America may be more famous for its main dish culinary offerings – think hot dogs and hamburgers – than for its desserts. However, that doesn’t mean you should pass up trying uniquely American desserts when taking a culinary tour of the United States.
S’mores have no less an all-American origin story than the Girl Scouts themselves, who published the first known s’mores recipe in a 1927 guidebook called Tramping and Trailing. A scout leader, Loretta Scott Crew, is credited with creating the recipe, which is beautifully simple: dark chocolate and toasted marshmallows smushed between a graham cracker.
The expression ‘as American as apple pie’ should tell you all you need to know about the prominence of the dessert in American identity. This wholesome sweet treat can be made year-round. However, if you’d like to make your experience of it particularly American, go apple picking in the fall, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor baked into a flaky, crusty pie.
If you look at many famous posters or advertisements for diners and restaurants from the 1950s, you’ll likely see a fresh-faced couple enjoying a banana split, along with their milkshakes, hamburgers and Coca-Colas. This classic American dessert was created in Philadelphia in 1904 and is made by placing a split banana lengthwise in a dish and topping it with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate chips and chocolate syrup – and any other toppings you might want.
Most commonly found at state fairs, fried Twinkies are certainly a uniquely American delicacy. Made simply by sticking a Twinkie into a vat of frying oil, this treat can perhaps be eaten with a fork and knife, but it is best enjoyed on a stick – like a kebab – while wandering around the fair.
Gooey Butter Cake
Gooey butter cake, invented in the 1930s in St. Louis, Missouri, is a kind of incredibly dense and rich coffee cake, made with cream cheese and dusted with plenty of powdered sugar. It is typically served along with coffee rather than at the end of the meal, but it’s so delicious that you may also want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
An old recipe from the American South, chess pie originated in Virginia, and a recipe for it can be found in Martha Washington’s cookbook. This simple but rich pie with a custard-like filling was simple enough to make in colonial times in the newly developing American nation, and it has evolved to include such variants as lemon, coconut and chocolate.
A woman named Mrs LH Wiggins first popularized the hummingbird cake in North Carolina; she published her recipe in no less than Southern Living magazine in the 1970s. The cake is great for someone trying to add more fruit to their diet, as it is made with bananas, pineapples and pecans – all covered with cream cheese frosting.
Key Lime Pie
Lime juice is not something one would traditionally think would be delicious in a dessert, but a cook in the 1800s in the Florida Keys disagreed and created the key lime pie, which is now a classic American dessert. The pie is made quite simply with lime juice, eggs and condensed milk in a graham cracker crust, and it tastes unlike anything else on the dessert menu.
Lane cake comes from the American South and is featured in one of the most classic pieces of American literature, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Created by Alabamian Emma Rylander Lane in the late 1800s, the cake comprises white sponge cake layered with a creamy filling, which includes bourbon or brandy, and icing. Eat – and drink – up.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.