17 Classic Desserts We All Miss


My freezer contains some fairly fancy little ice cream cartons, with salted this and latte-amaretto that. Sometimes, though, I wish I were having dessert "like mom made" or what you might have had at a party years ago. Below are some old favorites.

Flaming Things

"Hey, let's light this dessert on fire." When making these flaming desserts, it's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case things go terribly wrong.

1. Cherries Jubilee

Cherries jubilee (originally made in honor of Queen Victoria) was quite the thing in fancy restaurants many years ago. The original was not served over vanilla ice cream, but boy, is it good that way.

2. Bananas Foster

Another fabulous "flaming" dessert is bananas foster, developed by Chef Paul Blange of the famous Brennan's restaurants in New Orleans. I skip the banana liqueur and double up on the rum (a little banana goes a long way for me).

3. Crepes Suzette

Crepes suzette are another showy crowd-pleaser and feature one of my favorite liqueurs, Grand Marnier. To make things easier (and since you're setting the thing on fire, anyway), pick up some crepes at the grocery store, which is much easier than making them yourself.

Creamy, Comforting Things

"Suitable for a winter pudding, when fresh fruits are not obtainable." (The Book of Household Management, 1871)

4. Rice Pudding

So comforting, and rice pudding is very easy to make. I love this Mark Bittman version with brown rice and coconut milk.

5. Tapioca Pudding

I think tapioca pudding is a little trickier, but well worth the effort. If you need to use up a lot of milk, tapioca is the ticket.

6. Vanilla Pudding

Making real vanilla pudding will probably ruin you for the boxed version, but I recommend you try it. Real vanilla is expensive, but completely worth the splurge.

7. Banana Pudding

'Nilla Wafers may seem like a sort of dull cookie, but not when you put them in a dish with vanilla pudding and bananas. Banana pudding takes all of five (okay, maybe 10) minutes to assemble. Refrigerate for three hours and hand out spoons.

Not Pretty, But Delicious

We're not here to stare at our dessert, are we?

8. Bread Pudding

"For utilizing bits of bread that might otherwise be wasted, there is no better plan than to make a bread pudding." (The Women's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 4)

If you pride yourself on not wasting food, bread pudding ought to be on your radar. Day-old French bread is magically transformed into a comforting dessert in this New Orleans-style recipe. This is the way Grandma Ruth made hers, complete with a "hard sauce." As kids, we'd sneak into the refrigerator and eat spoonfuls of the leftover hard sauce (which has all of an ounce of dark rum in it). Grandma also put raisins in her bread pudding, but if you aren't a fan, use chocolate chips, bananas, or dried fruit. Or, just more hard sauce.

9. Cobbler

Berry cobbler, or "first cousin to a deep-dish pie" (Joy of Cooking, 1931), is a wonderful invention. If, like me, you make extremely ugly pies, berry cobbler is your friend. Nobody cares. You don't have to worry about neat slices, either — just spoon into bowls, add whipped or ice cream, and everybody's happy. Although this recipe uses several types of berries, cobblers are also delicious with fresh peaches.

Classic Cakes

"You do not have to live on a ranch or farm to bake these wonderful cakes. You can use the recipes in your town or city kitchen." (Farm Journal's Country Cookbooks, 1959)

10. German Chocolate Cake

I think this classic was shoved rudely aside by red velvet cake, which I've never understood. Aren't we all red-velveted out, now? I agree. Truth be told, the actual cake in a German chocolate cake is fine, but it's really about the frosting and icing combo — coconut, pecans, sugar, chocolate. If you're in a hurry, there are several German chocolate cake and (and frosting) mixes that still turn out a delicious cake.

11. Texas Sheet Cake

I do not even own the proper pan to make a Texas sheet cake anymore, and I refuse to buy one. If I make this cake, I will eat it all. I could get away with eating several pieces of it a day when I was a teenager, but that was a looong time ago. It's a little like a brownie, but better. I think, like the German chocolate above, it's because of the frosting. The cake itself contains buttermilk, which does marvelous things to the texture of baked goods.

12. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I think this pineapple upside-down cake is best warm from the oven, but if you twisted my arm, I'd eat it cold, too. Not only is a pineapple upside-down delicious and fun to say, but it is pretty cake, nice for parties or potlucks. It actually comes together very quickly. I like the fact that the big rings of pineapple make it easy to cut into even slices.

13. Nabisco Wafer Cake

It's 7:00 p.m., and you just remembered you are supposed to bring dessert to a lunchtime potluck. Panic? No! Make a Nabisco wafer cake. It has four (count 'em, four) main ingredients. You just put it into the refrigerator, and it turns into cake. I am not making this up.

14. Fruitcake

"The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other." (Johnny Carson)

My 87-year-old neighbor, Mrs. Song, called me over one day and took me outside to her freezer. "Here," she said proudly, after digging around. "It's a fruitcake." I thanked her. "I'm not sure when it's from, though... " she said, wandering back into her house. That fruitcake did not make it onto our table, I must admit.

Poor, maligned fruitcake. They are an acquired taste. If you want to taste fruitcake like it should be made, try one of these pre-made cakes. They are made by monks, and seasoned with Kentucky bourbon.

An Apple a Day

It was a marketing gimmick by an apple growers association, but that doesn't mean an apple isn't a delicious addition to the day.

15. Baked Apples

"Rome Beauties hold their shape in baking, as do Red Delicious." (Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, 1950)

Because my parents had a small orchard, these were a standby of my mother's in the fall. She filled her baked apples with raisins and nuts. These are so easy, and as far as desserts go, quite a bit more on the healthier side.

16. Apple Dumplings

A classic apple dumpling is such a great dessert, but I hadn't made them in years. My neighbor's kid, age eight, loves to bake and showed up one night with a pan of them. Turns out (and if you use Pinterest, you likely know this) that there is a super easy way to make apple dumplings using Mountain Dew, of all things (7-Up works, too).

17. Apple Brown Betty

Even the name of this dessert sounds old, and it is, because it was originally published in 1864. This Brown Betty recipe recommends Gala apples, but my Betty Crocker calls for tart, green apples. By the time you throw in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter, I doubt it matters that much.

What classic desserts should we bring back?

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Guest's picture

Jello Shots! Any picnic, party or potluck will be livelier with some jiggly boozy cups. Try Royal gelatin at half the price, and get the sugar free as it dissolves much faster and the alcohol will mask the artificial sweetener taste.

Guest's picture

chocolate pudding



Guest's picture

You must not live in Texas. Banana pudding, cobbler and many of the rest of these can be found in pretty much any BBQ place on every corner. There are at least 20 BBQ restaurants within 30
Miles of my home. 3 on one corner.

Guest's picture

Ice Box Fruit Cake! Very sweet!