The Most Popular Dessert of Every Decade Since 1900

Every decade has its own special dessert that captures the taste and trends of the time. It’s like taking a sweet trip down memory lane, enjoying what our grandparents and parents loved before us. From the early 1900s with its iconic banana splits to the health-conscious treats of the 2010s, desserts reflect both the culinary innovation and the cultural shifts of each era. Let’s dive into these sweet delights, decade by decade, and savor the stories and flavors that made them famous.

1900s: Banana Split

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The banana split emerged as a popular dessert in the early 1900s. This delightful treat consists of a banana sliced lengthwise, with scoops of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream nestled between the slices. Toppings typically include chocolate syrup, crushed pineapple, strawberry sauce, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries. To make a banana split, arrange the banana halves in a dish, place the scoops of ice cream between them, and generously add the toppings. The result is a colorful, indulgent dessert that quickly became a favorite in American soda fountains.

1910s: Sponge Cake

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Sponge cake was a beloved dessert in the 1910s, known for its light and airy texture. Made from simple ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, and baking powder, it relies on the air incorporated into the batter during mixing to rise. To make a basic sponge cake, beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale, fold in sifted flour and baking powder, and bake in a preheated oven until golden. This versatile cake can be enjoyed plain, with fruit, or filled and topped with cream. Its simplicity and adaptability made it a staple at family gatherings and celebrations.

1920s: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

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Pineapple upside-down cake became immensely popular in the 1920s, especially after canned pineapple became widely available. This dessert features a caramelized topping of pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, with a moist yellow cake base. To prepare it, melt butter and brown sugar in a skillet, arrange the pineapple and cherries on top, pour the cake batter over the fruit, and bake until done. When inverted, the fruit forms a beautiful, glossy topping. This cake’s visually appealing presentation and delicious flavor made it a hit at parties and potlucks.

1930s: Baked Apples

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During the 1930s, baked apples were a comforting and economical dessert, perfect for the challenging times of the Great Depression. This dish involves coring apples and filling them with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes nuts or raisins. The apples are then baked until tender, and the filling caramelizes, creating a warm and satisfying treat. To make baked apples, place the filled apples in a baking dish, add a little water or cider, and bake until soft. This simple dessert offered a sweet ending to meals without requiring many ingredients.

1940s: Bread Pudding

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Bread pudding was a popular dessert in the 1940s, especially during World War II when rationing was common. This dessert makes use of stale bread, milk, eggs, sugar, and spices, transforming leftover bread into a custardy delight. To prepare bread pudding, soak bread pieces in a mixture of milk, beaten eggs, sugar, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, then bake until set. Sometimes, raisins or other dried fruits are added for extra flavor. Bread pudding is a testament to resourcefulness and the ability to create something delicious from humble ingredients.

1950s: Baked Alaska

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Baked Alaska became a showstopper dessert in the 1950s, impressing guests with its dramatic presentation. This dessert features a layer of cake topped with ice cream, all encased in a meringue shell that is briefly baked until golden. The meringue insulates the ice cream, preventing it from melting. To make baked Alaska, start with a sponge cake base, add a layer of ice cream, cover it entirely with meringue, and bake in a very hot oven until the meringue is browned. This dessert’s contrasting textures and temperatures make it a memorable treat.

1960s: Fondue

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Fondue became the iconic dessert of the 1960s, bringing a sense of fun and togetherness to dining. Chocolate fondue involves melting chocolate with cream or liqueur and serving it with various dippable items like fruits, marshmallows, and pound cake cubes. To prepare chocolate fondue, melt chocolate with cream over low heat, transfer to a fondue pot, and keep warm with a small flame. Guests can then use skewers to dip their chosen items into the rich, melted chocolate. This interactive dessert was perfect for social gatherings and parties.

1970s: Carrot Cake

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Carrot cake rose to popularity in the 1970s, known for its moist texture and rich flavor. This cake typically includes grated carrots, nuts, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, often topped with a creamy cheese frosting. To make carrot cake, mix flour, sugar, eggs, oil, grated carrots, and spices, fold in nuts if desired, and bake until done. The cream cheese frosting is made by blending cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Carrot cake’s combination of flavors and textures made it a beloved dessert that has endured through the years.

1980s: Tiramisu

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Tiramisu became the dessert of choice in the 1980s, delighting palates with its rich and creamy layers. Originating from Italy, this dessert consists of layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese mixture, and cocoa powder. To prepare tiramisu, dip ladyfingers in strong coffee or espresso, layer them in a dish with a mixture of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar, and dust the top with cocoa powder. The dish is then chilled until set. Tiramisu’s blend of coffee and creamy cheese makes it a sophisticated and indulgent treat.

1990s: Molten Lava Cake

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Molten lava cake, also known as chocolate fondant, became a sensation in the 1990s. This dessert features a rich chocolate cake with a gooey, molten center that flows out when cut. To make molten lava cake, prepare a chocolate cake batter, pour into ramekins, and bake until the edges are set but the center remains soft. Serve immediately to enjoy the molten center. The contrast between the firm cake and the liquid chocolate core made it a favorite at restaurants and special occasions.

2000s: Cake Pops

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Cake pops became a dessert phenomenon in the 2000s, adored for their fun and portable format. These treats are made by combining crumbled cake with frosting, shaping the mixture into balls, and placing them on sticks. After chilling, the cake balls are dipped in melted chocolate or candy coating and decorated with sprinkles or other toppings. To prepare cake pops, bake a cake, crumble it, mix with frosting, shape into balls, insert sticks, and dip in coating. Their customizable nature and ease of serving made cake pops a hit at parties and events.

2010s: Healthy Ice Cream

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Healthy ice cream surged in popularity in the 2010s, offering a lighter alternative to traditional ice cream. Often made with natural ingredients, lower sugar content, and added protein, these desserts aimed to satisfy sweet cravings without the guilt. Popular brands introduced varieties made with almond milk, coconut milk, or even incorporating vegetables. To make a simple version, blend frozen bananas with a splash of almond milk until creamy, and add mix-ins like chocolate chips or berries. This trend reflected a growing interest in health-conscious indulgence.

2020s: Basque Cheesecake

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Basque cheesecake has become a popular dessert in the 2020s, known for its burnt top and creamy interior. Originating from Spain, this cheesecake is made with cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and heavy cream, and is baked at a high temperature to achieve its characteristic caramelized top. To prepare Basque cheesecake, mix the ingredients until smooth, pour into a lined springform pan, and bake until the top is deeply browned. The contrast between the burnt exterior and the creamy, slightly undercooked center makes it a unique and delicious dessert.

This article originally appeared on RetailShout

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