Desserts From the 20s


The 1920’s was a special decade for food. With Prohibition well underway, the culinary world took a turn -- for the better. Desserts didn't have alcohol, which opened the door for experimentation, and desserts that were revolutionary in their day are the classics of today.


  • Using alcohol for delicious desserts was out, and cooks turned to fruit and sugar to create dessert sauces. The compote is a stewed fruit dish, and it topped angel food cakes, sponge cakes and ice cream. Some popular fruits included gooseberries, oranges, peaches, pears and quinces. Baked fruits were simple, flavorful and easy to make. Most popular were baked apples and pears. You could serve baked fruits hot out of the oven, over cake or chilled and served cold as a summer dessert. While you could certainly serve baked fruits alone, you could them with ice cream, custard and whipped cream. Homemade jellies filled cookies and tarts and you could serve jelly on toast as a dessert. Common flavors included apple, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

Baked Goods

  • Fruitcakes were popular, and the traditional fruitcake was especially popular, which had bits of chopped fruit baked directly into the batter and baked in a fluted pan. Pineapple upside down cakes were another now-classic dessert from the 20's, and these cakes had caramelized pineapples cooked at the bottom of the cake pan. Few can think of treats more delicious than fried dough, and beignets fit this craving perfectly. Beignets are fried dough eaten hot with sugar, and these also appeared on dessert menus. Beignets often included fruit, whipped cream, chocolate sauce or ice cream. The French souffle, which is a light, airy cake made from whipped egg whites, gained popularity during this era, with home cooks and restaurant chefs often adding extracts and fruits, such as chocolate, apple, lemon or orange souffles, for a twist on this French classic


  • Gelatin desserts were popular, and variations on gelatin desserts existed throughout the decade, ranging from gelatin with fruits mixed in, adding whipped cream toppings and using molds to create gelatin desserts that looked like cakes. Puddings became a dessert staple, as pudding mixes came in to the market, and many cooks also made homemade puddings. Some popular puddings included chocolate, vanilla and tapioca. Home cooks also created their own fruit-inspired puddings and custards, such as lemon or cherry pudding, apple custard and coconut custard.


  • Candy, especially chocolate, became popular, with peppermints and individually wrapped chocolates commonly found in homes. Pre-packaged treats and candy bars like chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, were also popular dessert and snack items. The year 1922 saw the introduction of gummy-shaped candies, and they became a hit for adults and children alike. This decade also saw the introduction of fondant-filled bonbons dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts and coconut, which became popular. Penuche, a fudge-like candy made from milk, brown sugar and butter, was found in candy stores and homes alike.

Cold Desserts

  • The icebox cake, also known as the refrigerator cake, grew in popularity, because manufacturers offered home cooks short cuts to making this delicious dessert. Crusts were made from crushed store-bought cookies and graham crackers, and fillings consisted of whipped cream, custards and sometimes chocolate. Cream pies became more popular, thanks to premade gelatin mixes, but many home cooks preferred to make them from scratch. These cream pies featured a flaky crust made from butter and flour, and custard fillings that included coconut cream, banana, chocolate and vanilla. Whipped cream and nuts topped the pies as garnish.

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