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The Most Decadent Desserts From The Decade You Were Born

food, the most decadent desserts from the decade you were born

Sweet treats we used to love

Our dessert preferences have changed a lot over the last 80 years, from 1940s potluck pies and box cakes to 1990s cake pops and liquid nitrogen desserts. Find out what sweet treat everyone was eating the decade you were born and whether it’s still around, or as forgotten as the chocolate fondue set you were given as a wedding gift.

a cup of coffee on a table

1940s: banana pudding

A cooling Southern dessert best associated with family gatherings, banana pudding features layers of vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, custard and cream. It was first made at the end of the 19th century, but went big time when Nabisco put the fruity recipe on Vanilla Wafers boxes in the 1940s. While it was previously made from scratch, it could now be made entirely using shop-bought ingredients.

a piece of cake covered in chocolate

1940s: pecan pie

The popularity of this seriously decadent dessert exploded in the 1940s. Crispy on the top and gooey and dense inside, it soared in popularity after the invention of Karo-branded corn syrup. Sugar, molasses, butter, eggs and vanilla extract go into the mix too. Plus, it always has a traditional pie crust.

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1940s: box mix gingerbread cake

One of the first boxed cake mix flavors was gingerbread cake, created by P. Duff and Sons as a means of getting rid of surplus molasses. The company pioneered the idea of a kit that required home cooks to add a fresh egg. Betty Crocker and Pillsbury followed suit and by the end of the 1940s, hundreds of companies had put out their own version.

a piece of cake on a plate

1940s: key lime pie

The story of how Florida’s state pie came to be is unclear. It’s thought a similar recipe for lemon cream pie existed in New York earlier and when home cooks in the Sunshine State made it in the 1940s, they adapted it to use key limes, found in the Florida Keys. Whatever the truth, the sweet, tart cracker crust pie is always a winner.

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1940s: chiffon cake

Advertised by General Mills as “the first really new cake in 100 years”, chiffon cakes were everywhere in the late 1940s. Elegant and tall, they were made with oil instead of butter which gave them a super-soft texture and were baked in a cake tin with a metal tube in the middle to help them rise high.

a plate of food on a table

1950s: peach cobbler

Although this dessert of baked fruit topped with biscuit dough has been around for centuries, it came to be associated with the Deep South in the 1950s. This was the decade that adverts for tinned peaches were everywhere and the Georgia Peach Council declared 13 April to be National Peach Cobbler Day, to further promote the fruit.

a close up of a piece of cake on a plate

1950s: pineapple upside-down cake

Another dessert that existed previously but reached peak popularity in the 1950s was pineapple upside-down cake. The eye-catching creation was suggested by thousands of home cooks in response to a Hawaiian Pineapple recipe contest and Py-O-My released a cake mix that included tinned pineapple and cherries.

a bowl of food

1950s: bananas Foster

This sticky, caramelized dessert was invented at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, named after the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman Richard Foster for whom it was created. Bananas are added to a sauce of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, then doused with rum and flambéed tableside – and you can still order it from the menu there today.

a piece of cake sitting on top of a table

1950s: baked Alaska

The most impressive dessert of the decade has to be baked Alaska, a pudding that features a layer of cake, ice cream and a crisp, meringue shell. It was invented to mark the purchase of Alaska in 1867, but made a comeback as a dinner party showstopper in the 1950s.

a piece of cake on a plate

1950s: banana split

First created in the 1900s, the banana split was a soda fountain favorite all the way up to the 1950s. The classic recipe consists of a banana cut lengthways, served with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, a drizzle of pineapple, chocolate and strawberry sauce, plus whipped cream, maraschino cherries and chopped nuts. It’s served in a boat-shaped dish and still features as a retro throwback on diner menus today.

a piece of cake on a plate

1960s: lane cake

Mentioned in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird in 1960, lane cake is about as Southern as it gets. A big and boozy fruit cake, it consists of layers of light sponge and a sticky pecan, bourbon, coconut and peach filling. The whole thing is covered in a peach schnapps frosting.

a plate of food with a knife and fork

1960s: crêpes suzette

This flambéed favorite never goes out of fashion. It’s a French crêpe, doused in a sauce made with orange zest, sugar, butter, orange liqueur and Cognac, and set alight so it becomes caramelized and smoky. Though it was invented in the 19th century, it was ubiquitous on 1960s menus.

a bowl of oranges on a plate

1960s: chocolate fondue

With cheese fondue the height of fashion in the US during this era, it was only a matter of time before its chocolate cousin was invented. Created by Swiss restaurateur Konrad Egli at Chalet Suisse in New York, the original was made from cream, kirsch and Toblerone, and served with walnut pastries and orange slices for dipping.

a close up of a decorated cake

1960s: crown jewel dessert

This wobbly wonder was perfect for busy schedules as the Jell-O cubes could be prepared ahead of time. Also known as broken glass cake, it’s made by cutting fruit Jell-O and folding it into a lemon-laced cream that’s set in the fridge. There were different twists on the basic recipe, such as giving it a graham cracker crust, setting it in a mold or making it with cream cheese.

a close up of a slice of cake and ice cream on a plate

1960s: Texas sheet cake

This huge, gooey chocolate cake, topped with frosting, pecans and walnuts, is said to have appeared some time in the 1960s. A regular at Texan funerals – as its enormous size and comforting qualities made it the perfect dessert to feed mourners – you might also see it called Texas funeral cake.

a chocolate cake on a plate

1960s: Tunnel of Fudge cake

This cake launched millions of bundt tin recipes (made in the distinctive ring-shaped molds) when it won the long-running American Pillsbury Bake-Off contest in 1966. The butter, sugar, cocoa and nuts in the mix form a “tunnel” of oozy fudge through the cake as it bakes.

a close up of a coffee cup

1970s: frozen yogurt

Can’t imagine life without soft, refreshing, low-calorie frozen yogurt? You only have to go back to the 1970s, which is when it was first created at Hood Dairy, in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. At first people thought it was too tart and similar to normal yogurt, so it took a few years and adjustments of the recipe to catch on.

a piece of cake and ice cream on a plate

1970s: carrot cake

Dessert-lovers in the 1970s believed carrot cake was a healthy alternative to other puddings because of the nutrients in the veg, and it took off in a big way. In fact, the sugary bake, made with grated carrots, raisins, cinnamon, oil, sugar and cream cheese frosting, was listed as one of the top five fad foods of the 1970s by Food Network.

a piece of cake and ice cream on a plate

1970s: Mississippi mud pie

The origins of Mississippi mud pie are murky. However, we do know people were making and printing recipes for this rich chocolate dessert made with layers of pudding, cake, biscuit, ice cream, whipped cream, liqueur and a cookie crust base in the 1970s.

a bowl of food on a plate

1970s: watergate salad

One of the decade’s most infamous dishes, watergate salad consisted of tinned pineapple, mini marshmallows, whipped cream, chopped nuts and Kraft pistachio instant pudding mix. It likely originated soon after Jell-O introduced pistachio pudding mix and got its name because of the 1970s political scandal and its similarities to watergate cake (a green pistachio cake).

a piece of chocolate cake on a plate

1980s: Black Forest gâteau

Done correctly, Black Forest gâteau, or schwarzwälder kirschtorte as it’s known in Germany, is a light, creamy layer cake with bitter chocolate, sour cherries and boozy kirsch. As beautiful as it is delicious, it was the obvious choice to round off a 1980s dinner party.

a piece of chocolate cake on a plate

1980s: tiramisù

Tiramisù’s popularity seemed to come from nowhere in the 1980s. So much so, The New York Times published an article discussing how the previously unknown Italian pudding suddenly became so ubiquitous. We think it may have something to do with the fact it’s made with mascarpone, sponge fingers and chocolate, contains a hit of espresso, and has a texture that’s light as air.

a close up of a piece of cake

1980s: Impossible Pie

This was the decade of Bisquick Impossible Pies, the recipes for which were printed on the back of Bisquick baking mix boxes. They called for Bisquick (basically flour, baking powder, salt and shortening) plus ingredients such as eggs, milk and desiccated coconut, to make easy desserts where the mixture magically separated into crust and filling as it cooked.

a close up of a piece of cake on a plate

1980s: zabaglione

This Italian dessert is a light, sweet custard made with eggs, sugar and Marsala fortified wine, whipped together. It started appearing on restaurant menus in the States in the 1980s and makes the perfect light sweet treat after a long, luxurious dinner.

a piece of cake with fruit on top of a table

1980s: trifle

A very traditional British dessert, trifle consists of sponge fingers, fresh, tinned or stewed fruit, booze, Jell-O, custard and whipped cream. In this decade, using shop-bought, ready-made ingredients became more common as convenience food was king, and no party was complete without a show-stopping (but easy to make) trifle.

a close up of a slice of cake and ice cream on a plate

1990s: Viennetta

This distinguished dessert was the most highly-coveted, supermarket-bought frozen dessert of the 1990s. Its elegant layers of wafer-thin chocolate and smooth vanilla ice cream melted in your mouth and, as the advert said, one slice was never enough. Viennetta is no longer on sale in the US, but is still available in some parts of Europe.

a piece of cake on a plate

1990s: red velvet cake

A ruby red cake with cream cheese frosting and a storied history. Red velvet cake’s roots are Victorian but it gained widespread fame when it was served at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, in the 1930s. Despite this, it was seen as a gimmick for most of the century. It wasn’t until Magnolia Bakery in New York made red velvet cupcakes in the 1990s, and it became a bestseller and a global star.

a close up of a chocolate dessert sitting on a table

1990s: molten chocolate cake

This rich chocolate cake with a molten chocolate core was an overnight success when Jean-Georges Vongerichten served it at his New York restaurant JoJo. Within months, versions appeared on restaurant menus everywhere. It’s still commonplace today and still loved, but no longer as exciting.

a piece of cake sitting on top of a cutting board

1990s: Rice Krispies cakes

Making crunchy, sugary Rice Krispies cakes is a favorite pastime for parents and children. A regular at school bake sales because they’re so easy to make, all you need is Rice Krispies cereal, melted marshmallows and butter. In the 1990s, Kellogg’s saved busy families time and released its own packaged version, Rice Krispies Treats.

a table with a birthday cake

1990s: Funfetti cake

The world’s love for Funfetti has only grown since 1989, when the white cake mix with rainbow sprinkles (for stirring into the batter rather than decorating the top) was introduced by Pillsbury. An instant must-have at children’s birthday parties in the 1990s, those same children are now adults with a taste for Funfetti macarons, croissants and wedding cakes.

a close up of a piece of cake on a plate

2000s: crème brûlée

Although it was around in the 1980s and 1990s, this dainty dessert reached peak popularity in the 2000s. It features rich vanilla custard topped with a crisp, caramelized sugar shell. You can find a recipe for it in nearly every cookbook published this decade, calling on daring dinner party hosts to dust off their blow torches.

a close up of a chocolate cake

2000s: cake pops

When these bite-sized treats went viral in the late 2000s, home cooks everywhere wanted to try their hand at them. They’re made by mixing cake crumbs with cream cheese frosting, rolling into balls and covering with melted chocolate and sprinkles. However, these days they’ve mostly fallen out of favor.

a bowl of soup on a table

2000s: liquid nitrogen desserts

Influenced by celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, the 2000s was when high-end restaurant desserts arrived at the tables billowing liquid nitrogen smoke. The daring trend is still around today, but experts warn about its dangers if mishandled or accidently ingested.

a piece of chocolate cake on a plate

2000s: Nutella desserts

The hazelnut chocolate spread was invented in a small town in Italy nearly 60 years ago. Nutella quickly grew in popularity and by the 2000s, fans around the globe were not just spreading it on toast, but baking it in all sorts of desserts such as cheesecake and banana bread. Its appeal was so great, it caused a global shortage of hazelnuts.

a decorated cake on a table

2000s: cupcakes

When Carrie Bradshaw and Miranda Hobbes were seen eating cupcakes on our TV screens in an episode of Sex and the City in 2000, the nation wanted to emulate them and these sugary delights became the dessert of the decade. Shops purely dedicated to cupcakes opened up, homemade versions were brought to gatherings and cupcake towers replaced wedding cakes.

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