With so many desserts we’ve enjoyed over the years, it’s incredible that our grandmas ate sweets we have yet to try. If you thought only bland food was available to generations before us, think again.
While some grandma desserts might be fairly simple, they certainly didn’t lack flavor. After learning more about these retro treats, you may just want to make them yourselves.
Join us as we go back in time to discover the origins of some of your grandma’s favorite tasty treats.
Let’s dig in!
What Are Grandma Desserts?
When you think of grandma desserts, memories of cobblers, cream pies, and snickerdoodles might come to mind. Those are all traditional sweet treats most of us have eaten at least once. But what about desserts that are only popular in certain regions? Or those that have fallen out of our modern culture?
Your grandma likely has some long-standing dishes she’s been making since she was a child. Most of her recipes you’ve probably tasted at least a few times, but maybe there are some that you’ve only heard about.
Your dad might tell stories of eating something called Martha Washington Candy. Or perhaps your German grandma talks about a dessert she loves, known as kuchen, that you’ve never tasted.
We’re about to fill you in on some old-fashioned grandma desserts that might need to make a comeback.
#1 Shoofly Pie
This dessert dates back to 1876 and is a popular dish originated by the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It’s a simple recipe that’s similar to coffee cake.
Known initially as Centennial cake, it was a dessert to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence signing. The sweet dish became a staple in households as it was easy and inexpensive to make.
Shoofly Pie consists mostly of molasses, flour, brown sugar, and spices. While eggs can be an ingredient, they weren’t an original part of the recipe. Around 1920, bakers began adding them to the pie. Without eggs, the pie had a longer shelf life and could remain at room temperature.
How did the pie get its name? Well, that’s an interesting story. As legend has it, a traveling circus in southeastern Pennsylvania included Shoofly the Boxing Mule. The animal stood on its hind legs, and boxing gloves were put on the front hooves. The mule’s opponent was frequently a horse.
Shoofly became a well-loved figure and had products named after him. One of those items was a local brand of molasses. Next time you talk to your grandma in Pennsylvania, ask her about the dessert Shoofly Pie and see what she says.
Kuchen, pronounced koo-ken, is the German word for cake. You might think of cake as a fluffy, frosted dessert. But in this case, it’s much more than that. Kuchen doesn’t even include frosting and certainly doesn’t need it!
This delicacy has a cakey crust but a filling that resembles a fruit custard. Peaches are a traditional favorite ingredient for kuchen. However, any seasonally-available fruits, including figs, apples, berries, or plums, are also great alternatives.
While the origins of kuchen in Germany date back about 400 years, in the United States, its earliest references are from the 1800s. Specifically, kuchen first arrived in South Dakota with early German immigrants and is now known as the official state dessert.
#3 Sugar Cream Pie
Your grandma from Indiana likely knows all about this dessert. And what’s not to love about a dish called Sugar Cream Pie? The recipe includes simple staple ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar, and whipping cream.
The origin of this deliciously sweet and dense pie dates back to the Indiana Amish and Shaker communities of the 1800s. Due to the method of using a finger to stir the filling, this dish is sometimes called Finger Pie. Mixing in this manner keeps the crust from breaking while it’s baking.
This dessert became popular when apples or other fruit were hard to come by. It makes sense since there isn’t much to the dish besides some basic ingredients.
#4 Tandy Cake
Tandy Cake dates back to 1931 when the Philadelphia-based baking company Tastykake introduced it. Consisting of peanut butter and chocolate layers over the top of white cake, it became the most popular item in Tastykake’s history.
Shortly after its introduction, the company changed its name from Tandy Cake to Kandy Kake. What originally started as a sheet cake cut into individual pieces now comes as packaged finger food from Tastykake.
Tandy Cake recipes are readily available online and offer variations, including caramel, coconut, and s’more layers. If your grandma doesn’t make this dessert, you can bake it for her and help jog some early childhood memories.
In addition to their famed Kandy Kakes, Tastykakes offers a wide variety of other treats, including donuts, honey buns, and pastries.
#5 Martha Washington Candy
Another dessert originating in Pennsylvania, Martha Washington Candy, might just be our personal favorite on this list. While you might think the candy’s name comes from George Washington’s wife, you’d be incorrect in that assumption.
As it turns out, these little chocolate-covered coconut and pecan treats were the creation of the Martha Washington Candies Company. Founded in the 1920s, they produced these famous sweet delicacies for stores across the country.
Sadly, the company hit hard times during the Great Depression and closed all its shops by the early 1940s. Fortunately, the recipe lives on and is available on various recipe sites. In addition to coconut and pecans, some variations include maraschino cherries for added flavor.
Bringing Back the Good Ol’ Days of Grandma Deserts
These five grandma desserts just scratch the surface of delicious vintage treats. A simple internet search produces many sweet goodies waiting to be brought back to life by eager bakers.
Why not take a step back to your childhood and bake up a quick shoofly pie tonight?
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