Enduring classic desserts

Boston Cream Pie

Fads come and go, but classics endure. Much like the little black dress never goes out of style, some desserts withstand the test of time and can almost always be found on restaurant menus. Eater takes a look at enduring American desserts as part of their broader look at classic foods.

All of the foods featured in this retrospective have roots grounded in American history. One of the most iconic dishes is Boston cream pie, which is ironically not a pie but a cream-filled layer cake. Like most dishes, the dessert has various creation tales, each with its own advocates. The most famous story "is the one told by Boston's Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House), which claims that the hotel's Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian created the dessert in honor of the hotel's opening in 1856." Other stories put the creation date before the hotel was even conceived, with an 1844 poem alluding to a cream-filled cake.

The middle 1800s must have been a boom era for desserts, as classics like Key lime pie and Baked Alaska also hail from that era. Other confections emerged in the 20th century, like Bananas foster. This is one dessert whose creation is not in doubt, as it is still served in the restaurant in which it originated. Brennan's in New Orleans invented the dessert in the early 1950s, according to current owner Ralph Brennan. "My aunt Ella Brennan was responsible for creating Bananas Foster," Ralph Brennan explains, saying the dish was invented "to honor a longtime customer we had at the time named Richard Foster."

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention cheesecake. This dessert has probably appeared on more restaurant menus than any of the other items mentioned combined. Endless variations of the American original, popping up around 1912, include everything from peanut butter to chocolate stout. Even though the iconic version didn't appear until rather recently, even the ancient Romans had a version of cheesecake that was featured at weddings and other special events, where they "gave cheesecake a wraparound crust, then filled it with ricotta flavored with bay leaf and sweetened with an ungodly amount of honey."

Which classic dessert on the Eater list do you enjoy the most?

Photo of Best Boston cream pie from Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe's Most Loved Sweets & Savories

1 Comment

  • ellabee  on  2/5/2015 at 5:32 PM

    My favorite among those I've eaten: Key lime pie. But even without ever having tasted a bite, I know that the buttercrunch cake from California would beat anything else in the Eater article (coffee cream filling... rrrrrggghhrrr!!) <--Homer Simpson jelly doughnut sound

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