Maryland: Smith Island Cake
Photograph by Linda Davidson, Washington Post/Getty Images
Some call it an architectural marvel—thin, buttery rounds of cake stacked high and stuck together with fudge frosting. Locals simply call it a Smith Island cake. Named after Maryland’s island in the Chesapeake Bay, where the recipe originated in the 1800s, Smith Island cake was declared the state’s official dessert in 2008. Taste the cake itself at the Smith Island Baking Company. Beyond the island, many places along Maryland’s Eastern Shore serve up the dessert, including the Watermen’s Inn in Crisfield.
South Dakota: Kuchen
Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic
Baked like a cake, kuchen goes well with coffee, especially when you’re traveling the two-lane highways in northern South Dakota. Brought by the Germans who settled this area in the 1870s, kuchen is a sweet dough usually filled with fruit. Now found throughout the state, kuchen became South Dakota’s official dessert in 2000. Stop in at the Eureka Kuchen Factory, a small-town bakeshop and mail-order company where some 20-plus kuchen flavors include traditional peach, apple, prune, and spin-offs like chocolate pecan.
New Mexico: Bizcochito
Photograph by Julien McRoberts
Step inside the tiny Golden Crown Panadería in Albuquerque to sample a complimentary bizcochito. Fragrant, infused with anise, the flaky shortbread coated with cinnamon is the state’s official cookie as proclaimed by law in 1989. Brought to New Mexico by the early Spaniards, family recipes of bizcochitos have been handed down for generations. Associated with weddings and fiestas, the cookies were originally served with wine. Today, enjoy the cookie at Santa Fe’s Chocolate Maven Bakery and Café with a mug of Maya chile hot chocolate.
Massachusetts: Boston Cream Pie
Photograph by Emily Knudsen
French pastry chef Monsieur Sanzian is said to have created this pie, actually a cake, for the 1855 opening of Boston’s Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House). Originally called Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie, it has been on the historic hotel’s menu ever since. The extravaganza consists of two layers of cake sandwiching thick vanilla custard and glazed with chocolate. The official dessert of Massachusetts since 1996, the specialty is found throughout the state. In Boston, favorites range from Mike’s Pastry shop in the Italian North End to Harvard Square’s Sweet bakery, where the dessert has been downsized into a trendy little cupcake.
Florida: Key Lime Pie
Photograph by Danita Delimont, Alamy
Pepe’s Café in Key West serves Key lime pie with whipped cream on top, while the funky Blue Heaven heaps the dessert with airy meringue. Recipes for Florida’s official (as of 2006) pie can be as different as the individuals who roam the Keys. The famous confection, named after the tart Key lime, is served everywhere, including the souvenir mecca Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.