pie crust, but you could easily swap in a homemade version as well.
7. Hummingbird Cake
Think of Hummingbird cake as a cross between banana bread and pineapple upside-down cake. While it is well-established in parts of the American South, the dessert actually has roots in Jamaica — where it was called a Doctor Bird cake.
8. Shoofly Pie from Simply Stacie
This signature dessert of the Pennsylvania Dutch traces back to the 1880s. The sticky-sweet filling is typically made with molasses, flour, brown sugar, and egg — although this version omits the molasses for more brown sugar.
9. Tennessee Apple Stack Cake
Also known as Tennessee Mountain Cake, the layers are shaped and baked without a cake pan so they can dry out. They are then moistened and re-soaked in a rich apple filling (for a full day or more!) before being stacked up and served.
10. Hot Milk Cake from Culinary Hill
Hot milk cake gained popularity in the Great Depression, where it fit the bill of being a modest, low-key dessert that didn’t require much to make. In this case, the namesake ingredient — scalded milk — makes for a simple but satisfying taste.
11. Chocolate Bumpy Cake
Originating in Detroit more than a century ago, this dessert gained its “bumpy” name when the baker realized he didn’t have enough buttercream frosting to fully cover the cake. Instead, he piped the frosting into rails (or bumps) across the top, then covered everything in chocolate glaze.
12. Kentucky Jam Cake from Spicy Southern Kitchen
In this dessert, blackberry jam is mixed directly into spiced cake batter, giving the batter a bit of tartness. The whole thing is then balanced and topped with sweet caramel icing and, often, walnuts or pecans.
13. Classic Key Lime Pie
You can find countless variations of this citrusy custard pie — a Florida Keys staple — throughout the sunshine state.
14. Texas Turtle Sheet Cake from I Am Baker
The “everything’s bigger” adage definitely applies to Texas Sheet Cake, which spans the entire length of a sheet pan, and stacks ever-so-high. This turtle-themed version upgrades the chocolate base with pecans, caramel, and even more chocolate.